In this article, we provide detailed reverse osmosis system reviews. Check out our buyer’s guide too for everything you need to look for before you buy.
Reverse osmosis filtration is an outstanding method of water protection that can reduce up to 99% of thousands of harmful water contaminants.
Today, we provide the best reverse osmosis system reviews. Each of them comes with amazing customer feedback but stands out in its own right too.
Check out the reverse osmosis system reviews comparison table where you can compare the important features. The table can be sorted so you can focus on the things that really matter to you. There are more detailed reviews following the table.
We also have a comprehensive reverse osmosis system reviews guide. This contains everything you need to know before you buy.
Reverse Osmosis Reviews: Compare the Top 10
|Home Master TMAFC||
|Home Master HydroPerfection||
|APEC Ultimate RO-90||
|Express Water RO5DX||
|Brondell H2O+ Circle||
GPD stands for gallons per day. This is a measure of how much clean drinking water the unit can make on a daily basis. Larger homes will require larger values here.
Reverse Osmosis System Reviews
In this section, we take a closer look at the systems in the comparison table.
We rate these reverse osmosis water filters as being some of the highest quality on the market. Each one stands out in a different way, and we feel that this selection offers the best features on the market.
Besides the most popular under-sink systems, we’ve also included the best portable reverse osmosis water system, and an amazing whole house reverse osmosis filtration system.
APEC ROES-50 5-Stage System OUR TOP PICK
This is one of the best selling under-sink reverse osmosis water filtration systems on Amazon. It gets amazing customer feedback and has an amazing rating after more than 1500 reviews. APEC has been making systems like this for over 20 years, and are a WQA certified manufacturer. This means top quality components and a build quality that can be relied upon.
It is a 5 stage system that will remove over 1000 water contaminants. Common contaminants are reduced to a very high degree, while protection is also given against things like bacteria and pesticides. Nothing compares to RO when it comes to the number of contaminants that are filtered.
The ROES-50 will reduce the following common contaminants from your drinking water by up to 99%:
- Viruses and more…
The ROES-50’s exceptional build quality means it runs quietly and without problems. APEC actually offer lifetime customer support from their team of WQA certified specialists too. This kind of dedication to the customer is hard to match. Installing and maintaining an RO water system for a home can seem like a daunting task at first, and to have a helpful and experienced professional just a phone call away, offers real peace of mind.
It features a maximum water flow rate of 50 gallons per day. This is the amount of water it will produce daily. This is the standard figure, which will support most households. Those with a big family might want to find something with a larger capacity like the APEC RO-90 (reviewed further down the page).
The ROES-50 uses APEC’s high quality, long lasting RO filters. They will last between 6-12 months, with the reverse osmosis membrane lasting at least 2 years. The system’s five stages include:
1 – A sediment filter to remove larger particles like dirt.
2/3 – Carbon filters to improve the taste and odor. They will also absorb smaller contaminants from the water.
4 – This is the reverse osmosis membrane. It will remove contaminants down to 0.0001 microns in size.
5 – A coconut shell based filter. This stage refines the taste of the water.
RO filters are really easily changed with a simple twist and pull. They are not quite as cheap as the filters offered by rival brands, but they are of really high quality. APEC is a WQA certified company so all of their products face strict testing under tight regulations.
The unit is designed to fit under your kitchen sink and feed directly to the faucet. It comes with its own lead-free faucet, but others are available. Installing the new faucet is the most difficult part of an otherwise straight-forward installation. The difficulty comes in drilling a new hole for it. However, this shouldn’t present much of a problem for those with basic DIY skills.
APEC-ROES 50 comes with a 1-year satisfaction guarantee. Should you not be satisfied with any aspect of its performance then APEC will happily refund your money.
Bottom Line: The ROES-50 is the perfect “all-around” system. It represents the complete package of value, quality, and effectiveness. Just check out its Amazon rating.
- Price: $$
- 5 Filtration Stages
- 50 GPD capacity
- WQA certified manufacturer
- Long lasting filters
- Great value
- Amazing reputation
Home Master TMAFC Artesian 7-Stage System ULTIMATE FILTRATION
The TMAFC from Home Master has an innovative design but comes with a slightly more expensive price tag. It features a massive 7-stages of water filtration, which makes some of the most refined and best-tasting drinking water around.
Water is passed through a sediment filter, carbon filter, reverse osmosis membrane, and remineralization filter. Now, this only totals 4 different filters, so you may be wondering how Home Master can claim this to have seven stages. Well, it uses their patented Full Contact technology which means the water passes through the final stages twice. This ensures that the filters have every opportunity to remove harmful contaminants from your water. It also means that the water passes through the remineralization filter twice at the end. This filter adds healthy minerals like magnesium and calcium back to your water. This means the water tastes great and is rich in nourishing minerals.
A further benefit of this is that there are only three filters that need to be replaced (the RO filter is replaced every 2-3 years). These filters are long lasting and will last for a whole year of use. They are actually very well priced too. This makes the TMAFC one of the cheaper systems run over the course of its life and offsets the initial cost of the unit. The filters are really easily removed and replaced, without the need for tools.
