Have you ever wondered why pet fish always die? Growing up I always assumed that it was the fault of little kids with their grabby hands, terrifying the fish into early-onset heart attacks. Now, while I'm still pretty sure they're not entirely blameless, when delving further into water filtration, it becomes clear that there are other contributing factors to your silent pet's early demise.
Some of these factors are that city water sanitation methods are to add high quantities of chlorine and/or ammonia to kill off microorganisms and bacteria that contaminate the water supply. While this protects your water, it also makes it inhospitable for the small pets that overdose from chemical exposure and die young. The chlorine levels are certainly not high enough to severely injure a human being, however, chlorine exposure has been conclusively linked to lung under-development in small children.
The problem is that cities just do not have the resources to treat your water in more environmentally friendly ways that do not involve chlorine and ammonia. Ironically, while the chlorine and ammonia are supposed to ward off smells caused by microorganisms, adding these chemicals gives the water an odd taste and odor. To get truly purified water free from man-made additives and natural contaminants, the responsible homeowner needs some sort of home filtration system to thoroughly and completely get rid of both what the city adds to the water and also what the water picks up en route to your tap.
Many different methods of at-home water filtration exist, and many are excellent at ridding your water of distasteful contaminants, however, the price range when it comes to at-home water filtration can range from $30 to $3,000 so it's important to know what you need. Here we'll discuss the reasons to choose countertop filtration and the criteria to consider when making your purchase, as well as the top five best countertop water filters available on the market today.
Carry on reading or jump straight to our number #1 pick with the link below.
Table of Contents
What Should I Look For When Buying a Countertop Filter?
Countertop water filters vary widely in price, so knowing what to look for is important, thereby ensuring that you don't under- or over-spend. Trying to save by getting the cheapest faucet filter will not fix your problem as that will just mean more bills in repairs and replacements.
Getting a whole house water filtration system, while very thorough, could be a major over-spend if all you need is an at-site filtration system. Also, just because a water filter is hardcore and gets out all your totally dissolved solids, that doesn't mean that your water is now ideal for drinking. Removing all trace materials from your water lowers the pH, making it more basic and removing healthy trace minerals like potassium from your water supply. Therefore, it's very important to know what you need before simply purchasing a water filter.
- #1. Cost: The easiest to understand and the one we most wish we could ignore (until we all strike it rich), the price tag will matter.
- #2. Function: How the filter works, what materials it's supposed to filter out, what filtration techniques are used - all these standards increase your understanding of what you're buying, and also if it's the right purchase for you.
- #3. Appearance: While this criterion is certainly not more important than the actual functionality of a filter, it is true that a countertop filter never gets put away. Instead, it sits on the counter and reminds you that you either made a very good choice or a terrible one when it came time to buy your filter.
I never rate appearance as a deal-breaker for an otherwise wonderful machine, however, I do include it in the description of the product so that you can make an educated decision based on what you want and what your priorities are.
- #4. Certification: Never wanting to give big corporations a monopoly on deciding what I buy, it's still an important consideration to look for products that do pass some predetermined standard of quality.
Specifically for water filters, the NSF has specific health codes when it comes to water filters that certify a water filter as adequate at removing particular materials and toxins from your water. If for example, you live in an area where the chlorine taste is strong, it will be very helpful for you to know which machines are certified according to NSF standards to greatly reduce the presence of chlorine in your water.
- #5. Warranty: It's never our intention to buy something likely to break or go bad within a short time. However, it is still a valuable resource to be able to depend on the company to cover any sort of unanticipated early product failure.
- #6. Ratings: The most objective authority available to us on the actual worth of a product, the reviews and ratings available online are the closest we'll ever get to a taste test. In this case, vicariously living through the experiences of every other customer helps us to better understand how the product performs and what it will be like to own it, so that we can best know if it's a pleasurable experience or a painful one.
Here's How We've Determined the Best Countertop Filter
I searched the Internet for the different models of countertop water filtration available in the market today. Then, I researched each model to find out what it was supposed to do, how it looked, how much it cost, and finally how well it performed from the consumer end of things, before narrowing my list down to the five that scored the highest.
