Great coffee starts with great water. And the best-tasting water is filtered water. So we went on a quest for the absolutely BEST WATER FILTERS at the absolutely best prices.
Here is the cream of the crop. And here are the criteria we used to skim it for you.
We look at five criteria when evaluating the best at-home water filtering system:
Actual amount of FILTRATION
INITIAL COST of the filter system
COST TO OPERATE the filter system over time
EASE OF USING the filter system
and the filter system’s IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT
There are a few pieces of the water equation we can’t quantify for you — the main one is what your water usage is. That depends partially on the number of people in your home, how widely you use filtered water for drinking and cooking, the average annual temperature where you live, how active a lifestyle you life, and whether you are a male or female.
No stereotypes here. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, & Medicine say the average adult male needs 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water a day. And the average adult female needs 11.5 cups (or 2.7 liters) of water a day. So the equations are different.
A person with higher activity levels, particularly in hotter climates, requires more water. Larger framed people also tend to have a higher hydration need than smaller framed people. You get the drift. We don’t know those things about you. But you do.
But the old adage of eight 8-oz glasses of water a day is not a bad general guide when we take into consideration that we are getting some additional water each day from fruits, vegetables, and other beverages. If we add our actual drinking water intake each day to what we receive in our diets, eight 8-oz glasses of water a day is a good benchmark, understanding we may need a little more in high heat or high activity.
A big note here. We find it important to remember that the water we use in cooking is part of the water that comes back into our bodies from our food. So we find it very important not only to drink filtered water, but to cook with filtered water as well.
So the 64 ounces of filtered water a day per person (or 176 gallons a year) we used in our cost analysis we consider to be LOW. We point this out because even though we report operation costs in this article on that basis, we strongly believe the higher volume filtration systems should be given considerable weigh in your purchase decision. And it is important to understand that the more filtered water you use, the larger the multiplier effect of the cost of use becomes.
In our home, we cook with filtered water and we give our pets filtered water. We make coffee and tea and almond milk with filtered water. We “fizz” filtered water in our SodaStream machine. And we fill re-usable glass bottles with filtered water whenever we go out and would otherwise waste a plastic bottle. We have estimated our average usage is 128 ounces of filtered water per person per day. But then we have a very active household, we live in a hot climate, and we rely on filtered water for pretty much everything but washing dishes.
So operating costs are not insignificant.
The cost of a filtration system, no matter how inexpensive or how expensive it may seem when you purchase it, is not the whole cost of the water. The operating cost may ultimately outweigh or neutralize the purchase price.
But the biggest thing that separates water filters is what they actually, really and truly, filter out of the water.
And as you probably can guess, the general rule is that the cheaper the water filter is to purchase, the less “stuff” it filters out of the water. And, for the most part, the more it costs to buy the system, the more it filters.
But, that is not always the case.
So let’s start with entry-level filters that will at least improve the taste of your coffee some. And then we will explore all the major options, or at least what seem to be the best options considering water quality for cost. Remember here we have already done most of the homework for you. We are presenting you with the best of the kinds of options currently available on the American market.
Brita Stream Filter-as-You-Pour Water Filter
You can usually find these for around $30. This particular model comes in both a 10-cup version and a slightly larger 12-cup version. Both easily fit on the counter top or in the side door of a refrigerator.
The 10-oz Brita pitcher comes in a graphite gray color they call Carbon and also a pale blue they call Lake. And the 12-oz pitcher comes in a crystal white Brita calls Ice or a lovely dark red called Bordeaux.
Either size of the Brita would work for you if you live alone and aim to simply drink filtered water in the minimum amount of eight 8-oz glasses of water a day. You could easily just re-fill it every evening.
But for more than one person, you would find yourself re-filling the Brita pitcher more than once a day or, and this is the problem with this kind of capacity, you would find yourself only using it sometimes during the day because you don’t want to run out. Either that or you do run out and then you have to refill the pitcher and wait for it to filter.