This is a 50 gallons per day model. It can produce this much clean drinking water from your faucet over the course of a day. This kind of capacity would be fine for all but the largest of homes. It is designed to fit under the kitchen sink and comes with an attractive chrome faucet.
The TMAFC comes with a huge 5-year warranty. This is perhaps the reason for the more expensive cost of the unit. This is the largest warranty that we are aware of for an RO water filter.
Bottom Line: This system offers the best tasting drinking water of all the products in the reverse osmosis water system reviews. It also offers great value despite its higher price, because of the cost and lifespan of the filters.
- Price: $$$$
- 7 Filtration Stages
- 50 GPD capacity
- Adds healthy minerals back to the water
- High water pressure
- 5-year warranty
- Long life filters
- Purity You Need with the Minerals You Want – restores natural calcium…
- Exceptional Purification – removes up to 98-percent of chemicals,…
- Filter element and the filter housing are all-in-one modular assembly…
iSpring RCC7 5-Stage System BEST VALUE
The iSpring RCC7 is one of the cheapest RO water filters of real quality available. It has cheap running costs too, with really well-priced filters. It has overwhelmingly positive reviews from many happy customers on Amazon. If you find the cost of buying an RO system a little intimidating, then this model could be a great fit.
It is a 5-stage system with a capacity of 75 GPD. This capacity is above average in this price range and is a real bonus for this model. This kind of capacity should be large enough for even the bigger households out there.
The five filter stages include a sediment pre-filter, three carbon filters, and the reverse osmosis membrane. The sediment filter protects the RO membrane from larger particles, while the carbon filters absorb contaminants and improve the water’s taste and odor. The RO membrane will remove particles down to 0.000000004 of an inch, which is standard for this type of filter, but impressive all the same.
It will remove up to 99% of over 1000 water pollutants. These include:
It was actually awarded a WQA Gold Seal for its effectiveness in removing pollutants.
But, the most impressive thing about this system is the value that it offers. It retails for less than the previous APEC and Home Master models and boasts some of the cheapest replacement filters around too.
The system is really easily installed and maintained. It has color-coded tubing to make installing a breeze. The filters are easily replaced and are housed in transparent tubes so that you can easily see if it’s time to change them.
iSpring obviously believes in their product because they offer a – year money back guarantee. They also offer lifetime customer support.
Bottom Line: This model offers amazing value. It offers a large capacity and WQA Gold Seal, yet somehow manages to be cheaper than the majority of RO systems. This one is definitely worth a look.
- Price: $$
- 5 Filtration Stages
- 75 GPD capacity
- WQA Gold Seal
- Amazing value
- Cheap filters
- 1 Year money back guarantee
- High Capacity Reverse Osmosis water filtration for safer, healthier…
- Experience clean, safe, good-tasting water every time you turn on the…
- Easy, do-it-yourself installation, typically in a couple of hours with…
APEC RO-90 5-Stage System HUGE CAPACITY
The APEC RO 90 is a five-stage system that features a large 90 gallons per day water production rate. This makes it ideal for larger households. It includes a new long-life filter design from APEC, which means replacements are needed just once every 12 months. This length of filter life is among the best on the market and makes it a really easy system to maintain.
It is part of the APEC Ultimate Series, which are awarded Water Quality Association (WQA) gold seals to guarantee they give the highest contaminant rejection possible. Furthermore, as an owner of one of these systems you are awarded lifetime support by a team of WQA certified water specialists. For extra peace of mind, the system’s components are all NSF (Public Health and Safety Organization) certified to ensure their quality. APEC is a brand that costs a little more, but they offer real quality and customer care that is hard to match.
The long life filters are certified to reduce 99% of over 1000 contaminants. These include:
- Heavy metals
The five stages of filtration consisting of a sediment filter, two carbon block filters, an RO water system membrane, and a coconut shell filter. The first four stages will remove contaminants from the water, while the coconut shell filter improves the taste of the water. The filters will last for a year, which is among the longest lifespan available. That means it’s low maintenance and can be left to function on its own for long periods of time.
Being a 90 GPD system, it can produce water at almost twice the rate of the average RO water filtration system. It’s perfect for large family homes. Like the smaller ROES-5o model, APEC offers a one-year money back guarantee with this model too.
Bottom Line: This system is built using the highest quality components, and tested to the highest degree. It has a large capacity, and long life filters too. It’s one of the best reverse osmosis water systems for large homes.
- Price: $$$
- 5 Filtration Stages
- 90 GPD capacity
- Long life filters
- WQA Gold Seal
- Enjoy unlimited ultra-fresh, clean, great tasting water right at home….
- Designed, engineered and assembled in USA, RO-90 is the most durable…
- Tested and certified by WQA to remove up to 99% of contaminants such…
iSpring RCC7AK 6-Stage System AMAZING VALUE
Here is another favorite product among those in our reverse osmosis system reviews. The RCC7AK is a 6-stage system that represents great value. It offers savings in the long run when compared to other brands because of its low-cost filters.
