With so many options, it can be hard to find the best home filter for your home's water and air systems. Here are the pros and cons of several options.
What does a home filter do?
Any filter, no matter the system, has one job: purify the contents moving through it. In a car, the fuel filter helps clean the fuel before it gets to your engine. The lint filter on your dryer gathers the lint and fuzz from your clothes so your dryer hose doesn't get clogged.
In your home, the most common filters are for air and water. An air filter is part of either your central AC or your forced-air heating system. A whole home water filter cleans the water as it enters your home so any water you use is filtered.
The best home filter for your HVAC system
It's important to note that most HVAC filters, especially in older systems, are there to keep your system operating efficiently; they aren't designed to purify the air in your home. In fact, unless you have a newer HVAC system, it probably isn't designed to accommodate the type of filters that would effectively purify the air in your home. However, a retrofitted or specially designed system could double as an air purifier for your entire home if you wanted to spend the money to have one installed.
Barring a new system, the best home filter for both air purification and cost effectiveness is one with a high MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value). The higher the MERV is, the cleaner the air going through your system is.
According to the EPA, medium efficiency air filters with a MERV of greater than 7 are "nearly as effective as true HEPA filters at controlling most airborne indoor particles." High efficiency filters look similar to a HEPA filter, and their MERV is nearly identical. The problem is that some heating systems don't have enough power to handle that kind of filter.
One other important piece of information is that no matter how great the MERV number on a filter is, it has to fit your system. A filter with a high MERV won't work correctly if it doesn't properly fit. You may find that, given the factors involved, the best home filter for air quality might be a portable air purifier or two.
Whether you use a filter to keep your HVAC system clean or for air purification, it's important to remember to change the filter regularly. For most filters, that means every 30 - 60 days, although it really depends on how much you use the system and how quickly the filter gets dirty. Checking the filter on the first of every month is a good way to stay on top of this task.
The best home filter for your water system
A water filtration system has a lot of variables, not the least of which is what your needs are. A whole home filtration system will filter all the water coming into your home, which, if you have water especially prone to debris or contamination, could improve the life of your appliances and cut down on odor. If your primary concern is improving the quality of your drinking water, an under-sink water filter should work just fine.
A whole home filtration system can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well into the thousands, and that doesn't count installation. However, once you install them, they are generally low maintenance. These two get top marks from industry leaders and customers alike:
This highly rated filtration system is expensive but removes or reduces everything from rust to chlorine to bacteria, lead, and pesticides. The pre-filters should be changed quarterly, but are inexpensive at around $30 for the year. The system itself is guaranteed to last for 10 years or 1,000,000 gallons.
iSpring is another highly rated whole house filtration system. Like the Aquasana, the iSpring system removes 95% of iron, lead, chlorine, rust, pesticides, and many other water contaminants. The iSpring is less expensive than the Aquasana, but filters run between $120 and $300 per year, depending on the system you get. iSpring is also known for excellent customer service.
If you only want to filter your drinking and cooking water, an under-sink filter might be a better option. Many are easy enough to install yourself with just a little plumbing knowledge, and they are much less expensive than whole home systems. Like the whole house filters, these two units are favorites from a wide range of users:
The Filtrete Under Sink Single Stage Plus comes with a dedicated faucet (so you don't have to use filtered water on dishes or handwashing). It's NSF-certified to reduce lead, chlorine, and pharmaceuticals. The unit itself is around $85, and replacement filters are $20. Filters last approximately six months, meaning your yearly cost is a little over $3 per month after the initial purchase.
The Watts Premier 531130 Filter-Pure UF-3 3-Stage filtration system is also easy to install and reduces lead, chlorine, and parasites. Like the Filtrete, the Watts system comes with a dedicated faucet, it's NSF-certified, and filters last approximately six months. Unlike the Filtrete, the Watts system is not (at this time) certified to reduce pharmaceutical contaminants. The yearly cost for filters is also slightly higher at a little over $6 per month.
The best home humidifier
Clean air and water aren't the only options for the health and comfort of the people in your home. Whole house humidifiers are making gains as a way to reduce respiratory illnesses brought on by dry winter air and to keep heating costs down.
There are a variety of humidifiers on the market, but the most low maintenance ones work directly with your HVAC system. Of course, that's not always an option, so here is one installed unit and one portable unit, both of which get rave reviews.
Aprilaire Model 700
The Aprilaire draws water directly from your home's water supply and can maintain optimum humidity levels in a 4,200 square foot home. Once you install the unit, it's virtually maintenance-free; just replace the water panel evaporator once a year. The humidifier sells for around $300, but the replacement water panels are only about $10.
For smaller homes and apartments, the portable EssickAir humidifier gets high marks. The Tower Humidifier can run up to 50 hours between refills and will work in a 1,200 square foot space. You will need to change the filter (wick) seasonally, which will add $40 - $50 to your yearly cost.
Whether you use a water filter, air filter, or humidifier, make sure you have renters or homeowners insurance to protect your investment. Get in touch with your local Pekin Insurance agent today.