Clean drinking water is hard to come by. And in today's day and age there are many options that claim to give you the "best water", "healthiest water", or "purest water". Even if you live in an area where your water is clear and tastes good, it is still highly likely that there are many harmful chemicals and contaminants that are in your water that you can't see, taste or smell. But testing shows they are there! Toxins like pesticides, Chromium 6 (the Erin Brockovich contaminant), lead, arsenic, as well as many, many others, are commonly found in tap water supplies across the US and the rest of the world.
So what filtration system is the best to remove contaminants in your tap water? Many people believe that Reverse Osmosis (RO) is the best option for ensuring that your water is free and clear of all toxins, but that is not necessarily the case. Yes, RO water is likely safer than your original tap water, but is it the safest or even the best option available?
What is Reverse Osmosis? How does it work?
Reverse Osmosis is the scientific name for a specific type of water filtration. RO systems are designed to force untreated (tap) water through a series of carbon filters and semipermeable membranes. These physical barriers have super tiny pore sizes that are small enough that many of the harmful toxins, but also the beneficial minerals, are stopped, leaving you with what some people call "dead water" because it does not contain the healthy minerals naturally present in water. So you remove both the bad and the good at the same time.
Reverse Osmosis systems can be large enough to supply water to large municipalities and also small enough to fit under a kitchen sink. Because of the filters effectiveness at removing toxins and contaminants, many people think that RO systems are they only way to get clean water from your kitchen tap. This is not necessarily true.
Is Reverse Osmosis (RO) drinking water good or bad for you?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to installing and/or drinking RO water. Areas with high amounts of water issues or areas with very specific contamination are both generally good reasons to think you need a RO system or at least a filtration solution that does more than a standard Brita type carbon filter.
We've broken it down to 5 different reasons why you might want to reconsider getting a RO system:
The Reverse Osmosis takes up A LOT more room simply because it requires a storage tank. The tank itself must be connected to the filter system and to the tap, so they need to be close together limiting your options for where to place it underneath your sink.
Installation of a Reverse Osmosis system is complicated and cumbersome at best. Unless you are extremely handy and have a garage full of tools, you probably shouldn't even attempt to put it in on your own. The chances of a non-plumber being able to install one of these systems is not very good. With holes needing to be drilled in both your counter top for the dedicated faucet and another hole drilled into your waste water line for the discarded (or purged) water, you're talking about a set of tools and knowledge that is fit for an expert. And the risk of messing it up and causing a leak somewhere is high.
Curiously, the systems both cost around the same amount initially. The RO will have cheaper filters (called membranes) but will increase your water bill by flushing 3 gallons of water down the drain for every 1 gallon of clean water it produces. This is called the rejection rate and is a cost many people do not factor in to the overall cost of ownership for an RO system. The Clearly Filtered Kitchen Sink Filter System's filters are more expensive than the RO system, but there is no waste water produced. It is a closed system where every drop that goes through one side comes out the other. So it is the most efficient.
4: Effectiveness or performance
RO systems are usually pretty good at removing toxins from water, but also one consequence is that they strip the healthy trace minerals from the water in the process. They remove most standard water contaminants such as Lead or Chlorine. We see the performance vary greatly however from model to model, so it is extremely important to find out what the model you are looking at has been tested for specifically and look at the testing yourself.
The Clearly Filtered system offers comparable if not superior filtration for things like Fluoride, PFOA/PFAS, BPA and Pesticides.
5: Ease of Upkeep
It's extremely easy to replace the filters on your Clearly Filtered Kitchen system (most customers do this once a year on a subscription). There is no need for any tools at all, and it is nearly fool proof.
The RO is a much more complicated process. There are between 5 and 7 different filters that all need a special wrench to access and you have to shut off the water supply before removing any of them. To make things even MORE complicated, the filters on an RO need to be changed at different times. They don't go out all together. The various stages require different schedules for replacement making it something only the most organized individuals will be able to keep track of. There are also gaskets that they recommend re-greasing and more than a dozen fittings to check for leaks from. It's best left to a professional, which also increases the cost if you need someone to come out just to change your filters.
Systems like the Clearly Filtered Under-the-Sink System have filled the void, and have actually surpassed many RO systems as well. Here are 5 reasons why Clearly Filtered is likely the better option for anyone looking to get clean and healthy water straight from their kitchen tap.