Being a six stage unit it has an additional alkaline/pH filter that adds minerals back into the water supply and raises the pH back to more natural levels. This filter adds healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium to the water so that you can have great tasting mineral water straight from your faucet.
iSpring has a track record of listening carefully to its customers and improving their systems. This system has recently been upgraded after iSpring took on board the feedback about past models. That’s an amazing commitment to quality, that makes this system stand-out.
It has a daily water capacity of 75 gallons. This is an above average capacity and means it is capable of keeping up with the drinking water demands of a large home.
As mentioned previously, it is a six-stage model. The filters are designed to last between 6-12 months, with the RO membrane lasting 2-3 years. The addition of the sixth stage pH filter is a nice touch and means it gives great tasting drinking water. This filter also serves to raise the pH of the water to more healthy alkaline levels. The iSpring filters aren’t the longest lasting filters, but they are among the cheapest available.
The filters will remove up to 99% of over 1000 water contaminants. These include common pollutants such as:
This model has earned a WQA Gold Seal. This means it has been recognized as being one of the most effective water filters available. Its components have been tested and have met strict standards for safety, effectiveness, and durability.
iSpring offer a full one-year money back guarantee with the RCC7AK and lifetime technical support.
Bottom Line: The cheapest 6 stage RO system of real quality. It provides great tasting mineral water at a really attractive price. Another gem from iSpring that offers amazing value. This reverse osmosis water system reviews really well on other consumer sites too.
- Price: $$$
- 6 Filtration Stages
- 75 GPD capacity
- WQA Gold Seal
- pH/alkaline filter adds healthy minerals to the water
- Amazing value
- Cheap filters
- 6-Stage Alkaline Remineralization Layered Filtration: Exclusively…
- BENEFITS The iSpring RCC7AK water softener includes an additional…
- FEATURES Beautiful European-Style kitchen faucet Transparent 1st stage…
Home Master TMHP HydroPerfection ULTIMATE PROTECTION
Now, this is a very impressive product among those in our reverse osmosis system reviews. The HydroPerfection is the most expensive filter we have covered on this page by a margin, but it is real quality. It has a massive 9 filter stages which make it unique in the water filter world.
It is especially suited to combating heavily contaminated water, and in particular heavy metals like iron. The special iron pre-filter also serves to prolong the life of the subsequent filters. The Home Master uses jumbo size, long lasting filters that need only be changed once every year. This means the running costs are lower than a model with standard sized filters.
It also comes with a well-designed pump which improves the water flow rate and also the system efficiency. A pump like this is actually essential if you have low incoming water pressure.
If all that wasn’t enough, it also has an alkaline mineral filter and a UV light. The alkaline filter will add healthy minerals to the water and address any imbalance in the pH, while the UV light will kill any viruses or bacteria. This system has serious tools!
Bottom Line: The Rolls Royce of reverse osmosis water filter systems. Has all features imaginable. The ultimate in water protection. It’s the best RO system available if money isn’t an issue.
- A better RO system — Home Master HydroPerfection’s innovative design…
- Highly pure water — advanced filtration and purification stages…
- Added Minerals For Great Taste — its patented Full Contact technology…
iSpring RCC1UP HUGE CAPACITY AND FULL OF FEATURES
This marquee system from iSpring boasts 6 stages of filtration and a huge 100 gallons per day output. It also comes with a pump to improve efficiency and decrease the amount of wastewater produced. The pump is perfect for homes with low water pressure as it will increase the water flow.
A nice feature is the sterilization lamp, which is said to kill 99% of viruses and bacteria. This model has a WQA Gold Seal so you can be sure that it is a highly effective unit.
Smart technology means the lamp is powered on and off by the water flow to save electricity too. The RCC1UP also has an alkaline remineralization filter. This filter adds healthy minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium to the water and balances the pH.
With all these features, it’s a bit bulkier than other systems, but it does a really impressive job in protecting your home from polluted water. This system has one of the largest capacities of any we have reviewed. If you have a big family that uses a lot of water, then this water filter will give you the ultimate in protection.
Bottom Line: An amazing level of protection, and a huge water production capacity. This is feature packed and great value for it.
- iSpring Maximum Performance Line – unmatched speed, efficiency, and…
- Pre-equipped booster pump operates near silent
- Removes up to 99% of over 1,000 contaminants, including lead (removes…
Brondell H2O+ Circle FEATURE PACKED & EFFECTIVE
This system really stands out with its elegant design. It’s not just a pretty face though and packs some impressive water saving technology. Said to be “up to 10 times more efficient than conventional RO systems” this offering from Brondell makes others look ancient. It comes with WQA Gold Seals to prove its effectiveness in combating water contaminants. It also has a filter life indicator. This is a really nice touch which is rare in these systems. This model has a lot of really nice features and shows the future of R.O. water filter systems.
Bottom Line: A WQA Gold Seal means this is a system of real quality. It’s also the most attractive looking of all our reverse osmosis reviews.
- WATER SAVING SMART TECHNOLOGY: This patented technology eliminates…
- COMPACT DESIGN: The reservoir and water filters are contained in a…
- DESIGNER FAUCET: This elegant, chrome kitchen faucet is the embodiment…
Express Water 5-Stage System CHEAP & EFFECTIVE
Here is a water filter that’s hard to beat on price. It’s no wonder we had to include it in our reverse osmosis system reviews. Comes with a one-year warranty and US-based technical support. As cheap as it gets for 5 stages of water filtration. It even comes with an extra set of replacement filters. It also comes really highly recommended on Amazon.
