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Types of Water Filters and Systems: Which One is Right for You?


Water is essential for life. Unfortunately, many water sources worldwide are contaminated with dangerous levels of bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and lead. Clean water is a privilege that not everyone has access to. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 6 billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water. And in the United States alone, one in six people get their drinking water from wells or other small sources that aren’t regularly monitored for contaminants or arsenic. Even tap water can contain contaminants such as chlorine or lead (check this list for your local city). Drinking unsafe water can result in causing short-term health risks like nausea and vomiting and long-term risks such as kidney disease and cancer. Some common types of water filters include:

How to Select a Water Filter/Filtration System

To select the right water filter for you, start by determining what contaminants you’re trying to remove from your water and check the home water treatment systems price. Some contaminants, like lead, are easy to find, with easy-to-read guidelines on government sites. Others, like pesticides and herbicides, are a bit trickier to research because there are so many different types of chemicals and pesticides, and they don’t have set levels that are considered safe. If you have a local water department, talk to the people there about what contaminants are in the water in your area. If you have a well, get the water tested. Some organizations will test your water for free. You also need to consider how much water you’ll need to filter and whether you have enough space to store the filter and all of the replacement parts. If you’re using a filter with a replaceable cartridge, you’ll need to buy a new filter every few months. If you have a system that uses a tank or a filter with a built-in reservoir, you’ll need to consider how often you’ll need to change the water.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water Filters

Reverse osmosis water filters use reverse osmosis to remove heavy metals, chemicals, and other contaminants from water. They’re usually found in large-scale water filtration systems in large buildings and sometimes installed in individual homes. Reverse osmosis water filters use a semi-permeable membrane to separate contaminants from water. The water is pushed through the membrane in a pressurized environment, leaving the contaminants behind. These are the best water filters for removing heavy metals, chlorine, and bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. They do not do a great job at removing pesticides, fluoride or other chemicals and minerals like nitrates and nitrites. RO water filters are heavy and bulky and require a lot of maintenance. They can also be expensive to install. These are not the best water filters for areas with high mineral content in the water. If you have particularly hard water, be aware that an RO filter will remove the minerals in it and leave it virtually tasteless. You will have to add some minerals like calcium and magnesium.

UV Light Water Filters

Ultraviolet light water filters use ultraviolet light to kill microorganisms. They’re usually installed as a component of larger filtration systems, like a whole house water filtration system. UV water filters are most effective at killing bacteria and other microorganisms like algae and fungi. They don’t remove heavy metals, chemicals or minerals from your water. UV filters are relatively small and inexpensive. They don’t require much maintenance and are easy to install. UV water filters don’t remove bacteria already in your water, so they are most effective when used at the source, like at a well pump or in a water storage tank. They don’t do a great job at killing bacteria in your water storage tank or your pipes, so they’re not the best water filters for areas with high bacterial water contamination. UV water filters have limited effectiveness when the water is cloudy. They’re also not very effective at killing viruses, which can be a problem for people who need to filter their water for medical reasons. UV filters aren’t effective at killing parasites like Cryptosporidium, so it’s important to use a filter that kills bacteria and viruses.

Ultraviolet Irradiated Water Filters

Ultraviolet irradiated water filters combine the effectiveness of UV light water filters with the ability of RO water filters to remove heavy metals, chemicals and minerals from water. The UV light kills bacteria and other microorganisms, while the reverse osmosis strips out harmful chemicals, minerals and other contaminants. They can be installed as a component of a larger filtration system, like a whole house water filtration system, or as a stand-alone filter. UV irradiated water filters are small, but they take up a lot of space if you install them as part of a larger filtration system. They’re easy to maintain but require a lot of cleaning to avoid damaging the UV light. They can be expensive to install, especially if you add them to a whole house filtration system. UV irradiated water filters are best for areas with high bacterial water contamination. They’re not effective against viruses, so you’ll need to use a filter that kills both bacteria and viruses, like an RO water filter. UV irradiated water filters effectively against most types of bacteria, except coliform bacteria, commonly found in water contaminated with animal waste.


Water is essential to life. Unfortunately, many water sources worldwide are contaminated with dangerous levels of bacteria, viruses, chemicals and lead. Luckily, many types of water filters and systems can remove these contaminants. Before you purchase a water filter, you’ll want to determine which contaminants you want to remove from your water and which water filter is best for you.

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