Bottled Water vs. Water Filters: What Should I Use?
By now, you’ve discovered there’s something fishy about your water. It either smells funny, leaves a bad aftertaste or seems to be too cloudy to be safe. You don’t know what’s wrong with your water, but you know it’s unsafe for you and your family. It’s time for a better solution for your drinking water.
You have 2 options in the battle for better tasting water: bottled water vs. water filters.
Bottled water’s greatest benefit is its mobility — you can carry it with you and drink anywhere. The cap is sealable so you don’t have to worry about spilling, and the bottle is durable enough to withstand falling on the ground or being crushed by the other items in your bag. You can also buy bottled water anywhere. This makes it more convenient than other solutions like a water fountain, where sanitation is questionable.
Unlike regular tap water and bottled water, you’re in control when it comes to water filters. There are many types of filtered water solutions you can buy for your home. You can purchase 1- or 2-step filtration systems for your kitchen faucet to remove chlorine and sediment. Reverse osmosis filtration is another option that filters other chemicals and dissolved solids that may have found their way into your home’s water source.
Convenience isn’t just for bottled water. Water filters can be purchased to filter all the water in your home or just the water coming from your sink. Under-sink filters are compact so you’re not wasting valuable storage space.
As you can see, there are plenty of good options if you want to avoid unsanitary home water. Let’s dive into the bottled water vs. water filter matchup and highlight a variety of considerations you should make when you want better drinking water.
What’s Cheaper: Bottled Water or Water Filters?
If you want to go the extra mile in protecting your family from unhealthy water, you’re going to need to make an investment. Bottled water and water filters are relatively cheap, but over time, the cost adds up. You need to find the solution that has the most bang for the buck.
How Much Does It Cost to Drink Bottled Water?
Let’s start by breaking this down on a yearly rate. It’s a no-brainer that buying bottled water in bulk (35-48 bottle/pack) is much cheaper than going to the gas station to purchase a single bottle of water for $1.99.
At the time of publishing, the top-rated water bottle item at Sam’s Club lists a 40 pack of 16.9-ounce bottles of Ice Mountain for $5.44. That’s roughly a dollar per gallon.
How long will that 40 pack last? According to the Mayo Clinic, water consumption varies by gender and they believe men should drink 3.7 liters per day (about 1 gallon), while women should drink 2.7 liters.
Sticking with our cost/gallon of bottled water from Sam’s Club, if you’re a single person, drinking bottled water is going to cost about $400/year. This number will double for a family of 2 and triple for a family of 3, and so on.
How Much Will a Water Filter Cost Me?
While the cost of drinking bottled water progresses incrementally, a water filter is going to be more expensive upfront. A simple yet effective filtration system can go for less than $100.
Every 6 months, the filter will need to be replaced on nearly every filtration system. Replacement filters generally cost around $50.
If you’re using your home’s water to drink a gallon of water per day, we need to consider how this reflects in your water bill. According to the EPA, if your home’s water bill is set at a uniform rate structure, the average charge is $0.00295 per gallon. Drinking a gallon of water per day from your home’s tap will cost you roughly $1.08 per year.
When you combine the small increase in your water bill, the cost of the system and one filter replacement the first year, you’re spending about $164/year to use a water filter. And remember, the system chosen in this example is easily installable, so you won’t need to pay someone to come to your home.
In case you haven’t done the math, it’s about $250 cheaper to use a water filter in the first year than it is to buy bottled water. You save even more the following year when all you’re doing is replacing the filter every 6 months.
What It Removes From Your Water
In the debate between bottled water vs. water filters, the number of contaminants being removed should shift the argument one way or the other. As we have discovered, water filters are cheaper, but are they removing as many contaminants? Is it possible they’re removing more than bottled water?
There are two main types of bottled water. The difference between the two is the source of where the water comes from.
- Spring Water: Evian, Crystal Geyser, Ice Mountain
- Purified Water: Smartwater, Dasani, Fiji
To use “spring water” on their label, brands such as Evian, Crystal Geyser and Ice Mountain must actually get their water from a spring. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ensures spring water companies adhere to good manufacturing practices by setting quality standards.
