The Best Water Filters at Every Price Point

The Best Water Filters at Every Price Point

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Katie Holdefehr
Jun 7, 2016
soma water pitcher
(Image credit: Soma)

When investing in a healthy home, one of the most important purchases you can make is a water filter. Not only is filtered water better for you, but making tap water taste fresher might just inspire you to stay hydrated. With these concerns in mind, we’ve updated our list of top water filters, presenting a range of price points and different filtration methods. Whether you’re a small-space dweller, a renter, or the head of a big water-guzzling family, there’s a solution here that will work for you.

To Get Started: Figure out how clean your tap water is by checking your municipality’s mandatory Consumer Confidence Reports, an annual water quality summary that’s released each year by July 1st. If you have well water, or if you're worried about what happens to your water on the journey from the source to your faucet, you’ll want to pick up a test kit at the hardware store. Particularly if your home was built before 1986 (when lead-free pipes were mandated), you should test your tap water. Make sure whichever filter you choose addresses your specific concerns.

How Filters are Tested: Specific contaminants are added to water, and once it’s gone through the filter, the water is tested to determine how much of each impurity is left. NSF International is a trusted organization that sets certain standards for judging the results. When you see “NSF Standard 42,” it means that the filter passes for “aesthetic effects,” like removing chlorine, which makes water taste and smell better. If you’re more focused on the health effects of filtration, look for a product that passes “NSF Standard 53,” which evaluates a list of dangerous impurities, like lead and giardia. If a filter is “NSF Standard 401-certified,” it has been shown to remove trace amounts of prescription drugs and pesticides. Curious how your current water filter stacks up? Search for it on the NSF website.

LOW

$39 for pitcher + 1 filter; $60 per year for 6 filters

You’ll want to keep this beauty out on the dinner table. Released about one year ago, this plastic pitcher with a white oak handle is an update on Soma's handleless glass carafe, making it easier to pour and pass around the table. Luckily, the same plant-based filters—made from coconut shells that are heat-treated to create a highly absorbent carbon—work for both the pitcher and the carafe models. Tests are still being done on the specific contaminants it filters out, but it has been tested to NSF 42 standards for reducing chlorine, making the water taste incredibly crisp. We use one here in the New York office, and put it to the test every day. The verdict? Account executive Grace McCaffrey says, “It makes me feel like I’m at a spa.” Thank you, streamlined design and clean-tasting sips.


$27 for pitcher + 1 filter; $38 per year for 6 filters

This classic starter pitcher is simple to use and makes water taste noticeably better than straight from the tap. As anyone who’s had one knows, the only hassle is refilling it, which if you are passionate about hydration or have a big family, can mean multiple times per day. The good news: Brita has improved their filters so they no longer need to be pre-soaked before installation, making replacing the filter even easier. The filters use a combination of coconut-based activated carbon and ion exchange resin to reduce chlorine, zinc, copper, cadmium, and mercury. While pitcher filters don't catch as much as high-tech systems, they make sense for renters who are tight on space and have good tap water to start.


$20 each; $18 for 3 Binchotan Charcoal Sticks

A stylish on-the-go option, this plastic water bottle comes with a stick of binchotan charcoal, which has been used to purify water in Japan for centuries and is only now becoming more popular in the U.S. To make the sticks, sustainably-sourced wood is charred in a kiln, and then each piece of charcoal is rapidly cooled. Although official tests haven’t been finalized yet, it’s believed that the sticks filter water in the same way other activated charcoal filters work, by attracting the ions of contaminants, such as chlorine. The sticks are also thought to add minerals, like iron, calcium, and magnesium into the water. The one downside to this portable carafe: Because water doesn’t pass through the filter, but sits beside it, the longer you let it marinate, the more filtration you’ll get. Water quality is reported to improve within one hour, but is even better after 8 (!) hours—so maybe take this bottle with you on a long hike or picnic.


