Home Water Filters - What Are The Major Brands And How Do They Stack Up Against Each Other?
Do you drink a lot of bottled water? Why? Is it because your tap water doesn't taste as good? Or maybe because your tap water looks dirty? As long as you don't seriously need to get rid of heavy metals and other inorganic chemicals from your water supply, there are a few reasonably priced home water filters on the market. They do a reasonably good job of cleaning up your water supply of sediments so that there is no more yellowish or brownish color in the water. They also get rid of the chlorine smell and improve the taste of the water from your taps.
There are around eight major manufacturers of these carbon-based home water filters:
- General Electric
The two largest are undoubtedly PUR and Brita, which make pitchers with water purifiers, their own home water filters and water filter cartridges, as well as refrigerator water filter cartridges for General Electric, Maytag and Whirlpool. Their pitchers are, in fact, extremely popular with many long-standing satisfied customers. Unfortunately, many of their newer models seem to have quality control issues, with many customer complaints of leaks and breakage.
Home Water Filters
The four top companies who make home water filters are PUR, Brita, Culligan and Everpure. The quality of water produced by Everpure water filtration systems seems to be the best of all four companies. Unfortunately, at this point in time (2009), they only seem to have one active product - their H-300 home water filters. Their customers really like the H-300, but because the system does not have a sediment pre-filter, the carbon filter cartridges become clogged by dirty water very quickly. There are also complaints that new H-300 replacement cartridges do not always fit older H-300 home water filters. In addition to that, many homes mount the H-300 home water filter under their kitchen sink, which makes replacing the cartridge difficult.
The relative newcomer, Culligan, has quickly become very popular with their customers for making a relatively cheap and effective home water filter. Culligan home water filters have the following major advantages over the better known PUR and Brita:
- Both the faucet-mounted home water filtration unit and its replacement water filter cartridges are cheaper
- The home water filters are easier to install
- The filters are more robust
Culligan doesn't beat PUR in everything, though. Customers who have used both PUR and Culligan systems say that PUR still produces better tasting water, and that Culligan's water flow is slower than that of PUR home water filters.
People who own PUR home water filters say that their water quality is comparable to bottled water. Unfortunately, new PUR models seem to be very fragile, cracking and leaking water very quickly. Brita home water filters seem to have the same problem, making one wonder if they outsourced to the same factory in China.
So who is the winner in this match-up of home water filters? Depending on your needs and what else you have in your kitchen, I would say buy either Everpure H-300 or Culligan. If you need the highest water quality, if your water supply doesn't have too much sedimentation or you can afford to frequently change the water filter cartridge, and you don't have another water filtration system in your home, then go for Everpure.
On the other hand, if budget is an issue, you can make do with a "good enough" home water filter, and have another water filtration system like a PUR water pitcher or refrigerator filtered water dispenser, then Culligan will serve you well.
Water Filters for Refrigerator Water Dispensers
General Electric, Maytag and Whirlpool all make refrigerators with filtered water dispensers inside them. The replacement water filter cartridges for their refrigerators are generally well regarded by customers, although considered rather pricy.
However, cheaper versions of their water filter cartridges are also produced by PUR and Brita. Unlike the home water filters, there are no real customer complaints against these OEM cartridges so far.
Water Pitchers with Filters
Water pitchers with filters can be useful in three different circumstances:
- Travelers to places where the water quality is poor
- People who do not want (or cannot afford) to install proper home water filters
- Workers in offices where there is no water dispenser
Overall, customers rate PUR above Brita in taste. Many people are willing to fork out the extra cash to buy PUR water pitchers, just for the better tasting water they produce. Some are even willing to pay a significant premium to get PUR's highest-end water filter cartridge, which claims to remove 11 contaminants from water - chlorine, particulates, lead, mercury, benzene, o-dichlorobenzene, toxaphene, asbestos, cysts, turbidity, atrazine. This is in comparison to a low-end PUR cartridge which only filters 4 different contaminants - chlorine, sediment, lead, o-dichlorobenzene. While customer satisfaction (for their water pitchers) remains very high, there are increasing complaints that their new water filter cartridges not only work more slowly than ever but also has a greatly decreased lifespan. One customer who dismantled a cartridge discovered that the new pre-filters use lower quality material than the old pre-filters.
