WaterFilter: How do you like your faucet-mounted filtration device?
August 24, 2006 5:14 PM   Subscribe

How do you like your faucet-mounted water filter?

My family and I have just moved into a new apartment. The previous tenants had a faucet-mounted water filter (of the sort made by Pur, Brita, and others) and I'm very interested in trying one of these, but I've got a few questions.

Most obviously: which units do and don't people like, and why?

Second, reading the most recent Consumer Reports review I could find (Jan. 2003) raised my concerns about flow. The article pointed out that after running only 50 or 100 gallons through one of these filters that the flow rate slowed to 10 minutes per gallon. The thought of spending ten minutes or more putting water in my 8 quart pot for pasta is pretty excruciating. I'm hoping that since 2003 one or more manufacturers might have improved the flow rate longevity of their filters (without sacrificing filtration) but I'm hoping people here can offer more info.

Finally, in my Mefi-literature search I ran across LobsterMitten's excellent recent question about the interaction of hot water with the plastics used in these filters. Can anyone offer any thoughts on this?
posted by Songdog to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're interested in filtering water for bulk use, a tap-mounted filter really isn't the right tool and as such I doubt they'd ever improve to the point you're asking (unless some new technology comes along that's inherently flowier).

There are plenty of other systems ranging from simple large-waffle-insert canisters through higher end reverse osmosis system. Here's some examples. I'd do some research on your own to see what the advantages and disadvantages of each type are..
posted by kcm at 5:19 PM on August 24, 2006

as a secondary thought, I never worry about the water I use for cooking since all I care about when it comes to filtration is taste. Filtering for large scale cooking use makes me think you want to remove chemicals and other things that I doubt would have much affect on your health or resulting food taste. It's like using a fine Bourdeaux for cooking a reduction sauce or wearing a face mask for pollution in Beijing while smoking two packs a day.
posted by kcm at 5:21 PM on August 24, 2006

i rarely use my pur filter for cooking. it's mainly for taste. i know this isn't scientific at all, but i figure if i'm boiling the water anyway, i'll probably boil out a lot of the impurities. maybe. kind of. hopefully.

on a side note, we really enjoy our pur filter for drinking water, and use it often.
posted by kerning at 5:34 PM on August 24, 2006

We used to have a Pur filter on the faucet. You can turn off the filtration part by turning the filter piece away, so if you don't need all the water from the faucet filtered you may not run into flow problems. We never did.

However, after a couple or three filter changes, the casing (or something) developed a little leak of some kind, and got pretty annoying. There were misguided attempts to repair that, and I don't recall the details, but it might have been possible to fix it. We never managed, though.
posted by dilettante at 5:36 PM on August 24, 2006

There should be two settings on the filter - one for filter and one for non. For cooking, you don't need to filter your water first, if it's coming out of the muni water supply.
posted by muddgirl at 5:36 PM on August 24, 2006

Oh, yeah - we quit the using the filter after moving to a place with a much shallower sink. You add a couple of inches to the length of the faucet, and that can be a pain.
posted by dilettante at 5:37 PM on August 24, 2006

But yes, if the filter is not changed regularly, the flow for the filtered water can slow to tortoise speeds. Highly irritating.
posted by muddgirl at 5:38 PM on August 24, 2006

If you are willing to spend the money, the only way to go is multi-pure filters. They are solid blocks of carbon. With the gravel filters you get in the supermarket, little rivlets of water make it through totally unfiltered. Multi-pure sells faucet/counter-top models as well as undersink models. (I have no affiliation with the company.)
posted by about_time at 5:49 PM on August 24, 2006

we have the horizontal pur faucet filter. we got it because our water suddenly started tasting like ass. it DOES make the water taste much better, and we only use it for drinking water.

for 'bulk' water use, we turn the filter off.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:00 PM on August 24, 2006

We have a britta. The water in our new place was awful. The filter removed all the cholrine taste, which in turn exposed a number of other unpleasant flavors we hadn't previously detected. We buy our drinking water now and use the filter for the cats, making juice, and some cooking.

