One thing my wife and I don't like is the taste of tap water. While we are extremely grateful that we don't have to worry about ingesting some parasite with each sip, the taste of chlorine isn't a perfect alternative. So, we installed a reverse osmosis drinking water filter system. Now we have water that is healthy, tastes great, and save money with reverse osmosis.
If you have been looking for ways to drink save money on drinking water, I definitely encourage reverse osmosis. Until we moved into our house, we used filtered pitchers like Brita or the drinking water filter that came with our fridge. While they will improve the overall quality of your water, I still have several objections to them for health and ongoing costs. That's why we switched to reverse osmosis when we moved into our own home.
Why Reverse Osmosis?
We like reverse osmosis because it removes just about everything bad from water. One downside is that it also removes a lot of healthy minerals too, which is why we added a remineralization filter. It's the preferred filtration method of many bottled water manufacturers because of the purity. And, we don't have to pay bottled water prices.
When you think of filtering water at home, you probably think of a Brita filter or your fridge filter where the water passes through granulated carbon. As I mentioned before, they do remove the taste of chlorine and reduces or removes some nasty contaminants like chlorine, copper, lead, mercury, cadmium, and residue from fertilizers and pesticides.
Reverse Osmosis Removes (Almost) Everything
The first drawback with these filters is that the water quickly passes through the carbon filter and the filters are small. Water needs to spend as much time as possible in the filters to remove as many contaminants as possible. Plus, carbon filters have a really hard time removing ionic compounds like fluoride, nitrates, arsenic, pharmaceutical residue, and radionuclides.
Depending on your water quality, reverse osmosis can generally remove 95% to 99% of the bad stuff in your water. Basically, anything that's left is .00001 microns or smaller.
Reverse Osmosis Can Be Cheaper
Reverse osmosis is definitely cheaper than exclusively buying bottled water or have the Culligan man bring those 5-gallon jugs each week. You need to replace the carbon filters of a reverse osmosis unit every 6-12 months. You will know by the taste and flow volume.
It costs about $60 a year to replace everything except the RO membrane. The membrane needs to be replaced every 2-3 years and that costs $42. It's slightly more expensive than you standard Brita or fridge filter, but, the quality is a lot better.
After all, reverse osmosis is what desalination plants in the middle east use to remove the salt from ocean water so that it becomes drinkable.
Meet the iSpring RCC7AK
Before I decided to go with reverse osmosis, I did a lot of research (even started a second blog to help chronicle my research) to choose the best system for our needs. While there is no perfect system, I went with the iSpring RCC7AK 6-Stage Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis unit.
It was the best combination of price and performance. For about $200, we got our system and have been using it for 9 months now and have been pleased.
What It Filters Out
Between the carbon filters and the reverse osmosis membrane, it filters out a lot of contaminants we don't want to drink.
I also conducted my own tests with a TDS Meter to make sure it was actually filtering our water. The two images below are a pre-filtration and post-filtration reading.
Our reading straight from the tap is 309 ppm. A TDS meter measures the total dissolved solids. These are a combination of good particles and bad particles.
After the water passes through the entire iSpring RCC7AK, the reading is only 40 ppm. That reading would probably be a little lower, but, we opted for the optional alkaline filter that puts healthy minerals back into the water such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium back into the water. These minerals also help give the water “taste” and the bottled water companies also put minerals back into the water afterward.
What is the different between a 5-stage and 6-stage reverse osmosis unit?
If you have looked at kitchen sink water filters in the past, you have probably seen them advertised as 3-stage, 4-stage, 5-stage, 6-stage, or 7-stage filtration systems.
Each “stage” is a filter. Your Brita filter or fridge filter will only be a single stage filter because the water passes through one carbon filter before you drink it. Having multiple stages means each subsequent filter removes more contaminants from the water. It's how our filter dropped the TDS reading from 309 ppm to 40 ppm at our own house.
The above screenshot is for a 5-stage iSpring RCC7. This is a good system too and slightly cheaper. We opted to spend the extra $20 for the 6th stage alkaline filter to ensure our water was remineralized.
Side note: There's a large debate on whether or not you need this filter or if you can get the minerals from your food. We decided better safe than sorry.
It's Easy To Install
Another concern of ours was ease of installation. It took us about one hour to do the total install. We do have some plumbing experience from doing DIY repairs for our kitchen and bathroom faucets.
You do have to install a separate faucet that requires drilling through your countertop if there isn't a predrilled hole.
This is one reason we didn't install this system when we rented. The next tenant might not want to use our system.
As you can, the filters and storage tank fit underneath our sink. Reverse osmosis doesn't filter “on-demand” because it takes about one hour to filter a gallon of water. You do need to allow room for the tank underneath your sink.
You will also have to drill a small hole into your pipes to get rid of the discharge from the RO membrane. One downside of reverse osmosis is that for every gallon of filtered water there are 1 or 2 gallons of “waste” water with the contaminants that are removed from the membrane.
Do We Save Money with Reverse Osmosis?
It is arguably cheaper in the short-term to simply use a Brita filter or fridge filter, but, the overall quality isn't as good. You get what you pay for.
Here's a breakdown of how much the different water filtration systems cost.
Replacement Filter Cost: $5 per filter ($30/year) every 2 months or 40 gallons
Option 2: Fridge Filter
*Each fridge requires a different size filter. I chose the first option on Amazon, the EveryDrop by WhirlPool
Initial Cost: $39.99 plus cost of refrigerator
Replacement Filter Cost: $39.99 ($80/year) every 6 months or 200 gallons
You can also buy an optional icemaker kit so your fridge can use reverse osmosis water to make ice for $19.39.
Recurring Cost: $31.79 for 5-stage system (without alkaline filter) or $64.62 for 6-stage RCC7AK with the alkaline filter. Both costs are per year. Every 2-3 years, you will need to replace the reverse osmosis membrane which is $42.45.
Reverse osmosis is still more expensive than other home filtration methods, but, the results are a lot better. In my opinion, the slightly higher costs are worth the tradeoff. Especially since clean water is essential to a healthy lifestyle.
Even if you don't decide to do reverse osmosis, any water filtration method that you pursue at home is cheaper than exclusively buying bottled water.
My Recommendations for Reverse Osmosis Filters
While I encourage you to do your own research regarding drinking water quality and your individual health needs, the two reverse osmosis systems I recommend are either the iSpring RCC7 5-stage or the iSpring RCC7 6-stage.
I personally own the iSpring RCC7AK 6-stage and recommend it to others.
(I might earn some affiliate income if you purchase a system from the below links)
iSpring RCC7 5-stage
This system is plenty for a family for your cooking and drinking needs.
iSpring RCC7AK (What I Use)
I recommend this option if you want to automatically remineralize your water to ensure you get the essential nutrients you need with each sip of water.
It's the same filter system as the 5-stage, except the alkaline filter that the water passes through before reaching your glass.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.