Tapp's coconut shell carbon water filters are compostable and the housing unit can be recycled. Courtesy of Tapp.

Aug. 14, 2019

It’s hot outside – and a great time to be sure to stay hydrated. Sometimes that’s a challenge if your water doesn’t taste good. Even though north Texas generally rates with some of the cleanest water supplies in the country, it’s not uncommon to turn on the tap and find that your H2O seems to taste a bit chalky, chlorinated or even fishy. 

To be sure that you and your family are drinking the cleanest, purest water possible, consider adding a filter to your home. We recently tested some of the most popular brands and found several that not only improved taste but also removed potentially harmful chemicals and other pollutants. In addition, clean water is better for your appliances and fixtures such as coffee pots, faucets and toilets.


It’s important to understand what contaminants are in your water in order to choose the correct model. Select companies such as Hydroviv will even build a custom filtering system that targets your particular location and needs. When shopping, watch for systems that are tested and certified by NSF International, formerly National Sanitation Foundation, the same group that reviews restaurant equipment for public health and safety. Also, consider submitting a water sample to an independent laboratory before making a purchase. For more information and to find a water-testing company, contact the NSF's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791. More info about drinking water safety from EPA. 

There are claims that some filtering systems remove too much from our water including helpful minerals such as calcium and iron. That can be a drawback, but minerals can also indicate “hard water” which can lead to chalky or orange buildup on faucets, showerheads and toilets – causing a shorter life for these fixtures.


Several types of filters are available in a wide range of models from portable bottles and pitchers to faucet-mounted modules and showerheads to the larger under-counter and even whole-house systems. Filtering methods vary but most are simply some type of medium through which water flows which either absorbs or catches the contaminants. Some have permeable membranes with super tiny holes in them; large enough to let water flow through but small enough to catch debris. Others involve chemical processes such as using ultraviolet light, the exchange of ions or the addition of chemicals. For the purposes of this article, we reviewed the three most popular types of filters for home use, although there are many variations and combinations.


Carbon filters consist of a module of crushed activated charcoal through which the water is cleaned as contaminants are absorbed into the carbon and then eventually discarded when you change the filter every few months. Carbon filters help to remove taste and odors, chlorine, suspended particles and even certain volatile organic compounds. This is the most common type of filter and is also often combined with other types within a multi-filtering system.


Ion Exchange uses a process to soften “hard” or mineralized water by exchanging ions in certain contaminants such as calcium and magnesium with a “softer” ion from hydrogen or sodium. Since sodium is often used, softened water can taste a bit salty, therefore a hydrogen ion exchange resin is preferred by many users. 


In the same way as substances are readily absorbed through our skin in a process called osmosis, a “Reverse Osmosis” or RO filter uses the same process to remove contaminants. These filters consist of one or more semi-permeable membranes through which water is forced, trapping contaminants such as bacteria, pesticides, microplastics, fluoride, chlorine, lead, detergents, nitrates and sulfates – and then flushing them away. Most commonly seen in filters that mount under the sink, RO systems often contain a carbon pre-filter, removing many larger contaminants and chlorine that would damage or clog the RO membrane. One major disadvantage to RO systems is that they waste a tremendous amount of water that is used to flush away contaminants after filtering, sometimes more than 20 gallons of waste per gallon of clean water.



Brita water pitcherBrita's 10-cup pitcher.

If taste is your main concern, Brita has been the standard for over 25 years. Their personal-use bottles, counter and fridge pitchers and dispensers, plus faucet-mounted modules are sold at most hardware stores, home centers and even grocery stores which makes it easy to purchase them and to buy replacement filters. They use a combination of charcoal filtering along with ion exchange and are NSF certified to reduce 5 contaminants: chlorine, mercury, copper, cadmium and zinc. 

We tested Brita’s 10-Cup Filter Pitcher, which retails for $26.99. We found it easy to fill and use with an improved taste that we could even detect in coffee and tea. With a fairly large 10-cup capacity, we did not have to refill it as often as other brands. Our only complaint is that filtering is slow and you cannot pour any water until the entire filtering tank is empty. At approximately $4-$5 each for replacement filters which clean up to 40 gallons, your water will cost around 10 cents per gallon and will keep over 900 water bottles out of landfills.


One of the most-popular brands on the market, the company offers pitchers, countertop dispensers, personal tumblers and even replacement Zero Water filters for other brands of pitchers such as Brita. Their exclusive 5-stage filtering method goes beyond the typical carbon system with an additional filtering screen, foam filter, sediment filter and ion exchange resin which helps to trap copper, mercury and cadmium.  

