5 On Your Side

Consumer Reports tests water filtration systems

Posted March 8, 2012 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated March 8, 2012 5:59 p.m. EST

— Despite the efforts of millions of people to be more green with reusable bottles and home filtration systems, an estimated 60 million empty water bottles are thrown out each day. 

For those people who make the switch to water from the tap, the right filtration system is key.

"You're getting the chemicals out and the added benefit, it tastes great," Consumer Reports' Tom Nixon said. "It tastes better than any bottled water you buy."

Consumer Reports tested more than 40 models – under-the-sink, faucet-mounts, reverse osmosis models and carafes – to see which filters remove common contaminants while also helping people save money and be more green. 

Testers used water spiked with lead and other contaminants and analyzed numerous samples to see how well each filter worked. Sensory experts were also brought in to analyze taste. 

"There were big differences in the filters within each category," Nixon said. "But we found filters for every need, whether your goal is cleaner water of better taste." 

Reverse osmosis filters removed the widest range of contaminants, including arsenic. But for every gallon of water they filter, they waste 3 to 5 gallons. Those systems are also pricey and can run upwards of $1,000. 

"Our tests found that you could spend $30 or less and still get cleaner, better-tasting water," Consumer Reports' Chris Regan said. 

The top-rated Culligan faucet-mount system is a Consumer Reports Best Buy for only $15. It's easy to install and was excellent at removing lead and other contaminants. The only downside testers noticed was a slow flow rate. 

The Clear 2-O pitcher is also a good choice. For $15, this model has a hose that attaches to a faucet and filters water quickly. 

One popular brand missing from Consumer Reports' tests was Brita. Although the company calls itself the "number one brand in filtration," it no longer claims that its carafes remove lead, which was a key consideration in the tests.