Reverse Osmosis Filters – Top Reviews, FAQs, and Guides

Looking for the best reverse osmosis system available on the market?

That is the Express Water 11-stage Reverse Osmosis System. The article will go into further details with other alternatives and explanations, but that is the best system and our top recommendation.

Best Reverse Osmosis Systems

MODELSIZE (inches)FILTER LIFEWARRANTYGALLONS PER DAYPRICE
Express
Reverse Osmosis System

express-reverse-osmosis-filter-amazon
15 x 5 x 17.26-12 months1 year100View Price on Amazon!
Brondell
Circle Reverseo Osmosis

brondell-reverse-osmosis-system
13.8 x 9.2 x 16.5
6-12 months1 year75+View Price on Amazon!
APEC ESSENCE ROES-50
APEC-ESSENCE-ROES-50
16 x 5.2 x 17.56-12 months2 years (with registration)75+View Price on Amazon!
iSpring RCC7
iSpring-RCC7
14.5 x 5.2 x 17.56-12 months1 year (with registration)75View Price on Amazon!
Home Master
TMAFC

Home-Master-TMAFC
20 x 16 x 1312+ months5 years50View Price on Amazon!

 

Express RO System Review

The Express Reverse Osmosis system has pretty much everything you want in a water filter. I mean it filters water… I’m just joking.

In all seriousness, it has a five stage filtration system. This system includes a 5 micron sediment filter, an activated carbon filter, a carbon block, a reverse osmosis membrane, and ultraviolet light filter, and an in-line carbon filter. So yeah, a bunch of really cool stuff. I mean, look at that picture and all that stuff on the water filter. Have you ever seen a water filter that looks like that?

All these filters do a great job at removing pretty much every contaminant (99.9% to be exact) from the water. This is by far the best water filter for removing chlorine and fluoride.

express-reverse-osmosis-filter-amazon

Removing all the contaminants is not necessarily ideal as some useful minerals (calcium and magnesium) are in water. This also makes the water slightly acidic. Most people do not like acidic water. It tastes very bad!

The Express system has a remineralization process to combat this because, well, Express is a lot smarter than I thought. It is definitely the best reverse osmosis system with remineralization. This process adds useful minerals (calcium, magnesium) and makes the water less acidic. Now it tastes good 🙂

Eliminating two problems at the same time.

The benefits don’t end with the filter though. Installation is easy since everything is color coded for maximum efficiency. [Editor: Watch it Joe. I’m color blind. -JW].

This means you won’t have to worry about messing something up. The hoses also have quick connections. Less time attaching hoses.

clear-housings

The clear housings make knowing when to replace the filter extremely easy.

When the time eventually comes to replace the filter Express makes that easy too. You simply match up the label and replace the filter cartridge.

No having to play a guessing game with which of the FIVE filters to replace. Or where to find the cartridge. This is a good problem to have though. Much better than only having a one filter filtration system.

Knowing when to replace is fairly easy too… the filter is housed in a clear plastic container. You can take one glance at it.

Boom! You know when you need to replace your filter.

Finally, the membrane puts out an impressive 100 gallons per day. That is a lot of drinking water and more than enough for all but the largest families. Like, you have to be the Duggar family or something to use 100 gallons of drinking water in a day.

 

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Pros

  • 100 gallons per day capacity.
  • Clear housings make filter inspections extremely easy.
  • Pressure gauge to monitor incoming water.
  • 7 stage filtration process with remineralization.
  • Color coordinated caps make for easy DIY installation.
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Cons

  • Large size system takes up a lot of space underneath the sink.

 

Brondell Circle Reverse Osmosis System

The Brondell Circle works a little differently than the other systems reviewed on this list. This works up to ten times more efficiently than anything else on the market. So if saving brondell-reverse-osmosis-systemwater is of importance to you, then this is certainly the right choice for you.

The main this unit saves water is by reducing back pressure. This pressure causes the most wasted water with these types of systems. The savings will pay for itself rather quickly depending on how much the water in your area costs.

This system also reduces the time it takes to fill up the storage tank. You know what they say. Time is money.

Other benefits include four filters that are WQA Gold Seal certified and a visually appealing faucet. Normally the built in faucets on reverse osmosis systems leave much to be desired in terms of design.

 

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Pros

  • Efficient uses water compared to other reverse osmosis systems.
  • LED filter change indicator.
  • Quick change filters.
  • WQA Gold Seal certified filtration.
  • Two year filter life.
  • Compact design.
  • Rapidly refill rate compared to other systems.

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Cons

  • More expensive than other units.

APEC ESSENCE ROES-25

The APEC ESSENCE ROES-25 is one of the only products on the list (and on our website) that is assembled in the United States of America. That certainly bumps it up a little in terms of quality and workmanship. The ROES-25 certainly lives up to that reputation too.

