While water softeners are pretty much a necessity in some parts of the country with extremely hard water, there’s an annoying downside to them: they increase the amount of sodium in your drinking supply. This is where Nuvo H2O comes in. Instead of using the traditional ion exchange, Nuvo’s filters use a citrus chelating agent to prevent limescale, which is a safe and ecologically-friendly way to condition water without introducing salt. Here’s our review of Nuvo H2O’s three water softener options.

Nuvo Home Water Softener System

  • Filter capacity: 20,000 gallons
  • Flow rate: 15 gallons per minute
  • Technology: CitraCharge Cell
  • 4.3 Stars (487 ratings)
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Nuvo Manor Water Softener System

Nuvo Manor Water Softener System
  • Filter capacity: 50,000 gallons
  • Flow rate: 18 gallons per minute
  • Technology: CitraCharge Cell
  • 4.6 Stars (176 ratings)
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Nuvo Studio Water Softener System

Nuvo Studio Water Softener System
  • Filter capacity: 10,000 gallons
  • Flow rate: 15 gallons per minute
  • Technology: CitraCharge Cell
  • 4.3 Stars (60 ratings)
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Looking for a water filter to compliment your softener? Here’s our pick of the best water filter pitchers for 2021.

Who is Nuvo H2O?

US-brand Nuvo H2O has been in operation for nearly 15 years, developing innovative water softening solutions out of Murray, Utah. Their salt-free water conditioners and limescale removers were a relative newcomer to the market when launched, and today they still lead the way, along with a number of copycat products.

CitraCharge

Instead of softening water through an ion exchange system, where hard water minerals are replaced with sodium salts, Nuvo H2O use their own CitraCharge Cell technology. This softening mechanism aims to balance the pH of water through the use of a chelating agent. This citric agent binds to calcium and magnesium ions, softening water, and preventing the formation of limescale on surfaces and pipes.

Thanks to the slow-release pouches that Nuvo H2O has designed, their CitraCharge softeners can also be used topically or in kitchen appliances. Used in the dishwasher, it will help keep glasses clear and shiny. In the washing machine, it will keep clothes free of hard water chemicals. Add it to a water spray bottle, and CitraCharge can even be used to clean stained surfaces and fittings.

Nuvo H2O: Key points

What to look for in a Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

Contaminants removed

Contaminants Certification to remove Products
Harmful contaminants: Lead, Asbestos, Arsenic, Mercury, Cysts, VOCs etc.* NSF 53, 58 Aquasana OptimH2O, APEC RO-PH90, GE RO System, Whirlpool RO System, Brondell Circle RC100
Chlorine and Chloramines/aesthetics issues NSF 42 Aquasana OptimH2O, Whirlpool RO System, Brondell Circle RC100
PFAs P473 Aquasana OptimH2O
Emerging contaminants NSF 401 Aquasana OptimH2O

*Check with product performance data sheets if you are concerned about a particular contaminant.

The top factor in choosing a RO water filtration system is the number of contaminants removed, or how much of a specific contaminant a filter can remove.

If you are worried about the quality of your water and are unsure of what is in it, then you should aim for the best product available that eliminates the most contaminants possible

If you know exactly what contaminants are in your local water source, you can be more precise in your purchase. For example, if your local water source has trace amounts of lead in it, then you will want a water filter that can filter over 99% of lead, and other contaminants may not be as much of a worry for you. 

RO water filters commonly remove the following contaminants: chlorine, iron, lead, asbestos, TDS (total dissolved solids), bacteria, cysts, and fluoride along with many others

We recommend finding out what contaminants are in your water source by checking your local Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR), or getting your private well water tested. This is because different systems remove different contaminants so choosing your product should be based on your specific needs. 

Here are our main contaminants of concern and reasons why:

There are also many other contaminants (too many to list), but if you get an RO water filter you can do your best to protect yourself and your loved ones from any adverse health effects. 

Because of the potential for lead to get into your water through leaching from old pipes after it leaves the water treatment facility, we do not recommend any RO products that have not been certified or tested to reduce lead.

