Get the same RO purification without an invasive installation.
The average US drinking water source contains more than 100 trace contaminants, including lead, arsenic, radionuclides and chemicals. While some of these contaminants are regulated by the EPA – meaning water suppliers must filter them out to meet specific guidelines – others, worryingly, are not.
I’ll hedge a guess that if you’ve clicked on this article, you’re already concerned about your water quality – and you know that reverse osmosis is one of the best ways to make your water safe, clean and healthy.
A quick Google search brings up hundreds of countertop reverse osmosis systems on today’s market. But how do you know which performs the best?
Which is the most efficient?
And which is the smartest long-term investment?
If you’re looking for expert advice, you’ve come to the right place. I have more than a decade of experience in researching, testing and reviewing residential water filters, and I’ve written for a number of key water industry publications, including WQP Magazine and WWD Magazine.
The best countertop reverse osmosis systems in this guide are only here because they’ve proved, after extensive testing on my part, that they’re worthy of a mention. I only recommend the products that I’m extremely pleased with in terms of performance, features and capabilities.
In this guide, I’ll be sharing:
- My 5 picks for countertop reverse osmosis filters in 2021
- The countertop RO process, and how this compares to other RO systems
- The 9 things you need to consider when choosing a countertop reverse osmosis system
Let’s dive in
Table of Contents
- 🥇 Best Countertop Reverse Osmosis System
- 📊 Comparison Chart of Countertop Reverse Osmosis Systems
- ⭐ Countertop Reverse Osmosis System Reviews 2022
- 🧾 Countertop RO System Buyer’s Guide
- 🤔 What is a Countertop Reverse Osmosis System?
- ⚙️ How Does A Countertop RO System Work?
- 👍 Advantages
- 👎 Disadvantages
- 💭 Considerations When Buying a Countertop RO Filter
- 🔧 Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Filter Maintenance
- ❔ Frequently Asked Questions
🥇 Best Countertop Reverse Osmosis System
- Best Overall: AquaTru
- Best with Remineralization: RKIN AlcaPure
- Runner Up: Waterdrop WD-N1-W
- Alternate Choice: Frizzlife WA99
- Budget Option: Crystal Quest Portable Reverse Osmosis System
📊 Comparison Chart of Countertop Reverse Osmosis Systems
|System||AquaTru||RKIN AlcaPure||Waterdrop WD-N1-W||Frizzlife WA99||Crystal Quest Portable Reverse Osmosis System|
|Filtration||4 stages||4 stages||2 stages||4 stages||10 stages|
|Production Rate||~1 GPM||45.4 GPD||75 GPD||1.15 LPM||50 GPD|
|Holding Capacity||1 gallon, 3 quarts||0.50 gallon||0.39 gallon||0.40 gallon||0.30 gallon|
|Testing/ Certifications||NSF 42, 53, 58, 401, P473||NSF 58||NSF 58, 372||–||–|
|Annual Cost||~$120||NSF 58||~$70||~$100||~$100|
⭐ Countertop Reverse Osmosis System Reviews 2022
|Production Rate||~1 GPM|
|Holding Capacity||1 gallon, 3 quarts|
|Testing/ Certifications||NSF 42, 53, 58, 401, P473|
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In our opinion the best countertop RO filter system overall is the AquaTru. This system has been independently tested to NSF standards 42, 53, 58, 401, and p473, for the removal of an impressive 82 different contaminants in drinking water. You can view the results here.
This guarantees that the system will provide the best tasting, cleanest, purest and safest drinking water for your home. However it should be noted the system actually removes thousands of contaminants more, these 82 are just what is is tested for.
The clear benefit of the AquaTru four-stage countertop RO filter is that you can simply plug it into your electricity and get it up and running instantly. There’s no major installation and no plumbing required.
The system can produce about a gallon of purified water per 10 to 15 minutes, adding up to over 100 gallons per day. In terms of maintenance, you can expect to pay around $100 per year for filter changes, which isn’t too bad at all. Not only is this system space-saving, but it’s also very easy to use, and you won’t have the chore of learning what to do when you fist set it up.