Certainly if your aim is solely to filter water for your morning coffee, the Brita would improve the taste of your coffee. At least marginally. But at the rate of one cup of coffee a day, that improvement in taste is only only going to cost you 17 cents a day.
The Brita water filter uses a carbon filter system that Brita says is certified to reduce Chlorine taste and odor, and reduce Copper, Mercury, Zinc and Cadmium. That is the extent of the filtering claim.
A reduction. Not elimination. Not a specific amount of reduction. Not even a claim of “most.” Just a reduction.
The Brita system is made of lightweight BPA-free plastic that is easy to use, easy to pour. And it is easy to replace the filters. It even has a nifty little reminder do-dad on the lid that tells you when it is time to for a filter replacement.
Brita says one cartridge filter produces enough filtered water to replace 300 single-use disposable plastic water bottles. Laudable. Any step towards reducing a waste footprint is significant.
That cartridge needs to be replaced approximately every two months. The lowest cost we could find on replacement cartridges is for a 6-pack at a price that comes out to be approximately $25 a year.
So over the first year, using the minimum amount of filtered water from the Brita would cost you under $60. That includes the cost of the Brita water filter and one year’s worth of replacement filters.
And then after the first year, the Brita will cost around $25 a year for replacement filters.
So over 10 years, the Brita Stream Filter-as-You-Pour Water Filter costs $285, or about 8 cents a day.
A side note on pricing here. We tend to think whenever we buy larger lots of something that the unit price goes down. But that is often not the case.
A 2-pack of these Brita replacement filters cost almost twice as much per filter than the per filter cost if you buy them in a 6-pack of filters. But if you purchase an 8-pack of Brita filters, the per filter price is more than a dollar higher per filter than it is if you buy them in a 6-pack. It pays to take the time to do the math.
The Brita Stream Filter-as-You-Pour Water filter is rated NSF/ANSI 42.
Lifestraw Home Water Filter Pitcher
The price jumps a bit here. But so does the filtering. At least supposedly. We’ll get to that at the end of the Lifestraw review.
You typically can find a Lifestraw Home Water Filter Pitcher for $50 to $60.
Like the Brita, the Lifestraw can either easily fit on a counter top or in a refrigerator door. It comes in both in a lighter-weight BPA-free plastic version and also in a glass model. Both come in a choice of pleasing colors.
It is slightly smaller than the Brita, holding 7 cups of water. And it has a more sleek and modern design.
We find water from the glass version of the Lifestraw pitcher to taste a lot better than water from the plastic version. The glass version is more environmentally friendly as well. Plus, glass imparts fewer contaminants back into the water after filtering. So we find the slightly heftier weight of the glass pitcher insignificant compared to the advantages of it.
Lifestraw uses a two-filter system rather than just one filter.
Like the Brita, Lifestraw has a carbon filter that reduces heavy metals, chlorine, PFAs, pesticides, and herbacides. Like Brita, there aren’t specific amounts claimed with the carbon filtering.
But the Lifestraw also has a second, considerably larger membrane filter as well. And this is where the Lifestraw is supposed to kick in. At least in some of its advertising Lifestraw says its membrane filter filters out 99.9% of bacteria, parasites, and microplastics. In other advertising, the claim is 97%. But either way, that’s a big jump in function from the Brita.
The Lifestraw unit is shipped with both filters. The carbon filter needs to be replaced every two months, just like the Brita. But the Lifestraw’s membrane filter is adequate for one full year so it only has to be changed annually.
At current filter replacement costs the Lifestraw would cost about $135 for the first year of use. That price includes the cost of buying the unit itself.
But each year thereafter, the Lifestraw filter pitcher would run about $75 a year in replacement filters. You have to replace the carbon filter every 60 days and the membrane filter each year.
So over 10 years, this Lifestraw Home Water Filter will cost you $810, or about 22 cents a day.
But here is the problem we have with Lifestraw.
Nowhere in any of their advertising, either on Amazon or on Lifestraw’s website, do they display exactly what NSF/ANSI certification level any of their products hold. And nowhere do they show result of independent lab testing for water quality.
