The average drinking water source contains traces of more than 200 contaminants. It’s understandable if you’re concerned about the quality of the water you’re exposed to.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to filter your water and make it safe to drink.
In this guide, I’ll be discussing the ins and outs of filtering your water at home, including the best methods, the benefits of filtration, and much more.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- To filter water at home, first test your water for contaminants, then select a suitable filtering method and application, install the system, and perform maintenance when needed.
- Some of the best at-home water filtration methods are water filter pitchers, faucet water filters, under-sink water filtration systems, and showerhead water filters.
- Considerations to make when selecting a drinking water filter include your water source, the filter’s capacity and effectiveness, and your installation/maintenance preferences.
Table of Contents
📤 How to Filter Water at Home
You may think that your home’s drinking water is relatively clean, but it could still be a whole lot cleaner. While water treatment facilities must legally remove certain contaminants down to trace levels, that doesn’t mean your water is completely free from impurities.
You’ll want to filter your water at home if you have health concerns about some of the contaminants you’re drinking, or if water poses an aesthetic problem (such as iron).
To filter your water at home, follow these steps:
1) Find Out What Contaminants are in Your Water
Before you can choose a filter, you need to first know what you want to remove.
A lot of contaminants are tasteless – and odorless, and pretty much invisible, for that matter. The only way to detect what your water contains is to do a test.
At-home test kits are easy to use and indicate whether your water contains the most common contaminants, but they’re not as accurate as laboratory testing. But, as you’d expect, lab testing is about five times the cost of at-home testing.
I recommend testing for chlorine, lead, pesticides and herbicides, water hardness, nitrates/nitrites, and copper, at the very least. If you own a well, you should also test for bacteria.
If you don’t want to spend any money on testing at all (and you get municipal water), take a look at your local Water Quality Report or Consumer Confidence Report, which breaks down the trace contaminants in your water. You can find your local Water Quality Report here.
2) Select Filter Method
Armed with your test result data or CCR information from step 1, you can now venture into the unknown: choosing a filtration system.
But wait! First, you need to decide on a filter method, and there are several to choose from.
Not all filters produce the same results. Some of the most popular filtration methods are:
- Activated carbon
- Reverse osmosis (using a carbon filter and a semi-permeable membrane)
- Ion exchange
- Mechanical filtration
- KDF filtration
- UV purification
Need more information to go off? We’ve discussed several of these methods in more detail later in this article.
3) Select Application
After deciding on a filter method, your next job is to choose a filter application.
This is essentially where you’d prefer to install the filter or the situation in which the filter will be used. In some cases, this might mean zero installation – for instance, a pitcher filter just needs assembling before it can be used.
The common at-home filter applications are:
- Countertop filters
- Faucet mounted filters
- Pitcher filters
- Refrigerator filters
- Reverse osmosis systems
- Showerhead filters
- Under-sink filters
- UV disinfection systems
- Water distillers
- Whole-home filters
Consider the pros and cons of each type of filter application before you make a purchase. Again, we’ve discussed many of these filters in more detail later on.
4) Install & Prepare the System
Once you’ve purchased a system, the hard work isn’t quite over.
You’ll need to install the system (or pay for somebody to do it if the installation process sounds scary).
Installation may involve cutting into your waterline, or may be as simple as unboxing and assembling the components.
To prepare a filtered water system, you may need to flush the filter before getting started.
5) Perform Maintenance & Change Filter Cartridges
After installing the system, you can enjoy the perks of having your own water filter to improve your water quality. But don’t forget system maintenance!
For cartridge-based systems, you’ll need to replace the water filters as outlined by the manufacturer. For media filters, you should replace the filtration media as necessary.
Some filters also need to regenerate or backwash. You can program regeneration or backwashing in advance.
💯 8 Best At-Home Water Filtration Methods
Below, we’ve shared 8 of the best methods of water filtration to use at home:
Water Filter Pitcher
A water filter pitcher is a popular water filtration solution for at-home use.
Water filter jugs use gravity filtration to gradually filter water into the bottom of the jug. This water can then be poured from the spout, ready for drinking.
Most water pitcher filters use an activated carbon-based water filter that pulls chlorine, tastes, odors, pesticides, and some organic contaminants out of water using adsorption. The filter cartridge may also blend other media, like ion exchange, KDF, and the manufacturer’s proprietary filter media.
Water filter pitchers are the most commonly used drinking water filters because they’re affordable and convenient.
Faucet Mounted Filter
Faucet mounted water filters are another affordable, easy-use solution for filtering an at-home drinking water supply.