The AquaTru can remove a whole host of contaminants from water with its 4 stage filtration, including chromium-6, fluoride, lead, cysts, chlorine, some pharmaceuticals, and VOCs. Including a pressure pump, this system is designed to work at a fast rate, so there’s no waiting around for filtered water.
- First off in stages 1 & 2, water travels through a coconut shell activated carbon filter that acts as a pre-filter, trapping large sediment such as dust and rust, while also removing chemicals in water that affect taste and smell, like chlorine.
- Next, the RO membrane eliminates the likes of heavy metals and fluoride,
- A final activated carbon filter made from carbon block removes any leftover pesticides, organic compounds, and lingering tastes.
In terms of efficiency, this system wastes around 20% of water and produces around 80% clean water, making it far less wasteful when compared to other systems. The wastewater has its own dedicated tank, which you’ll need to empty from time to time. You dispense water by pressing a button, and the filters last for around 6 to 12 months (600 gallons), while the RO membrane lasts for 2 years (1,200 gallons).
👍 What I Like
- Highly efficient countertop reverse osmosis water filter system
- 4-stage thorough filtration
- Zero installation required
- Produces hundreds of gallons per day of filtered water
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Some customers had a leaking problem
- Some reviewers had malfunctioning machines
- Not certified by the NSF itself
Read the full review: 2022 AquaTru Review
|Production Rate||45.4 GPD|
|Holding Capacity||0.50 gallon|
|Testing/ Certifications||NSF 58|
|Annual Cost||$50 – $70|
As a four-stage filtration system that’s designed to remove more than 1000 contaminants to 99% efficiency, the RKIN Zero Installation countertop water filter system is one of the top contenders on this list. Its thorough filtration nearly eliminates entirely the likes of lead, fluoride, mercury, heavy metals, arsenic and chlorine.
What truly sets the RKIN filter apart is that it comes in two options, and the AlcaPure option includes a alkaline remineralization stage. As reverse osmosis removes all impurities from water, it also removes the healthy minerals, like calcium and magnesium, that we need in our everyday diets.
While we mostly get these minerals from food, they can improve water taste with their alkalinity. When you buy the RKIN AlcaPure Edition Filtered Water system, the alkaline remineralization stage will reintroduce a small amount of calcium and magnesium minrals to your purified water, giving it a more appealing alkaline taste akin to bottled water (pH 7 or 8).
Alternatively, if you’re not fussed about remineralization, you can opt for the RKIN OnliPure Edition Filtered Water system, which doesn’t add any TDS (total dissolved solids) to water in the form of minerals, and is ideal for anyone looking for the purest water possible.
The Zero Installation purifier sends water through a four-stage filtration process, starting with a five-micron sediment filter and ending with a post-filter.
You’ll need to plug this system into a source of electricity, but it won’t take up much power at all (about 30W). In terms of water waste, it has a ratio of 1:1, meaning that 1 gallon of pure water is produced for every gallon wasted. This is much more efficient than many under-sink RO filtering systems.
👍 What I Like
- Thorough four stage filtration
- Doesn’t affect water flow
- Efficient waste-to-pure water ratio
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Tank capacity could be bigger
- Water access level is a little flimsy
Read the full review: RKIN Countertop RO System Review
|Production Rate||75 GPD|
|Holding Capacity||0.39 gallon|
|Testing/ Certifications||NSF 58, 372|
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The Waterdrop Countertop System is an RO unit that uses a 0.0001 micron membrane to remove 90% TDS from drinking water.
This unit features two filter stages – a solid carbon block filter and a reverse osmosis membrane. UV purification is also used to kill pathogens like viruses and bacteria, ensuring safe, pure water for drinking.
The WD-N1-W only wastes 1 gallon of water for every 3 gallons of pure water produced, making it one of the least wasteful systems on this list.
The three filter stages in this unit combine to remove a range of common tap water contaminants, including rust, chlorine, lead, sand, PFAS, nitrates, and fluoride.
Although the Waterdrop offers a very good performance, removing up to 90% TDS, it’s not the most thorough offering for countertop RO.
