The Guide to Home Water Filters — And Why You Need One

Water Filters for Your Home

Concerned about what’s in your drinking water?

Well, you should be! While municipal drinking water in the U.S. is among the safest in the world, almost all of the 25 largest city water systems have reported violations of federal drinking water standards.

These include samples that contained significant levels of chlorine, lead, E. coli bacteria, and other contaminants.

Think you’re better off drinking bottled water instead?

Sorry, wrong again! Bottled water is even less regulated than tap water and has been found to contain a number of contaminants, including potentially harmful chemicals from the plastic bottles that can leach into the water.

Under sink mounted water filter
Under sink mounted water filter*

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution — installing a water filter in your home. While some models may require a visit from the plumber, many are a snap to install. They’re easy to use and available to fit any budget or lifestyle.
Plus, you’ll save money compared to buying bottled water.

Here’s an overview of water filters and how they benefit your home.

The Filter

The most important component of any system is the filter itself. The more common types are:

  • Carbon: The most commonly used filter due to its high adsorption rate and low cost. May be impregnated with silver to help kill bacteria. Reduces lead, mercury, and chlorine, along with some organic chemicals and pesticides, while improving odor and taste. Carbon water filters do not eliminate heavy metals, nitrates, arsenic, or many microbes.
  • Ceramic: Made from fossil shell material. Unlike carbon, ceramic filters can be cleaned and reused. They are often combined with a carbon filter for more complete coverage. Ceramic water filters can remove bacteria, cysts, and asbestos, but not mercury or lead.
  • Reverse Osmosis: Water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane under pressure. They are large, slow, expensive, and waste several times more water than they clean, but produce highly filtered water. Reverse osmosis water filters can remove most contaminants including heavy metals, nitrates, arsenic, chlorine, pesticides, and bacteria. However, they also remove minerals that may be necessary for good health.
  • Water Distillation: Water is boiled and the steam is then condensed. Distilling water kills microbes and removes lead and mercury, but some chemicals may pass through. Also, it can remove minerals that may be important for good health.
  • UV Radiation: High-intensity ultraviolet light kills microbes present in water, but does not eliminate most chemicals and other contaminants.

Water Filter Systems for Your Home

Water filter pitcher
Water filter pitcher

There are several different types of water filter systems available that vary in both cost and convenience.

Water Filter Pitcher

  • Water is poured into a reservoir and drips through a filter into the pitcher.
  • Simple to use, no installation required.
  • Filtering is slow and limited to what the pitcher can hold, filter may clog over time.
  • Cost: $15-$30.
Faucet mounted water filter
Faucet-mounted water filter*

Faucet Mounted Water Filter

  • Filter unit replaces aerator on faucet, providing more water than pitchers.
  • Easy installation – just attach to existing faucet.
  • Allows switching from filtered water to plain tap water.
  • Can get in the way when washing dishes and filter may not fit all faucets.
  • Cost: $20-$70.
Countertop mounted water filter
Countertop mounted water filter**

Countertop Mounted Water Filter

  • Diverter valve replaces aerator on faucet, tube carries water to countertop filter.
  • Larger filter is less likely to clog than faucet models.
  • Easy installation – simply attach to faucet and place on counter.
  • Takes up room on countertop, and may not fit all faucets.
  • Cost: $50-$300.
Under sink mounted water filter
Under sink mounted water filter*

Under Sink Mounted Water Filter

  • Mounts under sink and attaches to cold water pipe with separate water dispenser installed next to sink.
  • Can handle large volume of water.
  • Harder to install – requires moderate plumbing skills.
  • No counter clutter but takes up space in cabinet.
  • Requires hole in counter or sink for dispenser.
  • Cost: $55-$700.
Whole house water filter
Whole house water filter**

Whole House Water Filter

  • Filters all the water as it comes into the house.
  • Most only remove sediment and rust, though some more expensive models filter out other contaminants as well.
  • Requires professional installation.
  • Cost: $40-$1000+.

Icemaker Water Filter

  • Attaches to water line for icemaker.
  • Reduces contaminants and sediment in ice and improves taste.
  • Fairly easy to install – requires some minor plumbing.
  • Cost: $15-$60.

Choosing the Right Filter

  • Begin by requesting a water quality report from your local water system. Known as the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), it will list any known contaminants. You may also be able to find your report online through the Environmental Protection Agency website.
Shower mounted water filter
Shower mounted water filter**
  • While the report tells you what’s in your municipal water supply, the water that comes out of your tap may harbor additional contaminants, such as lead from pipes. To find out more about the water in your home, a testing kit can be purchased at most home improvement stores for under $20.
  • Read the filter’s label carefully before purchasing, and match it to the results of your CCR and home test.
  • Consider how much water the filter will handle. While a pitcher may be perfect for one or two people, a large family might require a system with a higher capacity.
  • When comparing the price of similar systems, don’t forget to include the cost of replacing the filter. You may find that a less expensive system actually costs more in the long run.
  • Finally, remember that the purpose of water filters is to trap sediment and contaminants, so be sure and change your filter regularly to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.

Water Filter Manufacturers:

Further Information

*Photo Courtesy of GE
**Photo Courtesy of Aquasana


  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Aaron Wakling

  2. I have a whole house carbon filter on the cold water tap in the kitchen for my ‘clean’ drinking water. My small town does not put extravagant amounts of chlorine in the water like some towns. Notice all the new commercials for the pro-biotics(meaning good bugs) in yogurts advertising. The chlorine kills the good bugs in your stomach and with reduced good bugs, causes you to get sicker easier and longer.
    But if you live in a town that puts fluoride in it’s water? Sue. You can be poisoned(white dots on teeth,plus liver damage) by that ‘free’ industrial waste(fertilizer plant by-product) that is put in public drinking water for your fabricated, teeth health.
    And Chlorine levels that will quickly kill fish are not good for anyone. Why else would towns want the old and very young to boil their water.

  3. I see tons of articles on INSTALLING undersink water filters, but NOTHING on UNINSTALLING them… removing them completely and going back to original plumbing. Where can I find instructions to do that? Thanks !

  4. I need a water system for the entire house. Good drinking water is a plus, now my water tastes bad. How much doesn’t matter, I just need to know which one to go with. I have two water heaters if that matters. And can I get one from Lowe’s or Home Depot?

    • Hi, Bill!
      The ‘best’ is really subjective. All of these products will get the job done.
      The best option for your household really depends on your preferred setup and budget.
      We just provide the information so you can make an informed decision.
      Happy home improving! 🙂

  5. I love your shows. Love seeing you and your daughter working together. You have been so informative and helpful. I appreciate you both. Fun show to watch.


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