Our tap water is safe… and not safe. A number of chemical agents are introduced into our drinking water supply at the water treatment plant, including but not limited to chlorine, chloramine, and fluoride. They serve a purpose at a large municipal level, but studies prove they’d better be removed before consumption. There are over 300 contaminants in the water that flushes down your kitchen faucet according to Environmental Working Group. (We discussed in details most common waterborne contaminants in a previous post.) You might be drinking a cocktail of chemicals instead of pure clean water. That definitely contradicts the life supporting function of water itself. And here’s where filtration systems come to help.
How about bottled water?
Yes, this seems to be a pretty convenient solution most of us often take advantage of. But there’s a huge drawback with it called…plastic. It takes nearly 70-450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose. (2) And nearly 50 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills each year in the US alone. Glass could be a solution if bottled water is too handy for you to replace with a good water filtration or purification system. But make sure your bottled water has been treated appropriately to remove most dangerous contaminants.
What should a good drinking water filter do?
The truth is there is no perfect solution to solve all the issues with chemically treated or contaminated tap water. Some filters are excellent at removing chlorine, others are most efficient at eliminating bacteria. All have their pros and cons that need to be considered. Though, there are five major points that a good water purification/ filtration system should abide by:
- First, it needs to significantly reduce all common contaminants, including chemicals used for disinfection chlorine and chloramines, the controversial fluoride, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides, VOCs, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, and viruses.
- Provide sufficient quantity of water for your household.
- Be cost-efficient in the long run.
- Doesn’t remove naturally occurring minerals that are essential to health.
- And last but not least, it should be environmentally kind.
A guide on how to choose a good filtration system is included in another blog post.
What’s the most efficient method to produce clean drinking water?
The pros and cons of all types of water purification and filtration methods are described in Water Treatment Methods Table. As mentioned above, no method is 100% efficient at eliminating all harmful and unwanted substances from your water.
Removes a large number of contaminants – Fluoride, Lead, Manganese, Iron and Calcium, Pesticides, Nitrates and Sulfates, Arsenic, Hexavalent Chromium, Perchlorate. It is usually coupled with a Granulated Activated Charcoal filter to remove chlorine. However, it does not remove volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and pharmaceuticals. Reverse osmosis devoids water of minerals that are essential to health. Also, conventional RO systems do waste gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of the pure precious drinking liquid. They are often expensive and filters are costly.
Distillation eliminates bacteria, soluble minerals (i.e., calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous) and dangerous heavy metals. But does not remove pesticides, herbicides, chlorine solutions, trihalomethanes or volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). It is definitely not eco-friendly since it wastes up to 5 gallons of water to produce one and is not energy efficient. Besides, distillers demineralize water.
UV destroys 99.99% of harmful microorganisms (bacteria and viruses), doesn’t introduce harmful disinfection by-products and boasts low energy consumption. However, it is far not enough to produce clean drinking water. It does not eliminate or reduce chlorine, heavy metals and VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds).
Active Carbon Filters
Active Carbon Filters remove organic contaminants, chlorine and to some extent chloramine. Some designs remove cleaning solvents and pesticides. Active Carbon Filters improve taste and odor. They are relatively inexpensive but…are not effective at removing VOCs, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, fluoride or bacteria. Less efficient at removing chloramines. But can be paired with other treatment technologies for improved performance and better efficiency.
Pitchers For Water Filtration
Water pitchers are a good starting point. They are far from perfect, usually use active carbon filters to remove or reduce contaminants and improve taste. Thus, tend to handle fewer contaminants than systems like RO or block filters. They are portable (flexibility – not to be ignored), cost effective, does not require installation/ plumbing and are easy to maintain. The latter does not mean they are inexpensive to maintain because they usually require frequent filter changes and some filters are costly.
Since I’ve mentioned above Active Carbon Filters alone fail to remove many important contaminants. High-quality water pitchers, however, use a combination of different media to widen the scope of contaminants filtered out.
One of the top-performers in category Water Pitchers
One of the top-performers in category Water Pitchers, Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher uses a formulation of activated carbon and ion exchange materials to eliminate an impressively wide range of contaminants (chlorine, but fluoride, lead, chromium-6, trace pharmaceuticals, and industrial and agricultural pollutants) and bring a really good taste on the counter.
It is certified for NSF Standards 42 and 53 for contaminants removal. A quick note here: NSF-42 certifies that a filter improves taste and odor, and reduces particulates and chlorine. NSF-53 standard certifies the reduction of metals and many chemicals that can adversely affect health. This standard includes multiple compounds, each certified separately. NSF-401 is the “luxury” certification and Aquagear meets that, too. NSF-401 testifies that the filter is capable of eliminating microbiological and pharmaceutical contaminants like bacteria, herbicides, and ibuprofen.