There’s no major installation required for the Waterdrop WD-N1-W – simply plug it in, switch it on, and flush the system according to the instructions in the user manual.
Maintenance is simple, too. The system will auto-flush to clean itself, and you’ll also need to clean the water tank and change the filters. The CF (carbon) filter lasts for 6 months, and the MRO filter lasts up to 18 months.
👍 What I Like
- Minimal water waste
- Intelligent display screen
- Only requires 2 filter changes
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Smaller capacity purified water tank
- Leaking/dripping are common issues
Read the full review: Waterdrop Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System Review (Updated: 2022)
|Production Rate||1.15 litter|
|Holding Capacity||0.40 gallon|
Another popular four-stage countertop water filter is the Frizzlife WA99. This filter eliminates up to 99.99% of a whole host of contaminants in water. You can guarantee that all the most common contaminants, from lead and heavy metals to chlorine, fluoride, radium and arsenic, are all removed with this system.
A huge benefit of the Frizzlife is its water filtration ratio. Producing 5 gallons of filtered water to every gallon of wastewater, this filter won’t noticeably contribute to your weekly water bill.
With its smart design, it sends water through a circular filtration system, which means that water has multiple encounters with the semi-permeable membrane, helping to send a high quantity through until a small amount of contaminant-saturated water is sent into the drain. This is about as efficient as it gets for a reverse osmosis system.
Handily, the Frizzlife comes with a TDS meter built into the system, which lets you know exactly what the TDS (total dissolved solids) level of both your incoming and outgoing water is. That means you can easily compare both TDS levels and check that your system is working properly.
If your outgoing water’s TDS is higher than it should be, it’s probably time to change your filters. But there’s no need to guess with that, either, as the system provides real-time information on the status of all your filter cartridges, letting you know exactly when they need replacing. With the filters being twist and click, they’re easy to replace, and they come with an included spanner wrench for the job.
In all, the Frizzlife doesn’t cost much to purchase compared to other systems, and filter replacements are fairly low in price, too, so it’s easy to see why it’s so popular amongst customers.
👍 What I Like
- Great produced to wastewater ratio
- Easy-read instructions
- Compact, small footprint
- Easy install
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Water tank is small
- Not as effective as some under-sink RO alternatives
Crystal Quest Portable Reverse Osmosis System
|Production Rate||50 GPD|
|Holding Capacity||0.30 gallon|
If you’re on the hunt for the best portable reverse osmosis system, you won’t find anything better than the Crystal Quest. This system, like all countertop models, requires no installation, and it also comprises a host of handy features that make it more portable than the other options on this list. A bonus of the Crystal Quest is that it doesn’t run off electricity, so providing you’re in a location with a standard US faucet, you can pretty much take it with you anywhere.
You can get around 50 gallons of water per day out of the out of the Crystal Quest. As most RO purification system models can produce between 10 and 90 gallons per day, that’s a pretty good average. Plus, the average family uses abound 80 gallons of water per day at home, and that’s including all their water-based appliances, so 50 gallons is more than enough drinking water for even a large family.
This high-performance system is one of the cheapest to run and maintain, costing approximately $70-$90 per year. Impressively, it offers 10 stages of filtration, and can be set up instantly, as it comes with everything you need for the job. Being compact and lightweight, you can easily travel with the Crystal Quest without it taking up too much space.
The Crystal Quest system removes a broad range of contaminants with its multiple filtration stages. The granular activated carbon filter removes chlorine, VOCs, and pesticides; the reverse osmosis membrane eliminates the majority of TDS; a unique copper-zinc oxidation media removes lead, chromium and arsenic and prevents the growth of bacteria; the ion exchange resin tackles hard water minerals; and the final GAC post-filter gets rid of any lingering tastes or odors.
Producing around 2 gallons of filtered water every hour, the Crystal Quest is a little slower than some available countertop reverse osmosis water filter system models, but with long-lasting filters, maintenance is minimal.
👍 What I Like
- Unique 10 stages of filtration for thoroughly purified water
- Produces 50 gallons per day of purified water
- 1-year warranty
👎 What I Don’t Like
- No NSF certifications
- Produces fewer gallons of water per day than other reverse osmosis systems
🧾 Countertop RO System Buyer’s Guide
Use this guide to learn everything about how to select a quality countertop ro filter.
