There are more than enough reasons why you should get a water filter. And you have numerous options when it comes to water filters. Each of them can clear away the contaminants in your water, but most are adept at removing a specific category of contaminants while they’re not very good or sometimes even inefficient at removing others.
If you want to learn what’s the best water filter for your home is, it’s best that you should first assess the water’s quality.
Here’s a quick guide on how to best go about it.
A. Using a Test Kit
- Determine What You’re Looking For
When we talk about water quality, we actually mean the concentration of pollutants in the water. These contaminants include but are not restricted to chlorine, hardness, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, nitrates/nitrites, and heavy metals. The water’s quality is also impacted by its pH, so you should learn all about that as well. Chlorine aids with cleaning the water, but it modifies its taste. Hard water can result in scale buildup, pesticides and nitrites/nitrates are hazardous for your health, and are very dangerous to children. Acidic water has a bad taste and it can also quicken corrosion inside the pipes and fixtures.
- Buy a Water Quality Test Kit
There are numerous test kits that can be had on the market these days, and you will be able to locate some at your local retailer or online. These test kits has test strips that will alter their color depending on the water’s contaminant content. You should only purchase test kits that have separate strips for chlorine, hardness, bacteria, pesticides, nitrates/nitrites, heavy metals (or lead), and pH. Do not buy test kits that only have a single strip, as that will only evaluate the water’s pH level.
- Carefully Read the Test Kit’s Instructions
Every test kit will have directions, and these will differ depending on what kit you bought. The directions will explain how long you should expose the strips to water before reading them, how warm the water should be, and how to interpret the colors.
- Test the Water
Once you have acquainted yourself with the instructions, go on ahead with testing the water. Expose each test strip to the water and keep it underwater for the right amount of time. Remove the strip from the water and make sure to shake off any excess drops. Wait for the instructed period of time before you compare the strips to the color chart.
- Determine the Water’s Quality
Compare the test strips to the color chart. Each strip will have numerous indicators, so make sure you compare the correct ones to the chart. The colors will identify if the water’s concentration of a substance is acceptable or hazardous. If any of the results are at dangerous levels, make sure you conduct the test again to remove the possibility of human error.
B. Use Your Senses
Using just your senses alone would already give you a good picture of the quality of the water. Even professional water engineers will smell, taste, and assess the water visually before settling on a verdict. However, obviously this method is not as precise as the test kit, but it can still give you valuable input.
- Use Your Smell
Smelling the water is crucial, as separate smells can indicate a different pollution. If your water smells of bleach, then the local water treatment facility must use chlorine to disinfect the water. The scent might dissipate if the water is exposed to air.
If your water smells of rotten eggs, it means that bacteria have developed somewhere on the way to your faucet. You should fill a glass of water and bring it to another area of the house. Wait a few minutes and then smell the glass again. If the water no longer has the sulfurous smell, it must have come from your drain. This means you should cleanse your drain. If both your hot and cold water smell like rotten eggs, and the water retains it scent even in a different area, that means the contamination happens somewhere in the municipal pipes.
If your water has an earthy or musty smell, it’s most likely the result of an organic matter decomposition or decay. Just like with the rotten egg smell, you should fill a glass of water and take it in another room to make sure the smell isn’t coming from the drain. This smell is often annoying, but harmless.
- Use Your Taste
The most crucial thing you should keep in mind when tasting the water is that you shouldn’t swallow it if it tastes disgusting. If the water has a metallic taste, it can either mean it is in excess of minerals or a low pH level. If the water has a strong bleach taste, it means it was treated with chlorine. If it tastes salty, it could mean that it has sulfates or chlorine ions. These compounds can indicate an industrial or irrigation drainage.
- Use Your Sight
Fill a glass of water and hold it up to the light. Look for floating particles or cloudiness. Red, brown, or orange particles might be caused by the rust in your pipes or fixtures. Black particles might be caused by the hoses your water runs through. Chlorine can deteriorate the hoses over time, making them frail.
General cloudiness or white and tan particles indicate a high hardness level. The hardness is usually determined by an excess of magnesium carbonate or calcium carbonate in your water.You should also use your sight to examine water’s color.