Bottom Line: The cheapest 5 stage system that can still do a good job.
- Reverse Osmosis Water Filter: Experience what water should taste like…
- Water Purification System: Drink the healthiest water on Earth. All…
- Under Sink Water Filter: Don’t waste money on professional…
APEC Countertop BEST PORTABLE RO SYSTEM
This unit provides a great solution to those who are renting, unable to install an under-sink system or even those who need a portable filter. It can be hooked up to a faucet in minutes and provides a high level of performance too. It is a 4-stage system and has an impressive water flow rate of 90 gallons per day. It also wastes less water than typical under-sink units with tanks. It’s compact and effective too.
Bottom Line: No portable RO filter does a better job than this one. This portable reverse osmosis system reviews really well despite being much smaller than the others.
- Hooks up to most STANDARD FAUCET in minutes. Just plug and drink!…
- Top rated brand, high performance reverse osmosis drinking water…
- Highest grade 4-Stage ultra-pure system provides refreshing crisp…
iSpring RCS5T WHOLE HOUSE REVERSE OSMOSIS FILTER SYSTEM
A whole house reverse osmosis water filter is a rare beast, and they are usually used commercially. The iSpring RCS5T boasts some pretty amazing figures and puts to rest any worries about water flow in a whole house RO system.
It can filter an amazing 500 gallons of water per day, which makes it more than capable of keeping up with the water demands of a medium to large family. The average person uses 80-100 gallons of water each day.
It should be noted that it isn’t complete as a whole house system, and would require an additional 200-500 gallon storage tank and a delivery pump. As it is, it functions perfectly as a supply on demand (tankless) water system.
The RCS5T features a patented Side-Flow RO membrane. This technology enables it to save on water so that it doesn’t waste as much water as some other RO water filters. iSpring state that it can save up to 70% more water than the average system.
Like a reverse osmosis machine, it has the advantage over other whole house water filters of being more effective. The membrane is capable of stopping contaminants that are much smaller in size than a regular while house unit can. It will combat up to 99% of over 1000 water contaminants. The pollutants that it will filter include pesticides, lead, arsenic, fluoride, chlorine, and THMs.
It comes with an amazing 1-year money back guarantee, a one year warranty, and lifetime technical support. The whole house reverse osmosis system reviews are few and far between, but this model really holds up.
Bottom Line: Nothing compares to this level of water flow. One of the few reverse osmosis whole house systems that offer value and high-quality operation. The best RO system for whole house filtration.
- SUPERIOR 5-STAGE FILTRATION: 1st Stage PP Sediment Filter (removes…
- GREAT CAPACITY: Advanced Dual-Flow 500GPD membrane saves 60% of water,…
- HIGH EFFICIENCY BOOSTER PUMP: No worries for low water pressure. Built…
Reverse Osmosis Water Filter Comparison Table: The Top 5
|Model||Filtration Stages||Gallons Per Day||Price||Rating|
|Home Master TMAFC||7||50||$$$$||4.8|
|APEC Ultimate RO-90||5||90||$$$||4.7|
|Home Master TMHP HydroPerfection||9||75||$$$$$||4.8|
Reverse Osmosis System Reviews: A Buyer’s Guide
If you are reading this then you’ve probably already made the decision to buy a reverse osmosis water filtration system for your home. Installing a brand new water filter system can seem like quite a daunting prospect, and knowing as much as you can about your new acquisition can certainly help in easing the worry.
While they are all identical in their purpose, they can be quite different in their composition. Some excel in particular areas and it’s important that you find the system that best fits your needs. For example, some systems suit larger households, while others require very little maintenance.
We’ve compiled a buyer’s guide to help you choose the best system for your needs, and highlight just what to look for in an RO system. Furthermore, find out the real reverse osmosis system cost. We’ve divided a reverse osmosis water system up into its component parts, and these are where brands and models have different ideas. We’ll give you an idea of what numbers to be looking for in a good RO water filter, and also what might be best for different situations.
Reverse Osmosis System Reviews: Buyer’s Checklist: 6 Key Features You Should Look At
Buying a water filtration device can be a confusing and daunting prospect. These are the 6 important things to consider before you buy a home RO water filtration system.
1. Water Production Rate
The water production rate is the amount of drinking water produced by one of these units in one day. This is typically measured in gallons per day (gpd). Values of the quality systems tend to range from 50-90+. What the reverse osmosis companies don’t usually say though is that these numbers are rarely achieved. The water production rate depends on a variety of things, such as:
- The incoming water pressure
- The water temperature (higher is better)
- The quality of the original water supply (how much work does the system have to do to purify the water?)
A water production rate of around 80-90% of the stated value is probably more likely based on average household water pressures and supplies. That being said, a “smaller” system producing water at 80% of 50 gpd can make 151 Liters or 40 gallons of clean water every day. That works out at around 6.3 Liters or 1.66 gallons every hour, which is a vast amount of clean drinking water.
