Should You Buy A Carbon Or Reverse Osmosis Water Filter?

Installing a whole-home water filtration system is a great way to make sure your water is safer to drink, more enjoyable to bathe in, and just better-quality water in general. But before you have a filter installed, you will need to decide which one you want. Whole-home water filters fall into two categories: carbon filters and reverse osmosis filters. It is important to know a bit about both types so you can make an informed decision and buy the filter that is best for you.

Carbon Filters

What Are They?

You may also see these filters sold as activated charcoal filters. The charcoal is the carbon substance to which the name "carbon filter" is referring. These filters work by allowing water to pass through three stages of physical filters. First, the water passes through a mesh screen, similarly to what you would see in a French press coffee maker. This removes larger particles like rust and sand. Then, the water passes through a copper-zinc layer to remove chlorine and heavy metals. Finally, the water passes through the carbon, which is the most selective of the three layers and removes dangerous organic molecules, such as VOCs.

What Are The Pros?

Carbon systems are affordable and widely available. They are not expensive to run, since the water goes through the filter passively, for the most part. This type of filter gets rid of most of the major contaminants people are worried about in their water, including chlorine and VOCs. Carbon filters do not remove fluoride from the water, which is important because fluoride is needed to protect dental health. 

What Are The Cons?

A downside of carbon filters is that you need to change the filter often — usually every one to three months, depending on how much water your family uses. If you do not change the filter, it can become laden with bacteria, contaminating your drinking water. There are also some contaminants that can pass through a carbon filter. Lead, some pesticides, and some viruses may not be removed.

Reverse Osmosis Filters

What Are They?

Reverse osmosis filters work by using pressure to drive water through a membrane. The water passes through the membrane, but various contaminants do not. The contaminants are disposed of, and the water flows on through your pipes. 

What Are The Pros?

Reverse osmosis filters are capable of filtering more completely than carbon filters. They capture the viruses, lead, and pesticide residues that a carbon filter may not capture. Thus, the water you drink from a reverse osmosis filter may taste even cleaner. These filters also require less maintenance. They are generally set up with a flush button that you can press to "wash" the filter. There are typically no cartridges to change as with a carbon filter.

What Are The Cons?

One downside to a reverse osmosis filter is that these systems cost more. They are also hard to install, which can add more to the cost. 

Additionally, some people do not like how completely reverse osmosis filters work. For instance, they even remove fluoride and magnesium from the water, which means you'll need to find an alternative source of these minerals if you buy a reverse osmosis filter. 

When it all comes down to it, which system is right for you will depend on your preferences. Carbon filter systems are perfectly acceptable for most homes as long as you're willing to do a little maintenance. Reverse osmosis filters might be a good choice if you're specifically concerned with lead or pesticides, or if you have a reason for wanting to remove fluoride from your water.

Talk to your local filter installation company to learn more about whole-home water filtration systems.