Best Water Filter & Softner Reviews – 2019
Does your water taste funny, and sometimes smell a bit off too? Don’t put off doing something about it any longer and find out about the best water filter for your needs in this handy guide!
Humankind has gone a long way in the past century or two. Civilization has brought us many advantages our forefathers could only dream of, drinkable water at the turn of a tap being one of them.
While municipal services do their best to ensure that what you drink is up to certain health and safety standards, unforeseen circumstances can always happen, leaving you with water that might not only have an altered taste, smell and color, but can be genuinely harmful to yourself and your family since it can contain poisonous trace elements and a wide range of bacteria.
This is why it is good to have a high-quality water filter, and in some cases it even becomes a necessity.
We’ve rounded up some of the most prominent models and put them through a series of tests designed to measure their effectiveness and performance. The results of this are condensed in this guide.
Once you’re through with it, you’ll have a better picture of what exactly to look for in a filter and will be better equipped when choosing one for your home.
We’ve split the guide up into three segments. In the beginning, we examine premium models and their capabilities. Then we turn our attention to more affordable models that nevertheless do a fine job.
In the end, we’ve imparted some general information when it comes to choosing the right filter that should help you narrow your choices down.
Ready to enjoy a glass of cool, clean H2O again? Then let’s get started!
Water almost everywhere in America is harder than optimal. If you happen to be living in an area where this is true to the extreme, you’ll want the best water filter that has both the capacity and the capability of dealing with this issue every day.
Fleck, a well known brand owned by Pentair ltd., a giant in the industry, is well aware of the challenges afflicted households face and has come up with one of the most comprehensive filtration systems to date – the 5600SXT.
You’ll immediately be drawn in by this model’s ample capacity – it can handle a serious pressure of 12 GPM (gallons per minute), meaning that a mid-sized home can have all of its filtration needs taken care of simultaneously.
For example, if you have a family of five and water is flowing simultaneously in the kitchen and bathroom, the 5600SXT makes sure that needs are met.
The filtration process itself happens via ion exchange – harder calcium and magnesium ions are removed and exchanged with sodium ions, leaving water softer and ready for use.
This can be controlled via a built-in LCD display that lets you specify how you want the machine to act.
It has a convenient meter-dependant regeneration process, meaning that the grains won’t regenerate automatically, but only when the meter drops below a certain point, increasing their longevity.
The brine tank it comes with is of a square design and has room for 250 pounds of salt pellets.
Which ones you end up using is entirely up to you, but potassium-chloride is the more eco-friendly variant. The tank comes with an overflow drain and safety float that prevent it from flooding your basement.
Installation can be done in a DIY manner and is fairly straightforward. Just make sure that you actually have enough space to house the appliance in since it is a bit on the bulky side and takes up considerable space.
This is also why we wouldn’t recommend it if you have a smaller household where the needs are more easily met with smaller solutions.
You’ll get two separate warranties with the 5600SXT a 5 year warranty on the head as well as a 10 year warranty on the tank, ensuring that it will function without a hitch for a long time.
To help keep it that way, you might want to learn how to maintain your water filter system as well.
The 5600SXT has thoroughly convinced us of its capability to considerably soften up even the hardest water. It therefore stands to reason that we’re nominating it as the best water filter we’ve tested overall.
The only drawbacks to this model we can think of – it’s capacity that is best suited for mid-sized homes, and its somewhat steep price, are both highly situational and have no impact on its stellar performance.
So, if you have problems with exceedingly hard water, this is the product for you, no question.
Having a large quantity of softer water available is fantastic, but what if your municipal supply isn’t of the highest quality? Simply exchanging ions won’t fix the potential threat of hazardous contaminants.
In order to address an issue such as this, you’ll need a reliable reverse osmosis filter, such as the RO-90 by APEC.
This company is known for engineering innovative and highly effective solutions to various household-related issues, and this filtration system isn’t any different.
Its main purpose is to get rid of the vast majority of contaminants that might be present in your municipal supply, and manages to do so with unquestioned efficiency.
If you go to their site you can check out the huge list of contaminants this system has been proven to remove.
The secret lies in its smart 5 filter reverse osmosis process. Most other manufacturers rely on about 7 different filters to achieve a similar effect, but the RO-90 manages to produce clean, soft water with a smaller number of better designed elements.
The first stage gets rid of dust or any similar particle while also helping to prolong the filtration membrane longevity.
The 2nd and 3rd layers remove unpleasant tastes and smells and prevent any discoloration. After that a high rejection TFC reverse osmosis membrane removes up to 99 percent of solids still remaining as well as harmful trace elements and bacteria.
