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10 Easy Pieces: Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration Systems

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10 Easy Pieces: Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration Systems

May 13, 2020

If you’re looking to effectively filter your local municipal water directly from your kitchen tap, research shows that the best option is a under-counter install reverse osmosis filter system combined with an activated carbon component. Below are a few things to note when considering this style of filtration system, and further, our 10 choices for under-counter reverse osmosis (RO) systems.

  • Activated carbon filters (such as Brita), when used alone, filter a range of contaminants but do not filter inorganic pollutants such as fluoride, arsenic, nitrate, hexavalent, chromium, and perchlorate.
  • Reverse osmosis filter systems work by pushing water through a semi-permeable membrane that blocks anything large than a water molecule. This system removes inorganic pollutants, but alone, cannot effectively remove chlorine, trihalomethane, or VOC’s. This is why the best RO system includes an activated carbon component to remove all of the above contaminants, and up to 99-percent of total dissolved solids (TDS) from your water supply.
  • RO filters are wasteful, using 3 to 20 times more water than they produce. The key is to look for an RO system with the least amount of wastewater.
  • There are between 2 and 6 stages of filtration options for an RO system. Filters include a sand filter, carbon filter, cartridge filter, and membrane filter.
  • A 2-stage filter will remove the full scope of contaminants mentioned in bullets 1 and 2 except for fluoride. This is why a 3-stage or higher filter is what to look for if you’d like to remove fluoride from your water as well.
  • Because many minerals are removed in the process, some RO filters include or offer the option of purchasing an alkaline re-mineralizer to re-introduce beneficial minerals such as calcium and magnesium and balance the PH of the water.
  • Once installed, an RO filter system is relatively low maintenance with the need to change its filters about once per year.

N.B.: For a more comprehensive read on RO filtration, see articles on Water Filter Magazine and at Gimme the Good Stuff.