Zero Water's 8-cup PitcherZero Water's 8-cup Pitcher.

Most Zero Water models include a free water quality meter – helpful for testing the level of dissolved solids in your home’s or office’s H20. Zero Water claims that their filters remove “100 percent of total dissolved solids” (TDS) and our tests seemed to prove that. Our tap water was 320 TDS before filtering and 0 TDS afterwards. Their filters are NSF certified to remove a wide variety of contaminants including pesticides, herbicides, chlorine, arsenic, and even lead.

Zero water pitcherZero Water's 30-cup dispenser.

We reviewed Zero Water’s 8-Cup Round Pitcher ($29.99) and the 30-Cup Counter Dispenser ($39.99) and were very pleased with both the taste of the water and ease of use. Our only complaints were that the pitcher was rather heavy (due to the beefed-up filter) and like the Brita, water cannot be poured out of it until it has completely finished filtering. The advantage of a counter dispenser was that you can fill a glass with filtered water even as the un-filtered water is still being processed. (Brita also offers countertop dispensers although they were not in our test).

The Life StrawLIFE STRAW

The Life Straw.

If you are a hiker or frequent camper, you have probably heard of Life Straw. Their eponymous product is a compact, travel-friendly “straw” that filters contaminated water making it safe to drink. The company claims that a user can drink directly from a stream and the Life Straw ($19.95) removes bacteria and parasites, preventing the majority of waterborne disease. It has unlimited shelf life and will filter approximately 1,000 gallons over a five-year period. The company’s specs note that it uses microbiological, hollow fiber membrane filters to 0.2 microns and removes over 99 percent of bacteria (including E. coli), parasites (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.) and microplastics. Great also to keep on hand in case of natural disasters.

Life Straw Home PitcherLife Straw's home pitcher.

The company has recently added Life Straw Home Pitcher ($54.95), a shatterproof glass pitcher (the only glass one that we reviewed) that elevates portable filtering to the next level by removing a large variety of harmful contaminants while retaining beneficial minerals. The company claims that it protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, lead, mercury, chlorine and organic chemical matter and exceeds NSF P473 standards for reducing PFOA and PFOS. 

Though the initial product purchase is a bit higher than many other brands, we found the Life Straw Home Pitcher to be very well made and attractive enough to use on the dining table while its compact size fits in most refrigerator doors. It uses a combination of two filters; a membrane microfilter that lasts 264 gallons (1 year) and an activated carbon + ion exchange filter that lasts 40 gallons (2 months). Cost per gallon averages out to approximately 30 cents. Our favorite aspect of all of Life Straw’s products is that every purchase helps to provide clean water to one school child in a developing nation for one year. 


Aquasana bottle partsAquasana's Clean Water Bottle.

Manufactured right here in DFW, Austin-based Aquasana is one of the few USA-owned water filtration companies on the market. The company offers a wide variety of products from personal use bottles to large, whole-house systems and claims that unlike many reverse osmosis systems, their carbon filters remove toxins while leaving beneficial minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.  “Removing lead and other harmful contaminants from tap water is one of the most effective steps to instantly improve the overall health and wellness of a household,” says Derek Mellencamp, general manager of Aquasana. “We’re dedicated to helping families improve not only the quality of their water, but also their peace of mind.”

We tested Aquasana’s Clean Water Bottle, which sells for $39.99 (portable) and the Max Flow Under-Counter System, which cost $174.99 (for a kitchen with its higher capacity and flow-rate). 

Aquasana Max Flow SystemAquasana's Max Flow Under-Counter System. 

We were impressed with the quality of both products, starting with the insulated stainless steel construction of the Clean Water Bottle, perfect for travel, hiking or camping. The compact filter combines an electro-statically charged nano membrane with charcoal and ion-exchange and is independently tested to  reduce more than 99 percent of 5 contaminants including bacteria, lead, cysts, chlorine and particulate. Our tester reported improved taste and rapid water flow in a design that was comfortable in the hand and easy to grip, even when wet. Replacement filters cost about $15 each and will clean up to 80 gallons which makes your cost per gallon just under 20 cents. Made for use with tap water only.

The Aquasana Max Flow under counter 3-stage system consists of a 20-micron pre-filter, an activated carbon secondary filter and a catalytic carbon with ion exchange final filter combined with a sub-micron mechanical filter to remove pharmaceuticals, lead, mercury, asbestos, giardia and cryptosporidium. Altogether, the system is NSF-certified to remove up to 99 percent of 77 containments. We found the Max Flow easy to install and we appreciated its attractive countertop spout that allowed for quick filling of drinks, cookware and even pet dishes – great for a busy family. Replacement filters ($79.99/set of 3) are easy to change and rated for over 800 gallons which costs approximately 10 cents per gallon. The entire system connects via Bluetooth to your phone, alerting you when the filters need to be changed as well as cost savings, gallons of use and environmental impact.


