Americans are all wet when it comes to water. We drank 8.7 billion gallons of bottled water in 2008 (most recent available data) at a cost of more than $12 billion, according to the International Bottled Water Association. That’s a lot of money for something that flows so freely.
By filtering your water, it’s possible to tap into fresh-tasting water without pouring money down the drain and clogging up landfills with empty bottles.
Most of San Diego’s water comes from the Colorado River and contains a heavy load of dissolved solids. While this isn’t a health concern, it does affect the taste.
“At the end of the day, people want a water filter that makes their water taste, smell and feel better,” said Elaine Montemarano, general manager of Superior Water, a San Diego water filtration company.
Water filter systems range widely in price and sophistication. To find the best filter for you, determine how much water you use and how pure you’d like it.
Cost: $20 to $40
How it works: The pitcher is filled with tap water, which seeps through a granulated-carbon filter. The carbon acts like a magnet so impurities (mostly chlorine) stick to its surface while water passes through.
Advantages:: Easy to use, inexpensive, no installation.
Disadvantages: Little water capacity. Must change filters often, and water drips out very slowly. Removes only some of the chlorine and few other chemicals.
Best for: Renters, households that don’t consume much water or don’t want to install a permanent system.
Cost: $35 to $50, plus another $30 to $70 annually in replacement filters.
How it works: Tap water flows through a carbon filter faucet attachment to remove some contaminants.
Advantages: Inexpensive, fairly easy to install, filters more water than a pitcher, removes some organic contaminants that can give water a foul taste or odor.
Disadvantages: Filter cartridges need frequent changing and often clog. Filters water at slow rate.
Best for: Renters and people who don’t want permanent installation.
Under-sink carbon filter
How it works: The filter removes chlorine and some sediment from tap water, with a reserve tank under the sink. Often used with refrigerator-door drinking-water dispensers.
Advantages: Convenient. Filter cartridges last for a long time. Some have more than one filter for better contaminant removal. Fast flow rate.
Disadvantages: Requires hiring a professional to install and change filters every few months ($60 to $150 per filter change). Requires drilling into countertop.
Best for: People who consume a large quantity of water or have a water dispenser on their refrigerator door.
Under-sink reverse-osmosis filter
Cost: $250-$900. Renting an R-O system, about $25 to $50 per month including all maintenance, is an option.
How it works: Contains multiple filters, including a membrane filter that removes 95 percent to 99 percent of impurities in the water.
Advantages: Removes most contaminants. Long-lasting filters (change every two years). Removes arsenic and dissolved solids. Good for coffee makers and irons.
Disadvantages: Expensive. Requires professional to install and change filters ($200-plus charge). Hole must be drilled into countertop. Wastes three to five gallons of water to get one purified gallon. Slow flow rate.
Best for: Well owners. Those who consume a lot of water, want minerals removed, have contaminant problems.
Whole house water filter system
How it works: Installed at house water source, the multistage carbon filtration provides filtered water throughout the house. Reduces chlorine, ammonia and other chemicals and heavy metals.
Advantages: Filters drinking and bathing water. Filters large volumes of water quickly. Good for fishponds.
Best for: People who find tap water too harsh for skin or hair and want filtered water on every faucet.
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