Buying a water filter is a challenging task. If you do not get it right the first time, correcting your mistake can be time-consuming and very costly. Besides, how do you know which one is the best water filter system for you? In 2012, I bought my first water filter. I considered it the best water filtration product out there. But in reality, I had no idea what contaminants it filtered out and what media (aka components) it had. I did not even know what contaminants were in my drinking water. After that, I continued researching the water filter system market and found even better options that I’m going to present in this post. Read to the end to discover the best water filtration system for you.
Why you need a water filter system
The short answer to the question why you need a water filter is because our water is polluted. In other words, your best water filtration system must be able to clean your water of all the pollutants.
On the one hand, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 is supposed to protect our water supply, but in practice, it does not always work well. Records have shown that 49 million Americans drink water that contains illegal concentrations of chemicals such as lead, arsenic, dangerous bacteria, and even radioactive substances. And you might be one of them.
On the other hand, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 covers only 91 contaminants whereas there are over 85,000 chemicals used commercially within the United States (source). That is to say, many of those chemicals find their way into streams, rivers, lakes, and, ultimately, into our water supplies. In large, it happens because the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 does not cover them.
Now, let’s talk briefly about common contaminants in your drinking water that the best water filter system must be able to deal with.
Chlorine and chloramine
Normally, water municipalities use either chlorine or chloramine (chlorine plus ammonia) to kill pathogens, viruses, and mold in our drinking water. However, we need to remove the disinfectants and their by-products from our water before drinking it.
The problem is that chloramine is harder to remove from water than chlorine. Thus, a granular activated carbon filter cannot remove chloramine, so the best water filtration system would need catalytic carbon or KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) medium to deal with chloramine.
Lead in your drinking water
In addition, chloramine has a tendency to pull more lead from lead-soldered water pipes (source). Therefore, if you have lead-soldered water pipes and your municipality switches from chlorine to chloramine, you can expect more lead showing up in your drinking water. In fact, houses built before the mid-1980s would most likely have lead-soldered water pipes.
As for regulations, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) limit for lead is 0.2 ppb (source). However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of lead for children.
In contrast, the Federal government considers 15 ppb level safe, which seems like a compromise between industries and health advocates. Note that it is 75 times higher than the level set by the EWG.
Thus, if you have chloramine in your water and lead-soldered water pipes, the best water filter system for you must be able to remove lead, not just reduce it.
Fluoride in drinking water
Before fluoride started being added to the public water supply in the 1950s, it was considered an environmental pollutant resulting from the aluminum and phosphate fertilizer industries. Besides, when governments decided to add fluoride to water, there was very little health research.
A recent study requested by the EPA reported that even current levels of fluoride may cause tooth and bone damage. There is also growing evidence that fluoride is associated with an underactive thyroid. In addition, studies show that even 2 ppm (or 2 mg/L) in drinking water can damage kids’ kidneys and livers (source).
However, not every water filter system removes fluoride. Thus, to get the best water filtration product for your home, you need to make sure that you have a water filter medium that works for fluoride.
My recommendations on choosing the best water filter system
First and foremost, I have done a lot of research on water filters trying to find the best water filtration system. Since I don’t rely on advertisement and mere popularity of a certain brand, I studied each water filter system in detail to figure out how it works. In addition, I contacted some companies and asked a lot of questions. In other words, I have done your research for you. As a result, below you can find out my thoughts about three water filter brands. Please know that you can book a consultation, and I can present you with my research into any water filter of your choice.
I know that many of you use them and believe that Big Berkey filters are the best water filter systems out there. Nevertheless, before deciding if Berkey is the best water filter system, you should know something important about it.
To begin with, Berkey sent its filtered water samples to an independent lab. To clarify, judging by the way Berkey structured its water tests, it might appear that Berkey filters are superior to any other carbon filters and even to reverse osmosis water filtration systems. In other words, it may seem that they remove all contaminants, something that carbon filters usually do not.
However, there are several things to bear in mind when you look at Berkey’s test reports. This way you can decide whether Berkey is the best water filtration method out there.