Brondell countertop systemBrondell has been known for their innovative bidet toilet seats since the early 1990s. Their water filters are also cutting edge and tend to fill niches that other companies ignore. We tested their Brondell H2O+ Cypress Countertop Water Filtration System ($149.99) courtesy of Lowe's that offers advanced water purification similar to more-expensive under-counter systems in a chic counter-top model that takes just a few minutes to install. Ideal for apartment dwellers or folks who don’t feel confident installing a more-complicated system. 

The Brondell H20+ Cypress utilizes 3-stage filtering that includes a composite pre-filter for large particles, a carbon-based filter and a Nano-trap membrane filter. The company claims that it reduces total suspended particles (TSP), some bacteria and viruses – but also harmful chemicals like atropine, chloroquine, trichloroethane, benzine and chlorine from your tap water for a healthier home or office.  The filters last from 6 months to a year and cost from $29.99-$49.99 each, which works out to approximately 80 cents per gallon.

We found the H20+ Cypress easy to install and use with fast water flow that allowed for quick filling of drinks, tea or coffee pot and cookware. Water taste was dramatically improved. Though it did use up some counter space, its vertical design tucked neatly into a corner of our test kitchen. On the plus side, it does not have to be permanently installed which is great if you are renting a home or apartment. We loved that the filters last much longer than other brands. Our only complaint is the hose is visible that attaches to your kitchen faucet which is not as attractive as an under-counter unit.

Brondell's under counter systemBrondell's reverse osmosis undercounter system.

We also reviewed Brondell’s H20+ Circle Reverse Osmosis Under-Counter Water Filter System ($349.99). Unlike its smaller cousin above, the H20+ Circle sports 4 filters including a Reverse Osmosis filter to reduce and remove even more contaminants. The company claims that it dramatically reduces industrial chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, total dissolved solids (TDS), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), microorganisms, bad tastes and odors. Unlike other RO systems, the H20+ Circle utilizes a unique patented technology that eliminates back-pressure, making it up to 10 times more efficient and wasting much less water than other RO brands. Replacement filters average out to around $140 per year, resulting in water cost of around 38 cents per gallon. 

Daniel Lalley, Director of Communications at Brondell, comments, “At Brondell, we saw a huge problem with the amount of water wasted in conventional reverse osmosis filtration and set out to design a solution for the healthiest drinking water standards without the environmental impact. We designed our Circle reverse osmosis system to be one of the most efficient RO solutions on the market, producing up to ten times less wastewater than our competition. Now anyone can enjoy industry-standard filtration and exceptional drinking water in their homes without having to worry about the impacts on our water table.”

Both Brondell units are WQA Gold Seal certified to NSF/ANSI Standards. 


A major problem with much of the water filtering industry is that although their use can eliminate millions of plastic water bottles each year – they create their own waste, which usually ends up in the landfill. Many companies are working to reduce or eliminate this problem.

Both Brita and Zero Water offer recycling programs but the filters must be returned to the companies for processing. Sadly, most consumers probably won’t go to that much trouble.

Aquasana filters can be disposed when they are at the end of their usage by separating the carbon filtering section (which can be disposed of in the garden) from any plastic parts (which can be recycled).

Aquasana filters can be disposed when they are at the end of their usage by separating the carbon filtering section (which can be disposed of in the garden) from any plastic parts (which can be recycled).



Phox Is a Glasgow-based company that hopes to turn the water filtering industry on its ear. The Phox pitcher filter is completely refillable, eliminating most of the waste associated with traditional filters. The company is currently on Kickstarter and is already marketing their products in Great Britain with plans to be soon available in the U.S. market.

Tapp 1 water filter TAPP

Tapp is another UK-based company that has recently hit U.S. shores. Their coconut shell carbon Tapp filters connect to your kitchen faucet and reduce up to 80 contaminants, like lead, chlorine, and pesticides from water. The good stuff like iron and potassium are left behind. The best part is that their filters are completely compostable and the housing can be recycled at the end of its life. Their basic unit can be found online for under $40 and the upgraded Bluetooth version (around $50) will notify you when you need filter replacements. We are expecting a test unit to arrive any day and will post the results to the Green Source DFW Facebook page when we have completed our review.

TAPP Water | TAPP 2 Biodegradable Water Filter

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