With PUR, at least, one would be better served buying their replacement water filter cartridges from a normal brick and mortar shop like Targets. There are many complaints of inaccurate product descriptions in online stores - causing many customers to receive the wrong type of filter for their pitchers. Some customers who thought they had found a good deal on PUR's high-end filters instead received a lower-end filter cartridge instead. Although they still paid a fair price, it wasn't the the 33% to 50% discount they were expecting.
Like PUR, Brita's water pitchers are also generally well regarded by their customers. Unfortunately, like PUR, Brita has been facing increasing numbers of complaints over the water filter cartridges for their pitchers. It seems that some newer filter cartridges keep on dropping pieces of charcoal filter material into the filtered water. While this had always been a problem even with older cartridges, at least the problems disappear after the pitcher and old filter models are properly flushed according to instructions.
Another highly rated brand in terms of water quality is ZeroWater. Many customers say the water quality they produce is even better than PUR. Unfortunately, this manufacturer seems to be plagued by many serious problems. The first is price. ZeroWater pitchers and replacement water filter cartridges are even more expensive than products from PUR. The water filtration is the slowest of the three major manufacturers, the workmanship of their water pitchers is the worst and the lifespan of their filters is the shortest. Some customers who have very dirty water supplies said that their cartridges stopped working after only two weeks.
Overall, if you already own an older model water pitcher from PUR or Brita, you should take good care of it - it will likely last you a few more years of careful usage, unlike their newer models. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the poor quality of the new water filter cartridges. Hopefully, the increase in customer complaints will get them to improve their quality control sooner rather than later. Until the quality problems with PUR and Brita water filter cartridges are resolved, you should probably give their new water pitchers a miss. The same goes for ZeroWater.
This round-up of home water filters only covers the most popular brands in the market. All of the most popular water filtration systems use activated carbon to filter water, some have a sediment pre-filter, and many feature resin ion exchange systems to get rid of lead and some other heavy metals.
The (still) new and expensive reverse osmosis home water filters, the sediment-only water filters, and whole house water filters are still not popular with Americans.
Overall, the popular home water filters were chosen by Americans because they make their water taste good, and for no other reason. Given this fact, there isn't really anything else to say.
Most Popular Home Water Filter Products In America
Capsule Summary of Popular Home Water Filters
Water Pitchers/Dispensers with Filters
Don't bother buying these. A few years back, PUR and Brita made some excellent water pitchers, but recently they are struggling with quality control issues in both the workmanship of their pitchers as well as the lifespan of their replacement water filter cartridges. ZeroWater is a newer company, and while the water filter cartridges for their water pitchers is revolutionary, they are suffering even worse QC/QA problems than PUR and Brita.
Refrigerator-mounted Water Dispensers with Filters
Overall, customers seem satisfied with both water quality and workmanship of the three main brands - GE, Maytag and Whirlpool. Both PUR and Brita also make replacement water filter cartridges for these three companies, and their OEM brands have also been well-received with no major quality complaints.
Faucet-mounted Home Water Filters
Everpure and Culligan are the two main winners here. Everpure is actually mounted under the kitchen sink, but everyone says their water quality is excellent. Culligan isn't so outstanding in terms of water quality, but is widely-considered more than good enough given its low price.
If you already have a refrigerator with a filtered water dispenser, all you need is to add a cheap Culligan faucet-mounted water filter as a pre-filter. Your (very likely) more expensive refrigerator filter cartridge will last longer, you will get even better quality water and you will save more money in the long run.
If you are looking for a more economical alternative to the bottled water that you currently drink, your best choice is probably the Everpure H-300. Replacing its water filter cartridge will be a hassle, but the water quality can't be beat.
If you are satisfied with good enough, and you want something that won't break your budget, Culligan's home water filter is the way to go. It's good enough to get rid of most sediment, and it's cheap enough that people who have very dirty/muddy water supplies won't go broke replacing it water filter cartridge.
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