This is the list I'll be presenting to you today, and these five were chosen based on highlighting different virtues. Some, because they're cheaper and I (like my fellow Americans) know that there's nothing more exciting than a steal. Others, because in terms of pure quality they are the best. Those lucky among us who can afford to spend a little more can see their options. Finally, others are chosen because they are the most nondescript, not obstructing or interfering with the natural aesthetic appeal of your kitchen. So let's begin.
#1: Aquasana Countertop Filter (Best Value - All-Purpose)
Simple and streamlined, the Aquasana Countertop Filter has the best quality versus cost distribution of all the products available on the market. A small rectangular, object that sits next to your kitchen sink and provides you with filtered water, the Aquasana has an internal two-filter system.
These two combine to reduce up to 97.4% of free available chlorine, 99.9% of particulates like sand, rust, and dirt, 99.9% of live microorganisms like cryptosporidium and giardia which do not die off in chlorine and ammonia, 96.6% of mercury as well as 99% of asbestos, lead, volatile organic compounds, and improving the overall clarity of your water by 99%.
So, this is an effective, efficient machine, that guarantees you excellent quality filtration at an amazingly affordable price with their cutting edge claryum filtration. Claryum filtration is how Aquasana performs such high-level filtering while allowing key minerals like calcium and potassium to remain in your water. The flow rate is 0.4 gallons per minute, and the full water capacity before the filter cartridges need to be replaced is 450 gallons.
The Aquasana is a self-install countertop water filter, with an easy twist-on and off faucet head. It's important to note that the Aquasana is only compatible with a standard faucet head, so fancier, less-mainstream faucets are not a good fit.
The NSF also certifies this product according to their standards 42 and 53, which respectively refer to the filtration of chlorine, as well as improving the taste and smell of your water, and that the product removes lead, VOCs, asbestos, cryptosporidium, and giardia from the water supply.
Also important is that the company offers a 1-year limited warranty, guaranteeing the performance of parts. This of course does not refer to the capacity of the filter cartridge (as that is entirely dependent on the family using the product and how much water you use over time), just to the mechanical parts.
Finally, this product scored well in reviews and in the comments, with most people saying the taste was great and such a relief for them after wasting money on more expensive and less reliable products. The only objections listed as to the performance of the Aquasana countertop water filter had to do with the testing strips that test ppm or parts per million, usually used when testing pool water.
The problem with these tests is that they check for any substances present in the water and then label the presence of anything in the water as a bad thing. The issue is that water filters leave the healthy minerals that our bodies crave to remain in the water, removing only harmful contaminants, and therefore score poorly on the ppm test. As this was the only complaint, this machine can be relied on for filtration and excellency.
Anyone looking for an affordable countertop filtering system need look no farther then the Aquasan Countertop Water Filter.
#2: SimPure Countertop Water Filter (Best Machine)
A beautiful filtering system, the SimPure Countertop Filter is a white, luxury machine that has incredible filtration performance that is well reflected in the consumer experience. The filtration system honestly looks like a fancy coffee maker, with its modern, sleek exterior.
This countertop filter does not connect directly to your faucet. Instead, it has a water tank where it keeps the filtered water, meaning that this machine can be kept anywhere in your kitchen, not forever hovering right next to your kitchen sink, taking up counter space at all times.
Additionally, the SimPure has a hot water setting so that your filtered water can emerge instantly hot for a nice cup of tea or some cooking-ready water.
The interior portion of this filter has three filtration cartridges but four filtration steps - sediment membrane, carbon pre-block, the RO (reverse osmosis) filter itself, and then finally another carbon block for residuals.
The first part of the setup, the sediment filter is mostly self-explanatory. Its main job is to weed out large particles like rust, dirt, sand, and sediment floating in your water. The next step, which is the carbon block, is set up to eliminate chlorine and reduce microorganisms from your water.