This is the key feature you should be checking in our reverse osmosis water filter reviews.
2. Stages of Filtration
Top brands tend to offer 5-7 stages of filtration in their RO systems. The RO systems with 6 or 7 stages will offer an alkaline/pH filter stage which will replenish lost minerals (more about that later). The first 5 stages are quite similar in their purpose, throughout the different brands. Let’s take a quick look at the jobs they do.
Stage 1 – Removes sediment, dust, and larger particles like rust from the water supply.
Stages 2 & 3 – Carbon filters that remove unpleasant tastes, smells, coloration, and cloudiness.
Stage 4 – The actual reverse osmosis membrane. This removes chemical pollutants like chlorine, arsenic, radium, fluoride, and lead.
Stage 5 – This carbon filter works to refine the water’s taste.
Having more stages of filtration will obviously increase long term running costs as you will have to replace more filters, but will produce slightly better tasting water. For an example of a 5 and 6 stage system, see our RO system reviews of the APEC RO-90, and iSpring RCC7AK.
Remineralization Filter – This adds healthy minerals back to the drinking water after the filtration process has finished. Ideally, drinking water should be slightly alkali, so this filter raises the pH. We’ll talk more about this in point 4.
Ultra Violet (UV) Light – An ultraviolet light can be added as an optional extra stage. UV light is very effective at killing bacteria and microorganisms. It can kill up to 99% of contaminants such as:
Despite being a powerful filtration tool that runs on electricity, a UV light draws very little power. Most only operate when water flow is detected, to save power.
Pressure Pump – Though this is not strictly a filtration stage, it is an optional extra for most models. What it does is increase the water pressure that is fed into the unit. This has the effect of increasing the water production rate, and the efficiency of the system.
The efficiency is increased by saving huge amounts of water. These systems produce waste water when flushing the RO membrane. With a pump, the wastewater produced by the system will be reduced (more on this in point 5). A pump can reduce the wastewater to drinking water ratio to about 1:1.
Secondly, it can increase the water production rate by increasing the water pressure that is fed into the system. Systems can run at maximum output with a pump.
These pumps are actually a necessity for those with low water pressure. RO units need a minimum amount of pressure to function well. Those with good water pressure may also like a because it can save you money in the long term by saving water. This is much better for the environment too.
3. Filter: Lifespan, Cost, and Effectiveness
The main cost of this method of filtration is in replacing the filters. This long-term running cost obviously depends on the price of the filters you need to buy, but also the lifespan of these filters. Cheap filters that don’t have a good life cycle will probably end up costing you more in the long-term. The lifespan of filters tends to range from 6-12 months. The iSpring systems offer really low running costs with 1 year’s supply of filters retailing at much less than some other brands.
Another consideration is the filter’s effectiveness at removing pollutants from the water. APEC probably offer the most effective filters on the market (in our opinion). They are, however, a little more expensive. The APEC RO-90 needs filter changes only once a year, and is so effective that it has been awarded a Water Quality Association ‘Gold Seal’. To see which RO systems have the filters with the longest lifespan, and how different systems compare, please check out the water filter comparison table at the top of the page.
4. Remineralization Filter
Reverse osmosis is a very effective method of removing water contaminants, but it is not the most refined of processes. By using a membrane that only allows particles of a certain size to pass through, it also removes larger mineral particles from the water. This serves to reduce the content of healthy minerals like magnesium and calcium from the water. The removal of alkaline minerals also serves to lower the pH level of the water and make it slightly acidic.
However, the level of healthy minerals and the pH level of your drinking water supply can be replenished with the addition of a pH/alkaline filter. The alkaline filter (usually stage 6) uses marble to add healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium back to the water supply after they were stripped away by the filtration process. Reverse osmosis water is of a pH of a maximum of 7. Ideal drinking water should be slightly higher than this. The remineralization filter raises the pH to make the water healthier and taste better too.
5. Water to Waste Ratio
This is by nature, quite a wasteful process. The early units might waste up to 20 gallons of water for every 1 gallon of clean drinking water produced. Things are better these days and systems now tend to waste around 2-5 gallons of water for every gallon of drinking water. The ratio can be reduced even further to around 1:1 with the addition of a pump to the RO water filter. The pump will also improve the water production rate of the system. The Home Master and Brondell systems seem to be the best at doing this. This is an important cost, as the amount of water the system wastes is going to affect your water bills. Furthermore, it’s important that we think about the environment. The reverse osmosis reviews in this post all fare pretty well in this area when compared to the rest of the competition.
6. Storage Tank Size
While your system might have a huge water production rate of 90 gallons per day, it is limited in what it can actually store by the size of its tank. Systems generally come as standard with tanks of around 3 gallons in size. However, upgrades can be purchased at quite reasonable prices, and tank sizes of up to 20 gallons are available. It all depends on the size of your family, household, or even house.
Bottom Line: Reverse Osmosis System Reviews
In summary, the main RO water filter system cost is in buying filters, so make sure you know the lifespan and price before you commit to a brand/system. Also, be sure to know how much water a system might waste so you can limit your impact on the environment, and also your water bills. iSpring and APEC systems are quite economical in this area. Keep these things and mind and you don’t have to spend a fortune.