Lastly, a total contamination removal process removes any residue that might have appeared in the tank itself.
Speaking of which, you’ll have plenty of healthy water at your disposal since the 4 gallon tank is able to produce up to 90 gallons of it per day. If you have a larger household the standard holding tank might not do, but there’s a 14 gallon upgrade option available if you need it.
Since this is an under-the-sink model it won’t take up noticable space in your home and installing it shouldn’t be much of a problem thanks to the clear manual it comes with.
APEC also offer a host of upgrades that will further enhance the RO-90’s already solid capabilities such as a quick dispense feature that accelerates the flow, or a UV light that makes short work of more stubborn microbes.
A potential drawback to this model actually has something to do with how effective it is – it only removes hard minerals without replacing them with anything else.
This demineralization shouldn’t pose any kind of problem to individuals with healthy diets, but if you are already suffering from mineral deficiencies, be sure to consult your doctor before getting this machine.
The RO-90 has proven without a doubt that it is the best water filtration system when it comes to getting rid of as many different contaminants as possible.
By using it, you are greatly reducing the risks to your health and softening hard water at the same time. It is also very reasonably priced, making the decision to purchase the RO-90 all the wiser.
Water filters for homeAs we’ve seen when reviewing the RO—90, some reverse osmosis systems don’t reintroduce useful minerals into the water once they’re done filtering it. This isn’t a bad thing on its own, but it can make the water taste strange and isn’t as good as having heavy, harmful minerals replaced.
This is why Home Master, a company you might have heard about before because they developed a special system that brings mineral water directly to your tap, has tackled this filtration issue with its newest breakthrough, the TMAFC.
This unit doesn’t only focus on providing unparalleled filtration, it is also built in a way that alleviates some of the concerns other filtration systems can suffer from, namely a slow flow rate and eventual leakage. The former is taken care of thanks to the Fast Flow RO Kit it comes with.
This kit boasts larger tubing that doesn’t slow down the water being filtered, meaning you can keep a steady stream of it up without having to wait for ages to fill up a bucket. Each filter the TMAFC uses is also modular and is replaced together with its housing once the need for that arises.
This prevents the housing from developing leaks and ends up saving you money over time.
As far as the actual filtration is concerned, this water filter comes with seven different kinds of filter and membranes that remove a combined 98 percent of all impurities and contaminants.
This includes both trace elements that can harm you on their own such as lead and arsenic as well as chemical compounds like pesticides and herbicides that might have gotten into the supply at some point, after a heavy rainstorm for example.
This isn’t the thing that sets it apart from similar products though. As we said above, it comes with a remineralization feature known as the Artesian Full Contact Technology. This is a system that reintroduces healthy minerals into the purified water in recommended doses.
This is done two times to ensure that the minerals are present in desired amounts. Artesian Full Contact also eliminates the need for a post filter.
Most other purifiers’ end result is water that isn’t as healthy and which is mildly acidic. Reintroducing helpful minerals into it lowers that acidity and makes it taste great.
The original tank this model comes with has a capacity of 3.2 gallons. You can opt to decrease that to 2 if you don’t have enough space, or increase it to 4 gallons if your needs are greater.
Other than that, there’s a whole assortment of upgrades you can purchase separately, ranging from a refrigerator kit you can connect to your fridge and make it produce purified ice cubes, to an under counter leak detector that notifies of you of leakage before it can become a major problem.
Even though it dispenses the water it did filter quickly, the TMAFC can produce only about 50 gallons of it per day which might not be enough if your needs aren’t that small.
Nevertheless, this model is the best home water filter in terms of the quality of the end product it produces. It is a bit more expensive than its competitor, but the difference in taste alone might persuade you to part with those few extra bucks.
APEC have themselves realized that introducing healthy minerals back into the mix after the osmosis process has been completed is a pretty good idea, and have therefore developed another water filter capable of performing just such a task, the ROES-PH75
Much like the RO-90, this model has undergone a lengthy development process as well as stringent testing in order to ensure its effectiveness in eliminating a whole host of different contaminants. It has a 6-step filtration system that gives you pure, fresh and alkaline H2O every time.
The filtration process is very similar to the one we’ve seen with the RO-90, where solid particles are removed first, then odors and discoloration are taken care of, and finally even the most stubborn micro-organisms are eradicated.
The last, 6th step reintroduces minerals into the water in form of calcium. This is a great way to make it alkaline again, balancing out its Ph values and making it taste natural. This is done via a special cartridge that dispenses food-grade calcium into the system each time the filter is used.
