What is the Best In-Home Water Filtration System and Why is a Filtration System Necessary?
In 21st century America, having access to clean drinking water seems like it should be as easy as turning on a faucet. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Most of us live in areas where our city officials are doing their best to provide us with clean drinking water.
But there are things in our water that municipalities simply can’t take out —mostly because of expense. That’s ok. We can deal those issues in our own homes.
In-home water filtration systems are easily accessible and inexpensive. In fact, you probably already have one in your home.
What’s in Our Water?
Cadmium, mercury, copper, lead, and arsenic are the common ones, and each one has the ability to cause harm to our health.
Children are the most susceptible.
Heavy metal consumption has been implicated in many disease processes. Most notably, Dr. Dale Bredesen has identified heavy metal toxicity as one of three causes of of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
This is big deal. Most of the medical community will say that there if no cure for dementia, but Dr. Bredesen has halted or reversed the dementia of hundreds of patients who are on his protocol.
You can read more about his protocol in his excellent book, “The End of Alzheimer’s”.
Drugs are increasingly becoming an issue. Estrogens from oral contraceptives (this is a HUGE problem!), anti-depressants, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, as well as OTC pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are all in our water supply.
How do pharmaceuticals get into the water supply? Urination and defecation. Gross.
Parasites, viruses, and bacteria are all a possible part of our drinking water. Wherever there is water, there is the potential for life.
A study published in “Water Science and Technology” found that the pipes that feed into our homes usually have a biofilm of mostly non-harmful bacteria that grow on them. The problem arises because that biofilm can be a potential hiding place for harmful bacteria like E. coli and Legionella.
When that biofilm periodically breaks away from the pipes, those bacteria are introduced into the drinking water.
Water supplies are regularly tested for the presence of bacteria and when increased numbers are found, the water is then treated with extra rounds of chemicals like chlorine to try to combat the problem.
But the biofilm can grow and break off downstream of the testing and treatment process.
So, we either have chemicals in the drinking water from treating the bacteria, or we have the bacteria in the water.
Here are some other micro-organisms commonly found in municipal water supplies:
- Cryptosporidium–a protozoa (single cell parasite),
- Giardia–a bacteria that comes from fecal material,
- Helminths–parasitic worms that come from fecal material,
- Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver.
- herbicides like glyphosate
On the Periodic Table of Elements chlorine and fluorine are halogens. They compete with iodine, which is also a halogen, for uptake into secretory tissues like the thyroid. But unlike iodine, they don’t give the same action in those tissues. This can make a patient look hypothyroid, when what they really need is to get enough iodine and get rid of the chemicals in their water and food.
And for those on well water…
- Nitrates and nitrites from animal fertilizers and chemical fertilizers,
- Heavy metals that are naturally in the soil.
In-Home Water Filtration Systems
Water Softener System:
Water softeners add sodium or potassium salts to the water supply for the whole house. Water softeners exchange NA+ or K+ ions for other mineral ions (usually calcium) in order to decrease the amount of free calcium.
When calcium gets taken out of the water supply it “softens” the water, but it doesn’t clean it up.
Of course, too much sodium is not good for us. When we eat salt, it should be of a type that gives more than just NaCl (table salt).
Too much potassium salt can also be a problem for people who are not regulating their potassium very well, especially if they are on medication like potassium-sparing diuretics. Their potassium levels can go too high, which can affect heart rate, and doctors often don’t think to ask if there is a water softener in the house.
A journal article published in The Lancet from July 12, 1987, showed a strong correlation between softened water consumption and increased incidence of stroke, heart attack, and cancer.
Contaminants like nitrates, fluoride, chlorine, etc., are not taken out of the water, but valuable trace minerals like iodine and magnesium are.
If the goal is clean water, this is not the type of system to choose.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) System:
RO systems use a membrane with extraordinarily small pores to filter out impurities. Everything larger than the pores gets filtered. Anything smaller gets left in the water.
The biggest down side to this kind of system is that is uses water to flush away all of the particulates it captures. So, it can use up to 3 to 4 gallons of water for every 1 gallon it makes of drinking water. That extra water is used to clean the system itself.
Sellers of RO systems say that it is just like using a washing machine or dish washer which uses water for cleaning. Except that the clothes washer and dish washer aren’t using water to clean themselves.
What RO DOES remove:
Inorganics (heavy metals, calcium, magnesium, particulates), fluoride, nitrates, sodium, ALL bacteria and viruses.
