Americans have a growing taste for water. Many are installing home water filters for a variety of reasons, including wanting to improve the taste of their tap water, a desire to reduce consumption of bottled water and health concerns. Although drinking water in the vast majority of homes meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for quality, some consumers use point-of-use water filtration systems to help reduce certain contaminants. Most typically, carbon filters are installed on faucets or used in pitchers or bottles.
Water can pick up chemicals and a bad taste after it leaves a central distribution plant and travels through miles of pipes and then your own plumbing, said Pauli Undesser, director of regulatory and technical affairs at the Water Quality Association. For more extensive filtration, whole-house water filtering systems are available, Undesser says, and cost from $400 installed. WHAT’S NEW?
• Design. New products such as the sleek Bobble Jug, designed by Karim Rashid, filter water and look good in the refrigerator.
• Consumer-friendly features. Some units have alerts, whether alarms or lights, that go on when it’s time to change filters.
• New technologies. More individual water bottles now have carbon filter inserts for on-the-go hydration.
• Convenience. Disposable straws with mini-carbon filters inserted in them can be brought to restaurants for one-time use. OPERATING TIPS
• Filter care. Some pitcher systems require soaking filters before inserting into the unit.
• Change filters on schedule. For best performance, follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully for replacing filters.
• Consider outside testing. The best way to choose the correct filter is to have a professional lab test of your tap water so you know what’s in it. Your corroded pipes may be adding lead or copper to your water.
• Well water. If you are using your filtering systems with well water, have your well water tested frequently. LOW, MEDIUM, HIGH
We asked Patricia Matho, a Bed Bath & Beyond district customer service manager, to select three water-filtering systems from those available at the chain store.
• Brita bottle-filtered water bottles.
One filter can replace 150 plastic bottles. The 20-ounce bottle is dishwasher safe. Sold with finger loop for easy carrying. Indented sides provide comfortable grip. Reduces chlorine taste and odor. $9.99 each; pack of two replacement filters $7.99.
• ZeroWater 10-cup pitcher.
Five-stage filtering system includes carbon and ion exchange technologies that can remove some “dissolved solids” such as minerals and salts. One filter typically treats about 30 gallons. Slim-line design saves space in the refrigerator. Includes laboratory-grade water testing meter. $35 each; two replacement filters $30.
• Pur horizontal chrome faucet-mount filter.
Filters up to 100 gallons (two or three months worth) with one filter on your tap. Built-in indicator shows when carbon filter needs to be changed. Horizontal design saves space in sink area. Easy installation and easy to remove if you need more room in your sink for a project. Run filter or unfiltered water with a flip of a switch. $40; set of two replacement filters $35. SHOP SMART
• Learn as much about your local tap water as you can before deciding to add home water filtration. Contact your public water company and ask for the Consumer Confidence Report for information on levels of contaminants. To learn more about drinking water, go to www.epa.gov/drink/guide. Or call the drinking water hotline: 800-426-4791.
• Look for filtration products that have been certified by organizations such as the Water Quality Association, National Sanitation Foundation or Underwriters Laboratories.
• Consider the cost of replacement filters in analyzing the ultimate cost of operating your filtering device. BY THE NUMBERS
• 34.6 — The number in billions of single-serving plastic water bottles bought by Americans each year.
• 40 percent — Portion of Americans who use a home water-treatment unit.
Three reasons Americans use home water filters:
3. Health concerns