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July 30th, 2019

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Interpreting Water Filter Test Results: How to read between the lines.

Most drinking water filter companies provide performance and contaminant-reduction test results. Some of these ‘results’ can be misleading. Here are some steps for determining the credibility of a drinking water filter test.

1.      Determine whether the test results are for the entire filtration system or just for a specific filter cartridge.

2.      Know which contaminants you need to filter out of your water. Each water source has unique conditions. Check the latest annual drinking water quality report published by your local water district. Is the filtration system using the right type of filtration process and materials for your water conditions? Several different stages of filtration and different types of treatment may be required to thoroughly filter the water coming out of your tap.

3.      Make sure you are not spending money on water filters designed for problems that you don’t have. For instance, you don’t need a fluoride reduction filter if your drinking water has no added fluoride.

4.      Check the size of the filter cartridge plus the type and amount of material the cartridge contains. There is usually a direct relationship between the volume of media and the capacity to filter. A tiny filter won’t do much filtering for very long.

 5.      Look for test results that show how many litres or gallons can be run through the system before each of the contaminants of concern start to show up in the ‘finished’ water. For instance, do the test results tell you that the filter can still deliver good quality water after 100 gallons, 500 gallons, 750 gallons of use? Does the test indicate when the filter’s capacity to maintain protection may begin to fail for each contaminant of concern?

 6.      NSF/ANSI has established testing protocols for different drinking water filter systems and for specific contaminant reduction. These are called ‘Standards’. If a product claims NSF/ANSI certification, check to see for which specific ‘Standard’ the product or system has been certified. For instance, NSF/ANSI 42 addresses aesthetic claims and NSF/ANSI 53 addresses health claims. 

A proper test is expensive and involves running hundreds to thousands of gallons of ‘challenge’ water through the filter with on-off cycles to replicate the actual challenges of real use and to monitor how many gallons can be passed through the filter before specific contaminants start to break through into the finished water.

Beware of ‘tests’ that consist of measuring results after passing a meager few litres of ‘challenge’ water through a new, unused filter. This is not useful info …simply misleading. This type of ‘test’ does not show any capacity for ‘gallonage’ and is often used by companies selling inferior filters that may be unable to maintain the indicated test results for even a fraction of the actual typical use of the filter.