Certifications

To be sure filter systems are filtering out what they claim to, look for products that have NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) or WQA (Water Quality Association) certifications that are the gold standards in the USA for water filtration systems. NSF and WQA marks are meant to provide proof that a product was “impartially reviewed to established standards or guidelines,” states the NSF.org website.

NSF and WQA marks also confirm that product labels and their claims have been objectively verified by a trusted third party and demonstrate a company (or organization’s) commitment to quality, compliance, and safety. The mark, which is recognized in more than 180 countries around the world, has varying associated numbers that range from the automotive industry, retail products, lab equipment, nutritional products, sustainability, and of course, water, wastewater, and food safety. 

For Reverse Osmosis filters, look for the following certifications:

  • NSF 42: Is certification to reduce mainly aesthetic or non-health related issues. These include chlorine, taste and odor, iron, manganese, and zinc.

  • NSF 53 and/or NSF 58 – Are certifications to reduce or eliminate contaminants that have known negative health effects. NSF 53 products have a carbon filter and can reduce contaminants to various degrees depending on the quality of the filter. 

    These contaminants include heavy metals (e.g., lead), Cryptosporidium, Giardia, pesticides, herbicides, benzene, MTBE, radon, trihalomethane, and PCBs. NSF 58 refers to reverse osmosis (RO) membrane filters, which can remove perchlorate, fluoride, nitrate, nitrite, radium, bacteria, cysts, and heavy metals. It is important to note that carbon filters and RO systems have many crossovers, but they do not filter out all of the same contaminants, as such they can be used in conjunction with one another in the same system.

  • NSF 401 – This certification is for new and emerging compounds, mainly as a result of pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides, chemicals, flame retardants, and detergents being found in tap water that were previously not present.

  • NSF P473 – Certification to reduce PFAS, including PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoate). To make this claim the product must be below to EPA healthy advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion.

Look for multiple certifications when searching for a water filter, and make sure they line up with the contaminants you either know or suspect are in your water source.

Best overall

NSF: 42, 53, 58, 401, P473
Price: $208.99

After getting through our top factors in choosing a reverse osmosis system, which are contaminant removal and certifications to prove it removes contaminants we wanted to introduce you to our top-rated product. It ticks a lot of our boxes, and to be our top choice it had to.

OptimH2O Reverse Osmosis Claryum Under-Counter Water Filtration System with Chrome Finish Faucet

Pros:

  • Removes 99% of harmful contaminants including arsenic, lead, PFAS, and bacteria

  • Certified to NSF 42, 53, 58, 401 + P473

  • Compatible with well water systems

  • Large filtering capacity

  • RO + Carbon + Claryum + Remineralization

  • Value

  • 2 year warranty

Cons:

  • Slower flow rate than some RO models

Buy from Home Depot

The Aquasana OptimoH2O has impeccable filtering, here are some of the main contaminants it can reduce or remove:

  • Lead: 96.6%
  • Chlorine: 97.66%
  • Arsenic: 97.6%
  • Cysts: >99.99%
  • Emerging compounds: >94.2%
  • PFAS: 96%
  • Asbestos: 99%

Performance data sheet

Being tested and certified by the NSF to NSF/ANSI standards 42, 53, 58, 401 + P473, it is one of the most comprehensively certified RO systems available. 

The Aquasana OptimoH20 utilizes a reverse osmosis membrane to reduce 14 impurities, and a patented Claryum filtration method to reduce 60 other contaminants. The filtering process is finished by remineralizing the filtered water with healthy amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which provides alkaline, pH balanced water. Here is a breakdown of the 3 stages + remineralization:

  1. Carbon filtration: Reduces organic chemicals, VOCs and MTBE
  2. RO membrane filtration: Filters out dissolved solids smaller than 1 micron including heavy metals.
  3. Claryum filtration: Targets chlorine and chloramine (aesthetic issues)
  4. Remineralization: Healthy amounts of minerals are absorbed back into the purified water to raise the pH level to a balanced level.

The Aquasana OptimoH20 is also our best RO system water filter for well water. With over 13 million American households relying on well water for drinking, it’s important to keep the water you drink from your well clean. Well water can have microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites in it, as well as nitrates, heavy metals, organic chemicals, radionuclides, and fluoride. 