It removes 99% of the contaminants found in water, some of which include lead, arsenic, and pesticides. That stuff is gross and I still am in shock every single time that I write that in an article. The actual number is well over 1000, but my editor won’t let me type out the whole list. [Editor: Joe, feel free to type out the whole list. -JW]APEC-ESSENCE-ROES-50

Another benefit of APEC is that they provide you with a 2 year limited warranty. Reminder: you do have to register the product at the time of purchase to qualify for the warranty, but that’s a fair tradeoff for a warranty. This warranty covers manufacturer defects that cause the system to stop working…

We don’t expect many manufacturers since this unit is made in America, but stuff happens and you never know.

Next, you don’t have to worry about hiring a professional to install the filter as it comes with a detailed list of instructions and videos to help. It actually has a video for changing the filter too, so you don’t have to worry about that notoriously difficult task.

apec-essence-roes-50-parts-list

This filter is pretty much perfect as the average 4.8 star rating on Amazon will tell you. One thing we don’t like is that it doesn’t have any kind of remineralization filter on it. This is easy enough to add with the many choice available on Amazon (the Watts Premiere 560087 works well).

 

 

 

 

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Pros

  • Designed, engineered, and assembled in the USA.
  • Easy DIY installation.
  • Low price.
  • Amazon’ Choice product with over 3,000 5 star reviews.
  • Leak free fittings.
  • Two year manufacturer warranty (with registration).
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Cons

  • Less gallons per day than other units.

iSpring RCC7

The iSpring RCC7 is the next filter on our list. This iiSpring-filter-diagrams the standard under the sink reverse osmosis system. It removes 99% of contaminants with a five step filtration process.

The RCC7 does have a gold ranking by the Water Quality Association, which certifies high reliability and low maintenance. A WQA is somewhat difficult to obtain. It’s not the kind of participation certificate that you often see with these industry certificates…

Back on topic, DIY installation is fairly easy with a big guide included in the box and gigabytes of videos online to help. If you still need help, then you can call their toll-free number and iSpring’s award winning technicians will guide you through the installation over the phone.

If you need even more help, then a plumber can easily install these systems. Remember, that is literally their job.

iSpring-RCC7

Now for the capacity. This unit can filter 75 gallons per day, which is enough for just about every family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pros

  • Removes 99% of contaminants.
  • Easy DIY installation.
  • Relatively small size and will fit under most sinks.
  • Low price.
  • Removes contaminants as small as 0.0001 microns.
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Cons

  • Lower gallons per day than other units.

What is in a reverse osmosis system?

The typical system will include a sediment filter pre-filter, the reverse osmosis membrane, the storage tank for contaminants, a carbon filter, and sometimes a faucet and an ultraviolet filter.

A reverse osmosis system is not a whole house filtration system. The main purpose with these systems is to filter enough water for drinking purposes. Normally, you would install the filter underneath your kitchen sink and add an extra faucet near your sink (usually included). This extra faucet will dispense the filtered water from the storage tank.

The UV filter mentioned earlier will kill any bacteria, e. coli, or living organisms that reside in your water. Not all systems have a UV filter, but those that do are just that much better. Anyway, the following list is a basic overview of the five best water filtration systems followed by an in-depth review of each one.

How does a reverse osmosis system work?

The first step to understanding a reverse system is understanding how they work.

Reverse osmosis is actually a fairly simple process to understand. Basically, water passes through a very fine membrane made up of polyamide, polysulfone, and polyester. Water is then forced through the membrane. Water is a smaller molecule than nasty contaminants like viruses, bacteria, and sediment. The “dirty” water pools up outside the membrane and is flushed out of the unit. Only the purest water makes it through all the layers of the membrane. This is why reverse osmosis has a reputation for wasting a lot of water.

A multi-stage unit might have multiple reverse osmosis membranes, but more often it just has different filtration devices that save the membrane. For instance, chlorine and sediment can be removed with an activated carbon filter. Those filters are much cheaper than an RO membrane, so those are often used as a pre-filtration device.

These systems use no electricity because the filtration process is mechanical. However, they do waste a lot of water as mentioned earlier. On average, for every gallon of water filtered through a reverse osmosis membrane four gallons will be flushed down the drain. This means you can expect your water consumption to increase by a multiple of four. Fo

This still works out cheaper because electricity costs less than the same amount of water. You should keep in mind though that this is not a “free” source of water filtration though.

What type of contaminants does it filter out?

According to the CDC, reverse osmosis removes the most common chemical contaminants, which include chloride, copper, lead, and sodium. Again, all that stuff is gross. Except sodium. Salt is amazing.

It will reduce, or eliminate, fluoride, calcium, magnesium, and many others. (FULL LIST HERE)

Reverse osmosis is actually the only way to remove fluoride from water. So if your municipality adds fluoride to your water and you want to remove it, then you must purchase a reverse osmosis system.

