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Cheap Water Filters Buying Guide
If you're reading this cheap water filters buying guide, you probably prefer your water to be cleaner and fresher-tasting than what you're currently drinking. Although municipal water providers filter the water before sending it on its way, that doesn't get everything.
But as WaterFilterResearch.com points out, frugal consumers can spend a lot less money and get the same quality of filtered water with a cheap pour-through or faucet-mount water filter system. There are, however, several minor drawbacks to these low-cost alternatives. For one, the filters in cheap water filter systems need to be replaced more regularly than in higher-cost systems. Also, cheap water filters don't filter as much water at one time, and they take up space either in the sink or in the refrigerator.
Two brands rule the market for inexpensive water filters: Brita and PUR. Both offer many varieties of cheap water filters, including low-cost faucet mounts and inexpensive pour-through systems -- all with replaceable filters.
(Note: If you draw water from a well, the responsibility for filtering is entirely yours and the water filtration system you need depends on the minerals, chemicals, and microbes in your water. This buying guide does not address well-water filtration.)
Water Filters Types.There are five main types of water filter systems that vary in price and benefits. Let's take a look.
Whole-house water filters are well beyond the Cheapism price range and require professional installation. Whole-house water filters are recommended if you want chlorine-free, odor-free, and good-tasting water running from every faucet. Whole-house water filters use "cation exchange systems" to exchange minerals with strong positive charges for minerals with softer charges. This process removes calcium, magnesium, barium, and other contaminants that may have negative health consequences.
Under-sink water filters are mounted under the sink, usually in a kitchen or bathroom. These filters are generally priced in the mid to high range and also require professional installation. WaterFilterCritic.com explains that under-sink water filters use an activated carbon filter, which is the most popular type of filter. Activated carbon filters use carbon to soak up impurities like lead, PCBs, chlorine, parasites, radon, pesticides, herbicides, and some small pharmaceuticals. They also make the water taste better and minimize odors. Some under-sink water filters complement the activated carbon filter with a reverse osmosis system, which pushes water through a semi-permeable film that traps parasites, sulfates, fluoride, industrial chemicals, heavy metals, chlorine by-products, chlorides, pharmaceutical, arsenic, barium, nitrate, and selenium. The downside of reverse osmosis systems is that they tend to waste up to nine gallons of water for every one gallon filtered.
Pour-through water filters are popular, inexpensive, and easy to use. Simply fill the pitcher and the water runs through an activated carbon filter into the container, which is kept cold in the refrigerator. The disadvantage with cheap pour-through water filters is that the filters have a short lifespan and must be replaced after a certain amount of water has been filtered -- usually 40 gallons (or every two months, whichever comes first). Some best cheap pour-through water filters include the Brita Riviera Water Pitcher (starting at $32, Amazon), Brita 42629 Slim Pitcher (starting at $13, Amazon), and PUR DS-1800Z 2 Stage Water Pitcher (starting at $26, Amazon).
Faucet water filters are attached to the sink faucet and do their filtering thing as water flows from the faucet. Food and Water Watch says cheap faucet water filters are easy enough to install but substantially slow down the flow of water. Additionally, they can't be installed on all faucets and they take up space in the sink. Cheap faucet water filter systems use activated carbon filters that need changing every 100 gallons (or every four months, whichever comes first). Cheap faucet water filters include the PUR FM-9400B 3 Stage Horizontal Faucet Water Filter (starting at $28, Amazon) and Brita On-Tap FF-100 (starting at $26, Amazon).
Portable water filters are best for outdoor types, such as hikers and bikers. How Stuff Works says portable water filters are the least expensive water filter option. Cheap portable water filters are usually water bottles with a built-in activated carbon filter that needs replacing every 100 gallons of filtered water. One good cheap portable water filter is the Clear2Go Water Bottle with Filter (starting at $15, Amazon).
Water Filters Systems Replacement Filter Costs.An important consideration when choosing a cheap water filter system is the cost of replacement filters. Brita pour-through replacement filters start at about $8 for one filter, $18 for three, and $45 for 10; PUR 2-stage replacement filters start at about $7 for one, $18 for three, and $55 for eight. Faucet water filter replacements are more expensive: the Brita On-Tap FF-100 replacement filters cost around $16 for one and the PUR FM-9400B starts around $21 for three. Replacement filters for the Clear2Go water bottle cost $13 for two.
