By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now
Ready to banish the plastic water bottle? You can choose to drink water straight from the tap, which the federal government says is largely safe, or you can filter that tap water for contaminants and chemicals, and to freshen the taste.
If you choose to filter you be joining an apparent migration away from disposable bottled water to more efficient home filtering. The estimated revenue for the water-filter pitcher/carafe market last year was $183 million (excluding Walmart), a 24 percent growth rate since 2005, according to one research group.
There are at least a dozen systems to choose from, starting with market-leader Brita (owned by Clorox), which has dominated the water-filter pitcher market in the U.S. for years, and including number two seller, PUR, and an array of other big and boutique brands. All offer a variety of styles, safeguards, bells and whistles.
Here are the highlights of 12 brands on the market:
There are 17 styles of Brita water-filter pitchers, ranging from the Slim Pitcher (holds 5 cups, $11) to the larger Deluxe (10 cups, $25) to the Grand (10 cups, $32) which comes in four color options. The Grand (and nine other styles) has an electronic filter-change indicator, and many of Brita's pitchers have flip-top lids and soft-grip handles.
Brita says its filters last about two months and filter about 40 gallons. It says each filter can save as many as 300 plastic water bottles. One filter is $8, and a six-pack is $38.
Its larger countertop model is the Ultramax Dispenser, which holds 18 cups and can fit in the refrigerator with a bit of extra space, $42.
Brita says its pitcher is BPA free and its filters remove bad tastes/odors, chlorine and the heavy metals copper, cadmium and mercury.
Recycling of filters has been an issue for the green consumer, so in 2008 Brita launched a recycling program where consumers can drop off their filter at an area Whole Foods Market or mail them back to the company.
PUR says its two-stage filter reduces three times more contaminants than Brita and takes out 99.9 percent of lead and parasites (microbiological cysts). They also claim to reduce 96 percent of pharmaceuticals in tap water.
Its pitchers leave fluoride in your water, though, which some consumers believe can cause bone disease or is linked to cancer.
There are three styles of pitchers, starting at about $15. One style lets you add a shot of flavor (including lemon, grape or peach) starting at $24. That and the 2-Stage Oval Water Pitcher features a built-in LED light to show when the filter needs replacement. All PUR pitchers hold at least seven cups of water.
Its filter will process about 40 gallons before it needs to be replaced ($6.50 to $8 per filter, less for multi-packs). Flavor cartridges are $6 to $10.
PUR's larger water dispenser holds 18 cups, can fit in the fridge and costs about $29.
A new contender on the U.S. water-filter pitcher market is from Mavea, which, interestingly, is made by Europe's original Brita (in the U.S., the Brita name was purchased by Clorox).
It boasts a sleek, modern style. The Elemaris model is $30, comes in black or white and holds five cups. It touts a "pour-through lid" and a meter that measures water hardness, volume and the length of time the filter has been in use. The filters can be recycled, the company says.
The Elemaris XL, $32, holds nine cups, and the Marella XL holds eight cups and costs $25. The Maxtra filter uses both carbon and "ion exchange resin beads" to remove the common unwanted elements, the company says.
In addition, Mavea claims its filter will remove the herbicides atrazine and simazune, and toxic chemicals benzene and tetrachloroethylene, which have been linked to blood and nervous system diseases and cancer.
The Mavea filter also leaves fluoride in the water.
One replacement filter is $7.75; a three-pack is about $18 and the company says the filters can be recycled.
Consumer Reports thoroughly tested water-filter systems in 2007, and ranked the Clear2O pitchers as second best (after the more expensive Tersano, described below – Brita was third).
Good Housekeeping picked the Clear2O as one of its top eight products launched in 2007.
There is only one style of Clear2O pitcher, which the company says fills in 34 seconds. The pitcher's filter is certified to reduce up to 53 contaminants (emphasis on parasites, asbestos, lead and mercury), and each filter will clean up about 50 gallons, it says.
The pitcher has a "quick-connect hose" to the tap and holds nine cups. It costs about $20, and filters are about $9 each.
Another popular pitcher is Culligan's slim blue model. It holds two quarts, its filter cartridge will handle about 50 gallons, there is a filter replacement indicator and it costs about $18. The filter cartridge is $6.29 and you can buy a three-pack for about $18.
Culligan says the filter removes the standard contaminants and particulates, but also removes zinc.
The ZeroWater Filtration Pitcher boasts a five-stage filtration system (including an "ion-exchange array," which it doesn't define) and holds a half-gallon of water. It retails for about $35 and has a display that shows the filter is working and when it needs replacing. ZeroWater's pitcher has a push-button dispenser for the refrigerator and a pour spout for the table.
A filter only lives through about 25 gallons of water, and replacement filters aren't cheap at $30 for a two-pack. It comes with a stick-like meter that measures the total dissolved solids in the water.
ZeroWater's filter removes fluoride, and the company says the filter is not certified to reduce microbiological cysts, as some other pitcher-makers say they can. It does remove all detectable dissolved solids, ZeroWater says.
