Most people agree that filtered water is better than a regular tap supply. But not everyone is okay with having bulky, plastic filtration products cluttering up their carefully designed kitchen.
The desire for more aesthetically pleasing water filters has spawned a market for premium filtration products that prioritize form alongside function. Often, these filters retail for considerably more than their less eye-catching cousins. They may also be more difficult to maintain, as replacement filter cartridges may be bespoke and harder to track down.
So, is it worth the extra cost and hassle of a nicer-looking, non-standard water filter? In one sense, the answer to that question depends upon the individual consumer, and how much effort they enjoy giving to interior design.
On the other hand, there are a few universal factors to consider when buying any water filter. Below we’ve laid out the most common types of premium water filters, and the pros and cons of each device compared to a more basic version.
Glass pitcher filters vs standard ‘Brita-style’ filters
The plastic pitcher design is the stereotypical image of a water filter, and for good reason. These devices are cheap, functional, and incredibly popular. The plastic that they use is also safe and regulated.
However, due to the need to hold several liters of water, they can often be bulky and difficult to store. They may also accumulate grime, stains, and scale, particularly if the water supply is high in minerals and sediment. Once stains and scale have permeated the plastic, it might be impossible to clean them off.
In comparison to standard plastic filters, there’s no doubt that premium pitcher filters are more impressive-looking. These products are often made of glass, but may also incorporate metal and cork elements. They tend to have eye-catching, ergonomic forms that make them pleasant to handle and pour.
They also often work well as centerpieces of a dining room table or breakfast bar, niftily solving the storage issue—something that can’t be said for basic pitchers.
Whether it’s the most popular mass-market pitcher or the latest innovative design, almost all pitcher filters use active carbon filtration. In this method of filtering, water passes through a cartridge packed with super fine charcoal powder that contains millions of micro-pores. Carbon-based contaminants dissolved in the water then bind to these pores through a process called adsorption.
This makes filter pitchers great for improving the taste and smell of water, but generally don’t cut it for making unsafe water drinkable.
While there is a clear difference in cost between basic and premium water pitcher filters, the increase in price is far less than for other types of premium filters. Right now, it’s possible to upgrade the style of your basic handheld pitcher for as little as 40-60 dollars.
For that extra cash, consumers can expect higher quality construction materials, such as glass instead of plastic. They can also look for design innovations, such as an eye-catching carafe shape.
All pitcher water filters that use activated carbon (which is almost every product) will need to have their filter element replaced between 2 and 4 times per year. For basic pitchers, these replacement cartridges can cost almost the same amount as the filter itself and are available at almost any grocery store and supermarket chain
For premium pitcher filters, replacement parts may be specific to the brand, or even to the individual product design. Often, this means consumers will need to be new filter elements directly from the brand’s website. On the upside, some bespoke products use simple charcoal sticks as a filter element, which makes them much cheaper than more complex cartridges.
Undersink filters vs faucet filters
Water filters can be incorporated into kitchen sinks in a number of different ways. The most simple, but probably the least aesthetically pleasing method is to use a faucet filter. These devices screw onto the end of a tap and filter the water as it falls into the sink.
For a much sleeker and more functional solution, undersink filters can be fitted into the line that feeds the sink, and then produce filtered water from the original tap or a secondary faucet. While these designs keep things clutter-free, they do often require professional installation and may involve cutting into the worktop.
Anything that requires professional installation is going to add a significant premium to the purchase price, so there’s no competition between costs when it comes to faucet vs undersink filters.
Even if you’re able to install an undersink filter yourself, however, there’s still a vast gap in price between the two models. This makes undersink filters more appropriate if you’re a homeowner, or live in an area with very poor water quality.
Faucet filters, on the other hand, offer a cheap and cheerful option for renters, and those that are looking for filtered water without the hassle of storing a bulking pitcher filter.
Again, when it comes to filtering power, the difference between undersink and faucet filters can be large. Depending on price, an undersink filter may contain a reverse osmosis (RO) stage, which offers some of the most intensive home filtering power around. RO filters push water through membranes with tiny pores that catch a vast array of contaminants, including bacteria and even some viruses.
Faucet filters, on the other hand, mostly stick to activated carbon as a filtering method. Again, this makes them a great choice for improving water taste and appearance, but inappropriate as a safety device.
The filtering element in faucet filters is replaced in the same way as pitcher filter cartridges, although the smaller size of a faucet filter may mean more frequent replacements. This is something to bear in mind over the long term, as costs will begin to add up.
Undersink filters, on the other hand, have the advantage of space, meaning that they can use much larger filter cartridges. Carbon elements in an undersink filter may only need to be changed once per year, and reverse osmosis stages may even last longer than that.