Water Filtration Systems: Choosing the Right One for Your Home

If you’ve been following our blogs these days, we have focused a lot on water. From that, you’ve learned that faucet-mounted water filters reduce lead and other metals from tap water if used correctly. Then, you discovered that reverse osmosis reduces nitrates and nitrites from a water supply. Finally, a study found that distilled water helps effectively clean fruits and vegetables.

We imagine that your head is spinning. Which water filter system should I choose?

First, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that you should know your water source.

Know Your Water Source

Is your water source a private well or a cistern? Or, is your water source from a public system?

Private – The CDC recommends contacting your local health authority to find out about common contaminants in your water and ask them what kind of contaminants to check for. Then, you should have your water checked by someone who is certified and have them check for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels, and other contaminants common in your area that your local health department identified.

Public – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all public water systems to send a Consumer Confidence Report annually by July 1st, which details the quality of drinking water and the contaminants.

Choosing the Right Water System

Once you find out what is in your water, we suggest going straight to NSF International for information.

NSF International was founded in 1944. It is an independent, accredited organization that tests, audits and certifies products and systems for public health.

The NSF website is difficult to navigate. These are the two pages we suggest visiting first:

Contaminant Reduction Claims Guide – This guide will tell you the best water filter system to remove the contaminants in your water source. Hyperlinks to what products are certified by NSF/ANSI are listed. We suggest you come back to this page once you start shopping to make sure the product is truly NSF certified.

NSF Standards for Water Treatment Systems – This page details what the NSF/ANSI certification covers with the water filter system.

Then, head over to the CDC website, which provides a bulleted guide of the different water treatment systems and what contaminants the technology removes.

We did notice some discrepancies between the two sites. For instance, the CDC says that reverse osmosis can reduce bacteria in water. The NSF does not. We reached out to NSF to explain the differences.

The organization responded, “The main difference is that the NSF International website lists products certified by NSF to reduce specific contaminants. The NSF International certification listings do not necessarily cover all possible technologies for reducing all possible contaminants.”

Budget and Lifestyle

Now, that you know the type of system you need, consider your budget and lifestyle. NSF International distinguishes between two systems:

Point-of-Use (POU) Systems – Treat the water where you drink or use it, and include water pitchers, faucet filters, under the sink systems, and reverse osmosis systems.

Whole-House/Point-of-Entry (POE) Systems – treat the water as it enters a residence. They are usually installed near the water meter (municipal) or pressurized storage tank (well water). Whole-house treatment systems include UV microbiological systems, water softeners or whole-house filters for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates.


“Choosing Home Water Filters & Other Water Treatment Systems.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 June 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/home-water-treatment/water-filters.html.

“Flint Water Sampling Objectives.” Environmental Protection Agency, 10 Jan. 2017, http://www.epa.gov/flint/flint-water-sampling-objectives#FilterEfficacy.

“Home Water Treatment System Selection.” NSF International, http://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/water-quality/water-filters-testing-treatment/home-water-treatment-system-selection.

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