Berkey’s filter media to remove fluoride
First, even the best water filter system will perform differently on different water. And a filter medium will perform better at the beginning of its life.
For instance, the Berkey filters use activated alumina to deal with fluoride. How well it removes fluoride depends on your tap water. Thus, it works best with water whose pH is between 5 and 7 and at a slower flow rate (1). As far as I know, normally tap water’s pH is higher than that. For example, our tap water’s pH is 8.17. You can find out your water’s pH from your water treatment municipality report. By law, your water utility must post it online every year. So, if your water’s pH is higher than 7, the activated alumina in a Berkey filter might not be the best option for removing fluoride from your tap water.
Berkey’s test report on lead
Secondly, pay attention to the minimum detectable levels on the test reports.
Specifically, for lead, the Berkey report shows the detectable minimum is less than 2 ppb. It is 10 times more than the Environmental Working Group’s safe level of 0.2 ppb (source). In other words, you won’t detect anything less than 2 ppb. So, if the water has 1.9 ppb (almost 10 times the EWG maximum “safe” limit), the result will be negative for lead. Under the circumstances, it is rather misleading.
To sum up, I believe Berkey is not the best water filter system. On the other hand, it has its own advantages. For example, it can work without electricity and it does not demineralize water.
Lastly, if you already own Berkey and consider it the best water filtration product for your circumstances, you might want to test your tap water and compare it to your filtered water to see how it performs. The best lab I found for that is Tap Score.
Berkey water filter and PFAS
Some of the common uses of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) include non-toxic coating in cookware and water- and stain-repellent finishes in clothes and carpeting. Unfortunately, they are associated with an array of health problems. For example, they include increased risk of cancer, potential harm to the developing fetus, and even reduction of vaccine effectiveness. Thus, it is very important that the best water filter system you choose removes them.
Luckily, scientists at the Duke and North Carolina State Universities tested a number of water filtration systems to see how well they remove 11 chemicals of the PFAS family. Berkey filters were some of the water filters they tested.
According to the tests, Berkey pitchers removed some PFAS, reduced others, and only in one instance added more PFAS. But Big Berkey with 2 black filters did poorly. To clarify, it removed some PFAS, did not significantly reduce PFPA, and actually added GenX and PFBA. Based on this, I do not believe that Berkey filters are the best water filtration products for you. To see a full list of tested water filters, please visit here.
Aquasana water filter systems
Like Berkey, Aquasana filter systems are very popular, too. They carry a carbon water filter system (3-Stage Claryum Under Counter Max Flow or 3-Stage Claryum Under Counter) and a reverse osmosis system (Optim H2O Reverse Osmosis + Claryum).
Generally speaking, if you have fluoride, arsenic, or hexavalent chromium in your water, and want to ensure the highest degree of their removal, you should go for the Optim H2O Reverse Osmosis + Claryum system. That is to say, you will get maximum reduction of these contaminants with reverse osmosis. What I like about Aquasana is that the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certifies all of their filters. They do very rigorous testing. Aquasana has published the NSF testing results on each water filtration product description page.
In fact, the Duke University and North Carolina State University scientists included Aquasana filters in their PFAS test and all models fared very well. You can see the details of the testing results here.
In addition, I called and asked them for a list of filtration media that go into making the best water filter system they sell.
Aquasana under counter water filter system
Some of Aquasana’s best water filtration products, namely the Aquasana 3-Stage Claryum Max Flow or 3-Stage Claryum, and the Aquasana Optim H2O Reverse Osmosis + Claryum under counter systems, include the following filter media:
- Granular activated carbon
- Catalytic carbon
- Ion exchange
- Reverse osmosis membrane
- Remineralization filter that adds calcium, potassium, and magnesium
Obviously, Aquasana filters are very popular because they are budget friendly. However, after a few attempts, I was unable to get a satisfying answer as to how much of beneficial minerals their remineralization medium adds to drinking water. This is a concern because if you add too much, it can make your water too alkaline. As a result, alkaline water may interfere with the stomach’s natural acidity and undermine digestion.
Head over to the Aquasana website for more information.