How Does Reverse Osmosis Work?
A reverse osmosis machine works by simply removing any particle that is over a certain size from drinking water. It functions by separating any inorganic solids (like salt) that are dissolved in our water from our actual drinking water. To do this it uses an RO membrane (around the same thickness as cellophane) and filters. The drinking water is forced through the membrane by the household water pressure, leaving the impurities behind. The waste is then flushed down the drain. Pure drinking water is stored in a tank, ready to be consumed. These water filter systems don’t require any electricity to do this and run solely on water pressure.
RO water systems usually have 5 stages of filtration (sometimes more), with the membrane being the most important component. The sediment filters will need to be replaced around every 6 months (depending on water usage and water quality), and the membrane can last over 2 years in some cases. These systems are easy to maintain, with the filter changes being the only maintenance they require. A water filter system like this will remove particles and impurities that are larger than 0.001 microns. The figures below display the effectiveness of R.O. against common water contaminants like lead, arsenic, and fluoride. These are the most impressive figures you will find for a home water filter system.
Typical Rejection Levels of R.O. Membranes:
- Iron 94-98%
- Lead 94-98%
- Arsenic 95-98%
- Chloride 85-92%
- Fluoride 85-92%
- Mercury 95-98%
- Cadmium 95-98%
- Phosphate 96-98%
- Sulfate 96-98%
There are various factors which can affect the quality of this type of water filter. These include:
- The household water pressure.
- The water temperature (the membrane is more effective at higher temperatures).
- The type of dissolved solids (impurities) in the water supply.
- The number of dissolved solids in the water supply.
- The quality of the membrane and filters.
While most R.O. systems are alike in their components and design, the quality of the membrane and filter can differ. Furthermore, the quality of the welds (will the system leak or cause contamination?) may affect its effectiveness. Some RO water systems also have extras like alkaline filters to replenish lost minerals, more stages of filtration (5, 6, and 7 stage filters are not uncommon), and UV lamps for sterilization.
To round off this piece, let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages of RO water filters. It is an extremely effective form of water treatment, but it is not perfect in its operation.
Advantages of R.O.
- Improves the water taste and odor
- Extremely effective at removing drinking water pollutants
- These include bacteria, viruses, and chemical contaminants.
- Consumes no extra energy
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Low water production cost
- We can reduce our carbon footprint by drinking less bottled water.
Disadvantages of R.O.
- Water is demineralized
- The filtration process also removes larger mineral particles like sodium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.
- Water can be slightly acidic
- The removal of minerals can change the PH balance of the water.
- Not as efficient as other water filter methods.
- Not as fast at producing water as other methods.
The companies which make these water filters are always busy trying to remedy these problems and some solutions do exist. For example, an alkaline filter can be used to add minerals back into the water that has been lost. This also does the job of raising the pH level back to more normal levels. Also, the efficiency can be increased by mounting your system on the counter-top or by using a pump. Water to wastewater ratios can be reduced to around 1:1, which is a significant drop. This is still a bit wasteful, but perhaps the price you have to pay for really clean water.
Best Reverse Osmosis System Reviews FAQs
How Do the Best Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Work?
You may be wondering how the best reverse osmosis water filters work. In regular home units, municipal water is pushed through a carbon pre-filter first. This removes organic contaminants and chlorine. The reverse osmosis process is secondary. It allows water to pass but rejects dissolved liquids include impurities such as arsenic and lead. Purified water is stored away in a small tank until you need it. When you open the mounted faucet, air pressure forces the purified water into another filter, giving it a final polish from there to the ledge faucet. While this is an oversimplification of the process, it is a good way to understand how a three-stage RO unit works. Additional stages such as sediment and carbon filters can be included if you desire it.
Does Reverse Osmosis Work Like a Distiller?
Perhaps you’ve seen distilled water sold in the grocery store. Another common question that we get is whether or not reverse osmosis is like a distiller. Yes and no. While both reverse osmosis and distillation dissolve solids in water, the processes are very different. Reverse osmosis (RO) filters water through a tight, selectively permeable membrane. Distilling water is similar to boiling it in a tea kettle. When water is distilled, it is boiled. The steam is condensed and the water is captured. Most impurities of distilled water are left behind in the boiling chamber.
One of the similarities between RO and distillation is that they both rely on carbon filtration to remove chemicals. Cheap distillation systems often lack carbon filtration though, which limits their effectiveness. Don’t try to cut corners and go cheap when it comes to investing in the best water filtration system.
Is Distilled Water More Pure Than Reverse Osmosis Water?
This is one of the most common questions we get when it comes to reverse osmosis system reviews. Distillers typically remove much more parts of mineral constituents than reverse osmosis. However, distillers fail when it comes to removing chemicals with a low boiling point. One such example is chloramines. Many cities use chloramines as a disinfectant. On the other hand, reverse osmosis and its carbon filters effectively remove chloramines even before they enter the distiller.
