Find Out What’s in Your Water
The most important factor to consider when buying a wa-ter filter should be what impurities you want to removefrom your water. Are you concerned about health risks, orsimply unappetizing tastes and odors? This is important because different filters are designed to remove differenttypes of impurities, and you want to make sure that thefilter you buy will do the job.If your main concern is safety, you will be glad to know that tap water in the United States is well-regulated andsafe to drink.
Depending on the water quality where youlive, you may decide that you don’t need to filter your water at all. Regardless, you can find out what is in your water by contacting your local utility or your local publichealth department.
Local utilities are required by law to provide their cus-tomers with a water quality report at least once a year inaddition to providing public notification of specific viola-tions. To access this report you can call your local utility and ask for a copy of its Annual Water Quality Report,also called the Consumer Confidence Report.
Alterna-tively, your local health department can test your water orprovide a list of certified laboratories that can do the job.
Once you know what is in your water (and what you wantto take out), you can educate yourself about what product will best serve your needs. Check out the “Know What’sOn the Market” section of this guide for more informationon existing product designs.
Know What’s on the Market: AWater Filtration Glossary
Different water filter products use different technologies.Some use more than one. If you are looking for a home water filter you are likely to come across some of theseterms:
Particulate, or mechanical,filters are simple screens that block large particles. They often function as “prefilters” in a multiple-step waterfilter.
Adsorption refers to aphysical process where particles in water are removed because they stick to the surface of an “adsorptive” car- bon material.
These filters are usually made of carbonor granular activated carbon (GAC).
They are the mostcommon filters on the market and are generally effectivefor reducing the most typical worrisome compounds thatcan be found in municipal water: chlorine, chlorine by-products and dissolved volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)such as pesticides and herbicides.
Carbon adsorptionfilters generally work well for reducing bad odors andtastes.
Softeners/ion exchange units:
Water softeners use a pro-cess called ion exchange to reduce hard metals, includinglead, in the water.
When water passes through an ionexchange unit, hard metal ions are replaced by softersodium ions, leaving the water “softer” as a result.
Thistechnology is often used in combination with adsorptiveor reverse osmosis filters.
Ultraviolet (UV) Treatment:
Ultraviolet treatment usesUV light to kill germs that may be present in the wa-ter.
UV treatment is the only treatment certified by theNational Sanitation Foundation International to reduce bacteria.
Reverse osmosis is a process where water is forced through a membrane which filters outmolecules that are physically larger than the water mol-ecules.
Although reverse osmosis works well for reduc-ing minerals, it is not effective for chlorine and volatileorganic chemicals (VOCs), which are more likely to beconcerns in municipal tap water.
Reverse osmosis filtersare also very inefficient — they waste three gallons of water for every gallon that they filter.
Water distillers heat water so that it turnsinto steam, which is then collected and returned to its wa-ter form.
This new water is free of all contaminants that were left behind when the water evaporated. Thus, distil-lation is very effective for removing most minerals and bacteria. Unfortunately, like reverse osmosis, distillationdoes not work on chlorine or VOCs and is very inefficient— it generally wastes five gallons for every gallon of waterproduced.
Because the process also uses a lot of energy to heat the water, distillation units are not the purifica-tion product of choice for most households.
A common carafe-style ltration device used in many households.