The thing only cost around 20$ and the difference is notable, just not good enough for our problems.
posted by jaysus chris at 6:27 PM on August 24, 2006

We had a Brita. The fake metallic (plastic) casing was impossible to keep clean and never looked nice. And it was cumbersome and always got in the way when peeling carrots, rinsing plates, etc. We hook up a hose to the kitchen sink in the summer to water the plants on the porch, and the Brita had to be taken off for the threads to meet. It hasn't gone back on since. Personally, I don't notice any difference between tap, Brita or bottled water and I'm glad the damn thing is gone.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:33 PM on August 24, 2006

We have a Pur faucet filter in one of the kitchens at work, and no one seems to like it, for various reasons. Personally, I like my drinking water colder that what comes out of the faucet, so I'd rather just use a pitcher-filter.
posted by blind.wombat at 6:33 PM on August 24, 2006

We have a Brita one here. We replace the whole unit about once every six months to a year because it keeps on leaking at the base where it connects to the faucet. But we never get another brand. It has 3 options: filtered, normal, and a power-spray-like option.

I don't notice any difference in the taste of water in juices, tea or cooking (I don't drink water cause I'm weird). Someone in the house must like it because we keep on getting new ones.

If you're cooking with water (boiling pasta or whatever) let the water boil for 2 minutes before adding the pasta. That's what they tell you to do during boil water orders to kill all the bacteria. If it kills bacteria, it should get rid of bad tastes too.
posted by cathoo at 6:37 PM on August 24, 2006

Agree with dilletante -- we used a G.E. faucet-mount filter for a year but if you have a small sink it's just too annoying to put up with. We switched to a Pur pitcher filter and are very happy.
posted by escabeche at 6:38 PM on August 24, 2006

They don't recommend running hot water through a faucet-mounted filter.

As for how I like them, the one I have is just fine. It's in a box in the garage. My experience was like dilletante's. Pur. Leaked (bad O-ring first; fixed that, then some structural failure). The Pur ones, at least, are not robust.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:43 PM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: The main reason I prefer filtered water is that I was advised to drink it (or bottled water) after enduring a kidney stone to reduce my risk of suffering another, something I'd really rather avoid. This is a matter of minerals which might be in my drinking water, and I don't know how much impact these have if I leave them in my bulk cooking water (e.g. for pasta). Boiling isn't going to remove them, and for all I know they get absorbed and concentrated in boiled foods. Can anyone address this one? If I can really stop worrying about this then I can switch to tap water for bulk use and just use a filter for beverages and the like.

As for other approaches:

Under-sink and other plumbed-in fixtures: we're renting. No can do.

Delivery and bottled water: At our previous apartment we had bottled water delivered, which was really nice, but we'd like to save a little money.

Carafe filters: I used to keep a Brita filter carafe in the fridge but it got to be crazy frustrating waiting for that to work on the many occasions when I wanted more filtered water than it currently contained.

The faucet type is reasonably economical, doesn't take up room in the fridge, and is essentially always available. That's why I happen to like it. I do like my drinking water really cold, but I can always keep a pitcher in the fridge, and for other applications (such as coffee or tea) using filtered water from a chilled carafe doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

On preview: Kirth Gerson writes "They don't recommend running hot water through a faucet-mounted filter."

They don't? Why? For the reasons LobsterMitten mentioned? What are you supposed to do when you're washing dishes? The water still runs through the unit when you have the valve in bypass mode so far as I know; it just bypasses the filter cartridge itself, right?
posted by Songdog at 7:00 PM on August 24, 2006

we had a pur filter on the faucet. The flow was dog-slow, and because it was so slow, it mostly went unused, and we eventually just took it off.
Next time i'd get an under-sink heavy-duty model.
posted by jak68 at 7:41 PM on August 24, 2006

We counter the Pur slowdown with a water jug in the fridge that we fill up... keeps the water nice and cold, and dispenses water quicker. We're happy with Pur.
posted by starman at 7:51 PM on August 24, 2006

Delivery and bottled water: At our previous apartment we had bottled water delivered, which was really nice, but we'd like to save a little money.