We find that really questionable.
Lifestraw’s website uses phrases like “protects against” and “improves taste.” And to a specific question on Amazon that asked if this home filtration system held an NSF/ANSI certification or certification of any kind, the answer from Lifestraw was “Purchase on Amazon. All info you need there.“
But it isn’t.
No matter the claims in some of the advertising, we don’t find this trust-instilling in Lifestraw or its products. We tend to adhere to the old adage that an absence of feedback is feedback. And, here’s the kicker for us, not only is Lifestraw not certified, it offers no independent lab tests to substantiate it’s claims. None.
But Lifestraw does have some devoted followers. Several of them are close friends of ours. We hope they read this. And, as always, we are open to gaining new information from any of our readers.
As far as we can tell, the Lifestraw Home Water Filter Pitcher holds no NSF/ANSI certifications.
EpicWater Home Water Filter
For a lower initial expenditure than the Lifestraw product reviewed above, and only minimally more than you would pay for a Brita, the verified filtration of the EpicWater Home Water Filter jumps exponentially.
This “Amazon’s Choice” has reason to recommend it. For a little over $50, you get a counter-top pitcher that is easy to stash in a door of your refrigerator that does a LOT of filtering.
The EpicWater filtration pitcher not only reduces bad tastes and known contaminants to below EPA levels of concern, but it also reduces or eliminates the 15 emerging contaminants that EPA does not yet regulate as well as both dangerous PFOAs and PFOs. This little contraption gives a whalloping bang for your bucks.
The unit itself is made of BPA-free pastic, not glass.
The unique filter used by EpicWater needs to be replaced every 4-6 months. A solo-household can probably go 6 months before replacement. But a larger family will need to replace the filter after four months of use. There is a digital filter replacement guide on the unit.
Replacement filters run around $50. EpicWater says its filters are 100% BPA-free, made from 100% approved food grade materials, are 100% vegan, and are 100% recyclable. So the ecological footprint of the waste should be negligible.
First year cost of the EpicWater Home Water Filter runs about $110 for a single household and about $160 for a multiple-person household. That includes initial cost of the unit itself as well as filter replacements.
Subsequent annual cost goes down slightly to $100 for a single household and to $150 for a multiple-person home.
That means that over 10 years, the EpicWater Home Water Filter costs $1,010 for a one-person household or about 28 cents a day.
And for a multiple-person household, it cost approximately $1,510 over 10 years, or about 41 cents a day.
Essentially you are paying for the filters and getting the unit that houses the filters for only $10 on your initial purchase.
The EpicWater Home Water Filter meets or exceeds NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, 401, & P473. (See our article on what those designations mean.)
iSpring RCC7AK 5-Stage Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Filter
You will find dozens and dozens of Reverse Osmosis water systems on the U.S. market. Often simply called “RO” or “R/O” systems, these have been a hot item over the past decade.
R/O water filtering systems typically range in price from a couple of hundred dollars for a single-source under-the-sink model to more than a thousand dollars for a whole-house filtration system.
The iSpring R/O RCC7AK system we reviewed here is a modestly-priced unit designed for a single-source that is mounted underneath your kitchen sink. The iSpring company makes at least six different R/O home water systems. But this is the one that is the “Amazon Choice” and that has higher positive reviews than most R/O systems.
You likely will have to add to the purchase price of it the cost of a plumber to install it unless you or one of your generous family members are tremendously handy. The ads make it sound like these are easy to install. But in our experience, they are not. At least if you don’t want them to leak, they’re not.
This particular iSpring filter runs about $200. It has both a pre-filter and a post-filter. Clogging is a problem with R/O systems (thus the pre-filter) and since beneficial minerals are removed from the water, they have to be re-constituted (thus the post-filter).
This model meets or exceeds reduction standards of known carcinogen and toxic chemical minimums set by the EPA. But it does not address the 15 emerging chemicals or the PFOAs and PFOs like the EpicWater pitcher does.
Water from an R/O system tastes great. We can testify to that personally.
