H20 at Home: Water Filtration that Works for You

Date: 04/22/2021

As we move into an era that takes pride in sustainability and waste reduction, and as I myself continue to cultivate a home environment that supports the health and welfare of my family, I have found that adopting water filtration ­is one of the best and most holistic ways we can target both those aims at once!

Not only does water filtration support personal health—as I discussed in a previous article on the subject—but it also reduces two kinds of wastes: plastics from one-time water bottles, and waste-water itself. As I’ve learned, some types of water filtration can even help reclaim some of the water you use (i.e., Reverse-Osmosis filtration), and ultimately reduce your environmental and water consumption footprints.

Of course, when you’re just starting out with water filtration, there’s a ton of information that can be overwhelming and the notion that it can be cost-prohibitive – but don’t fret! First, think about the advantages you’ll be giving yourself (and the positive environmental impact) by adding clean, filtered water to your daily regimen. Then (if you haven’t already) head back and check out my previous article on water filtration to really cement your understanding of what water filtration is, and how it works.

 

Once you’ve given yourself a bit of a ‘water filtration crash course’, my hope is that you’ll feel a bit more comfortable as you move toward the purchase stage of this journey. I’ve collected everything I’ve learned over the course of my own water filtration research and experience to bring you the five key things I believe anyone who is looking to get into water filtration should know.

Five Tips for Adopting Water Filtration at Home

Whether you’re just starting out with water filtration, or you’ve relied on the same system for years now, it’s never too late to begin adopting or updating your water filtration potential at home. And as with any change that may affect your health, it’s also important to keep tabs on any changes you notice once you’ve started drinking from a new filtered water source in your house. That way you can effectively measure what really works and doesn’t work for you, your health, and your way of living.

Here are the five water filtration tips I’ve created to help you save time, money, and improve the health benefits of your at-home filtered water system.

1. Research Before You Buy (obvi)

 When starting out (and I experienced a little bit of this myself when first embarking on this journey) there’s just so much information to take in that it can be overwhelming! As a result, people will spend a ton of money on water filtration systems that aren’t quite right for them, getting caught up in questions like, “Spend now and save later, or start small and test a few options? Do I just dive into the deep-end and install filters at every water source in my home?”.

In my experience, the only way to narrow down the ways in which you can save money is to do your research before you buy; it’s the only way to find an answer to all these questions and still fulfill your unique water filtration needs. But what types of things should you research?

First things first, you’ll want to understand what kind of impurities you want to remove, as well as your needed water capacity. (I spoke on this subject in a previous article). In this case, the questions you should ask relate to your specific concerns about health risks, or the removal of unappetizing tastes or odors from your water. This is where you’ll begin asking yourself which impurities, toxins, or other unwanted qualities you want to target most. There’s an additional step to this point, but we’ll get to that in the next section.

As for capacity, a great place I like to start is by determining where I want my new water filter, and whether I’d prefer a one-source system, or a more portable option. For example, you may want to test an under-the-sink filter or counter-top filter, which both protects people from ingesting toxins or chemicals from one tap, or a whole-house filter system, which treats all water travelling to any faucet or fixture in the house. I myself like to use highly-portable options like carafe and pour-through filters from Berkey, since they work great for serving outdoors, and for when I’m up late reading and know I won’t want to get up again for a fresh drink!

Once you’ve got at least an idea of what you’re looking for and have narrowed down your list to a few filter types and installations, it’s time for the product research and comparison stage of your journey. For that, I might suggest starting off with a website like the one at CrystalQuest, which is an excellent water and air filtration manufacturer that has served every industry in the USA for the last 30+ years!

For instance, did you know that ceramic filtration is one of the most economical water filtration options available on the market overall? The linked source here even notes that an entire point-of-use ceramic system can cost about $100 to $200, that the system’s filters are reusable, and that certain models require no electricity to operate. Actually, that was one of the main selling points to the filter I use myself, which is the Berkey water filter. It also doesn’t run on electricity, which saves us should we ever face any power outages in our area.

On the other hand, while lower-budget consumers may want to go even smaller, and begin with carafe and filter options ranging in the $20 to $50 range, many are ready to invest in counter-top, under-sink, and whole-house options ranging anywhere from $50 to $1000, or more.

Buyer’s Tip: when shopping for a water filter and calculating costs, remember to think about any added fees that may come with your purchase. Some filters may require installation, maintenance, or replacement fees. Some filters are not reusable, and require monthly or annual purchase. And don’t forget to ask about warranty!