Flowing right into the reverse osmosis system, which is the most thorough of all the filtration techniques on the market, the reverse osmosis forces everything through a semi-permeable membrane, effectively removing all substances other than water from your water stream. Finally, the second carbon block is there to remove any residual taste and odor from your water, so that when it emerges from the SimPure it is completely clear and clean, and ready for drinking.
This whole process is 99.99% successful at removing harmful substances from your water, among them fluoride, chlorine, TDS, limescale, bacteria, heavy metals, cysts, viruses, lead, and chromium, and can be reasonably expected to filter your water effectively between 6 months and a year.
All this capacity as a machine makes this one of the more expensive countertop systems on the market today, but its cost is balanced by its thoroughness in attending to all the consumer needs. Firstly, there is no installation required as this machine functions based on a water tank and not a direct tap to your faucet. As long as there is a power outlet close by, you can put your SimPure anywhere in the house, giving greater flexibility to the standard cumbersome design of a utility that can never be moved or put away.
Additionally, this countertop water filtration system has a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one year warranty, meaning that any issues caused by the machine are covered by the company and that it will truly bring you nothing but ease and comfort, along with healthy water.
That the SimPure is NSF certified to provide clean, clear water only corroborates accounts from consumers, who said that this product produced great tasting water, and that they enjoyed the function allowing the machine to produce already heated water for whatever was necessary. One lone voice said that the water taste was not great because the water storage tank is plastic, therefore the water had a synthetic taste. However, because so many people had such a positive experience with the SimPure filtered water, it seems that this consumer might have left his water to sit for long periods.
Regardless of the explanation, due to the stellar reviews, I have to conclude that this machine delivers as much as it promises, and anyone who can afford a little more for incredible water filtration should be very pleased to find the SimPure Countertop Clean Drinking Water Filter.
#3: Brondell RO Water Filter (Best Affordable RO)
The Brondell is aesthetically very similar to the SimPure, yet has some major design commonalities with the Aquasana filter discussed previously. The Aquasana is a nice filter because it hooks up directly to your tap, providing you with an endless supply of filtered water. But in terms of pure aesthetic, the SimPure murders the Aquasana when it comes to providing a luxury user experience - you don't mind leaving out to sit on your counter.
Both traits are united in the Brondell with its black and white, smooth outer shell. Not only does it hook up to your tap providing a constant stream of filtered water, but it also brings some of that aesthetic modernity and appeal of the SimPure. It does this with a 3-part filtration system, made up of a composite plus filter, a nano trap filter, and a carbon block.
The composite plus filter is a two-step system, and is responsible for removing particulates like sand, rust, and fine particles. It also needs to be replaced approximately every six months. The next step is the nano trap filter which is made up of nano alumina, cellulose fibers, and other materials specializing in the reduction of turbidity, microparticles, and harmful microorganisms.
This filter has a lifespan of a year. The carbon block reduces bad taste and odor by ridding your water of any leftover chlorine and VOCs, finally leaving your water smelling good and tasting great. The carbon block, like the composite filter, needs replacing every six months.
While not as inexpensive as the Aquasana, the Brondell is much more affordable than its SimPure cousin, and without RO, delivers safe water for considerably cheaper. Now, in areas where the water is truly bad, RO systems are almost a must, as nothing is as effective in decontaminating your water.
However in areas where the water is a little less tough, or if you as a consumer specifically want mineralized water, the RO system is not your best choice. Ultimately, the Brondell is an excellent, attractive machine for anyone in average water areas that seeks extra security for their family from the water straight from the tap.
The Brondel Countertop Water Filter is certified by the WQA (Water Quality Association) against NSF standards 42, 53, and 372. As we discussed above, those standards are about improving the taste of your water through removing chlorine, and about getting rid of harmful microorganisms like cryptosporidium, as well as many heavy metals present in the water supply. NSF/ANSI 372 insures that the Brondell product is lead-safe.
While it's always nice to know that the products we buy won't kill us, the 1-year warranty provided by the company is a nice touch to the overall feeling of security that this provides.