Let the water run for a few minutes to allow the potential buildup in your fixtures to pass, and then fill a glass of water. Hold the glass to the light. If the water is brown or murky, or if it’s discolored, it is a sign of contamination. This contamination might be caused by rusty pipes, upstream pollution, or something else.
You can also use your sight to determine if your pipes and fixtures are in good functioning order. If there is a large build-up of minerals or corrosion in your pipes, it may get into your water source, polluting it. If your pipes are above ground, you should first look for leaks. Look for areas with blue or white sediment as well.
If you can’t look at your pipes, take a look into the toilet bowl.
Check for rust or blue stains. White or blue stains, along with rust indicate a buildup that can lead to water pollution. Clean the pipes or change them if you need to.
C. Get a Water Quality Report
There is another way to check the quality of your water. You can contact your local municipality and ask them for a copy of their water quality report. They are required to test the water regularly, so they will have one.
However, we do not recommend this method because it doesn’t take into account the water’s passage through the exactly the same pipes the water that reaches you comes through.
Decide on What You Want
Now that you have an idea of how contaminated your water source really is, you should think about what you’re going to do about it. Even though it might sound silly, you should not skip this step. Why do you need a water filter? You surely had something in mind when you started looking for a filtration system. What bothered you? Was it the water’s bad taste, or the limescale deposits on your faucets and appliances?
After interpreting the water quality tests, do your original plans still stand, or did they change? Do you still only want to remove the water’s hardness, or do you only want to correct its taste?
Deciding on a Water Filter
Certain filtration systems are very good at removing some contaminants, and inefficient at removing others. Depending on the results of the water tests, what you want to achieve, and your available budget, you will have more or fewer options to choose from.
A. Types of Filters
Here is a list of the types of filters you can use in certain situations.
You can use several filters if you have limescale deposits and you want to get rid of them. This can be achieved with either low budget filters or expensive ones.
- If You Have a Low Budget
The ion exchange filter will eliminate the magnesium and calcium in the water and switch them up for the sodium particles confined in the beads. This will solve your limescale issue, but it will also make your water a little salty. However, these filters are often inexpensive, low maintenance, and very effective at softening your water.
- If You Have a Medium Budget
The electronic water softener don’t even get in contact with your water. They fit snugly onto the water feed pipe and deliver a salt-free way of softening your water. One of the benefits to using this kind of device is that it doesn’t modify the TDS, so you will still gain a lot from the minerals that are found in the water.
- If You Have a High Budget
The whole-house water filter system is large and potent enough to eradicate the minerals that are hardening your water, offering enough soft water for your whole house. Not only will the treated water leave no limescale behind, but it will also leave you with better skin and hair after every shower.
B. Foul Taste or Odor
There are numerous solutions available if you want to take away the bad tastes or odors in your water. Conditional on your desired budget, you can pick between the following.
- If You Have a Low Budget
The activated carbon filter is an ancient filtering methods but it’s been advanced and upgraded over time. The activated carbon filters these days can be had in different sizes and have different capabilities as well. If you’re concerned about eliminating bad odors or tastes, this filter is a good, inexpensive and efficient answer to your problem.
- If You Have a Medium Budget
Ozone water filters are efficient at eliminating most of the pollutants in your water source, and they will also take away any wicked smells and odors. Subject to the filter and the amount of ozone that is being utilized, the water might get a minor ozone smell and taste.
- If You Have a High Budget
Reverse osmosis systems are some of the finest all-around water filtering solutions available today. They use more filters to cleanse the water, resulting in taste and smell-free water.
C. High Levels of Bacteria
If the water test results you conducted came back with high levels of bacteria, then it goes without saying that you should put in a filter that is capable of exterminating them. There are a number of feasible solutions, again dependent on your budget.
- If You Have a Low Budget
Distillation filters boil the water and then contain the condensed steam into a separate container. Majority of the bacteria will be eradicated as the water reaches high temperatures, so this is quite an efficient manner of eliminating them.
- If You Have a Medium Budget
UV filters are specifically geared to destroy viruses and bacteria. They are often small and hassle-free to set up, but they will need a source of electricity to function. Using these filters will make sure that the bacteria levels will plunge or even dissolve, depending on your source of water.