For the cheap water filter systems we researched, all Brita and PUR pour-through models need new filters after 40 gallons of water have passed through, or about every two months. Both the Brita and PUR faucet-mount water filter models need their filters replaced every 100 gallons, or about every four months. And the small portable Clear2Go water filter needs a new filter every 100 gallons, or every four months. Cheap water filter systems often have some kind of indicator that lets you know when it's time to change the filter; the very cheap Brita 42629 does not.
Water Filters Contaminants Removal.Before setting out to buy a cheap water filter, be sure to determine the specific contaminants affecting your water and choose a system that tackles those particular contaminants. If your home is serviced by the local water utility, you can ask the company for a quarterly or yearly quality report that lists the contaminants in your water supply. (If you get your water from a well, Foundations of Wellness says your local health department can tell you what contaminants are normally found in your area as well as give you a list of certified labs that will test the water.) Brita pour-through water filters reduce sediment, copper, mercury, chlorine, and 98% of lead; Brita faucet-mount filters tackle a much longer list of contaminants. PUR water filters reduce sediment, copper, chlorine, lead, and 99.9% of microbiological cysts; PUR faucet-mount filters get at a slightly larger group of contaminants. Clear2Go eliminates 99.9% of microbial cysts.
Water Filters Systems Dispenser Size.Dispenser size is a weighty factor when choosing a cheap pour-through water filter system. The Brita Riviera holds the equivalent of eight eight-ounce glasses of water and the Brita 42629 holds the equivalent of five eight-ounce glasses of water; both fit in the refrigerator door. The PUR DS-1800Z is significantly larger, holding up to 18 eight-ounce glasses of water, and doesn't fit in the refrigerator door. The nice thing about this cheap pour-through water filter system, however, is that you don't need to refill it as often and the handy spout lets you pour a glass without removing the dispenser from the fridge.
For portable water filter systems, size also matters. Figure out what you're capable of carrying while hiking or biking and how much filtered water you'll need to stay hydrated. The Clear2Go holds 24 ounces of water and is squeezable for easy drinking.
Water Filter Systems Frills.Flavored waters are a recent innovation, and PUR slakes that thirst with a unique pour-through water filter system called the PUR CR-5000 2 Stage Water Pitcher with Flavor Cartridge (starting at $24, Amazon), which, as the name implies, flavors the water as it filters through. There are five flavor options, including strawberry, raspberry, and lemon. The cost of these replacement filters is actually cheaper than that of regular filters -- $11 for two -- and the pitcher holds the equivalent of seven eight-ounce glasses of water.
Best Cheap Water Filters
Brita Riviera Water PitcherThe Brita Riviera impresses users with its ease of use, durability, and the good-tasting, clean water it provides. This cheap water filter system has a flip top making it easy to refill and a digital indicator on the lid telling you when it's time to change the filter; it holds 64 ounces of filtered water and fits in the refrigerator door.
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PUR DS-1800Z 2 Stage Water PitcherUsers really like the PUR DS-1800Z because of its long slim shape, which holds lots of water (18 eight-ounce glasses) and fits efficiently in the refrigerator. The spout pour is an added convenience so the dispenser can stay put in the fridge while you pour water. A filter gauge notifies you when it's time to replace the filter.
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Good Cheap Water Filters
Brita 42629 Slim PitcherThe Brita 42629 is a very basic water filter system: there's no indicator to signal when the filter needs changing and it only holds 40 ounces (i.e., five eight-ounce glasses of water). Regardless of its small size, it earns high ratings from users who say the water comes out clean with a refreshing taste.
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Don't Bother Cheap Water Filters
PUR FM-9400B 3 Stage Horizontal Faucet Water Filter
A faucet-mount water filter, the PUR FM-9400B features a filter-change indicator light, an on/off switch enabling users to go from unfiltered to filtered water, an extra level of filtering for taste, and a five-year limited warranty. Despite the warranty, consumers are harsh critics, with many reporting leaks after just a few months and difficulty changing the filter.
Brita 42629 Slim Pitcher Review
Brita Riviera Water Pitcher Review
PUR DS-1800Z 2 Stage Water Pitcher Review
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