 Above: The Waterdrop Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System is the most space-saving of the bunch and can be installed under-counter or connected to the refrigerator. It produces a low amount of wastewater with a loading=
Above: The Waterdrop Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System is the most space-saving of the bunch and can be installed under-counter or connected to the refrigerator. It produces a low amount of wastewater with a 1:1 efficiency ratio and its 7-stage filtration system filters 99-percent of all contaminants. It works with a PP cotton layer, premium carbon filter, a second PP cotton layer, 3 layers of RO membrane, and a post-activated carbon block layer. The filter is $539 directly from Waterdrop.
 Above: The Home Master Artesian Full Contact Undersink Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System boasts a faster flow of water than other systems by using larger fittings and a wider tube and has a top efficiency ratio of loading=
Above: The Home Master Artesian Full Contact Undersink Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System boasts a faster flow of water than other systems by using larger fittings and a wider tube and has a top efficiency ratio of 1:1. The system removes up to 98% of chemicals, heavy metals, and sediment with a 7-stage filter inclusive of the re-mineralization of calcium and magnesium to water. New systems are available via Amazon sellers starting at $329.95.
 Above: The iSpring 6-Stage Superb Taste High Capacity Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System is Water Quality Association (WQA) Gold Seal certified and filters up to 75 gallons of water per day. The 6-stage filter removes up to 99-percent of harmful contaminants and 98% of lead and includes an alkaline re-mineralization filter to better balance the pH of resulting filtered water. Filtration works with a sediment pre-filter, carbon KDF pre-filter, carbon block pre-filter, RO membrane, polishing GAC filter, and re-mineralization filter. The system is $9.49 on Amazon.
Above: The iSpring 6-Stage Superb Taste High Capacity Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System is Water Quality Association (WQA) Gold Seal certified and filters up to 75 gallons of water per day. The 6-stage filter removes up to 99-percent of harmful contaminants and 98% of lead and includes an alkaline re-mineralization filter to better balance the pH of resulting filtered water. Filtration works with a sediment pre-filter, carbon KDF pre-filter, carbon block pre-filter, RO membrane, polishing GAC filter, and re-mineralization filter. The system is $199.49 on Amazon.
 Above: The Pentair FreshPoint 3-Stage Reverse Osmosis System produces a low amount of wastewater when filtering contaminants out of up to 50 gallons of pure water daily. It works with a simplified 3-stage filtration system including a Diamond Flow cartridge, RO membrane, and post-filter cartridge to remove total dissolved solids (TDS), chlorine, fluoride, lead, copper, and barium. Available at Fresh Water Systems.
Above: The Pentair FreshPoint 3-Stage Reverse Osmosis System produces a low amount of wastewater when filtering contaminants out of up to 50 gallons of pure water daily. It works with a simplified 3-stage filtration system including a Diamond Flow cartridge, RO membrane, and post-filter cartridge to remove total dissolved solids (TDS), chlorine, fluoride, lead, copper, and barium. Available at Fresh Water Systems.
 Above: The Brondell Circle Reverse Osmosis Under Counter Water Filter System is compact and water-efficient (
Above: The Brondell Circle Reverse Osmosis Under Counter Water Filter System is compact and water-efficient (2:1 efficiency ratio), claiming up to 10x more efficient than traditional RO systems. It has the capability of producing 50 gallons of pure water daily and includes a chrome faucet tap, but can also be connected to other compatible faucet models. The Brondell is a 4-stage filtration system including a sediment (or sand) filter, pre-carbon plus filter, RO membrane, and a post-carbon block filter. Prices start at $299.99 on Amazon.
The APEC Water Systems Essence Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System is an advanced 6-stage RO filtration system guaranteed to remove 99-percent of harmful contaminants and includes an additional re-mineralizing filter. The 6-stage system works via sediment pre-filter,
Above: The APEC Water Systems Essence Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System is an advanced 6-stage RO filtration system guaranteed to remove 99-percent of harmful contaminants and includes an additional re-mineralizing filter. The 6-stage system works via sediment pre-filter, 2 sets of carbon block pre-filters, an RO membrane, an in-line carbon filter, and an in-line pH plus filter. The system has a 3:1 wastewater efficiency ratio and is $236.85 at The Home Depot.
 Above: Neo-Pure (RO-4300RX) Pharmacy-Trusted Residential RO System is a 4-stage tank filtration system that works with a carbon pre-filter, a thin film composite membrane, extended contact filter, and polishing filter. It features a 3-gallon tank that is relatively compact and its carbon filters get changed every 6-loading=
Above: Neo-Pure (RO-4300RX) Pharmacy-Trusted Residential RO System is a 4-stage tank filtration system that works with a carbon pre-filter, a thin film composite membrane, extended contact filter, and polishing filter. It features a 3-gallon tank that is relatively compact and its carbon filters get changed every 6-12 months while the RO membrane is changed every 24 months; $199.99 at Fresh Water Systems.
The Filtrete Maximum Under Sink Water Filtration System is a super-budget option for under $50 with still fairly decent filtration, though not as intensive as the others on this list. A great DIY option for those living in areas with high quality water, the filter reduces lead, microbes, chlorine taste and order, and 0.5 microns of TDS. Working with a single filter, the system is available with standard, advanced, or maximum (shown) filter options; $48.33 at Amazon.
Above: The Filtrete Maximum Under Sink Water Filtration System is a super-budget option for under $50 with still fairly decent filtration, though not as intensive as the others on this list. A great DIY option for those living in areas with high quality water, the filter reduces lead, microbes, chlorine taste and order, and 0.5 microns of TDS. Working with a single filter, the system is available with standard, advanced, or maximum (shown) filter options; $48.33 at Amazon.
 Above: The PureDrop 5 Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System with Pre-Filter Kit is a 5-stage filter that removes 99-percent of TDS, 96% of lead, 99% chlorine, and 98% iron. The PureDrop is relatively efficient (though not as efficient as others on this list) with a loading=
Above: The PureDrop 5 Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System with Pre-Filter Kit is a 5-stage filter that removes 99-percent of TDS, 96% of lead, 99% chlorine, and 98% iron. The PureDrop is relatively efficient (though not as efficient as others on this list) with a 1:3 wastewater ratio. Its 5-stage filter system includes pre-sediment, pre-GAC (chlorine, odor, taste, chemicals), pre-carbon, an RO membrane and post-carbon filters. The system is budget-friendly at $144.19 from The Home Depot.
 Above: The Express Water Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System works via a 5-stage filtration system of sediment and carbon pre-filters, an RO membrane, and post-activated carbon filter. The system is also customizable with the option of additional UV water filters, alkaline re-mineralization filters, de-ionization fillers, and more. The system is priced at $9. on Amazon.
Above: The Express Water Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System works via a 5-stage filtration system of sediment and carbon pre-filters, an RO membrane, and post-activated carbon filter. The system is also customizable with the option of additional UV water filters, alkaline re-mineralization filters, de-ionization fillers, and more. The system is priced at $149.17 on Amazon.

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