Home RO units use water to cleanse their system and rinse away impurities. Think of these systems as you would with other water using appliances (e.g. laundry machine and dishwasher). RO units use more water in their operation than you would normally consume. But don’t sweat it. It doesn’t use so much water that you will notice a difference in your utility bill. When the water tank is full, the unit shuts down. To put this into perspective, your reverse osmosis unit will use the equivalent of three extra toilet flushes per day.
Can You Hook up Your Reverse Osmosis Unit to Your Refrigerator?
The answer to this question is yes – with conditions. Can you reach it with a quarter-inch tube from the undersink? If so, we will provide everything you need to know. The first thing to take into consideration is pressure. Your reverse osmosis unit (RO) will last you for a very long time if you perform regular maintenance checks and replace parts prone to wear and tear (e.g. the storage tank and ledge faucet). The typical membrane lasts anywhere from three to five years depending on how hard the water is that you will be processing.
In terms of the water filter itself, know that more does not always mean better. IF you are looking to filter water for a large household, you should invest in a larger water filter. However, if you only plan on using a few gallons of water per day, your production membrane will last much longer. Something you will be happy to know is that reverse osmosis membranes clean themselves as they process water. A twenty-four-gallon membrane should refill at the rate of one gallon per hour. That is pretty fast according to our book.
How Do I Know If a Reverse Osmosis Water Filter is Right for My Home?
Our picks for the best reverse osmosis system water filters contain very powerful technology. They are best suited to two issues. The first is desalinating sea water and the second is reducing specific chemical pollutants. Are you facing issues with fluoride, sodium, or chemicals? If so, you need a reverse osmosis water filter in your home.
We believe that the best water filter technology for your home or office is a combination of carbon and sub-micron filtration. The best reverse osmosis system water filters offer simple installation, can be attached to a dedicated faucet, require minimal maintenance, have a visual filter change indicator, and reduce harmful contaminants to NSF permissible limits without removing healthy minerals.
Reasons Reverse Osmosis Water May Not Be Right for You
Now that we have listed all the reasons to invest in an RO filter, it is important to address the cons too. While reverse osmosis systems reduce a large spectrum of contaminants, there are also quite a few that they cannot remove. There are several types of solvents, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), and pesticides that RO systems cannot filter out. Some examples include chlorine and radon, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, and trihalomethanes (TTHMs).
Trihalomethanes are formed as a byproduct of chlorine. They represent a chemical group commonly used as water disinfectants. Chloramines result from the reaction of chlorine or bromine with organic matter. THMS have been associated with adverse health effects in epidemiological studies. In fact, many governments have established limits on the permissible amount of THMS in drinking water. However, the vast majority of them go unmonitored. With these THMs, it is not clear what their health effects are. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the concentration of trihalomethanes to 80 parts per billion in treated water. While RO provides a mechanical barrier to reduce biological contaminants, it is important to realize that many manufacturers of RO water filters have not performed testing or received outside certification for the removal of these contaminants.
While reverse osmosis (RO) technologies can remove certain contaminants in a lab setting, it may not have the same capacity under a residential system. When looking at residential reverse osmosis systems, make sure to read the product specifications, instructions for use, contaminant reduction claims, and the fine print carefully. If you are still confused after this, seek out a system that matches up with NSF and ANSI Standard 58.
Another con we need to list is that RO is not the simplest or even the most effective technology. As you now know, reverse osmosis filter systems need a constant flow of water to clean out their membranes. Between fifty to eighty percent of this water is disposed of as waste (aka concentrate) because of the pollutants in it. The leftover drinking water (aka recovery rate) is the amount of clean water recovered from the original source. When you get your water bill each month, you will not only be paying for the clean drinking water that you get but also all of the water that goes down the drain too.
Pay special attention to how to maintain your reverse osmosis water filtration system. RO membranes can degrade easily when clogged with sediment, chlorine, and even bacteria buildup. If you forget to change your pre-carbon filter, it will no longer be able to remove chlorine and chloramine from your municipal water supply. This can result in a damaged RO membrane. Unfortunately, you would not be able to tell if your RO membrane has been compromised unless you can test out the total dissolved liquids of your unfiltered versus filtered water on a regular basis.
Is Demineralized Reverse Osmosis Water Good for You?
The answer is no. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), low TDS water produced by either distillation or reverse osmosis is not suitable for long-term consumption. It has been proven to cause adverse health effects to those who drink it. Since it lacks minerals, the water has a gross taste too.
Remember, reverse osmosis was originally intended to desalinate seawater. While it has a reputation for being one hundred percent effective, it does not remove all of the contaminants in your water. It does a good job of removing organic contaminants and chlorine. However, there is no one system that is one hundred percent effective. RO membranes can be damaged if the filters are not changed in a timely manner and the machine does not have regular maintenance.
Is Reverse Osmosis Right For Me?
There are many different types of water filter available for domestic use. These can be split into two categories: point of use systems and point of entry systems.
Point of use devices are installed at the faucet and will only filter water at that specific point. Point of entry systems is installed before the water is split into hot and cold, and will filter all of the water in your home.