A faucet filter is designed to attach to the end of your kitchen sink faucet. When you turn on the tap, water flows through the filter (which is typically made from activated carbon and can remove chemicals like chlorine and poor water taste) before leaving the faucet.
A faucet mounted water filter is easy to install and costs as little as $25, but it only offers basic tap water filtration.
Countertop Water Filter
A countertop water filter is a large, usually cylindrical, water filtration system that’s designed to sit on your kitchen countertop.
You add water to the top reservoir, then wait for it to filter down through the filter(s) and into the bottom chamber, where water can be dispensed for drinking.
Countertop water filters are bigger than water pitcher filters but work on the same concept of gravity filtration. They often use different types of filter media, like ceramic and carbon media, and many can remove hundreds of drinking water contaminants.
Under-Sink Water Filtration System
Under-sink filtration units use one or several filter cartridges to remove contaminants from drinking tap water before it leaves the faucet.
Depending on the comprehensiveness and quality of filtration, these systems may remove a few common contaminants and improve water taste, or they may remove hundreds of contaminants and greatly improve your water quality.
Under-sink filters take a bit more effort to install because you need to intercept the cold water line for your kitchen faucet.
Whole House Water Filter System
A whole house filtered water system is a large-scale version of an under-sink system. The big difference is that this system treats water upstream of your hot water heater, so you get filtered water to use in all fixtures and appliances in your home, rather than just at one faucet.
There are two types of whole house water filtration units:
- Cartridge-based systems, which use several filter cartridges to trap a range of different contaminants
- Tank-based systems, which are pre-loaded with filter media in a large tank and use backwashing to keep the media fresh for longer
The type of whole house filtration system you buy depends on what you want to remove from your water. There are POE filters for removing well water contaminants like iron, manganese, and sulfur, as well as systems that remove chlorine and chloramine from disinfected city water supplies.
Refrigerator Water Filter
A refrigerator filter is installed inside your refrigerator. You can also buy inline filters that you can install on the water pipe that leads to your fridge, if your fridge dispenses cold water but doesn’t have a dedicated slot for a filter.
Fridge filters typically use a carbon-based media and remove chlorine, tastes, odors, and some heavy metals and pesticides with the adsorption filtration method.
While they don’t provide the most comprehensive filtration, these filters are cheap and effective, and can give you access to better-quality cold water straight from your fridge.
Bathtub Or Shower Water Filter
There aren’t only water filters for drinking water – you can also buy a filter that treats the tap water for your bathtub or your shower water.
Bathtub or shower filters use carbon filtration with other media (such as vitamin C and ceramic beads) to remove chlorine and release vitamins that are good for hair and skin health.
Reverse Osmosis Water Filter
Reverse osmosis filters provide thorough, comprehensive water treatment and are usually installed underneath your kitchen sink or on your kitchen countertop.
These systems combine several water filters (usually sediment and carbon filters) and a semi-permeable membrane to remove up to 99.99% of all total dissolved solids (TDS) in your drinking water.
RO treatment systems produce water that’s almost completely pure. If you want to improve water quality as much as possible with a single point-of-use system, an RO filter is the best solution. However, it’s also the most expensive.
💰 Cost Of Filtering Water At Home
The cost of filtering your water at home is $50-$2,500 on average.
A point-of-use system (such as a water pitcher, under-sink filter, or faucet filter) costs $50-$1,200 on average, while a point-of-entry system (i.e. a whole house system) costs $1,000-$4,000 on average.
There’s also an ongoing maintenance cost to consider. The cost of changing filter cartridges is around $20-$250/year, depending on the type of water filter you own and the number of filter stages.
📌 Why Should I Filter Water Anyway?
There are several reasons why you might want to filter your water supply.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its own tap water standards that public water systems must legally adhere to. But does this mean that public drinking water is completely contaminant-free?
No matter where you get your water from, it’ll still contain trace levels of all sorts of nasty contaminants, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), disinfection byproducts, heavy metals, and chemicals like chlorine.
The Flint, Michigan water crisis is enough to tell us that not all public water systems treat their water so that it’s safe to drink. If you’re worried about your tap water quality, filtering your water will ease your concerns.
Worse luck if you’re a well owner: the EPA Water Quality Standards don’t apply to you, and you’re responsible for treating your own water. This means your water could contain dangerous levels of all sorts of contaminants, and filtration is essential.
If, for whatever reason, you only want to filter your water some of the time, you can choose systems that allow you to switch between filtered and unfiltered water, like a faucet-mounted filter.
📰 Important Considerations When Selecting a Drinking Water Filter
There are so many ways to filter and purify your water that you’re probably wondering how on earth you can narrow your options down to one.