Aquasana whole-house best water filter system
First, Aquasana offers a whole-house water filter system for city water and well water. A whole-house filter does just that – you place it where your water enters the house, and it filters the water before it gets to anything else, including the kitchen sink, showers, etc.
Second, Aquasana best water filtration products are certified by NSF to remove at least 96.9% of chlorine, which is great for your hair and skin, too!
They also reduce herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, industrial solvents, and heavy metals, such as lead and mercury.
On the one hand, having a whole-house water filter is great for reducing chlorine and other contaminants. But on the other hand, you still need a kitchen filter to reduce many other contaminants. Thus, normally, whole-house water filtration systems are not designed to remove fluoride, chloramine, arsenic, radioactive elements, chromium-6, and many other contaminants.
Check out the Aquasana whole-house water filter on their website.
Pure Effect water filters
From the beginning, I can tell you that I consider Pure Effect the best water filter system.
I found Pure Effect back in 2015 and was drawn by their claims that their water filter system was as powerful as reverse osmosis (RO), but that it didn’t demineralize water. Unlike reverse osmosis water filtration systems, Pure Effect filters do not have water storage tanks. It is a good thing because they always line the tanks with plastic, and you don’t want that.
Initially, I was skeptical about the Pure Effect water filter. So, to make sure that their water filters were effective, I asked a ton of questions to the owner of Pure Effect Igor Milevskiy. By the way, my questions never annoyed him, and he always took the time to educate me and answered all my questions to my satisfaction. Please watch a video interview with the owner of Pure Effect Igor Milevskiy about why we need to filter water and why their best water filtration system is better than an RO filter here.
What I like about Pure Effect
First, the owner of the company was the one who designed the water filter system. Also, he provides customer service himself and is both knowledgeable and courteous.
Second, Pure Effect systems reduce fluoride, radioactive elements, arsenic, chromium 6, and pharmaceuticals. Essentially, these are the pollutants that reverse osmosis systems are designed to filter.
Though the Duke and North Carolina State study did not include Pure Effect best water filter system, I feel it would have fared very well. To clarify, in the Duke/NCSU study, even some simple pitchers or filters with 2 stage filtration did well. And the Pure Effect filters are a great deal more robust.
By the way, The Natural Baby Mama blogger tested water filtered by a Pure Effect Ultra Countertop filter. She found that it removed fluoride that had measured at .72 ppb to not detectable. I am not sure what the minimum detectable levels were though. Please see the details of her testing results here.
Third, there is no activated alumina filter in the Pure Effect best water filtration system that is normally used for reducing fluoride.
What makes Pure Effect stand out
To begin with, Pure Effect publishes test reports on its website, using low minimal detectable levels.
Besides, Pure Effect carries several different models so that you can choose which one is right for you.
Next, the Pure Effect best water filter system does not use a water tank and does not waste water.
Moreover, the filtered water will contain magnesium, calcium, chloride, and sodium – minerals our bodies need. Consequently, the filtered water will be slightly naturally alkaline due to the presence of these minerals.
Above all, over the years, I have never heard bad Pure Effect filters reviews.
This is what Nickie, a member of my Savvy Consumer Circle, said about Pure Effect (I love how supportive the group is):
To find the best water filtration model for your home, check out Pure Effect website.
Conclusion about the best water filter systems
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that everybody’s drinking water is different. Therefore, different water filtration technologies deal with different water pollutants. Thus, there is no best water filter system in absolute terms. Hence, it is best to start with your water quality report.
Also, the same filter will work differently on different water. So, it is a good idea to test your tap and filtered water to know how the water filter you have works on your water. To learn more about the best lab I found, please visit my Shop.
And finally, if you have any other questions, please feel free to book a consultation with me. The peace of mind you will gain from having chosen the best water system for your water will be worth it.
- Kamble, S., Deshpande, G., Barve, P., Rayalu, S., Labhsetwar, N., Malyshew, A., & Kulkarni, B. (2010). Adsorption of fluoride from aqueous solution by alumina of alkoxide nature: Batch and continuous operation. Desalination, 264(1), 15-23.
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