- If You Have a High Budget
Reverse osmosis filters fitted with UV light are filters that first take away most of the pollutants through mechanical filters, then utilize chemical filters, and after passing through a semi-permeable membrane, the water goes through a UV filter as well. This is a complete and very thorough filtration process with the water produced boasting of a superior quality.
When It Comes to Water Filters, Size Matters
You already know by now how pure or contaminated your water is, the reasons for purchasing a water filter, and which ones are good for particular situations. Now all that remains is to determine how much storage space you want to give up for a water filter, and where you prefer to set it up. Depending on their size, water filters can be:
- Small Sized
These filters oftentimes take up little space, and they won’t inhibit with your coming and goings. The filters that fit in this category include: activated carbon filters, electronic water filters, ion exchange filters, and even some reverse osmosis systems.
- Medium Sized
These filters do tend to take up some storage space, and you should know this before you make a purchase. You might need to move around some things from one area to another just to clear the right amount of space for them to fit. The filters that fit into this category are: most of the reverse osmosis systems, some ion exchange filters, ozone filters, and some distillation filters that have a larger capacity.
- Large Sized
These filters will eat up a lot of space, so you will need to find a way to fit them into your residence. Some of them are huge, you will actually have to install them in a shed, a basement or in another location that can house them. These filters include whole-house water softeners, deionization units, and whole-house multi-layer filters.
With these, you now have the information you need to make the right decision for your home, when it comes to the size of the water filter you will be purchasing and installing. However, there remain things you should know of before obtaining a water filter for your home. It’s very crucial to learn the fundamentals of how water filters function, so you can fully understand if a particular system is the ideal one for you, or if it’s not.
Filter Types and Technologies
Don’t get put off by the title; we won’t bore you with too much technical jargon and you will only learn the essentials. Here, we will give a concise description for each water filter, and disclose its pros and cons so you will be able to make the right call when it comes to purchasing your water filter.
The Fundamentals of Common Water Filter Technologies
This is one of the most utilized filtration methods, and it has been in use since the days of the ancient Egyptians. This filtration technique leans on adsorption to work. Adsorption is a natural phenomenon where the molecules in the water are kept in the porous structure of a carbon substrate. Carbon filters are used all over the world, and that’s because they’re efficient and cheap.
Activated charcoal filters are efficient at taking away sediment, chlorine, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). They also eliminate any weird tastes and smells.
However, these filters are not very effective at eliminating salts, minerals, and suspended inorganic compounds.
There are two kinds of carbon filters that are utilized for water filtering. The powdered block and the granulated activated filters. Most times, carbon block filters are more successful because they have a larger adsorption surface. Many of them also have more layers in between the carbon, for better filtration. Some will have silver layers that will hinder bacteria and keep bacteria growth from developing. Some manufacturers even go as far as saturating the carbon with silver, offering it bacteriostatic properties.
Granulated activated carbon (GAC) filters may be had in different sizes, depending on their application. They make use of finer granulated charcoal that has a smaller surface area than the carbon block but can deliver a channeling effect.
All carbon filters have some things in common. After some time, their efficiency dips, and you have to change them to ensure optimal functioning. You also have to change them if you don’t use them for a stretch, such as after you return from a vacation. Bacterial colonies can actually develop inside the filter if you don’t use it for a long time, even if it’s treated or saturated with silver.
- Effective at removing weird tastes, smells, chlorine, and sediment
- Doesn’t soften the water
- Bacteria can grow in it
Ion Exchange Filters
You may not be familiar with this kind of filters but you may have heard about deionization and water softening filters. These are the most common ion exchange techniques, and we will discuss them together because they’re very identical.
Deionization filters make use of beads charged with hydrogen ions and hydroxyl ions, and alter them for cations and anions, respectively. When metallic ions go into the filter, the hydrogen is dispersed and take the place of the metals which get trapped in the beads. Now the anions initially in the water are switched with the hydroxyl ions. The hydrogen and the hydroxyl mix and the result is mineral-free water.
