Which water choice is right for you?
(the bottled water industry argument)


This table summarizes major factors for choosing among the five types of filters we tested plus bottled water. Prices and annual and per-gallon costs for filtering systems are averages for the models we tested, based on industry estimates of drinking-water consumption for a typical household (240 gallons). Cost figures include replacement cartridges plus amortized costs of installation and of filter housings, based on manufacturers' estimated life: carafe, 5 years; faucet-mount, 6 years; undersink, reverse-osmosis, and whole-house: 10 years. Installation costs were based on interviews with a sampling of plumbers from various locations across the country. Your costs may vary.

TYPE

PRICE/ PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION

COST PER YEAR

COST PER GALLON

BEST FOR

ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

UNPLUMBED FILTERS: NO PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION NEEDED

Carafe

$20/-

$75

31˘

Tenants who can't make changes to their sinks. Homeowners who don't want to install anything or change the look of their faucets.

Inexpensive. Easy to use and maintain.

You'll need to lug around the carafe or dispenser frequently to refill. Filter cartridge needs frequent changing. Carafe can't supply a lot of water at once, and most are pretty slow. Takes up space in the refrigerator.

Faucet-mounted

33/-

82

34

Tenants who can alter their faucets. Homeowners who don't want anything permanent.

Inexpensive and easy to install yourself. Less cumbersome than carafe.

Filter cartridges need frequent changing. May clog more quickly than undersink models.

PLUMBED FILTERS: PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION RECOMMENDED

Undersink

$118/150

$101

42˘

Homeowners willing to pay for installation.

Convenient. Long-lasting cartridges. Many models are highly effective at removing contamination and bad taste.

Some models have multiple cartridges. Some cartridges hard to change. May require purchase of extra tools to change cartridges. May require hole to be drilled for dispenser tap.

Reverse-osmosis

235/300

116

48

Well-owners with contamination such as arsenic and dissolved solids.

Highly effective against pollutants and bad taste. Aside from distillers, only units certified to filter out arsenic.

May take up most of the space under the sink. May require hole to be drilled for dispenser tap. Very slow and may not filter as much water as you need at a time. Needs periodic cleaning. Wastes about 5 gallons for every 1 gallon of water purified.

Whole-house (Point-of-entry)

45/220

62

26

Homeowners concerned about water quality throughout the house.

Inexpensive. Long-lasting cartridges. Covers bath and shower water.

There are probably better choices for when significant taste or contamination issues exist.

BOTTLED WATER OPTIONS: FOR DETAILS ON THE CHOICES, SEE What's in bottled water?

Store-bought

$.89 for 1-gallon jug.

$214

89˘

Homeowners/tenants concerned with taste, color, clarity, and purity.

Buy/use only when you need it.

Expensive option. Cumbersome; you have to lug containers home. Takes up space in refrigerator. May have hints of plastic taste from bottle or jug. May not contain fluoride.

Delivered

8.50 for 5-gallon bottle. (Dispenser: $120-180/yr. rental; $200-270 to buy.)

540

$2.25

Homeowners/tenants concerned with taste, color, clarity, and purity.

Most convenient. No filters to change. Can get water dispensed hot and cold.

Most expensive option. Dispenser takes up space on floor or counter. You may have to handle large containers. May not contain fluoride.

Includes average dispenser rental of $132 per year or 55 cents per gallon. Bottled-water sources: Information Resources, Nestlé Waters North America.