Essentially anything that can contaminate water can be in a well water source depending on where you live. The Aquasana filters 99% of bacteria, putting it in the top 1% of RO systems we assessed.

The filter life for the Aquasana Optimo is solid with the Carbon and Clayrum filters needing to be replaced every 6 months or 365 gallons, which will cost you ~$65. The RO membrane needs to be changed every 1-2 years according to Aquasana and will cost ~$60, and the remineralizer costs ~$30 and needs changing once a year. If you use less water in your home than you’ll only need to replace the RO membrane once every 2-3 years.

The total system and running cost (filter replacements) for 5 years will cost approximately ~$815, which is an amazing deal considering you are getting the best RO water filter on the market.

The system can give you up to 32 gallons per day, men require about a gallon of water a day, and women require just under 3/4 of a gallon a day according to the Mayo Clinic. So if you take this into account, it can provide enough drinking water for a large family.

Reverse osmosis systems require adequate water pressure to be able to function effectively. Before purchasing, you’re going to want to make sure you have at least 40 psi in your home.

If your home’s water pressure is below 40 psi, you’ll want to look for a RO model that has a booster pump. If your home uses well water, you’ll need to make sure the well pressure of the tank is set high enough to let the RO system work best.

Filter capacity depends on how much water you and yours are going to be using. Are you using it for drinking, washing, ice trays, or a combination of all three? Different systems filter different amounts so you’ll need to adapt accordingly. 

If you are just looking for an RO system to fulfill your drinking water needs, then get a system that gives at least 9 gpd

If you want to soak some dishes as well, then systems over 10 gpd will be better. And if you are a large family that will be using an abundance of filtered water, then a system that can filter over 30 gpd may be best

Some models promote being able to filter 400 gpd, but this is unnecessary, no one will use that much water in a day, and if you do, you’re likely being very environmentally irresponsible.

An unfortunate downside to RO systems is that they can create a lot of wastewater

Ideally you’ll want to look for systems with 1:1 to 3:1 ratios if wastewater is something you’re concerned with. Consumers can also find systems designed to reduce waste by repurposing it towards other hydro uses like gardening or dishwashing. 

Systems with 1:1 ratios that are certified are difficult to find, and often they do not make their performance data readily available. 

With reverse osmosis systems, the drain ratio average is 3:1. High ratios hover around 5:1, but to reduce many contaminants these systems usually need excess water to drain out contaminants.

We suggest you look for a model around the average 3:1 ratio, but don’t rule out higher ratio models, especially if you can repurpose excess water. We suggest using it for watering gardens.

Most RO systems require installation meaning a dedicated faucet and drain connection. If you’re a renter and can’t install a faucet or alter the already built-in plumbing, you’ll want to consider a countertop model, pitcher, or other filtration method. 

If you’re a homeowner and you’re willing to do minor alterations, the RO system will be a great and long-lasting filtration option. 

People with a ‘can do’ attitude and minor DIY skills will be adept at installing RO systems in a matter of minutes by following easy-to-follow instructions that come with every product. Some of which even offer instructional videos.

RO systems are designed to strip the water of not only its harmful contaminants, but also valuable minerals. The process makes the water slightly acidic, to restore pH levels some models offer remineralization

The remineralization feature inserts healthy and valuable minerals back into the water at the end of the filtration process. If you’re looking for healthy minerals in your water, consider models that offer remineralization.

RO systems have a wide-range of pricing with low-end products at $100 and “premium models”at $1,000. Marketing teams will try and lead you to believe that more expensive units offer more filtration stages that can filter more water at a time. This is however not always correct. 

We’ve found the best products or usually in that mid-range price category. Mid-range products will get the job done, and you won’t be spending needless $.  We recommend spending around $200-300 for the purchase of a reverse osmosis system. 

In addition, you’ll also want to take into consideration the annual cost of having a filter system, like individual filter replacements. You’ll likely save money on all the bottled water you won’t be buying anymore.

RO systems usually have multiple filters with different lifespans so it might be beneficial to protect your investment with a warranty

Some products offer multiple-year warranties and we’d recommend buying products with at least a one-year warranty. 

