How Much Less Does Filtered Water Cost Than Bottled Water?

by Jamin Arvig on April 22, 2014

What Is The Cost of Bottled Water?

[Did you know that, by the gallon, bottled water costs more than gasoline?

To celebrate Earth Day, we’re revisiting the post below sharing just how much you can save when you cut back on plastic water bottles.  This doesn’t mean you should give up on clean drinking water, just that maybe there’s an alternative to get the same great tasting water in a way that’s better for the environment and more affordable!

Check out the post below and be sure to come back tomorrow for a mid-week edition of our Drinking Water News!]

Let’s say that a 20 ounce bottle of water costs about $1.50.  One gallon contains 128 ounces, or 6.4 bottles of water.  6.4 multiplied by $1.50 equals $9.60.  For comparison, cost for a gallon of gasoline is about half that amount.

As you do the math in your head to make sure that I’m right, here’s one more fact that is sure to bug you if you’re unaware:  most bottled water is just from the tap.

Does this mean that the water you are drinking from a plastic bottle is of subpar quality?  Not necessarily.  Most tap water in this country is very drinkable, though there are some contaminants – from chlorine to lead – that we would recommend filtering out to avoid long-term health issues.  Does this mean you are getting ripped off?  Well, remember, that plastic bottle is yours for keeps after you buy it.  As long as you use that bottle to its full potential, using and reusing it dozens of times, you’re getting a great deal.

If you are still reading, you must be one of the millions that just throw away a plastic water bottle when you’re done with it.  This means that yes, depending on how much bottled water you buy, you are probably getting ripped off.

Being ripped off by bottled water is nothing to be ashamed of.  Who isn’t sucked in by the bright blue colors and refreshing looking water droplets common in your typical Aquafina ad?  (And don’t even get me started on bottled water with flavor shots!)  Bottled water companies do a great job of selling a product that looks crisp and clean.  But fundamentally, not all bottled water is created equal.

For example, if the bottle does not explicitly state it is reverse osmosis (RO) or distilled water (DI), it is likely nothing more than water run through a standard carbon filter. Carbon filters are not a bad thing, of course.  We sell a lot of them, some for as low as eleven bucks, or the cost of about seven bottles of water.

But a basic carbon filter, while solid, will still leave behind some impurities – which many incorrectly assume are being filtered out from the plastic water bottle they buy.  I suspect that many also assume that serving the cleanest possible filtered water in their home is simply too large of an investment.

Let’s get math-heavy now and talk pricing per gallon to get better filtered water into your home, from a low to a high price point:

Zero Water Filter PitcherLow Price Point:
A ZeroWater filter pitcher will reduce levels of contaminants, including lead, chlorine and mercury, by 99.9%.  The pitcher itself goes for $40 while ZeroWater replacement filter four packs run $63, as of September 2013.  An initial $40 investment will get you 30 gallons of clean, filtered water shown to reduce more impurities than the 192 plastic bottles of water (or $288 worth) you could be buying.

Medium Price Point:
The US-1500 Under Sink Water Filter comes complete with cartridges, faucet and standard installation hardware for about $180.  Filters will need to be replaced about every six months and the P-250A replacement filter cartridge set sells for about $28.  This initial investment will serve 500 gallons of clean, filtered water, compared to just over 21 gallons if this same amount was to be purchased in the form of bottled water.  Prices as of September 2013.

Pentek BBFS-22 Big Blue Whole House Water Filter SystemHigh Price Point:
The Pentek BBFS-22 Big Blue Whole House Water Filter System will filter every single drop of water in your entire home. Initial cost of the system is just over $200, which includes all the peripheral products required for maintenance including spare O-rings, spanner wrench for changing cartridges and silicone grease. Our highest current price point for Pentek Big Blue replacement filters is just under $70, though most are in the $20 to $30 range.

An initial investment in the system and the highest price point filters, as of September 2013, is about $270.  That would get you about 28 gallons of water from the bottle.  Assuming 8,000 gallons filtered by the Big Blue on each filter change, the plastic water bottle represents a pretty crazy markup.

I’m not saying that we completely vilify bottled water companies or shout ‘sucker’ at everyone we see with an Aquafina.  A bottled water here and there will not break your bank – and if properly recycled – will not break the world.  Just know that with a small to moderate initial investment, you will save an incredible amount of money in the long run.  And you’ll have so much more to spend for flavor shots.

I invite you to subscribe to this blog or our YouTube channel, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest water news and hydration tips.  I also invite you to +1 us on Google+ to be the first to learn about exclusive deals and new products.

Jamin Arvig

Jamin Arvig

In 2002, Jamin Arvig founded WaterFilters.NET from his small college apartment. Just over ten years later, his company has doubled in revenue each year, grown into a multi-year honoree on the Inc. 5000, and become the online consumer’s first choice for water filters and water filtration technology. Jamin's success with WaterFilters.NET can be seen through coverage in publications ranging from the Minneapolis Star Tribune to the Wall Street Journal, its consistent ‘Excellent’ status from customer service ratings provider STELLAService, frequent appearances in Best Places to Work lists and in the pages of Upsize Minnesota who recently named the company Business Builder of the Year. Jamin also helps to ensure that WaterFilters.NET supports its core value of charitable giving by making significant contributions from its profits to various water-related charities. Posts from Jamin are contributed regularly to this blog.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alex DeLeon April 28, 2016 at 8:18 pm

I just became interested in filter water science. I bought a TDS (total dissolved solids) tester and found my tap to be 130 ppm (parts per million) range. The Brita filter brought it down to 110 ppm. Bottled Kirland water and Hinkley and Schmitt were each < 20 ppm. Distilled water tested at 0 ppm. So Brita does not equal bottled water despite all of these coming from a tap water source. I then ran Brita filtered water through the filter twice and it only went down to 100 ppm (about a 10% reduction each time). Finally, I bought a ZeroWater filter system and it scored a Zero (same as distilled water and better than bottled water). My point is that all filters are created equal and I agree with your recommendation for the ZeroWater filter.


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