But there are two very distinct disadvantages to R/O systems that we also can attest to personally.
One problem is that R/O systems tend to leak. And because they are either way back under the sink where you rarely look or out in the garage or inside an enclosed closet with your water heater, you are not likely to notice the leak until a great deal of damage has been done.
Believe me, we have the plumbing bills to prove this point. More than one, unfortunately. It is a problem that never seems to be entirely fixed.
The other problem is that an inherent by-product of R/O systems is highly concentrated toxic waste. Disposal of it creates a whole new environmental problem.
However, there are two big advantages to an R/O system as well.
One advantage of at least this R/O system is that an entire set of filters for one year costs only slightly over $50. And the other advantage is that for under $20 you can buy a hose to connect the filter to your refrigerator’s ice maker if your physical set up allows it. We find the latter a huge advantage that few other systems offer.
One of the hidden problems with most water filtering systems is that we tend to throw ice cubes in with our filtered water and so no matter how pure the water was when it was filtered, it becomes re-contaminated by the ice cubes as they melt.
So first year cost of the iSpring RCC7AK Under-Counter R/O Water Filter comes to around $200. If you pay to have it installed by a licensed plumber — which we STRONGLY suggest — it will run around $350.
And each subsequent year, it costs about $50 to operate. At least without plumber bills for leaks.
So over 10 years, the iSpring RCC7AK Under-Counter R/O Water Filter costs from $650 to $800, or anywhere from 18 cents to 22 cents a day to operate.
That, of course, is without plumber bills. And maybe your luck will be better than ours. We will say, the water tastes great.
Just remember, we strongly suggest a plumber install the unit for you. That greatly lessens later plumbing bills.
You can purchase this iSpring RCC7AK Under-Counter R/O Water Filter on Amazon here. And you can purchase a year’s worth of replacement filters here. And if you are interested in the ice-maker hose kit, you can find it on Amazon here.
The iSpring RCC7AK Under-Counter R/O Water Filter does not have NSF p473 certification, but does hold an NSF/ANSI 58 certification. (See our article on what the NSF/ANSI 58 designation means and what lack of the NSF n473 designation means.)
Berkey Water Filters
The Berkey line up of water Filters are all simple gravity-generated water tank systems with an industrial look. They were early on the international market and are considered the Rolls Royce of not just water filters, but higher grade water purifiers by many.
We are in that cadre. Or we were. True, and somewhat painful disclosure here.
We have had a Berkey water filter in our home for the last decade, first having come across one while working on a FEMA disaster site during a flood when all the local utilities in the area were out of commission. Our home Berkey has seen us through two hurricanes and nine boil water notices when our local water purification plant went dark due to green algae infestation and/or dangerously high chloramines. Thanks to our Berkey, we had potable water when no one else did.
Berkey claims you can filter rain water or creek water or even mud puddles into safe drinking water with their filtering system. We haven’t gone quite that far, but almost. And we know people who have filtered some pretty sketchy liquid through theirs and lived with clean water from their Berkey quite well. At any rate, on with our story here.
Because of heavy use and possible toxic load from hurricane and boil notice water that we filtered through our Berkey, we replaced our Black Berkey filters after five years of use rather than after the typical 10 years of use. We just wanted to err on the safe side.
They are pricey, at $120 for a set of two. But over the normal lifespan of 10 years, the filters come out to only $12 a year. And even at our 5-year replacement, they cost us $24 a year. So on balance, the Berkey is not expensive to operate once you purchase the system.
The Black Berkey filter element has had verifiable extensive testing at state-accredited and EPA-accredited laboratories. Results of the testing on the Black Berkey filters far exceed EPA and ANSI/NSF 53 protocol. The Black Berkey filters have been tested by the University of Phoenix, Spectrum Labs, and the Department of Toxicology and Environmental Science at Louisiana University, among several others. And Berkey freely shares lab results that show quite remarkable reductions of all sorts of contaminants, pathogens, and potentially harmful chemicals, microplastics, and errant substances. These are respected lab-certified tests.