So, with all that said, here are some more of our best reverse osmosis systems to consider going forward. We tried to give you a range of specifics to help cover as much ground as possible.  

What makes under sink water filters different?

Truly on-demand

Thanks to the way they combine with your sink, these filters are sleek and highly versatile. A dedicated filter faucet makes it easy to fill glasses or pots for cooking with one hand.

Unlike pitcher filters, most models don’t use a reservoir—meaning there’s no annoying wait for water to feed through the system, RO systems can be an exception, but their holding tanks should be large enough that you never have to wait for water.

A step up in filtering power

Some under sink filters at lower price points use the same filtering mechanism as other kitchen designs. But the majority employ larger, more powerful filtration methods, harnessing mains pressure to push tap water through dense carbon blocks or reverse osmosis membranes (see below).

This leaves tap water purer, better tasting, and potentially safer than when using a pitcher or faucet-mounted solution.

Style considerations

Most under-sink models either send water directly through your pre-existing faucet or through a secondary tap, mounted around your sink. Here, many under-sink filters are supplied with their own water dispensers—but you don’t necessarily need to use the dispenser that comes out of the box. Sourcing your own faucet for an under-sink filter can add to the look of your kitchen, making the filter seem more integrated with your other appliances.

Nuvo’s standard softener is the ‘Home’, designed to prevent and remove hard water scale for 1-2 water users in homes up to 2,000 sq feet in size. Getting the right size softener is critical for proper functioning and helping to extend the lifespan of your entire plumbing system, from the heater through to appliances.

One of our favorite things about all Nuvo products is their small size. With its compact design, the ‘Home’ is more compact than almost any other softener for its capacity, which is an impressive 20,000 gallons.

Included with purchase are a Citra cartridge, mounting backplate, and bracket—and even screws and a housing wrench to ensure that you can fit the device yourself (if DIY is your thing).

Check the latest price

Like all Nuvo H2O softeners, the ‘Manor’ effectively softens water without the use of salt, wastewater, or electricity, making it one of the most environmentally friendly devices around.

Nuvo Manor Water Softener System

At 20 pounds and approximately 10 by 28 inches in size, the Manor may be slightly bigger than the ‘Home’, but with this extra size comes a bump in power. This version is able to handle a maximum pressure of 100 PSI, and will effectively treat water in homes larger than 1500 sq feet and 4 or more residents.

Nuvo recommends replacing the filter element in the Manor after approximately 50,000 gallons, which is equivalent to 6 months of normal usage.

Check the latest price

If you need water softening for a tiny space with limited room for installation, the Nuvo ‘Studio’ is definitely worth considering. Designed for small apartments and trailers all the way down to RVs, the Studio weighs in at just over a pound, and a 2 x 10 inches, will fit pretty much anywhere.

Nuvo Studio Water Softener System

While the Studio’s 10,000 gallon capacity is impressive, a small but significant number of reviews reported lower softening ability than Nuvo’s other models, leading us to suspect that the Studio may just be too small to function for many homes.

Check the latest price

Also consider: Nuvo H2O Manor + Taste Complete

For a system that combines water softening with basic water purification, Nuvo offers the Manor alongside the ‘Taste’, a 10 micron carbon filter that captures and reduces organic chemicals such as chlorine and industrial solvents. While it’s not designed for use on untreated water, the Taste will provide the same effect as most regular pitcher filters, with the added bonus of inline filtration.

Check the latest price.

Our verdict

The simplicity and health benefits of using a non-ion exchange filter definitely make Nuvo Softeners an attractive option. We’re big fans of mineral water, so we like that Nuvo filters don’t remove excess minerals or affect the taste of water through added salt.

However, customers who tried the Nuvo on very hard water sources have reported disappointing results, suggesting that this product works best on moderately hard tap supplies.

Check out the latest price of Nuvo H2O water softeners now.

Disclaimer

CleanCoolWater aims to provide accurate, honest product recommendations, based on the best available information. Despite our best efforts, data and products are subject to change, and may have been updated since this page was posted. Always check with manufacturers for the most up-to-date product information.