How to Choose a Water Filter Part 1 of 10

by wfnblog on February 21, 2011

Confused CharacterWith thousands of water filter products on the market and everyone claiming theirs is the best, choosing the right water filter for your situation may seem a daunting task. As always, some basic knowledge goes a long way to making this otherwise complicated decision much easier. Let’s start by saying there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” water filter. Sure there are water filters that will work in a broad spectrum of circumstances, but none will work in every situation and, unless we are talking about extremely expensive specialized equipment, they will all perform differently in each unique setting. The point being, don’t make a decision based entirely on the results your neighbor or friend got with a particular water filter. You need to focus on your specific situation, and your desired results.

Having worked in client services at WaterFilters.NET I was amazed at the number of people who contacted us wanting counsel concerning the selection of a water filter, but who knew absolutely nothing about their water. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting everyone needs to be a Certified Water Specialist like me, or that every situation calls for a two hundred dollar laboratory water test, but you need to know something about your water. Let’s create some categories starting with treated water and untreated water. When talking about treated vs. untreated water, we are only concerned with microorganisms. We are not referring to potability which we will deal with later in this article. Though municipal water is the most common source for treated water, any water source may qualify as treated if it’s appropriately disinfected of microorganisms before the water reaches the home or other application. There are many ways this can be accomplished including ultra violet light, chlorination, or ozonation to name a few. The water may require significantly more filtration to be considered potable, but if it’s treated you know it’s free of microorganisms.  Untreated water is water from any source, i.e. well, lake, pond, river, stream, rainwater collection etc… where the water is not disinfected of microorganisms before the water reaches the home or other application. In short: treated water is water free of microorganisms, untreated water may or may not actually have microorganisms, but it has NOT been disinfected and therefore has the potential for microorganisms.

The next two categories are potable and non potable. Potable water is easy, in that it’s free of microorganisms and meets the EPA guidelines for potable water. Typical municipally supplied water is potable water. It’s been tested and though it certainly contains a variety of contaminants, none of those contaminants exceeds the regulated levels set by the EPA. Non-potable water is a bit more complicated, in that it may be treated water and therefore disinfected of microorganisms, yet non-potable because other contaminants exceed the EPA regulations, or it may be untreated water that has microorganisms, but is otherwise perfectly good water.

So, with that information under your belt, how do you choose a filter system? Start by identifying if you have treated or untreated, potable or non-potable water. Now you know something about your water. Next we will divide water problems into four broad categories; sediment, taste & odor, high level contaminants, and the nth degree (I’ll explain this later). This is where we get serious about what you want your system to accomplish. Do you have a sediment problem where you merely want to remove particulate from your water, is the problem more about making the water taste & smell better, or do you have serious high level contaminants that absolutely must be dealt with in order to make the water potable? The nth degree category is becoming more and more common as people grow in their awareness of the importance of pure water. These people are not satisfied with the EPA standards for potable water, they want extremely pure water that often requires extreme measures. This may include multiple stages of filtration, followed by UV light, then reverse osmosis, deionization, possibly re-mineralization, and even a complex process called ionization. The water is purified to the nth degree, hence the nickname.

Which category are you in? Sediment, taste & odor, high level contaminants, or nth degree? I’ll give you some time to think it over, and in the next couple weeks I’ll write articles about each category. I’ll make recommendations for various circumstances, and provide loads of good tips along the way. I promise to make it worth the wait!

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