2. Regularly Test Your Water

 This tip goes hand in hand with figuring out with what impurities are in your water. Even if you have a water filter, or have had one for a long time, you should still be testing your main water sources before and after filtration. As I’ve found, an annual test will often do the trick, and for homeowners linked to community water sources in the US, federal law states that your water utility is required to provide you with a water quality report (usually on July 1) which documents the types and amounts of contamination that are found in the water access to your home.

That means if you own your home, you already have free access to such water testing…hooray! On the other hand, if you haven’t received such a test, or if you’re not a home-owner hooked up to a community water source (CWS), it doesn’t hurt to ramp up your testing. There are tons of options out there aside from a yearly water-quality report, and most, if not all, reports of this type should include information about the following:

  • Drinking water source;
  • How susceptible that water source is to contamination (based on state analysis);
  • An educational statement for individuals with weak immune systems about microbial contaminants;
  • The health effects associated with higher-than-normal levels of any contaminant which violates the EPA’s health standard;
  • A list of detected chemicals and natural chemical composition;
  • A summary of the EPA’s regulations and health goals as they relate to drinking water and water contamination.

Before you begin typing ‘water testing near me’ into Google however, note that industry experts suggest employing water-testing services that are backed by a certified or reputable authority. For instance, the National Sanitation Foundation/ANSI Standard 53 and 58 certified water tests are proven to reduce lead contaminants in your water. Other certifying agencies, like the Water Quality Association, have great testing options as well. Think about which impurities you want to remove, and find a certified organization that tests for those impurities.

 From there, you can feel safe relying on the certified water testing agency, or home water test kit, of your choice. I know I’ve found some extremely good results with home test kits sourced from National Testing Laboratories Ltd., who are based in Ohio. I test at home, send off my samples, and receive in return a high-quality analysis of the chemical contents of my water. In fact, that was how I discovered my water has an unenforceably high pH level, is fairly salty (likely due to water softeners), and is above-average for its level of total dissolved solids.

Before we move on however, I want to take a second to be frank about my opinions in relation to water testing standards enforced by our state and federal governments. In fact, a recent study I came across reveals only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fallbacks of government mandated water regulations. This being the case, and as I mention above, I prefer to do home testing by sending my samples to a reliable laboratory. There is nothing wrong with the use of government testing to assist in your filtration decisions, but I prefer to be in control of my own testing; if for no other reason than that each house is different, and often requires a unique filtration response.

3. Always Choose Filtered over Bottled Water

 Did you know that in the US, and often across the globe, consumer standards for tap water quality and safety are more stringent than those for bottled water? I barely have to mention the other reasons why choosing filtered water or a filtered water bottle over a regular plastic bottle of water is best; nevertheless, here are a few added notes about bottled water that could prevent you from buying a plastic bottle of water ever again.

For one, the number of disposable plastic water bottles thrown away in the US could fill 849,941 school buses. What’s more, US populations consumed about 43.7 gallons of water per capita in 2019, where the price of bottled water is often up to 10,000 times the price of tap water, with one financial researcher doing the math and calculating the following:

If most of what you drink is bottled water, assuming you drink 64 oz. of water per day, you’d consume a little under three 20 oz. bottles of water per day. Those 3 bottles per day would cost you $3/day or $1,095 per year. That same 1,095 bottles filled with tap water would cost you $0.48 PER YEAR. Another way to look at it is that as soon as you buy your first bottle of water, you’ve already spent double what you would for an ENTIRE YEAR of tap water.”

Finally, many sources agree that over 60% of bottled water actually comes from municipal tap water in the US. In the end, you’re paying top dollar for disposable plastic, when your filtered tap water could very well be of an equal or higher quality than the water in plastic bottles you buy at the store—especially in consideration of the risks that BPA-leaching have on us and the water we drink.

Did You Know?: There’s yet another reason to avoid plastic water bottles at all costs: UV and heat exposure! In this one study alone, researchers were able to discover three factors associated with BPA leaching or UV exposure: (1) Bottle type will be a significant predicator of how much BPA is leached from a container due to heat and UV exposure; (2) Leaching was more dependent on water quality, and not on container type; and (3) There is an increased health risk for bottled water consumption following UV exposure.

 Of course, for those of us who are always on the go, we’re bound to forget our glass or BPA-free water bottles at home. Sometimes we don’t refill them, or don’t wash them, or just plain lose them every time we step out to go to work! At those times, it’s can be easy to succumb and grab a bottle of water from the nearest vendor, and in today’s world, that’s not an issue at all! There are tons of companies coming out now with plastic or BPA-free packaging, while others (like Mountain Valley Spring who use glass bottles) have already been doing so for a long time.

