types of water filters - illustration

6 Types Of Water Filters: Which One Is Right For Your Home?

Water (along with a being able to breathe air) is the most important thing on Earth. Without it, life doesn’t exist.

Water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and the human body contains up to 75 percent. Not only does it keep us alive and thriving, it also is critical for the things we need, like transportation, agriculture, medicine, science, heating, recreation, and food processing.

But an enormous problem has always been keeping it clean…and drinkable. That’s where the many types of water filters come in.

What is a Water Filter?

Water filters remove contaminants including sediment, odor, taste, and germs from water, resulting in higher-quality water.

There are a variety of water filters to handle any water related contamination issues, from creating better tasting drinking water to brewing coffee and making crystal clear ice.

Removing chlorine taste or odor and preventing limescale formation are just two of the many common water issues that we could solve by water filtration. 

types of water filters - pouring clean water
The number one reason for a water filtration system is so we don’t put “dirty” or “unhealthy” water into our bodies. But there are many ways to achieve this. Read on.

What are the Different Types of Water Filters?

There are 5 main types of water filters. Each filter targets a specific water issue, and many filters combine them to provide many levels of filtration. This can be a huge advantage to your home while giving you filtered water.

This guide will help you consider which type of water filter makes the most sense for your and your home. Which type you choose is critical because filtered water in your home is used daily for so many different reasons. 

1. Mechanical Filters

Mechanical filtration uses a barrier to physically remove sediment, debris, and other particles from water. These type of water filters range from a simple mesh that keeps out large particles to a ceramic filter (with an incredibly complex pore structure) that allows harmful organisms to be filtered out.

Mechanical water filters are most commonly used for pre-filtration. While water flows through the filter, waste material will get stuck in nylon floss, synthetic foam, or in pads. One advantage of mechanical filters is they trap all of the contaminants that are unwanted without trapping anything that is beneficial.

Mechanical filtration filters are usually given a micron rating, which indicates how successful they are at removing particles of a specific size.

  • 0.5 Micron – removes cysts  (cryptosporidium and giardia)
  • 1.0 Micron – removes particles invisible to a microscope
  • 5.0 Micron – removes most debris visible to the human eye
types of water filters - mechanical wound sediment
Wound sediment filter for mechanical filtration.

2. Ion Exchange Filters

Ion exchange softens hard water by exchanging magnesium and calcium ions with other ions like sodium or hydrogen ions. These type of water filters are effective in removing hard water and radioactive material. 

The ion exchange process physically eliminates hard minerals, lowering limescale and making water appropriate for applications where a constant high temperature is maintained.

The most typical method of ion exchange is to use an ion exchange resin, which is usually in the form of small beads. Some water softeners employ a similar sort of resin, and the resin in a water softener uses sodium ions, which you must refill on a regular basis to keep the resin from becoming extinct.

This type of filter can be a benefit to your pipes because hard water tends to build up in pipes and that can lower the life of certain kitchen appliances.

The only down side to this type of filter is that you might want to use it along with other filters because it does not remove organic matter, particles, or bacteria as effectively as some other options. 

water softeners are types of water filters using ion exchange
A standard whole-house water softener is an example of an ion exchange water filter.

3. Sequestration Filters

The act of chemically isolating a material is called sequestration.

Scale-inhibiting filters often use food-grade polyphosphate to trap the calcium and magnesium minerals that produce limescale and corrosion.

Polyphosphate, on the other hand, is usually only used in trace levels. It inhibits scaling rather than eradicating it. This means that it does not soften the water but instead works to keep the mineral within the solution. This should prevent the formation of scale on any surfaces.

Scale inhibition isn’t suitable for all applications because there are minerals still present in the water. Using ion exchange filters to soften the water is a better alternative in water with alkalinity levels of 180ppm or more (which is very hard water) or where water is kept at a constant temperature of at least 194 degrees fahrenheit.

A sequestration filter uses polyphosphate to “sequester” minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which can cause limescale and corrosion.

4. Reverse Osmosis Filters

Reverse osmosis (RO) gets rid of dissolved inorganic solids (such as magnesium and calcium ions) by pushing water through a semipermeable membrane under pressure. This forces water to pass through without any contaminants.

Reverse osmosis filters are incredibly popular because they remove a large amount of toxins from the water. Another advantage (if your home has a water softener) is that it can remove salt from drinking water.

Reverse osmosis water filters are effective in removing a high percentage of toxins, such as fluoride, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, nitrates/nitrites, copper, radium, and salt. 

Reverse osmosis often pairs with a variety of different filters such as a mechanical (sediment) filter and an absorption (activated carbon) filter.

But there are also down falls.

You can use up to 4 times the normal amount of water with this type of filter. It can also cause a drop in water pressure. These cons keep people from using this type of water filter.

types of water filters - reverse osmosis under sink
These filters are best used in specific applications, like a kitchen faucet. It’s high level of filtration isn’t necessary for typical daily events such as flushing toilets, taking showers, or dishwashing. 

5. Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters are good for the removal of chlorine, chloroform, organic substances, sediment, agricultural chemicals, and magnesium.

One of the most important topics to understand about how activated carbon works is adsorption. While “absorption” is when one material soaks up another material, “adsorption” is when one material clings to another while passing through.

Activated charcoal is created when organic material with high carbon content (anything from wood to coal or even coconut shells) is heated in a way that does not burn, but chars. The char is treated to create a porous material that binds to impurities and toxins. This and toxins are then pulled out of the water.

types of water filters - the adsorption process
To understand how activated carbon filters work, you need to know what “adsorption” is.

6. Carbon Water Cartridge

Ultraviolet filters are effective at removing bacteria and viruses that could be in water. Understanding this type of carbon water filter is simple.

Ultraviolet filters use different frequencies of the light to purify water. The best part is that it is friendly to the environment. How does it work? The DNA in microbial cells absorbs ultraviolet light, which sanitizes drinking water. Once the microbial cells absorb the light, it kills the bacteria and viruses that are in it.

types of water filters - ultraviolet
Diagram of an ultraviolet water purifying system. This type of filter only kills bacteria and viruses in the water. So, it is important to use this filter in conjunction with other filters to ensure that all other contaminants are also removed. 

Final Thoughts

Every filter system has its own strengths and down falls regarding what it can remove from water. That is why it’s common to use a combination of different filter types to achieve a desired level of water purity.

Being able to understand the differences and the benefits that each filter provides will enable you to make the right choice for your home.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need to repair, or buy and install, any of these types of water filters.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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