Reviews of the Brondell, like the SimPure, were good, with one happy customer commenting that he's had the Brondell for over five years with absolutely no complaints. While most were extremely positive, some did say that over time the dispenser button on the Brondell began to stick. On the other hand, many reviewers said that the customer service was excellent, helpful and that the company was quick to replace faulty merchandise.
A great machine for a great cost, someone looking to pair the convenience of the Aquasana with the luxury of the SimPure can find it here in the Brondell Countertop Water Filter System.
#4: iSpring (Best Low Cost)
No competition, the cheapest of all the filters that made the top five in the countertop water filtration systems category, the iSpring is also the first that exhibits a different design. Kind of like a baby between the classic kitchen filtered water spout and an actual filter cartridge, the iSpring joins the two together, providing filtered water by hooking it up directly to the water supply, similarly to the Brondell and Aquasana. The exterior of the iSpring is a single holder for the filter cartridge, available in either pure white, or a clear kind of purple, and the spigot which is chrome.
The interior is made up of two types of carbon filtration GAC and CTO. The two work in tandem to rid your water of over 95% of chlorine, as well as VOCs like pesticides, herbicides, and industrial compounds. Additionally, this filter removes atrazine, asbestos, iron, sand, and any other sediment from your water, leaving it perfectly clear. GAC is the heavy lifter of the two, responsible for removing chemicals and pollutants from your water, as well as radioactive substances. The CTO has a more granular form and is highly effective in improving the taste and odor of your water, essentially making sure that the fine-tuned absorption of any residuals are eliminated.
This product is easy to install and was tested by a third party against NSF/ANSI standards. With a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year limited warranty, as well as lifetime customer support directly from Atlanta, Georgia, it's easy to see that this company cares about its customers.
This filter is low maintenance, with a 6-month lifespan between each filter change, and with only one filter to change, it truly is a no-fuss, amazingly affordable product, with high-quality filtration standards. Similar to Brondell, this product is not the most appropriate for hard water areas like in well water zones, as the hard minerals would likely wreak havoc on the delicate filter setup. However, for temperate water areas, this is a great machine, and it is literally dirt cheap.
Amazing reviews from customers, most were very happy with their iSpring countertop filter purchase. Some obviously, felt that there must be better products on the market, which is entirely true. In terms of the pure luxury of use, nothing matches the SimPure. For the great compromise between price and quality, the Aquasana is the top. However, for the cheapest reputable product available on the market that actually works, nothing beats the iSpring. So, if you and your family are looking for a cheap way to get filtered clean water for drinking and cooking, the iSpring is definitely for you.
#5: Apex Countertop Water Filter (Best for Alkaline Water)
Comparable to the Aquasana in terms of price, the Apex is very similar in design to the iSpring, with its single cartridge and filtered spout set up next to the kitchen sink. Unique to the Apex, this filter increases the alkalinity of the water, making it the only high performing countertop filter that does.
The exterior of the Apex cartridge is clear, allowing you to see the internal filter with its different substrates designed to target different impurities in your water. Within you can see the KDF material, the granular activated carbon, the alkaline beads, and the calcite, each separated by microfelt pads which further eliminate sediment or any other particulates.
This easy to use and easy to install filtration system begins with the KDF material, which is a combination of copper and zinc designed to filter out or permanently damage microorganisms, rendering them harmless. The second major filtration is with the activated granular carbon, which as we discussed above is responsible for removing chlorine, cryptosporidium, giardia, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals.
Then come the alkaline beads, which are involved in a unique process in the realm of water filtration. The alkaline beads are imbued with calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and enrich the mineralization of your water, which raises the pH levels to about 8 or 9, in a world where completely pure water has a pH of 7 and tap water generally has a pH of about 4-5.
There's a bit of controversy surrounding the supposed health benefits of alkaline-rich water. Supporters say that it speeds up your metabolism, boosts your energy, slows aging, reduces bone loss, and even starves cancerous cells, all by counteracting the more acidic substances your body is exposed to like tomatoes or coffee. In fact, supermarkets sell bottled water that advertise their higher alkaline levels.
