Let’s face it, if you are looking for an article called: Reverse Osmosis System – you already have an idea what this product is. You know it is about water filtration and you know you are pursuing the purest and cleanest water possible. You also want this water to pour endlessly from your tap. Is there a more important question for the welfare of your family? Probably not, when you consider how vital it is to drink a healthy volume of water.
There are many features of a reverse osmosis (RO) system that will define which product you buy. So, before we get down to different brands, let’s explore some important technical details.
How does it work?
RO is a process of cleaning water by pushing it through a series of filters and membranes. If you visit your local water works you will find that it uses reverse osmosis to clean household water. However, the scale of this system requires the water to be chlorinated to prevent bacteria growth. The scale of this system also means that the water that ends up in your house will likely have some of the sediment, bacteria and viruses still present.
To get the best quality water in your home you need a similar filtration and membrane system. This means when you turn on your tap the water is pushed through another mechanism for purification. The system will hold the impure water one side of the membrane, whilst the clean water is pumped through the holes into a storage tank, where it will be available when you turn on the tap. Some RO systems also have further purification stages as it passes through the tap, making the quality of the fluid equal to spring water.
The number of stages varies between models. The stages are likely to include a valve that takes in the cold water from an external water supply. It then passes through some pre-filters, then the reverse osmosis membrane, then a post filter, through a shut off valve that helps prevent water wastage, a storage tank and then to the faucet. There may be a pressure pump to increase flow and a UV light, which improves purification.
Simply put, water is drawn into a pipe, pushed through some membranes and filters, pushed into a tank and then out through your tap.
What’s the water benefits?
So, the question is: why would you want this additional filtration for your water?
- It reduces the salt content in soft water: sodium is often left in water by most filtering mechanisms. It is not a dangerous chemical, in fact we need sodium – or salt. However, if left in water it can impact on the taste of the water. Also, by taking out 99% of all dissolved chemicals, RO improves the health benefits of your drink in comparison to unfiltered tap water.
- RO water is better for cooking and for ice cubes: RO ensures water does not impact on the taste of foods such as dry pasta and soups. It also means your ice cubes are sparkling clear – as all the impurities that would leave your ice cloudy is removed during reverse osmosis.
- Your water will taste great with RO: the elimination of impurities will make sure the metallic taste and odour that can impact some areas is removed. A lot of RO systems will tell you that their water is far superior to bottled water.
- Your water is disease free: 99% + of viruses and bacteria will be removed using RO. Any contaminants that enter the water system are also filtered out. This makes water healthier. Some systems will tell you that you will take in less free radicals, less viruses and less bacteria. This means your body, and particularly your skin, will feel much better. Also, if you add a remineralisation mechanism to your system, then the water will be even healthier.
What features are important to consider when buying your system?
Purification Capability: The purest, healthiest water – this is why you want to buy a system such as this, so it has to be your primary concern. You are looking for the TDS or total dissolved solids. For water to be considered safe, regulatory bodies set a level of mg per litre of dissolved solids such as sodium, chlorides, organic matter and others. The EPA sets this at 500mg per litre.
The best RO systems can remove almost 100% of bacteria and other contaminated substances from the water. The best RO systems can produce water similar to spring water.
The ability of your RO system to purify water can be improved by ultra violet (UV). This is another way to disinfect the water and comes after the water has been in the storage tank and before it comes through the tap.
Taste of water: The reason we want pure water is to improve the taste. Chlorine and heavy metals can make tap water taste dreadful. The higher the level of filtration in your chosen system, up to 99% with the best RO systems, the better the taste.
Efficiency: One of the criticisms of RO systems is the waste of water. Some products can waste five out of six gallons of water, which is obviously unacceptable. The best products should have a ratio of 1:3. Some systems now have a valve that allows water to be recycled around and filtered again.
The strength of the membrane is also important. To ensure long lasting use you will need to change this membrane every now and then. This can get expensive, so it is best to buy one with a strong membrane to avoid changing this part too often.
Ease of use: There are some products that will require a technician and some that can be installed by anybody. You should expect clear and easy set up instructions and some provide online videos. You should also look to see that changing the membrane is as easy as unplugging and removing the old filter and fixing in the new one.
Capacity: You also need to look at the volume of water output that an RO system can produce per day. The temperature of water and pressure of the water can change the output of the RO system. If this is the case, you may need to buy a pump.