While we’re on the subject of filters, APEC boasts that theirs are larger than industry standards prescribe, meaning they’ll last longer and be more effective.
As with the other models, they are replaced together with the housing, so when you do end up having to buy replacements, you’ll be extending the lifespan of the unit even more.
At about 75 gallons of clean H2O per day, this model offers a reasonable balance of output and quality. The somewhat smaller amount is understandable since there’s an added remineralization process to take into account. Still, 75 gallons should be enough for any mid-sized household.
One common complaint consumers are voicing about this model is that it takes a long while to produce water. This doesn’t surprise us since reintroducing the calcium into it takes time, but if you’re impatient this might be something worth considering.
Other than that though, we feel that the ROES-PH75 can hold its own against the best water filters on the market today.
Its filtration capabilities are top-notch, and the added element of making your water alkaline might end up saving you a pretty penny if your family spends a lot of money on bottled water. With a system like this, there certainly won’t be a need for that any more.
It is important to have access to drinkable and clean water wherever you may find yourself though, and this is why it is a very good idea to take something that can accomplish this along with you into the wilderness. This is where Katadyn Pocket comes in and is our pick for the best countertop water filter.
Make no mistake, this product doesn’t boast all of the filtration and alkalization properties of water filters for home use, but it does perform a vital function very efficiently – it pumps out water that is safe to drink.
If you plan on going to prolonged camping trips or otherwise spend a lot of time out in the wilds, this model will satisfy not just your needs but the needs of a small group of people.
It is essentially a pump that forces water through a silver-impregnated ceramic filter that won’t make it any softer, but will eliminate the majority of bacteria and other micro-organisms that could cause you harm.
The speed at which this is done could be a bit higher for our taste, but even so it manages to produce a quarter of a gallon of water after 2 minutes of pumping, enough to tie 4-5 people over until the next batch is ready.
Naturally, a physical process such as this takes some strength, so be prepared for aching arms if you’re looking to pump more than a bottle’s worth at a time.
At 1,5 pounds, the Katadyn Pocket is a bit heavy when compared to similar models, so if you’re on a light hiking trip it might be best to just swap it out with a bottle of the same size.
We were most satisfied with its make however – the materials used are durable and molded with precision.
Katadyn even offers a generous 20 year warranty on the filter, but judging by its make it is more than likely that yours will outlive the warranty by quite a margin.
The only real drawback we can think of, except maybe the weight, is the fact that this is one of the most pricey models we’ve come across in the portable filter category.
It costs as much or more as a home system, so if you’re a casual outdoorsman you’ll probably want to go for something less extravagant.
Still, if traveling down rivers is your thing or you lose yourself in the woods for weeks at a time, this is without a doubt the best water filter for all your outdoor needs.
More Affordable Water Filter Reviews
1. APEC ROES-50
We always appreciate it when a company wants to ensure that different profiles of customers all have their needs taken care of. In this case, they are the needs of those that don’t really use that much water on a daily basis.
So, when you purchase the ROES-50, the only major feature you’re giving up on is its capacity, while the high-grade results we’ve come to expect from its other models do not change that much.
What kind of water you use doesn’t really make much difference to this system. Soft, hard, or straight out of a well, the five stage water filter system we’ve already described in greater detail will make sure that your water is clean and safe to drink.
As its name suggests, it can produce up to 50 gallons per day. This can vary a bit depending on the pressure and temperature. It fills up in 2-3 hours and shuts itself off automatically after that. Since everything is based off of pressure, there’s no need for electricity.
The ROES-50 is easy to install, but does take up some space. If you have a smaller sink that might be a problem, but you can also keep it in you basement if that is the case. It comes with its own chrome-finished faucet, but if you don’t like the original you can choose to upgrade it.
One annoyance we’ve found with the model was that there is no way of telling when its filter needs replacement.
There are no light-up indicators or anything, so you’ll have to keep checking each filter from time to time and replace when needed. It doesn’t remineralize your water either.
Even so given its other outstanding features and reasonable price, we feel that the ROES-50 deserves the title of best water filter in the affordable products category.
We’ll take a loss in quantity over quality any day, and that’s precisely what this model is all about.
One such effort is the WQA RCC7 by iSpring, a filtration system that won’t set you back that much and will provide good quality, consistent results.
Back in 2010, iSpring released a purifier plagued with various serious issues, including leakage and the fact that it sometimes did not shut its valve off properly once the tank was full, causing customers a lot of distress. The company has acknowledged this and made many improvements to the WQA RCC7
The upgrades this model ships with include a user manual that is easier to understand, a higher quality shut-off valve, a nicer designer-made faucet, a new feed adapter and, most importantly, a flood alarm that goes off if the device malfunctions or springs a leak, allowing you to do something about it in time.