One unique aspect to the Berkey is that you can use optional flouride filters along with the Black Berkey filters to totally removed flouride from your water if you wish to.
Each Berkey filter element has a life of 3,000 gallons: That’s an incredible 6,000 gallons for a two-filter system (less than 2 cents per gallon of water). This is possible because of the Black Berkey filter elements’ unique ability to be cleaned up to 100 times using a 3M Scotch-Brite pad. That is exactly why the average family only needs to replace the filters every 10 years.
Berkey makes their water filters as a stand-alone stainless steel tank in eight sizes. Each holds an increasing amount of filtered water in the tank, ranging from 1.5 gallons to 6 gallons.
The smallest of the lot, the Travel Berkey holds 1.5 gallons of filtered water and filters at the rate of 2.5 gallons per hour. Berkey says it is designed for 1-2 people and can accommodate up to 6 people in an emergency by filtered several loads of water a day. Prices vary due to flash sales, but you typically can purchase a Travel Berkey for around $270.
The next size up, which is the one we have, is the Big Berkey. It holds 2.5 gallons of filtered water and can filter at the rate of 7 gallons an hour. It is the recommended size for 2-4 people, but we would consider it way too small for four people
For three or four people, we would go to the next size up, the Royal Berkey that holds 3.25 gallons of filtered water and filters at a rate of 8 gallons per hour. It is marketed as sufficient for a 4-6 person household.
You can typically find the Big Berkey for around $300 and the Royal Berkey for about $325. Each model ships with two Black Berkey filters that last up to 10 years.
So for a 1-2 person household, a TRAVEL BERKEY system with the two filters will cost around $270. For a 2-4 person household, the BIG BERKEY will run you about $300 the first years. And for a 4-6 person household, the ROYAL BERKEY system will cost approximately $325 for the first year. Each of these prices includes two Black Berkey filters typically good for 10 years.
An then in subsequent years, for the next decade typically, any of the Berkey water filtering systems will cost you nothing.
So over 10 years, the small TRAVEL BERKEY for a 1-2 person househod will cost around $270, or about 7 cents a day.
And the “medium-sized” BIG BERKEY will cost you about $300, or approximately 8 cents a day.
You can buy a 1-2 person household Travel Berkey on Amazon here.
We are not even going to branch to the Black Berkey replacement filters because you won’t need them until 2030 unless you already own a Berkey have had it in use quite a while.
So the upfront cost of the Berkey is high. But if you amortize it over the life of the system, it becomes the most affordable water filtration system you can purchase.
The Berkey company says that all Berkey Water Filters “greatly exceed NSF/ANSI 53” standards and suggest they additionally exceed NSF/ANSI p401 standards. They continually publish lab testing results corroborating these claims.
BUT, Berkey has chosen not to apply for NSF/ANSI certification. The company’s public rationale is that each certification costs upward of $10,000 and with eight models, the cost for them is simply prohibitive and they routinely test their filters at well-respected labs for scientific transparency.
I cannot begin to describe our disappointment. We had no idea Berkey was undesignated until we did the research for this article.
And though we still use our Berkey daily and we still trust the company (we’ve read the lab reviews), I am not sure we would have this level of trust if we were in the market as brand new consumers today — as pained as I am so say that.
But if you look at the cost per day over 10 years, the upfront cost of a water filtering system is very misleading.
In looking at costs for a single-person household:
The EpicWater that you purchase for about $50– 28 cents/day
Lifestraw & iSpring that initially run $60 and $200, respectively — 22 cents/day
Brita that is initally $30 — 8 cents/day
Berkey that is initially $270 — 7 cents/day
The MOST IMPORTANT THING about water filters is not to cheap out down the road and wait to replace or just not replace filters.
Toxicity builds up. And an over-used filter actually ADDS toxins rather than reduces them.
The major water filter classifications are listed and explained in our companion article on them. To find a summary of what each NSF/ANSI means, click here.
Be sure to see our article on how much water affects the taste of your coffee, here.
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