ZeroWater recycles its filters, and its pitchers contain no BPAs. The company states that there are no established protocols to determine whether any pitcher filter can remove pharmaceuticals.
Its slick, larger version is actually a bottle filtration system that you place atop a bottled water dispenser. Fill it with tap water using a pitcher (no more expensive, big, heavy bottles to heft on the dispenser). This larger bottle has two filters to handle more water and costs about $80.
The Tersano Lotus LWT100 was the top pitcher pick by Consumer Reports in their study of water-filter pitchers three years ago. It's also fairly expensive at prices up to almost $400.
The countertop product claims to filter out most all troubling chemicals and pathogens with a two-stage system which includes adding ozone to the water (which, it says, will "destroy more than 99.99 percent of bacteria and viruses.")
The second carbon filter removes "pesticides, wastes, other chemical contaminants, plus any remaining ozone."
The system, the company says, is more effective and cost-efficient than reverse osmosis filtration systems, which commonly are used in whole-house water filter systems.
Tersano says the pitcher filter lasts through 365 gallons, for a per gallon cost of about 11 cents, much less expensive than most competitors. The LWT100 uses two containers – a "processing carafe" and an optional "clean water carafe" for serving.
The clean-water carafe holds up to two quarts of water, and the filter replacement is about $40. We could not find any certification from independent groups such as the NSF for the Tersano pitcher.
Two filters are available for any of DuPont's pitchers – the Vista (6 cups, $36.25), Traditional (8 cups,comes with three lids in different colors, $21.50), and Deluxe. The larger Deluxe (13 cups) is outfitted with a dual filter, and the company calls it their premium product.
That double filter will process 120 gallons, and DuPont offers two types of filters for its pitchers: the Universal will handle 60 gallons before it needs replacing, as will the Ultra Protection . Both filters will also fit most Brita, PUR and Culligan pitchers, the company says.
On its website, Dupont offers detailed information about its products and certifications, including a list of contaminants its filters remove. The double filter lists the standard chlorine, particulates and metals, but adds lead, 1,2-Dichloropropane (a chemical solvent that is rarely used today), endrin (a pesticide/rodent killer not sold for general use in the U.S. since 1986), lindane (a pesticide banned in many countries and scaled back in the U.S.) and tetrachloroethylene (a dry-cleaning solvent that is carcinogenic), among others.
Aqua Blue Barrier
Barrier is a Russian-based company that produces two pitchers, the Premia and the larger Grand. The latter boasts a pitcher that can hold 1.9 quarts and a filter that can process 95 gallons of water (more than twice as much as most others).
It lists 14 contaminants that are filtered – beyond the standard chlorine and heavy metals, the company says the pitcher's filter can remove most lead, antibiotics, petroleum contaminants, aluminum and DDT.
Online the Grand is $28, complete with a filter and a timer to tell you when a new filter is needed. The Premia holds five cups of water and fits into the refrigerator.
Replacement filters are about $11.
This pitcher is larger than others, holding up to 12 cups, but its biggest selling point is a "four-stage filter" that will process 2,000 gallons over a 6- to 12-month lifespan. It comes in clear or blue, and costs about $25. The replacement filters are about $15.50 (and cost less if you buy more).
The company says its filter removes chlorine, heavy metals including lead, copper and aluminum, as well as "other dissolved metals." Crystal Quest also says its Eagle Redox Alloy filter is "antimicrobial" and will inhibit bacterial growth (algae, fungi and more).
Venture into higher-end, sleeker-looking water-filter countertop products with the Cuisinart CleanWater , which holds 2 gallons, dispenses hot, cold or room-temperature water and has blue and red LED lights to tell you when your water is ready.
The CleanWater has a brushed stainless steel housing, removeable water tank and a filter that promises to clean up to 48 gallons in about three months. The product costs $150 and replacement filters are $20.
The GF-80 filter for the CleanWater reduces most chlorine and metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, copper) along with benzene, the toxic solvent toluene and tetrachloroethylene.
As much art object as water dispenser, the Ovopur is made by Aquavo and available in select stores. The creation by Manuel Desrochers is a big, beautiful, filtered dispenser that holds about 3 gallons of water (or any other liquid you'd like to put in it).
Its Aquacristal filter can handle more than 500 gallons (or about four months) before it needs replacing. .
The dispenser is made of chemical-free porcelain with lead-free glazing. The filter cartridge is made mostly of hand-blown, lead-free Pyrex glass.
The filter, according to one retailer's website, is designed to reproduce the natural filtration process of water. They don't list exactly what is filtered out (other than chemicals and organic pollutants), but say the filter is made of carbon, bioceramics and quartz crystal.
The Ovopur weighs in at 23 pounds when it's empty, and comes with either an acrylic glass or wood base. It costs $835.
If you want to go all out, check out the limited-edition Caviar Staccato or Caviar Marcoto, both beautiful double-bubble-shaped filtered dispensers. They're shining black ceramic bottles with sleek embellishments. Each is $896.