RO systems fall into the point of use category and are usually installed under the kitchen sink. This means that they will only filter drinking water at that specific point. If you are looking for a water filter to treat the water throughout your home, then RO is not for you (see whole house filters). It is an extremely effective method of water filtration and will remove almost everything from your water. If you have particularly badly contaminated water, or are very concerned about the safety of your drinking water, then the most effective solution is reverse osmosis.
For households that solely have a problem with sediment then an RO system is not required. You would be better off with something more robust, as the sediment would require you to change filters quite often.
Before purchasing a home water filter, you should have your water supply tested. With the knowledge of knowing exactly what is hiding in your water, you can make a better decision as to what filter is best at combatting it. Water quality testing kits can be bought on Amazon at relatively little cost. Independent labs can also do a great job of testing your water.
Reverse Osmosis Water System Installation & Maintenance
Installing an RO water system for the home might seem a bit of daunting prospect, but don’t let it faze you, it can be done! Plumbers can be expensive, and it really isn’t necessary to pay for one. These systems are designed with installation in mind, and the whole thing is not as complicated as you might think. The process is generally the same for each manufacturer, each of them just uses their own versions of rings and adapters.
If you’re curious about just what is involved then APEC has a really great series of five installation videos. Of all the manufacturers we have featured in our reverse osmosis water system reviews, APEC and iSpring offer the best installation guides and support. The first video in the APEC series can be watched below. Just click on the ‘next’ button to skip through them.
If you don’t have time to sit through the installation videos, I will run through the process below. First, here’s a list of things that you will need if you decide to install an RO filter by yourself.
What you will need for installation:
- Philips screwdriver
- Variable speed drill
- 1/8” ¼”, 7/16”, ½”, and 5/8” drill bits
- Utility Knife or scissors
- Teflon tape
1. Turn off both the hot and cold water supplies. Install the saddle valve after the cold water shut-off point.
Next, cut the color-coded piping (included) to the right size, so that it feeds above the base of the cabinet and won’t become kinked.
2. You don’t want any excess tubing. Shorten the waste line and supply line tubes. Then attach these to the base of the faucet. There is a bigger black waste line which you shouldn’t cut just yet. The black waste lines will go through the faucet base.
3. Attach the faucet to the sink. Next, install the drain line adapter under the sink. Now, you can cut the bigger waste line so that the water will flow downhill. There should be no kinks or loops. Push this into the adapter.
4. Finally, put the water tank in place and attach the last water line.
The system needs to be sterilized before use. This process will vary according to the manufacturer and will be documented in the instructions.
Changing the Filters and Membrane
Changing the filters and membrane of your water filter unit doesn’t have to be a messy or time-consuming chore. The best units use simple and intuitive methods to make your life easy. These systems usually include jumbo size filters, meaning that filter changes happen less often too.
This video shows the process for an APEC water filter, but the process is generally the same for each manufacturer. All you need is a wrench (which will be included with your water filter system), and pliers if you wish to change the membrane. There are some very important (and perhaps obvious) points to remember:
- Make sure you turn off the feed/input water before starting.
- Be very careful to put the filters into the correct housings. Your RO unit will not be effective if the sediment filter swaps places with a carbon filter for example. The filter order is essential to its functionality.
- Flush the system before using after replacing the membrane.
Reverse Osmosis System Reviews: Frequently Asked Questions
Find out all you need to know about RO water filters but were too shy to ask. Our aim is to to help you find the best reverse osmosis system for your home, so if you have any more questions, please get in contact at the bottom of the page.
Why Buy One of These Instead of Another Type of Water Filter?
A reverse osmosis filter is more effective than other filter methods, like whole house water filters, faucet filters, and pitcher filters. If you have a problem with heavily contaminated drinking water, or with a specific contaminant that is very small in size, then reverse osmosis is your best solution. The other methods of filtration are useful in other situations.
How Does R.O. Work?
Reverse osmosis water filters work by removing the larger particles from water. Water is forced through a series of filters (up to 7), which gradually reduce the number of impurities that it contains. The membrane is the most powerful filter and can reduce impurities 900,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
How Effective is R.O.?
It is the most effective form of water filtration available to us in our homes.
How Do I Install an R.O. System?
A reverse osmosis filter system can be installed without the help of a plumber. You will need basic tools like a screwdriver, knife, and drill. A reverse osmosis machine must be installed at the point of use. This means it would need to be installed beside or under the drinking faucet in the kitchen. It would serve to filter the water at only this point, and would not filter any bathroom water.
The majority of the models we have included are under sink reverse osmosis water filter reviews, but countertop reverse osmosis water filters exist too.
How Easy is it to Maintain one of these units?
The sediment filters will need to be changed the most regularly. This will vary according to brand, model, the condition of your water, and water usage. Expect to change them about every 6 months. The membrane may last up to 3 years. These filters are very easy to change. These types of water filter require little other maintenance and can be left to function by themselves.
Does R.O. Affect Healthy Minerals in my Water?
These types of filter cannot distinguish between good minerals and harmful impurities so yes it will affect the mineral content of your water. This problem can be solved by using an alkaline filter (included in models with more than 5 stages), which adds calcium and magnesium back to the water supply after it has been filtered of impurities.
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Heard about “healthier” antioxidant water? Check out our guide to home water ionizers to see how they compare.
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