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MEDIUM

$35 for faucet mount + 1 filter; $144 per year for 4 filters

This faucet-mounted filter removes a lot more than most pitcher filters—it’s NSF-certified to reduce more than 70 contaminants, including 99% of lead, 96% of mercury, and 92% of pesticides. Visit the NSF website for the full list. Because of its lead-removing abilities, this is one of the filters that were given to Flint, Michigan residents in January 2016 in response to the water crisis. One thing to note: this filter intentionally does not remove fluoride, which you may want to consider depending upon your stance on the fluoride debate. Taking convenience into account, a faucet-mounted filter wins over the pitcher anyday, and five finish options let you match it to your faucet for a seamless look. If you prefer a portable option to carry to the table or the backyard, PUR also makes a pitcher that’s been shown to reduce lead in unofficial tests and was rated the #1 pitcher by The Sweethome.


At first glance, this looks like a bulky system, but it all hides under the sink so the only thing you see is the sleek chrome faucet. The heavy-duty filter works by reverse osmosis, which if you remember from chem class, is a process of pushing water through a semipermeable membrane to strip away ions and minerals. The system is built with NSF-certified tubing, and it reduces a laundry list of top contaminants, including arsenic, chlorine, lead, fluoride, and bacteria. Need any more proof that this filter is a top performer? Take a glance at the rave reviews on Amazon.


$100 per year for 2 filters

This in-refrigerator filter only works with certain models of Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, and Jenn-Air fridges (search by model number to see if yours is compatible), but the luxury of having clean, cool water without refilling a pitcher makes it worthy of a spot on the list. Both NSF 42 and 53 certified, it reduces 24 contaminants, including pharmaceuticals.


$60 per year for 2 filters

Another unbeatably convenient solution, this refrigerator filter is for GE owners. It reduces up to 99% of lead, as well as cysts, asbestos, and more. At just a little over two inches wide, it won’t take up much room in the back of your fridge, but it will keep the fresh filtered water flowing. Replace the filter every six months or when the water starts to run a little slower.


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HIGH

This serious filter has gained a cult following among clean-water enthusiasts—and when you look at the stats, it’s easy to see why. Capable of holding 2.1 gallons, with cleanable, self-sterilizing filters that last for up to 3,000 gallons, the Big Berkey reduces or removes a long list of contaminants, including chlorine, lead, bacteria, parasites, and cysts. If you’re concerned about fluoride, you can also buy an additional filter to remove it. What makes the Big Berkey remarkable is that, unlike most other systems, it can still work during a power outage and without water pressure, making it a must-have for relief organizations—or your home emergency kit. Reader Rikkitikki says, “It's awesome ... the water is great ... we drink so much more and that has cut down on juices or sodas for the sugar freaks in the house. I love my Berkey! I got the Big Berkey ... plenty for 1-4 people, and it's great for car camping.”


$799; $170 per year for 3 filters

Maxwell uses this beautifully designed water dispenser and filter at home. The egg-shaped chamber is ceramic and rests on top of a maple wood base. The organic, curved shape not only creates an attractive dispenser you won't mind leaving out on your kitchen counter, but it also helps the circulation of water through the filters. The Aquacristal filter replicates the natural underground water filtration process, and uses quartz crystals and carbon to remove chemicals and organic pollutants.


$286; $130 per year for 2 filter set

Another under-counter option, this 3-step system reduces 66 contaminants. In addition to tackling the usual suspects, the filter is NSF 401-certified for reducing emerging contaminants, such as prescription drugs and new pesticides. To catch all the impurities, water is run through four types of filtration, including both active and catalytic carbon. But what really makes Aquasana stand out from the pack is its focus on what their filters leave in the water, including healthy minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium.


Maxwell has been using this solid carbon filter for years now, and says, “The water tastes great and the ease of use couldn't be better (it's just not refrigerator cold).” The filter comes in stainless steel housing that hides away in a cabinet beneath your sink and comes with a chrome faucet, so there’s no bulky attachment taking up sink space. The system is NSF-certified for both aesthetic effects (Standard 42) and health effects (Standard 53) in water.

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