There are a distressing amount of nasties in tap water. Chlorine, pesticide and herbicide residues, traces of antibiotics and other prescription medications, fluoride – is it any wonder the stuff tastes so terrible?
Growing up on tank water, I never understood why so many of my town friends didn’t like drinking water. It’s still my beverage of choice, a fact that puzzles many. (“Are you SURE you don’t want some juice? We have soft drink or coffee if you’d prefer…”) Then I went to high school in town and discovered the reason for myself – town water tastes terrible!
I also discovered, much to my chagrin, that it messes with me in a serious way. Something in the tap water – probably chlorine – gives my gut the screaming jeebies. More than a day or so drinking it unfiltered, and I’m hit with major nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhoea if I’m REALLY unlucky. My Nan has the same issue. It makes sense when you think about it. Our guts are full of beneficial bacteria that do everything from help us digest our food to supply us with an immune system. And what are all those chemicals added to the drinking water designed to do? Kill bacteria and other organisms.
This has made filtering a must for me. Even tank water needs filtering where I live, due to all the aeroplanes. While we currently use a Brita jug, I’ve been hitting the intertubes to find a more time and cost-effective option. Here’s a quick round-up of the mechanical filtering systems I’ve researched.
Most people (including me) start off by going to their local supermarket and buying a jug filter. It’s convenient, cheap, and it does the job. Replacement filters are also easy to get hold of. Unfortunately, this is also the most expensive option, long-term. A Brita jug cost us $35. The filters only clean 150L (about five weeks for us), and cost $11 per filter locally. That’s 7.3c/L of filtered water. And they don’t remove fluoride – Brita even states that as a product benefit!
In line filters
This is a popular choice for many. Inline filters remove the need to constantly fill a container – they filter the water as you need it. The initial setup cost is higher – most go for $200-$400 – but the overall filtering cost per litre is less. Most filters will do the job for 1-3c/L, depending on the brand you go with. Again, most don’t remove fluoride.
Depending on which brand you go with, you may be locked into using their model for life. Puratap is one company that operates this way – they come out every year to replace your filter “for free”, but they are the only ones that can do it. Not a good option if you like to keep costs down via DIY, like we do.
One inline filter that DOES remove fluoride, which I’ve yet to fully explore, is the Alkastream. It claims to alkalise and ionise the water, as well as remove chlorine, fluoride and other hazardous chemicals. Filters retail for about $95 and need replacing every 5000L or six monthly, whichever happens first. That’s a filtering cost of 1.8c/L. The base unit is $320-400, depending where you buy. There doesn’t seem to be much information out there about it that isn’t straight from the main sales page, but the Alkastream is definitely on my shortlist.
Ceramic water filters
These are the big bucket type filters you sometimes see. They’re basically a bigger version of a jug filter, designed to hold 5-20L of water at a time. The containers are usually ceramic, but you can get them in plastic or stainless steel as well. Starting setups are around the $400 mark in Australia, but can be half that in other countries. Most of that cost is the filter container. Many people derive significant savings by making their own out of two food grade plastic buckets.
A British company, Berkefield, seems to be the market leader – their ceramic candle filters take out practically everything that you don’t want in your water. They also do fluoride filters, something which is practically unique in the industry. The fluoride filters attach to the regular ones – they can’t be used alone. They only last half as long as the regular filters, too. That being said, it’s still one of the most cost-effective options I’ve come across.
The filters I can get hold of filter 2000L and cost $35 each, for a cost of 1.75c/L. Buying two fluoride filters at the same time is $115, which brings the cost per litre up to 5.75c. On a pure cost basis, the Alkastream seems a better deal.
One advantage I can see to a Berkey system over the Alkastream is portability. The Alkastream seems to require mains pressure to force the water through the filter, whereas a Berkey type system relies on gravity feed.
I’m still researching and discussing options with the Raccoon, but it looks like a race between the Alkastream and the Berkey as to which ends up in our home to do the job. This would make the Berkey a better choice for use in an emergency situation, when the mains supply might be unavailable.
What say you, readers? Any experiences with these two systems? What’s your current water filtration setup, if you have one?