My biggest advice to help you remember? Buy a water bottle you love to carry, always refill at a filtered water source, and enjoy every sip! Although it’s not perfection we’re striving for, the creation of a good habit requires diligence! If you let yourself do it once, you’ll just keep drinking plastic-bottled water—and paying way too much for it, too.  

4. ALWAYS Clean Your Water Filter

You might think water filtration is a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of deal, but that is far from the truth! In fact, as I was exploring a theory I’d read that from the American Society for Microbiology that details one of the many reasons why you should be cleaning the water filters you use often.

As this study’s researchers discovered in their pursuit of correlating gastrointestinal health effects and RO water consumption, the bacterial count of warmed RO water is in fact connected to averse gastrointestinal symptoms found in families who use RO units. These conclusions point to a concern for increases in disease and illness, and specifically as a result of not cleaning the filters of these and other point-of-use systems.

Here’s what another article has to say: when an RO filter is due to be changed, instead of simply not filtering the water passing through it, the ‘gunk’ sticks to the RO filter, and grows its own bacteria, releasing that back into the water and making people sick. As a common consensus among researchers, anyone who adopts water filtration will be doing more harm than good by not cleaning their water filter than they would have caused by leaving their drinking water well enough alone. In fact, that’s why I would always leave a little reminder on my chalkboard for when my next ‘change’ was due—just like a car!

Truthfully, this is the one tip I’m so glad I stumbled across early in my research. I would find myself thinking, what is one or two refills once the little filter change light goes off, right? But knowing now that not cleaning my filter may in fact be (in some cases) worse than not having a filter at all, I have become super diligent in remembering to make that change!

5. Make Water Filtration a Habit

Okay: I know we’re all getting into water filtration because we want to take charge of our health, but I think it’s important to consider how adopting water filtration will affect our lifestyles as well. None of us want to go into this and come out wishing we’d never started out in the first place, and I for one don’t want to have to alter my whole lifestyle just for some good drinking water or a clean shower. That’s why this tip is one of the most critical I have for you as we all continue to test and try out different filtration methods. That way, each of us may enjoy clean, filtered water without a second thought!

Lena’s Note: In my experience, there’s almost no such thing as a no-maintenance water filtration system, so don’t go into it thinking that there won’t be any work required. You’ll still have to make some time investments to keep the cycle going.

You may think it’s obvious that you’re supposed to look for low-maintenance options that don’t require a lot of upkeep, but as always with information overload, that’s not always the case! That’s why I like to consider how much time it will take out of each month (or so) to maintain any product I’m about to incorporate into my life, let alone a water filtration system that will become part and parcel to my everyday life.

It is also time to be honest with ourselves about our commitment – Will you actually change your water filter every month? Will you really refill your water pitcher every time you need a glass of water?

Thankfully, this is where that earlier research about how much water you use is going to come in handy. If you don’t want to constantly refill a water pitcher, then carafe-type filters just aren’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re never going to look under your sink to change the filter there, you might want a more in-your-face option that’s easier to manage. Only when you consider your true self and day-to-day life will you really begin to narrow down which options work for you, and which ones plain…don’t!

Some Extra Water Filtration Resources, from My Home to Yours

Regardless of your stance or position on which type of water filtration is ‘the best’, you can be assured that if you research before you buy, regularly test your water, use tap water over bottled, clean your water filter, and make water filtration a habit, you will have a much more effective and efficient experience from start to finish. Oh, and don’t forget this sixth and final word of advice: don’t concentrate on looks! Get a system that works, and one that works for you.

But this is only the beginning! There are a ton more resources out there that will help you dive deep into the subject of water filtration, treatment, and certification, such as this excellent guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use. NSF International also has a searchable, online database where you can see which products are certified to work against specific contaminants—you can even search by brand name! The Environmental Protection Agency has a Safe Drinking Water Hotline, which you can reach by dialing 1-800-426-4791. Finally, the Environmental Working Group has an excellent tap water database which accumulates publicly available water utility data from each state’s Health & Environment departments.

That’s just a short-list of accessible resources, and I deeply encourage you to seek out more information about water in the US, and the world. In fact, as a continuation of my own explorations into water filtration, water use, and water safety in the United States, I am currently working on an article which attempts to navigate the pros and cons of our water processing systems right here at home. Watch out for that, but in the meantime, drink well, be healthy, and go about a wholesome day with my best wishes!

Lots of love and good health,

Lena

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