What RO DOES NOT remove:
Chlorine, VOC’s, pharmaceuticals, herbicides, and pesticides—you need a charcoal filter for this.
Reverse Osmosis systems need to be professionally installed. They will have a carbon filter to pretreat for chlorine so that the chlorine doesn’t affect the membrane that filters everything else. So, the carbon filter will also filter out all the VOC’s and pharmaceuticals first.
Charcoal Filtration Systems:
Charcoal has been used for millennia for cleaning water—ever since the Ancient Egyptians learned that putting charcoal into stored water kept it fresher longer and improved the taste.
Charcoal filters work by acting as a sponge. The activated carbon attracts and absorbs some chemicals in the water.
There are two types of modern-day charcoal filters: Granulated Activated Charcoal (GAC) Filters, and Solid Block Filters.
- Granulated Activated Charcoal (GAC) Filters: It will remove VOC’s, pesticides, herbicides and chlorine. GAC filters are porous and therefore have a lot of surface area. The idea is that the more surface area of the charcoal that is exposed to the water and its contents, the greater the absorption of the impurities from the water.
- Solid Block Charcoal Filters: Solid Block filters are, of course, solid and therefore, less porous than GAC filters. So, although there is less overall surface area exposed, Solid Block filters do a much better job of removing more impurities from our tap water.
GAC Filters DO remove:
Chlorine, volatile organic compounds (like petroleum based products), pesticides, herbicides, mercury, some calcium and magnesium, AND pharmaceuticals (Right on!).
Solid block filters DO remove:
All of the above, plus some viruses, lead, and more particulate matter than GAC filters.
Charcoal filters (of both kinds) do NOT remove:
Fluoride, nitrates, sodium, most viruses.
Keeping up with filter replacement is important. The tighter the pore size, the more it catches, so the more it will need to be replaced. If a charcoal filter says it lasts for 3 to 5 years, it is because it is letting everything pass through.
Charcoal Filter Products:
All of the refrigerator manufacturers that I researched (Amana, GE, Whirlpool, Maytag, Hotpoint) all put carbon block filters into their refrigerators. They are the best for the money. The only catch is keeping up with changing them out when needed.
Our refrigerator manufacturer recommends changing the filter once a year. That’s based on average household use. There isn’t really any way to accurately tell if the filter needs to be changed. The little light that tells us it’s almost time to change, is based on that 1-year time period, not an actual need for a new filter.
Table Top Pitchers and Faucet Filters:
- Brita: Brita filters are not charcoal filters, but carbon filters made from coconut fiber plus an ion exchange resin. I could find no information on what type of ion exchange resin was used for Brita, so it’s not clear if it’s putting sodium or hydrogen ions into the water.
- Pur: Similar to Brita: activated coconut carbon and ion exchange.
- The Big Berkey: The Cadillac of gravity water filters. For those of you with homesteader/prepper tendencies, like myself, this is your dream water filtration system. No power needed as it is gravity fed through the system. Removes almost everything. Carbon block filters are used to remove the bulk of the impurities. A special fluoride filter can be added for those of us on city water where fluoride is added to the water supply since charcoal filters don’t remove fluoride. The charcoal filters are “cleanable”, so they can be cleaned and used over
There are other options in table top type carbon filters, but they are all at about the same effectiveness level as Brita and Pur.
Home distillers are where the price really begins to increase. Any home distillation unit needs to be pretreated with a carbon filter. If the unit doesn’t come with a carbon filtration pre-treatment unit, it needs to be bought separately.
The best in-home water filtration systems for the price are the block carbon filters that come with your refrigerator. Every refrigerator filter that I could find was a block filter.
Of course, we do have to remember to change them regularly.
Having access to truly clean drinking water is essential for good health. Take matters in you own hands:
- Use filtered water from the fridge as your first choice. Change the filter regularly. Use the manufacturers recommendations as your guideline.
- Use a table-top pitcher like Brita or Pur if you don’t have filter in your fridge. GAC filters are better than no filters.
One last thought on drinking water:
I think the worst thing we could be drinking is bottled water. Some of it is just tap water that hasn’t been treated at all, AND it’s been sitting in a plastic bottle leaching hormone disrupting plasticizers.
The worst would be distilled water in plastic jugs. Even though distilled water is more “pure” from having been distilled, that is also what increases its ability to dissolve things like plasticizers.
Save your money for a filtration system, and buy stainless-steel insulated type water bottles and cups that can be used for both hot or cold liquids. They’re light weight and won’t break easily.
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