🤔 What is a Countertop Reverse Osmosis System?
Countertop reverse osmosis systems combine the multiple stages of reverse osmosis into one compact system that’s designed for storing on a kitchen countertop. These systems can remove up to 99% of total dissolved solids (TDS) from water, providing clean, pure water with a much better taste and smell.
Most reverse osmosis systems are designed for installation underneath a kitchen sink, but countertop reverse osmosis systems are becoming an increasingly popular choice. This type of RO filter is ideal for a homeowner who doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of cutting through their waterline to install a reverse osmosis filter, or for anyone who’s renting a home and still wants to benefit from filtered water.
The thing that makes all RO systems unique, including countertop systems, is the RO semi-permeable membrane, which is made up of pores so tiny that only water molecules are able to pass through. This is what allows for a more thorough filtration than other systems.
Most countertop RO filters are standalone, but some can be connected up to your kitchen sink, just as an under-sink filter is, except a countertop filter doesn’t require an invasive installation.
⚙️ How Does A Countertop RO System Work?
RO countertop water filters either take their water directly from a faucet or they have a tank that needs filling and refilling. When water is introduced to this system, it passes through a number of filtration stages to ultimately come out of the spout as clean water.
While the process varies from one RO water filter system to the next, the general stages of filtration are as follows:
- First, water flows through a sediment pre-filter. This stage is a must-have in any water filter system and removes sediment, like sand, dust and rust, from water.
- The next filter is typically a activated or granular carbon filter, which, in the process of adsorption, draws chlorine, chemicals, bad taste and odor from water.
- Water will usually then be forced through the reverse osmosis membrane, which removes up to 99.9% of all total dissolved solids.
- A second carbon filter usually follows after this, which removes any lingering sediment. This is often known as a post-filter.
- Some reverse osmosis water filtration system models also have an alkaline remineralization filter, which reintroduces healthy minerals to filtered water before it comes out of the spout for drinking, giving it a more appealing alkaline taste.
- Reverse osmosis is one of the most tried-and-tested methods of producing clean water. It’s so effective that it eliminates nearly every single contaminant from tap water.
- The speed of filtration with a countertop RO water filter is usually very good.
- It’s easy to install a countertop water filter – you just need to set it up on your counter, which takes a matter of minutes. There’s little risk of getting it wrong, and you won’t need to call a plumber.
- Because countertop reverse osmosis water filtration system models don’t require an invasive under-sink installation, they’re suitable for renters to install in their homes.
- Maintaining an RO water filter is much easier and more affordable than with an under-sink filtered water system.
- Because RO countertop water filter systems are compact, they’re usually portable. They only require hooking up to a water supply or having access to water to fill them, which means you can take them with you for great-tasting water on the go.
- Most under-sink reverse osmosis water filter systems have a water storage tank, but RO countertop water filters have eliminated the need for one, and send water direct from faucet to your glass.
- No matter what kind of RO countertop water filter system you buy, if it needs connecting to a faucet, it’ll only be compatible with a kitchen faucet.
- The drinking water produced by reverse osmosis is clean and high-quality, but because RO strips water of all its minerals, some people find that the water tastes quite flat.
- All counter RO water filtration systems waste water in the RO process. This is something that’s pretty unavoidable because it’s how reverse osmosis water is made.
💭 Considerations When Buying a Countertop RO Filter
Your water source is worth considering when looking for a count RO water filtration system.
In general, RO removes the great majority of contaminants from water, but some contaminants, such as hydrogen sulfide, some pesticides, herbicides, and some VOCs may slip through the RO membrane of even the best countertop RO system.
Your water pressure is also important if you’re using a reverse osmosis water filter system that connects up to your kitchen faucet. The water flow needs to be strong enough to pass through the reverse osmosis membrane at a fast rate, limiting water waste.
If you’re using an RO water filtration system that requires connecting to electricity, your water pressure isn’t important. That’s because the electricity will power the water through the system at the required speed.
