Choosing the Right Water Filter for Your Home

In a previous post we covered some of the things that potentially pollute our water supplies, and offered a few recommendations on what we can do to decrease the chances of drinking contaminated water. So to follow along the same thread I wanted to explore a bit further in order to more clearly define how water filtration works, and identify the differences between a few of the most popular filtration methods.I imagine that most of us who use water filters do so because we want clean, safe water. But it’s important to understand what’s in our water to begin with and then look for filtration systems that will actually improve the quality of the water we have access to. Here’s a quick comparison of some of the most popular ways to filter water in homes. Carbon FiltersThis is the most common household filter, and it’s likely what you’ll get when buying a tap filter (Point of Entry) or water pitcher filter (Point of Use). Granulated Activated Carbon filters are the most commonly used type of filter media. Carbon blocks are also available, but tend to have a slower filtration flow rate. What They Remove:
    Most treatment facilities use chlorine to disinfect water, and carbon filters remove this and other tastes and odors that might be in your tap water. These filters also significantly reduces parasites like Crypto, heavy metals such as lead, as well as radon, pesticides and volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s).
Reverse OsmosisThis process is the key to desalinization, but don’t rush out to get one so you can purify water from the ocean. The systems available to consumers are only good for improving fresh water quality and work by removing impurities through a semi permeable membrane. They also tend to waste a fair amount of water in order to do their job effectively. What They Remove:
    Despite the process and excess waste, reverse osmosis units remove most contaminants including metals like lead, copper and mercury, bacteria and viruses like Crypto and Giardia, and other toxins like arsenic and barium.
Cation Exchange SoftenerMore commonly referred to as water softeners, these systems are used to ‘soften’ water through exchanging highly positive charged ions for those with a lower charge, or for sodium ions. They can also help eliminate the buildup you might get on faucet ends if your home has hard water. What They Remove:
    Water softeners specifically target calcium and magnesium. Although the calcium deposit on your faucets may not show up any more, there are some health and dietary benefits to having both these minerals in your water. Although softeners can also remove elements like barium, don’t look to this method as a means to remove many other contaminants.
DistillersYou could liken the process of distilling water to the natural development of a thunderstorm, except rather than evaporation forming clouds, distillers heat water, and then collect the cool, purified condensation. And just like rainwater, distilled water does not contain any minerals. What They Remove:
    Distillers are efficient at removing most heavy metals such as lead, mercury, copper, etc. They also reduce a smattering of other toxins, compounds and minerals such as sodium, arsenic and fluoride.
Maintenance is KeyRegardless of how you decide to purify the water in your home, be aware that any water filtration method requires a little routine maintenance in order to make sure the quality of the water is getting better and not worse by creating additional bacteria or chemicals. Finding out what kinds of impurities might be in your water will help you decide which product is best for your home. Be sure and do a little price comparison shopping and remember to factor in the strength of the water filtration system. Then consider not only the initial cost of the system, but also the ongoing frequency and price of the replacement filters, or any professional maintenance that may need to be performed.Also, be sure and look for filters labeled NSF/ANSI Standard 53. It provides some assurance that at least some of the purification claims on the packaging have been verified by public health and safety organizations. Cheers!---Jared Matkin---Jared Matkin is a Salt Lake City based freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast who is continually on the lookout for innovative and usable products designed to help improve the way we live.

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