In an identical manner, the water softening systems function by switching the salt trapped in the beads with the magnesium and calcium ions. Salt is dispersed while the minerals are kept, softening the water.
- Softens the water
- Takes away metals from water
- They’re often large
- Water might taste salty
This is considered to be one of the simplest means of filtering water. The water is boiled and the condensed steam is kept in a separate container. All the pollutants that remain in the original container are eliminated. Unfortunately, some contaminants boil before the water and would still be present in the second tank.
– Some pollutants are not cleansed
– Valuable minerals are lost
This technique makes use of numerous filters to eradicate the pollutants. Oftentimes, the first filter is a mechanical one, the second and third filters are composed of carbon, the fourth is the semi-permeable membrane, and the fifth is chemical. There are additional steps that may include a UV filter and a remineralization one.
- Takes away 95 – 99% of the contaminants in the water
- Generates a lot of clean water everyday
- Water tastes bland
- There is some water wastage involved
This is a very ideal filter for water sources that contain a high bacterial level. The filter will eliminate most of the bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. On the down side, it won’t filter anything else.
- Eradicates bacteria and viruses
- Doesn’t impact minerals or chemicals
- Needs an electricity source
Where You Can Install Your Water Filter
Now that you know how the main types of water filters work and what they’re good at, you should decide on how and where to install them. There are several options available.
- Under-sink Installation
An under sink water filter is a most popular option. Water filters are geared for efficiency, but don’t really do much for the eyes. Concealing them in a kitchen cabinet will keep them away from sight.
- On-counter Installation
This is a feasible option for smaller water filters. You can set them up on your counter. Although they might not look all that appealing, having the filter within reach is great.
- Faucet Mounted
Faucet water filters can be set up directly on the faucet. You just need to take away the faucet’s aerator and link the faucet to the filter.
- Pitchers or Dispensers
One of the benefits to using this kind of filter is that you can place them virtually anywhere.
Upkeep of Your Water Filter
After purchasing a water filter, what’s next? It’s essential that you take care of it to make sure it performs its tasks well. But how do you do it?
- Swapping the filters
Regardless if you bought an activated carbon filter or a reverse osmosis system, if it makes use of filters, it will need to be changed at one point or another. Most manufacturers include the filter’s life expectancy in the description, but you can also find that data in the instructions manual.
- Changing the beads
If you purchased an ion exchange filter like a water softener or a deionization unit, the beads will need to be swapped out in due time. The beads have a limited charge, so once the charge is used up, it is already useless.
- Changing the bulb
If you have purchased a UV filter, or an RO system that makes use of a UV filter, you will need to change the bulb after a period of time. The filter might have an indicator that let you know the bulb is no longer functional, or you can even see if it’s not working on some models.
So there you have it; the fundamentals of what is a water filter and why you should get one for your household.
But if you need any more convincing, the list below should do the trick.
10 Benefits of Using a Water Filter
- Better Taste and Smell – Whether your water comes from the well or the municipality, it can have taste pretty bad. Most of the water filters we introduced are capable of taking away all that.
- Healthier Water – Drinking and using filtered water for your cooking will improve your overall health. All the chemicals, bacteria and other contaminants will be removed from the water, so your body will cleanse itself in time.
- Environmentally Friendly – Having a water filter to generate clean water is more environmentally sound than purchasing bottled water.
- No Plastic – Another concern with drinking bottled water is the quality of the plastic. Some bottles are composed of plastic that has BPA, an element that can lead to numerous health issues.
- Cheaper – Even though buying a water filter is an investment, you will actually save money in the long run.
- Great for Children – Children are susceptible to nitrate/nitrite poisoning. These compounds can leak into the municipal water source, and they might be in a well also.
- No More Toxins – Experts claim there are may be more than 2,100 toxins in a water source. Using filters will lessen the risk of consuming them.
- No Chlorine – Chlorine has been used to disinfect the water, even though drinking it is connected to a number of illnesses.
- Better Looking Skin and Hair – Your hair and skin will look better and healthier after washing with softened water.
- No Chemicals – A lot of different chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals can be present in your drinking water. Using a water filter reduces the risk of ingesting them.