Base price range: $20-100
Replacements/maintenance/labor: $5-15 per single filter cartridge
There’s an argument that could be made for the pitcher filter (i.e the Brita filter) being an iconic piece of home design. So universal is the classic plastic pitcher—with a fillable top reservoir running via gravity through an activated carbon filter to a pourable, bottom reservoir—that other best types of pitcher filters can often be overlooked or ignored.
In fact, there’s a wide range of pitcher-style filters out there, at a wide variety of price points. From the basic pitcher design, to glass and metal models, to personal filter water bottles with filter sticks built-in.
Read: The top water filter pitchers of this year.
Base price range: $30-250
Replacements/maintenance/labor: $20-60 per single filter cartridge
These designs solve the minor but everyday frustration of refilling a reservoir by running your tap water directly through the filter. A basic countertop filter attaches to your sink via a hose and directional valve, and comes in at around $50-75 dollars. On-faucet models do away with any reservoir/water collection altogether, and start out slightly cheaper, at $25-50.
As construction materials and filter quality increase, so does the price. Countertop filters that use the force of gravity to pass water through extensive ceramic or silver cartridges fetch between $150-200. Once you get into the territory of models that require plumbing/connection to power, the price begins to quickly escalate. A high-powered countertop system that can chill water as well as filter through reverse osmosis or other premium mechanisms can go for $250+.
The cost of filter replacements can vary widely with these models, depending on the method of filtration used. While carbon cartridges for an on-tap model can be picked up for the same price as pitcher filter replacements, ceramic or multi-filter cartridges can be double the price (though, they often last for twice as long).
Read: Our favorite countertop filters.
Base price range: $125-300
Replacements/maintenance/labor: $20-100 for single filter cartridges. $175+ for installation
Here’s where prices start to really increase, as bills for this type of filtration system begin to include additional costs such as professional installation and plumbing. An under-sink filter is a longer-term option for water filtering, taking the mechanism out of sight and fully integrating it with your kitchen sink. Filtered water runs directly through your main faucet, or through a secondary bespoke tap.
Under-sink systems tend to begin around the $125 price point, and increase depending on the extent of and number of stages of filtration. Cartridge prices are generally higher than the above sink models, but are also designed to last six months or more.
With a reasonable level of DIY/plumbing know-how, you may be able to install an under-sink filter yourself. However, for those (perhaps rightly) cautious of messing with their kitchen pipes, or those who need to make alterations to their countertop to include a second drinking tap, labor costs need to be factored in. There is no general cost estimate for plumbing an under-sink filter, but expect to pay in excess of $175.
Read: Our in-depth review of under-sink water filters
Base price range: $275-500
Replacements/maintenance/labor: $40-75 per yearly reverse osmosis replacement filter. $175+ for installation
Most household filters—even under-sink models—are not intended to turn unsafe sources into drinkable water. Instead, they’re designed to improve taste and overall purity by removing traces of natural sediments and the effects of water pre-treatment, such as chlorine.
If you are in need of a filter that can remove potentially hazardous materials from your water supply, then you’ll need to invest in a reverse osmosis or UV system (or both.) An RO system pushes water through fine membranes to remove common bacteria and disease-causing microorganisms, while a UV system shuns filtering altogether in favor of purifying, using ultraviolet radiation to destroy pathogens at a cellular level (you can then filter with carbon for taste).
Both of these systems are more expensive than carbon systems, with the price again climbing if a filter is installed under-sink and integrated with a countertop. Expect prices to begin around the $300 mark—though, UV systems tend to enter the market at the highest price point of any single-sink filter. With both of these systems, however, expect to make big savings on cartridge replacements.
Whole-home filter systems
Base price range: $400+
If you’ve reached the point where you’re considering premium filtering devices for your kitchen sink, it’s also worth looking at systems that cover your whole home. By fitting a filter to a house’s incoming water pipes, you can have pure water on-tap, anywhere you have a mains faucet. Base level whole-home water filtration systems tend to start at $400.
According to HomeAdvisor, which bases their estimates on actual project costs as reported by 4,356 HomeAdvisor members, whole house filter installation can cost anywhere from $870 to over $2000, with an average installation cost of $1800.
Read: The best whole-house water filters.
Base price range: $1
Environmental cost: ?
If you need filtered water asap, and can’t stretch to a pitcher and replacement cartridges, you could always consider buying in mineral or pre-bottled water straight from the store. Filtered water is available in large butts/barrels for those who need a longer-term/family size solution.
But, it’s important to balance the financial with the environmental costs here. Single-use plastics are becoming a major source of contamination for our oceans and natural bodies of water (with the health effects of microplastics in our mains supply still unknown). So, there’s a very real sense in which buying into the bottled industry creates a vicious cycle when it comes to clean drinking water.
Read: Why it’s time to move on from plastic water bottles.
Base price range: None
Creating healthy drinking water doesn’t necessarily require a filter. If you’re concerned about the quality of your tap water, but don’t have the time or the ability to get your hands on a filtering device, simply boil your water for more than three minutes. This will ensure that all potentially harmful microbes are destroyed. In a cinch, filter water through a finely-woven cloth before boiling to also remove sediment particles and cloudiness.