Produced Water vs Waste Water
The nature of the reverse osmosis process is that as water is produced, water is wasted. When water is forced through the RO membrane, there has to be somewhere for the contaminants, which aren’t able to pass through the membrane, to go. Instead of building up in the chamber in front of the RO membrane, they’re continuously sent down a drain during the RO process. This naturally wastes water while the contaminants are removed.
Most systems have a 4:1 ratio, which means that for every 4 gallons of wasted water, 1 gallon of purified water is produced. However, we’re seeing more efficient systems coming onto the market all the time, and some on this list waste much less water than that.
Your home’s water pressure affects its flow rate. The higher the water pressure, the faster the flow. Again, you only need to be concerned about flow rate if you’re using a reverse osmosis water filtration system that hooks up to your faucet.
A fast flow rate will keep things moving quickly through your system, allowing for faster access to clean drinking water. A slow flow rate will produce more wastewater, as water won’t be flowing through the RO membrane at a fast enough rate.
Some reverse osmosis water filters designed for countertop use have alkaline remineralization filters that reintroduce healthy minerals to your drinking water after filtration. If you prefer the taste of mineral water, or you like the health benefits that come from drinking it, you’ll want to look for a filter that offers an optional remineralization stage.
You can buy these filters separately for an under-sink filter, but it’s naturally more difficult with a reverse osmosis water filter system, which either does or doesn’t have the room for a remineralization stage.
This consideration is applicable if you’re looking to buy an RO filter that doesn’t connect to a faucet. This type of filter will have a storage tank for water, and once all that water has been used up, it’ll be your job to refill it. It goes without saying, then, that you’ll want the greatest possible storage capacity to reduce your work. Most RO filter systems have a storage capacity of at least 1 gallon, so set this as your benchmark.
You should always be aware of the lifespan of an RO system’s water filters before you buy it. Filters that have a short lifespan will contribute to a higher system cost in the long run. Aim to find a pre-filter and post-filter with a 6-month lifespan, and a minimum of 2 years for the reverse osmosis filter membrane.
Counter Space Available
No matter what kind of reverse osmosis countertop system you’re looking at, you need to have the space available for it. If your countertop space is fairly limited, look at the systems with a smaller footprint that don’t take up so much room width-ways.
To avoid buying a system that’s too big and having to send it back, measure your available space and compare it to the dimensions of any of the reverse osmosis water filters you’re considering. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about under-sink space for installation, but you don’t want the system to clutter your only available side space, either.
A certification can provide peace of mind that a portable countertop reverse osmosis system has been third-party tested and approved for its contaminant removal claims.
Two certifications you’ll see a lot of when searching for reverse osmosis filters are NSF 58 and 372, for material safety and lead-free components. You may also find systems that are certified for NSF 42, for chlorine removal, and 53, for lead removal.
🔧 Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Filter Maintenance
The majority of countertop water filters are much easier to maintain than under-sink reverse osmosis filtration systems. You only need to keep the outside clean by wiping it down with a damp cloth, and change the filters as recommended.
While this maintenance is important to ensure your RO filter looks and works at its peak, it’s relatively easy to keep up with, especially as some systems have filter change reminder lights that’ll let you know exactly when you need to replace a filter.
❔ Frequently Asked Questions
Can these reverse osmosis filtration systems remove the same contaminants as under-sink reverse osmosis filters?
Yes – they’re designed the same, just smaller. Contaminants removed by counter RO filters include lead, chlorine, bacteria, and heavy metals. RO systems can also remove viruses and even fluoride.
If I’m installing an RO system that needs connecting to my faucet, what pressure should my home’s water have?
A: Generally, a pressure of between 40 and 100 psi is ideal for ensuring these RO systems can run at peak performance. The majority of these systems come with a pressure booster, though, so even low pressure coming from your faucet isn’t the end of the world.
Is it best to get a dispenser-style counter top filter or one that connects to a faucet?
It’s easy to use either system, but and both are perfect for apartments, so it really comes down to your lifestyle preferences. Dispenser-style filters are the more easily portable system choice, so if you’re planning to take yours to work, they’re the obvious better choice.