Alkaline haters say that's what your kidneys are for, and that the scientific evidence is not conclusive enough to support all these claims. Regardless, there is no doubt that the Apex filter effectively removes harmful contaminants from your water and produces clean tasting water for an incredibly affordable price.
This product is lead-free and BPA free (a dangerous chemical that is found in some plastic products), as well as made in the USA, and so by a locally owned business (always nice to shoutout a fellow American). While not having paid third-party fees for certification, Apex assures that this like all their other products meets the NSF standards on water sanitation and filtration.
With its filtration capacity of 750 gallons of water, this machine lasts approximately 6 months between cartridge switches and offers a 1-year limited warranty to ensure that your back is covered in case of hardware malfunction.
The Apex, more than any other machine, had amazing reviews from consumers, with comments on the quick and accommodating customer service and that other filtration systems just didn't measure up. A few consumers indicated that, due to the product's fragility, it could sometimes arrive cracked in the mail, however, the company was quick to rectify any such problems.
Overall, if its filtered alkaline water you're after, or even just a filter with great references sure to provide you and your family with clean, clear water, the Apex Countertop Drinking Water filter is right for you.
Is a Countertop Filter Right for You?
A countertop filter is usually installed in the kitchen. While technically possible to install in a bathroom for filtered water, the general use is as at-site filtration for drinking water, which would be a bit inconveniently situated in a bathroom zone. Whether a countertop filter is right for you depends a lot on your area, what functionality you need, and how much you want to interact with your filter.
Hard water areas are easily identified, as the evidence of hard water manifests itself very quickly in your home. Hard water is water so rich in minerals, like potassium or calcium, that it leaves deposits on and around any water-based appliances. Generally speaking, any area that pulls its water from an underground source, like a well, is going to have very hard water, although hard water is not specific to rural zone. Most of the US is plagued with hard water, and it is an issue that plagues most city dwellers as well.
The issue with having hard water is that it is a whole-home problem, and not one that a countertop filter can address even in the kitchen. Really hard water can only be treated with a water softener, a large machine that is used to treat all the water entering a house. It does this by softening the water with a sodium ion exchange with the harsher minerals, so that instead of having mineral deposits, your water flows smoothly without leaving marks. A small countertop filter is never going to address true hard water, so if the issues you face are due to white deposits around your faucet, or soap not lathering correctly, the countertop filter will not help you.
Additionally, while a countertop filter provides at-site filtration for you and your family in the kitchen, the total water capacity of an average countertop filter is relatively small, meaning that to use your countertop filter for anything except drinking water would require very frequent filter cartridge changes. If you're looking for a kitchen filter to give you clean water for cooking, an under-counter filter is likely a better decision for you, as those designs tend to have more water filtration capacity between cartridge switches.
However, if you're looking for filtered drinking water (that's not from your fridge) and nothing else, then the countertop filters are really the perfect solution. They are effective and very affordable, and there's no reason to buy a more expensive machine if all you need is drinking water.
How to Install a Countertop Water Filter
Installation is easy and quick, and there is no reason to call in a plumber for such an easily installed appliance. While installation can differ slightly depending on which model of countertop filter you purchase, practically all these filters have the same basic installation pattern.
I'll start with the models that divert water directly to the countertop filter. To begin, simply unscrew the mouth of the faucet and set it aside. The countertop filter will have a mouth to attach to the faucet. Place a sizing ring inside that is provided with the filter, then simply twist into the faucet mouth.
Next, attach the thin plastic tube to the side of this faucet head. Attach the other end to the back or bottom of the countertop filter. There should be a small diverter switch on the side of this faucet head. Turn it to the filter and turn on the water. Flush for ten minutes (or as directed for the specific filter), then turn the water off, and use at will.
Other forms of countertop filtration are like the SimPure, which has a water tank in the back that you can fill up to get filtered water. This requires no installation and just frequent refills to keep your machine well watered.