I used to have a Pur filter, but it was annoying. The in-sink types get really gross after a while, and they get in the way of using the faucet. Also, the refills are expensive. I've found that the best balance between "cheap" and "convenient" is to buy a couple of 5-gallon water bottles and fill them up from the water machine at the grocery store. The bottles were about $15 apiece, and it's $1.35 per 5 gallons of water from the store. I also bought a $10 one-gallon dispenser for the fridge -- I fill that from the 5-gallon bottles, and when the bottles are empty I take them to the store and fill them up again.

I spend less than $5 per month on water, this way, and it always tastes great. If there's a "water store" in your neighborhood, I'll bet you can get it even cheaper...
posted by vorfeed at 8:05 PM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: Vorfeed, that's really interesting. I'm curious about the relative quality of the store's water, but I gather that you at least like the taste. I'm also curious about its environmental soundness. The CR article I mentioned also horrified me with the knowledge that reverse-osmosis filtration systems waste 10 gallons of water for every gallon of filtered water they deliver, and it was my understanding that most in-store systems are of this type. I suppose it's also possible that the store gets its water delivered from a vendor that purifies or filters it in its own way. In either case I'm relying on the sanitation, housekeeping, and care of others instead of on my own.

Could you elaborate a little on what gets gross about the faucet filters? Do they gunk up outside? Inside? Can't they just be wiped or rinsed off? I wouldn't want my water filter to be a source of contamination, after all.
posted by Songdog at 8:16 PM on August 24, 2006

Why? For the reasons LobsterMitten mentioned? What are you supposed to do when you're washing dishes? The water still runs through the unit when you have the valve in bypass mode so far as I know; it just bypasses the filter cartridge itself, right?

I said they don't recommend running it through the filter. That's the cartridge. It still goes through some plastic parts of the unit, and it's possible that hot water causes those to fail eventually, but that's not what they're talking about when they say don't run hot through the filter.

As for LobsterMitten's will coat my dishes with bad plastic by-products concern, most new houses are built with plastic pipes for both hot & cold water. If I were worried about plastic nasties leaching into the water, that's what I'd worry about.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:06 AM on August 25, 2006

The problem with the faucet-mounted ones is, as you no doubt realize by now, that they're just too cheaply built, they leak, and they don't really filter all that well anyways.

However, an undersink filter isn't out of the question because you can get the kind that just screw on, requiring no permanent alteration of any plumbing. I rent, and I've got one now. Look under your sink and you should see two valves leading directly up to your tap. The one on the right is usually your cold water line. If you simply unscrew the line between your tap and the shut-off(after closing the valve, of course), you can screw a T adaptor in the top of the valve, and reconnect the line to the faucet to one part of the T, and the line to the filter to the other part of the T. Everything screws together so you don't have to cut any lines or do anything permanent. Some units even include the T adaptor, so all you need is a small wrench and some teflon tape to seal the threads.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:52 AM on August 25, 2006

Oh, I forgot to mention this in the other thread. Using a pitcher to store your filtered water in the fridge is recommended, especially if your filter has a slow flow rate, but if you do that, make sure you use glass or clear hard polycarbonate plastic. Look for a 7 in a triangle on the bottom of the container. PETE, the triangle 1 stuff, may be OK too. Avoid the milk-jug style HDPE(#2) or polypropylene(#5) because they're softer plastics and are more prone to leaching resins into the water and making it taste plasticy.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:07 AM on August 25, 2006

Response by poster: Mr. Gunn, if the undersink filter hooks up on one side of the T then it is presumably delivering water through a separate line from the faucet. Normally I believe one would install a second, filtered, next to the unfiltered one, but what do you do if, like us, you aren't in a position to drill another hole through your countertop?
posted by Songdog at 9:21 AM on August 25, 2006

There's a couple things you can do. Most sinks have pop-out holes designed for this. You may already have a sprayer coming through this hole.