The great contaminant reduction even makes us forgive Aquagear for the not-so-perfect design and plastic (hey, BPA-free!) parts that might add some hassle to pouring water in…just from time to time. The Aquagear pitcher is more expensive than most competitors, however, we should admit that its filters tend to last longer than most pitchers: 150 gallons.
Sure, the typical drawbacks of a pitcher can’t be avoided. It may take five to ten minutes to produce drinking water. Not a good fit for households with many family members since it produces a limited amount of water at a time. To have water readily available you need to keep filling it in each time it runs out of filtered water. And no matter how long the filter lasts, it surely needs a
Change more frequently than in more complex systems.
But, again, Aquagear provides more than decent water quality for a pitcher. And a great taste.
Let’s Level Up
And though water pitchers are pretty handy, no need to say it can’t compare to systems using other methods like RO, for example. If you are ready to invest more in water quality at home and need to go as close to perfection as possible – some advanced technologies that combine several treatment methods and media are closer to that point. Most of them are too pricey. But yet, in the long run, worth each dollar.
AquaTru is an interesting finding. It uses reverse osmosis as a primary water treatment method, but it requires no plumbing and is a pretty compact and elegant countertop device.
A rigorous 4-stage process
To serve you a contaminant and odor free water it runs water through a rigorous 4-stage process. This includes a Mechanical Pre-Filter, Reverse Osmosis Pre-Filter, US-Made Reverse Osmosis Membrane, Activated Carbon Filter. And this is all to remove over 75 contaminants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, including chlorine and fluoride, lead
Chromium 6, Disinfection Byproducts (Carcinogens), Herbicides & Pesticides, Rocket Fuel. The reverse osmosis filter effectively removes inorganic contaminants and biological contaminants. VOC carbon block filter removes organic contaminants. Actually, tests on the ability of the system to remove most common contaminants are being conducted by IAPMO – one of the few laboratories accepted by the California standards. The results are made public on the website and you might find it interesting to look at this impressive list. It is updated from time to time since new tests are being conducted.
Dealing With Acidity and Waste of Water
As we’ve previously discussed, RO systems have two major drawbacks. One is it demineralizes water leaving it a little acidic (often below 7.0 pH). And, second, it wastes gallons of water to produce just one. And the thought of that (the wasted water) makes even the purest water tastes bitter to me.
According to AquaTru experts, AquaTru water is close to 7.0 PH (e.i. neutral). WHO advises that we drink alkaline water instead of acidic. It you are following this trend or just prefer the taste of alkaline water, AquaTru sells natural ionic minerals. You can add to the purified water to remineralize it.
Besides, company claims that the system is far more efficient than other RO systems and doesn’t waste as much water. (How much greener it is and how much water it wastes approximately is something I’m trying to find out. Look for Updates!) It is also energy-efficient: uses about $2.00 of electricity a year.
As far as maintenance is concerned, the dual function pre-filter is expected to last six months. The Reverse Osmosis filter – two years or 1200 gallons and the final carbon VOC filter – one year or 600 gallons. The price for replacement filters is tolerable provided that the whole system is expected to save you up to $2800. $2800up $2800
The good thing about AquaTru is it holds enough water to save you from filling the water tank in again and again (a gallon). The clean water tank holds about 3 quarts of purified water. Breathe easy! You won’t wait forever to quench your thirst. 12 to 15 minutes for a gallon of purified water sounds fast enough.
Oh, and though pricey it might seem, it is a perfect solution for home renters (since you don’t need to change the plumbing system, your landlord wouldn’t be happy about your DIYs).
And if you want to go one more level up…
And if you want to go one more level up…be ready to save for a while.
Radiant Life 14-Stage Biocompatible Water Purification System is a high-end solution. It does not only purify water through a combination of stages and media, it is designed to restructure and remineralize it. Three purifiers (reverse osmosis and two deionization purifying stages) ensure 99.99% purification when new. They are supplemented with a stainless steel and quartz UV light for further protect against bacteria and pathogens. The next seven stages turn the purified water into a balanced, remineralized drink.
It requires plumbing under the sink, but the good thing is no counter top area is occupied. The system is available in several different sizes, so if you made your mind (and budget) on it, you’ll definitely find the right fit to meet your needs.
How do you supply clean water for yourself and your family? Please, share your choice in the comments below.