Spring water companies typically filter their water with 5-micron filtration, which removes sediment and microbial cysts from the water.
To combat the growth of microorganisms in the water after it’s bottled, these companies use a treatment called ozone. This disinfection method allows the bottled water to sit on shelves of supermarkets for months at a time.
Purified water is the most regulated form of bottled water for the FDA and the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). The IBWA was formed to raise the standards set by the FDA for stricter bottled water regulations.
They state in their Bottled Water Code of Practice that “Purified water is water obtained by distillation, ion-exchange treatment, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes.” To acquire the IBWA certification you must comply “with the regulations of the federal Environmental Protection Agency with respect to drinking water. It (your water) contains no added substance.”
To adhere to the standards set by the FDA and IBWA, purified water companies do a great job of filtering water. But there’s a different story to tell when the water goes in a plastic bottle.
How Plastic Bottles Impacts Your Water
Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization, released a report in 2018 that said 93 percent of bottled water showed signs of microplastic contamination. Their research included 11 brands — including Dasani, Evian and Aquafina. They found 63% of the plastic debris in bottled water (10.4 particles per liter — twice as much as tap water) were fragments like polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
The migration of PET from the plastic bottle — mainly the cap — to the water poses a problem for bottled water drinkers. Although the health risks are still being assessed, microplastics are harmful to the environment and are rarely recycled.
Many people think that if their home is supplied with city water, their water is already being treated for harmful contaminants. While this is true, municipal centers can’t do anything about the contaminants that find their way into your water while traveling from the treatment facility to your home. Corroding water lines, agricultural run-off and excess chemicals like chlorine can enter your home even after being treated.
There are a number of filtration systems that reduce and remove different water contaminants. Some are more thorough than others — so it all depends on the type of filtration you wish to install. Here are some examples of common filtration systems you can install and what they remove.
- Carbon Block filter: Excess chlorine, sediment & microbial cysts
- Premium Main Faucet Filtration: Lead, pharmaceuticals, cysts, chlorine & sediment
- Dual Stage Filtration: Chlorine, sediment, cysts, lead & chemicals
- Reverse Osmosis: Chlorine, sediment, cysts, lead, chemicals & dissolved solids
- Purification System: Lead, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, viruses, microorganisms, cysts, chlorine, sediment & chemicals
To pinpoint the exact system you need, you’ll have to identify what’s in your water first. If your water smells or tastes off, you can start with our smell guide and discover the solution you need.
The bottled water industry reached $18.5 billion in 2017, producing 13.7 billion gallons of water. While the industry continues to boom, concerns over its environmental impact are worthy enough to consider in the bottled water vs. water filter debate.
According to the IBWA, it takes 1.32 liters of water to produce a liter of bottled water. While this isn’t great for water waste numbers, bottled water has the lowest water-use ratio of a bottled beverage product.
Nestle Waters boast about the same water-waste ratio, but how much water are they taking from lands that need the water, like California, a state susceptible to long droughts?
Then, there’s the issue of plastic. Most plastic used for bottled water is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Companies claim they use this material because it’s thinner plastic, thus cutting back on plastic waste, but it still takes 2.7 million tons of plastic every year to bottle water around the world.
FIltering your home’s water causes no substantial environmental impact. However, a whole home filtration system does take energy — roughly the same amount of energy it takes to use a digital alarm clock.
Water waste is nearly non-existent with home filtration systems. The only filtration style that produces any water waste is reverse osmosis. It usually takes 3 or 4 gallons of unfiltered water to produce a gallon of purified water from an RO system.
This ratio seems high, but when you consider the amount you’re drinking per day, using an RO system is equivalent to flushing your toilet a few more times than usual.
What’s the Best Water Filter for Your Home?
When we match up bottled water vs. water filters in the battle against contaminated water, the clear winner is performing your own in-home filtration with a water filter.
The next step is picking from the types of filtered water that’s best for your home. Under sink filtration systems provide a convenient way to receive safe tap water from your kitchen or bathroom faucet. Whole home filtration systems can eliminate unhealthy water contaminants throughout your entire home.