How to Replace the Filter Cartridge
Filter cartridge replacements differ depending on the layout of your countertop, although all are made super easy for maximum consumer comfort. If it's one of the larger models, there is a panel either on the back or bottom to remove, which allows you to switch the cartridges out and replace them with no trouble. For the single cartridge with filtered spouts, those are a simple twist-off, replace the cartridge, and then reattach the plastic shell. Enjoy!
Do Countertop Water Filters Fit All Kitchen Faucets?
Countertop water filters have a standardized faucet mouth which is included in the purchasing and ships with the product. This, therefore, requires a faucet that is equipped to work with a standardized head. Any faucet which is specialized, meaning that it has uncommon proportions or a wide faucet mouth, will not work with a countertop filter. The exception, of course, is the SimPure, which requires no installation, and therefore is compatible with any faucet in any kitchen. However, any model that is more standard and functions by hooking up to the tap, will require a standard faucet head.
Can You Move the Same Countertop Filter to Different Faucets?
As long as the faucet is compatible with the filter, your countertop water filter can be moved to anywhere in the house. One of the benefits of the countertop water filter is that it has no concealed installation, simply a twist-on/twist-off, making it easy to detach and move. Technically you can install the countertop filter in your bathroom faucet, although since the purpose of the countertop filter is to supply filtered drinking water, the ideal location is likely the kitchen.
Is Water from a Countertop Water Filter Better Than Bottled Water?
Well, in some cases it's the same. No, it's actually the same. Roughly ¼ of all bottled water sold in the USA is filtered tap water. While many people think that bottled water tastes better, that idea seems to be more motivated by having just put down two bucks on what could have cost you a couple of cents at home.
If we're getting into more specifics, the taste of the filtered water is also dependent on what type of filtration process it is put through. For instance, if the water is put through a reverse osmosis filter while being extra pure, it will also be missing all the minerals that your body craves, so ultimately less optimal for your body than a less rigorous filtering system.
Most bottled water in the stores contains minerals, and there is no reason you should not have them in your home drinking water as well. What really puts countertop filtered water over the top in terms of benefit is that it is just so much cheaper than bottled water, meaning that you spend much less for the same thing.
How Do You Know If a Countertop Filter Is WQA or NSF Certified, and Does This Matter?
If a filter is certified by a third party, then it will be specified in the details of the machine. The National Sanitation Foundation was founded back in 1944 in order to establish a national standard for health and sanitation in food and water. This organization determines specifics codes, like 42 or 53, which specify which health code the filter is certified in.
Knowing that the machine is certified is an extra level of security, however, the certification can be misleading, as it does not ensure that the whole machine is up to the national standard, only that it meets the standard specific to the code. For example, NSF 42 means that the filter improves the aesthetic of the water, specifically by eliminating chlorine taste and odor. It does not certify that the filter eliminates microsporidium or cysts.
The Water Quality Association is another third party that tests your water, checking the necessary machinery to ensure that it adequately purifies that water according to national sanitation standards. As the WQA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute, the WQA's standards and NSF standards are identical.
Ultimately, the certification is not necessary but can be helpful in making your purchase. First, you need to understand what the filter is certified for, and not just assume that because it's certified it will perform well in what you want it to do. Secondly, there are filtering systems that do not have certification but perform well. This simply means that the company decided not to spend money on a third party. While a nice security blanket, if a product has been well-reviewed by many consumers (at least over 100) you'll likely be able to get a good idea of the product's performance and whether it holds up over time.
Verdict: Your Best Countertop Filter
If you're looking for a straightforward, simple machine that will give you clean pure water then the Aquasana is your best option. If you've got some extra cash and can afford to give your family the best then the SimPure is truly just that. Interested in trying something new? Give your kidneys some extra support and go for the Apex Countertop Filter.
Hope this helped clarify your search and wishing you good luck in your filtering endeavors. To quote Edna Mode, "I enjoy our visits." Always, a pleasure.