If you’re on the market for a water treatment solution today, we recommend considering the following:
Water Source & Impurities
Your water source and the impurities you’re dealing with will determine which filtering or purifying solution you opt for. In some cases, a water filter is the best solution, while in others (such as if you’re dealing with microorganisms like bacteria), filtering water won’t usually eliminate the problem.
Well water contains different contaminants than city water. There are dedicated filtered water systems for well water, and other systems that are only designed to filter city water.
If you’re considering buying a water filter or purifier, we’ll assume that you want to remove a particular contaminant.
But if you don’t already know what your water contains, we recommend getting a lab test, which will give you the clearest indication of what you’re dealing with.
Method Effectiveness (Contaminants Removed)
Perhaps you’re just looking to remove a particular problem impurity, but equally, you might be looking for a water filter or purifier that can remove the most impurities at once. In that case, consider filtering water with an RO system, or purifying it with a distiller.
Filters that can do it all are more expensive, and you may not need something so advanced. If you just need chlorine and lead removal, you can save a lot of money on carbon filters.
Water filtration might not be the most effective method to treat your drinking water contaminants. For instance, if hard water is your biggest problem, avoid traditional filters and go for an ion exchange system.
Capacity is the volume of water that can pass through a filter before it needs to be replaced. This is often translated from number of gallons to a timeframe of months.
Filtration capacity varies from one filtering device to the next. Whole-house systems naturally have the highest capacities, as they’re needed for whole-house use. Under-sink and countertop filters usually have slightly lower capacities, and pitcher filters generally have the lowest capacities.
If a filter lasts for over a year, it has a pretty decent capacity.
In most cases, however, especially with the smaller filters, you should expect a system to filter water for around three to six months before the filter needs replacing.
POU Vs POE
Your preferred location of a filtered water system depends on whether you’d rather filter your entire home’s water supply or just your drinking water at one tap.
A point of entry (POE) system is installed at water’s main entry point into your home, so it’ll remove contaminants and protect your entire plumbing system. This is a good option if you want water from every fixture to be filtered, or you have an aesthetic issue (like iron) that could damage your pipes and appliances.
A point of use (POU) system is installed at a specific use point, such as under a kitchen sink or on a shower head. This type of system is best if you have a specific purpose in mind (i.e. drink water from your kitchen tap that has been filtered, or remove chlorine from your shower water).
The flow rate of a system determines how quickly it’ll provide filtered water.
Systems that are connected to your waterline have a faster flow rate, as your water pressure will keep things moving quickly. Gravity filters, on the other hand, may take upwards of 10 minutes to filter a gallon batch, and distillation takes up to 6 hours.
Filtration speed might not be massively important to you, but if you have a larger family, you may find that some systems are simply too slow to keep up with your demands.
Installation & Maintenance
Installation and maintenance vary depending on the filtration system you’re looking at.
Whole-home and under-sink systems are generally the most complex to install. This is especially the case when you’re dealing with a unit that has multiple components, like an RO filter. You might need to hire an expert if you’re concerned about making a mess of the install process. The cost of a plumber is typically $45-$200/hour.
Some filters require no installation at all – like countertop filters and pitchers, which can be set up and ready to use in seconds.
In terms of maintaining a filter, you’ll have to replace the filters somewhere along the line.
Filtered water systems for home use can obtain testing or official certifications to support the manufacturer’s performance claims.
Some of the common NSF certifications that a home water filter can obtain are:
- NSF 42 – For reducing chlorine, tastes, & odors
- NSF 53 – For reducing contaminants with health effects, like lead
- NSF 244 – For protecting against microbiological contamination
- NSF 401 – For removing emerging or incidental contaminants
- NSF 473 – For reducing PFOA
If you want the reassurance of third-party approval for a water filter’s contaminant removal abilities, choose a filter with laboratory testing to NSF Standards or official NSF testing/certifications.
Finally, your budget is something to consider carefully when deciding which tap water treatment solution to invest in.
Generally, the bigger the system, the more expensive it is.
If you’re new to filtration, you might want to start by spending $20-$30 on a filter pitcher and testing it out. Faucet-mounted filters are another affordable option to consider.
You can then decide whether you’re keen to spend more on a larger or more complex filtration system, like a reverse osmosis system or a whole-home system.
📑 Final Word
Now you’ve reached the end of our how to filter water – home edition article, you should be equipped with all the knowledge you need to choose a suitable water treatment system based on your requirements.
We’ve only discussed filtering water here. There are other methods of water treatment, including water softening (for hard water) and water disinfection, like UV treatment (for well water supplies that may contain harmful bacteria and other microbes).
👨🔧 If you’re ready to start searching for water filtration systems, check out our shortlist of the overall best water filter systems in 2023.