Re-mineralisation: This is an optional extra. This adds some of the more positive minerals back into the water after filtering – usually calcium and magnesium.
Filters: When buying a system you need to look at the filters that come along with your RO membrane. Some have a filter before the membrane, to prevent larger objects damaging the membrane. Then, some have a final filter that is made of carbon to remove potential tastes and odours that remain in the water.
An air gap faucet works with your RO system and ensures that water cannot flow backward from the drain into the unit. It works as a siphon break under the sink, which means that dirty water cannot get back into the RO system.
Be aware that air gap faucets can be difficult to install and be a little noisy, so you need to decide if this is a feature you would like.
Purchasing an RO system with a pressure increase pump can boost the flow of water from the tap. There are two types of pump: an electric pump and a permeate pump. A permeate pump uses water pressure to increase water pressure, therefore does not need an external power source.
pH meters can help to ensure the balance of pH in your RO water. RO systems can make the water slightly more acidic than normal tap water and a meter will help you guarantee the appropriate balance. This might mean that you need to buy an RO system that comes with a pH raising filter, which can alkalize and ionize ultra-purified water and restore some of the balance needed for a healthy body.
Our #1 pick
It is a close call between two RO systems – so rather than one, we present you with two top picks. There is little to choose between them, so we would be happy for either to be under your sink!
APEC 5 Stage Reverse Drinking Water
This is one of the best-selling systems on the market and comes with quality design and manufacture guaranteed. APEC work out of the US and to guaranteed guidelines that promote safety and health in your drinking water. Those that have bought this unit are clear – the water is clear and crisp and far superior to bottled water.
This unit is designed to fit under the sink, the unit and the tank. Therefore, the storage tank has a small capacity but is a neat package that is easy to connect with lock clips. This means that you are not likely to need a technician – which hardly matters when the filters are so long-lasting.
The claims from the manufacture are pretty spectacular, backed up by endless reviews. This RO system removes 99% of contaminants – more than 1000 different varieties, including hormones and pharmaceuticals, arsenic and chloride – as well as viruses and bacteria.
- Easy to install
- Long-lasting and high performing filters
- Low noise
- Some reports of leaks
- Smaller than average sized storage tank
APEC Certified Drinking Water RO-90
APEC is clearly the go-to manufacturer for water purification and this is their highest grade 5-stage system – designed and made to US standards. The RO-90 comes “certified” to NSF standards – which ensures that 99% of contaminants are removed from drinking water. It also comes with FDA certified JG food grade tubing to ensure your water stays contamination free.
What is significant about this model is that the filters are designed to last twice as long, compared to other manufacturers. This means you won’t have to fiddle with changing filters that often. Plus, as with most APEC RO systems, there is JG Quick Connect fittings. This means there are no extra lock clips or steps needed to seal the unit, therefore you can fit it yourself easily enough. It can even be connected to your ice-maker for crystal clear cubes for your drinks.
- High quality design
- Easy to install
- Over 1000 contaminants filtered
- The faucet has a chunky appearance
- Some reports of leaking
Best for the money
Global Water 5 Stage Reverse Osmosis
If you want a lot for your cash, then the Global Water RO system certainly gives you that. This five stage filtering system begins with a sediment filter to remove larger debris and then two carbon filters to remove organics, chlorine and any odour and cloudiness that is in the water. Only then does it pass through the RO membrane and then finally through a filter that improves the taste.
The system filters over 1000 pollutants and 99% of contaminants. It meets NSF and ANSI standards and comes with a lead-free faucet and steel tank – guaranteeing the health and safety of the water you drink.
As well as your RO system, you also receive two of each of the filters to act as replacements, as well as one replacement RO membrane. The company offer a lifetime 24-hour technical support and promise that the connection is easy, with the suggestions that you could fit it yourself.
- Lots of extras with your initial purchase
- Lifetime support with your filter
- 99% of contaminants removed
- A low capacity – so the amount of water delivered each day could be considered low
- Some reviews query whether you should attempt to connect yourself
Best under $200
Express Water ROALK5D Antioxidant Remineralisation
This RO system has ten stages, which is double the normal 5 stage process. With a pH filter and a remineralisation filter, this is something of a super-unit for its price. It sells itself on its ability to maintain your body’s pH level and to remove free radicals from water, known to cause cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. Remineralisation includes Calcium and Magnesium, amongst others.
The system removes 99% of contaminants, producing great tasting water and removing any bad smells.