Your best options, both of which require no permanent alteration to anything, are:

  • Install a separate tap(included with filter) through the sprayer hole.
  • Run your filtered line back into the cold water line.

    To set up option 1, reach under the sink and unscrew the plastic nut and bolt kind of thing that holds the sprayer to the sink and pull the sprayer down out of the hole then feed your filtered line through that and mount your filtered tap the same way the sprayer was installed. Simply turn on the regular tap for unfiltered water like you always did. I've used a Omnifilter brand from Home Depot that works well and includes a nice looking filtered tap.

    To set up option 2, Use two L connectors(usually included) to route water through the filter and back into the faucet line. One L screws into the top of the shut-off valve and has a compression fitting for the line to the filter. The output from the filter connects to the faucet line, using the other L, usually by compression fitting on both ends. Still results in no permanent alteration and requires no drilling or cutting of anything, but you don't have the non-filtered higher-pressure cold water option. However, you can keep your sprayer because your hot water will still be unfiltered and higher pressure. The basic Kenmore undersink filters work this way, and I've used them too.

    Many people don't want to bother with this and just screw on the faucet filters, but it's a false economy. For the 5 minutes that it would take you to set up the undersink filter, you'll have something that does a much better job at filtration and just works without leaking, getting in your way, breaking and falling off every couple months, or looking like a big ol' wart on the end of your faucet.

  • posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:36 AM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

    Response by poster: Okay, I'm thinking about this. I do in fact have a newish sink with a sprayer. I'm sure I'm up to the work under the counter (though I might want to get a decent crescent wrench; hooray for new tools!) and the filtered water is more important to me than the sprayer itself.

    I also wanted to post an update now that I've talked with the person in charge of water quality monitoring in my town. He kindly spoke with me at length about all of this, providing the following bits of information:
    • Reverse osmosis filters are quite inefficient, but not quite as inefficient as I thought. They only waste 75% of the water they process, not 90%. They do, however, have another drawback. They filter the water to such a degree that it is essentially equivalent to distilled water, containing none of the mineral nutrients which our bodies expect to find in drinking water. Water this pure actually tends to leech these minerals out of our bodies, so this isn't really the best water to drink.
    • Faucet-mounted filters work ok as long as the filters are replaced very frequently (every 6 weeks or so, he said, which is double the rate officially recommended by most manufacturers). Otherwise the filter medium itself (activated charcoal/carbon) becomes coated with a film of biologically active material and turns into a source of bacteria. Not necessarily harmful bacteria, mind you, but bacteria nonetheless.
    • He likes undersink units, but personally favors a unit with a filter canister that sits on the countertop, attached to the faucet's aerator threads via input and output hoses. These units have ion exchange water filters (which I believe are akin to water softeners) and may also offer carbon filtration. He likes the performance and simplicity of these units, as well as the taste of the water they produce, which he's happy to use in his coffee.
    I'm not absolutely decided but I'm currently leaning toward a countertop or undersink unit instead of a faucet-mount, and I thank you all for helping me with my decision. I'll report back with results.
    posted by Songdog at 3:15 PM on August 25, 2006

    We have a counter-top unit (the kind with the hose running from a small by-pass valve between the aerator and the faucet) and we love it. The filter elements cost about $30 and need to be replaced about once a year. The counter-top unit cost over $100, but it has lasted for years. I would never buy one of those small all-in-one faucet-mount filters since it would be way too annoying to be replacing the filter element so often.

    The high up-front cost is something of a deterrent, but compared to delivered/store-bought water, we are saving lots of accumulated costs over the years:
    1. gas on trips to the store for water
    2. buying jugs to transport water
    3. wasting water washing jugs
    And also consider that we never have to drink bad water due to running out of bottled water.
    posted by markhu at 11:16 PM on November 21, 2006

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