Other than that, this is a standard filtration system that can produce up to 75 gallons per day. It has five different types of filter that work very much like the ones described when we reviewed APEC models.
They do a fine job, but the first three have a meager 6 month lifespan. iSpring offer a one year and a 3 year package that cover all filtration needs though.
Overall, this model’s quality and performance have received an improvement. Even so, there are still dissatisfied customers that say some of the old issues persist.
The WQA RCC7 certainly isn’t our top pick for best water purifier, but its performance warrants its inclusion in the guide nevertheless.
A large capacity at a good price is its main strong suit, and with continued improvements we’re sure that it will give even more expensive models a run for their money.
The last product we’ll be reviewing is an inline filtration model from Aquasana. It has a number of interesting features that sets it apart from other devices in the guide, and a price that can’t be beat.
Except the portable Katadyn Pocket, every other model in our water purifier reviews relied on filtering the liquid stored in its tank.
The AQ-5300.56 has an inline filtration system, meaning that it doesn’t need a tank and filters the water as it flows through it. It can do so with a speed of about half a gallon every minute, which is acceptable if you aren’t in a hurry.
There are three filtration stages in all. First there’s a layer of activated carbon that filters out toxins and chemicals.
After that an ion exchange takes place where harmful metal ions are exchanged for harmless hydrogen ones. A sub-micron filter is the final touch, getting rid of all but the smallest particles imaginable.
A great feature you’ll really appreciate is the inclusion of an automatic alert system that notifies you when it’s time to change a filter.
Once depleted, they can be easily exchanged without the use of additional tools. Unfortunately, the filters will require replacement every 6 months or so, which is less than what we’d hoped for.
In the end, we believe that the AQ-5300.56 is a solid device that performs its job adequately at a much lower cost than some other models.
If you want to save but still have good drinking water, then you can’t go wrong with this one. Best water purifier? Certainly not. Good enough? Absolutely.
What to Look Out for Before You Buy
Here’s what you should keep in mind before getting one.
Capacity – Sure, bigger is better, but things aren’t necessarily as straightforward as that. Naturally, if keeping two bathrooms and two kitchens stocked up on purified water 24/7 is one of your highest priorities, then getting the best home water filtration system which can accommodate this is what you want to do. On the other hand, if you lack the space or don’t have as many needs, a smaller purifier will do just as well.
Even so, you’ll want to compare the time it takes for any given model to produce a desired amount of water.
Two different devices can have the same capacity, but one can take ages to deliver results. If this is something that bothers you, go for the more speedy variant.
Does it get rid of the right contaminants? – Every manufacturer would like us to think that their product is the be all and the end all when it comes to the elimination of impurities, but that is unfortunately not always the case.
Before you go and buy what you believe is the best water filter, do some research on the condition your drinking water is in. Next, you’ll want to make sure that the purifier was actually awarded some form of independent certificate that attests to its ability to clean water thoroughly.
Only then should you buy one that has proven itself capable of eliminating contaminants that are present in your area.
Extra features – Even the best water filter can be improved with a couple of well-designed accessories. You’ll have to pay more, but sometimes this can really be worth it.
APEC for example offers a wide array of additional accessories for its products, one of the most interesting being a UV light that takes care of all but the most stubborn microbes.
Since you’re springing for a fairly expensive product anyway, why not give a few more dollars for a greater piece of mind?
Clean water, great taste – All of these devices will do a great job of making your water clean, but if they lack a remineralization feature it might end up tasting strange.
To prevent this and to keep a healthy balance of useful minerals, consider buying a purifier that has a means of getting useful minerals back into the mix.
So, what is the best water filter? It is really hard to tell without knowing your personal situation and preferences.
There are a lot of diverse factors to take into consideration, and a surprising diversity among the models we’ve reviewed to boot.
This will be one of those purchases where you’ll need to really give yourself a bit of time to sit down, get informed on the state of your municipal water in terms of hardness and contents, and make a decision based on the gathered facts.
Whichever filter you end up choosing, we are certain that your life and the lives of your family members will be positively impacted by it.
After all, don’t we all strive to provide your loved ones with a healthy and rewarding life? There are few things as fundamental to achieving such a life as crisp water that is both safe to drink and altogether healthier than almost any other beverage.
Many parts of the world still don’t have this luxury. You might not be able to help, but you do have the power to make a conscious decision to make a difference at home.