- Additional filters for extra health benefits
- Option to buy a UV filter
- An attractive brass faucet
- Poor efficiency, sometimes a ratio of 5 gallons of water to 1 gallon of filtered water
- The unit comes in pieces, so takes some time to install
iSpring RCC7 Certified 5 Stage Drinking Water Filter System
Fitting under your sink unit, this is a DIY reverse osmosis system. It comes WQA Gold Seal Certified thanks to the 1000+ pollutants it removes. The RO membrane filters down to 0.0001 micron, with a human hair being 50 microns – so that is impressively fine filtering!
The iSpring system simply aims to provide water that is clear and tastes great, to avoid the need for purchasing bottled water. It comes with a one-year money back guarantee, as well as a guarantee to increase your family’s water consumption. If water is not your thing, there is also an output line to connect to your coffee filter.
- Small compact unit
- Simple DIY installation, with a video to help with installation
- 1 year money back guarantee
- Small capacity storage tank
- Low water pressure without option pressure pump
APEC Top Tier 5 Stage Drinking Water Filter System
This super-cheap APEC comes with quality design and a promise of 99.99% removal of chlorine chemicals. Thanks to the double carbon blocks, this filter system takes away the taste and odour of treatment plant chemicals. The crisp, clean taste of this filter system is said to be far superior to any bottled water.
There is a step by step online video, which allows you to install this unit yourself. There are quick connect fittings, which are secure and convenient, helping to prevent leaks without the need of a technician. It fits neatly in a standard kitchen cabinet, so can be stored neatly under the sink.
- The faucet comes with an option to swivel, even when locked down
- Great tasting water – even improving the taste of your morning coffee
- Stands up to the TDS meter test, significantly purer than bottled water!
- Amount of waste water is high
- Some reports of leaking
Best under $300
APEC Top Tier Supreme Certified High Flow RO-90
As with all APEC products, this is designed and made in the US to US standards. This five-stage filtering system comes with the same guarantee of 1000+ contaminants filtered. The promise it that these filters last twice as long, when compared to other companies. The product is easy to install yourself, with its Quick Connect fittings. All-in-all this is everything you expect from an APEC RO system.
But this is a Top Tier and a high flow system, meaning that it promises a high psi. This is made even better with the optional extra of the permeate pump, which increases the pressure even more, making this a great system to use with an ice maker and your coffee pot.
- Top quality filters that deliver crisp and clear water
- Easy to install, even with limited plumbing experience
- Great TDS
- Low output in comparison to what is stated
- The filter housing is difficult to open
Home Master TMAFC-ERP Artesian Full Contact Undersink
With seven stages of filtration, this RO system claims to solve some of the problems of water filtration including waste water and low water pressure, as it comes with a built in permeate pump. This reduces waste water by 80% and increases production by 50%. These claims are backed by a five-year guarantee.
It removes 98% of chemicals but re-mineralises with calcium and magnesium. Ultimately, the unit provides great tasting water with great health benefits.
It includes a long-lasting filter, which is easy to change without the use of wrenches. The filters come as modules that clip into the unit, easy as that. Plus, as the name suggests, the unit fits snugly under your sink.
- Easy change filters
- Really great tasting water
- Solves TDS creep, meaning the quality stays the same throughout the life of the filter
- Higher water pressure can cause TDS levels to degrade
- Probably need a plumber despite the promises!
Best under $500
Home Master TMHP HydroPerfection Undersink
When you look at this RO system you can see immediately that it is a serious piece of plumbing kit. The steel tank, with connected filters and pump is clearly value for money. There is none of the overtly plastic moulded design that can make some cheaper units look fragile.
The advanced filtration offers highly pure water – removing 98% of contaminants and 99.99% of microorganisms. The IRON pre-filter protects your RO membrane, the UV filter destroys microorganisms – such as bacteria and viruses – and the permeate pump increases water pressure.
Each filter is guaranteed for 2000 gallons before needing change – and this change is made simple by the module design that requires no wrenches to complete the DIY. The unit is delivered fully assembled.
Home master claim to solve all the problems of high water wastage, low pressure and higher acidic levels in the water. They promise a five-year warranty to back up these promises.
- Exceptionally easy installation process
- Option to purchase a Nickel faucet over the standard chrome faucet
- Really quiet for the high-level flow
- The tubing can be a little hard to handle at first – and you may need to purchase some more
- Tank is a little too large for under the sink – may need some imagination to solve storage issues.