Removing salt is also an interesting benefit, which most other filtration types cannot (efficiently) remove salt. Salt removal makes these reverse osmosis very popular in locations that have brackish water or if you have a water softener. Brackish water is actually a problem for those that live near the beach or the mouth of large rivers.

Trust me, brackish water is awful. I grew up near the mouth of a VERY large river in the southern United States. You don’t want to drink brackish water. It’s basically salt water.

Reverse Osmosis Filtration Process

The specific contaminants that a reverse osmosis membrane removes will vary depending on the filter size selected. However, the following process will explain all the contaminants that the various filters on the system remove.

Stage 1 – Sediment Filter: The first step of the process involves the water passing through a sediment filter. This removes sediment from the water as the name suggests. Examples of sediment include sand, dirt, rust (ew gross… I know), and other particulates that you can physically see in your cup of water. We definitely don’t want any of this stuff in the water.

Stage 2 – Activated carbon filter: The water next passes through an activated carbon filter. This activated carbon filter is the same kind found in a normal water pitcher filter. The activated carbon will remove chlorine, pesticides (!), and all kinds of other chemicals that you DO NOT want in your water. In addition, these chemicals can damage the membrane of your reverse osmosis system, so they definitely have to go.

water-filter-stages

The filtration stages of a reverse osmosis system.

Stage 3 – Reverse Osmosis Membrane filter: This stage removes everything else from the water. This includes salt too as mentioned earlier. Simply put, anything bigger than a water molecule will not pass through the membrane. This things remove a lot of contaminants.

Stage 4 – Mineralization stage: The filtration process works so well that it removes just about every mineral, which makes the water a little more acidic. This includes minerals that have some benefit to humans (such as calcium and magnesium). Some reverse osmosis systems will add those minerals to the water and make the water less acidic.

Stage 5 – Storage Tank: The filtered water will then collect in the storage tank for use when a faucet is turned on. This means you will not have to wait for the whole filtration process each time you want to use water.

Stage 6 – Optional Filtration: This optional phase is when you can have the water move through other filtration steps to remove further contaminants. One popular step is to have the water move through an ultraviolet light filter to remove any kind of microbes, bacteria, fluoride, or other contaminants that the previous filters do not remove.

Stage 7 – Post-filtration carbon filter: The final step involves the water flowing through one last carbon filter. This removes any dissolved rubber from the storage tank and guarantees the absolute purest water you can find.

Stage 8 – In your glass: Turn the water filter on and watch as pure filtered water flows into your glass.

Reverse Osmosis Efficiency

Reverse osmosis systems will remove just about everything from water as stated earlier. However, this comes at a cost. These filters are relatively slow compared to a whole house filtration system.

Keep in mind that the storage tank for filtered water greatly increases the speed of the filtration process.

A reverse osmosis filter efficiently uses electricity as they use zero electricity. They do use quite a bit of water (4 gallons of water per 1 gallon of filtered water), but water is much cheaper than electricity.

Just keep all of this in mind before purchasing a system. These aren’t just a buy it, put it down, and forget about it type thing. You will definitely notice the increased water consumption on your water bill. These things eat water, or drink it I guess. It’s insane how much water they use.

Where to install a reverse osmosis system?

Most homeowners install the system underneath their kitchen sink and have a little hose that they use to fill up their water pitcher. There is not much purpose in whole house water filtration with a reverse osmosis system unless you drink from the bathroom sink on a regular basis or you like to shower in ultrapure water. Plus, it would literally increase your water consumption by a multiple of four because of the way a reverse osmosis system.  Just imagine multiplying your water bill by four.

It’s not a pretty site. Yes, I know the water bill is probably cheap, but a 4x utility increase is not fun.

A specifically designed whole house water filter will work better and more efficiently for filtering water for the whole house.

How to install a reverse osmosis system

Our suggestion is to have a professional install the system to ensure everything works properly and no accidental contamination occurs. However, if you insist on installing it yourself, then the following video will help you out in that process. Just remember that you can easily damage your sink or the filter. Do so at your own risk. [Editor: Our lawyer recommended saying this. -JW]

Note: A written step by step guide just doesn’t work for explaining the process. You really have to see the installation to fully understand the process. Plus, I’m not very good at explaining according to my wife. So I’ll just this YouTube video do the explaining.

Is a reverse osmosis system right for me?

Only you can decide. If you like ultrapure water, then you should consider purchasing a reverse osmosis system.

We won’t lie to you and tell you that “everyone needs a reverse osmosis system.” These units use a lot of water compared to other filtration methods. However, if you really value ultrapure drinking water, then a reverse osmosis might be the right choice for you.

FAQ Reverse Osmosis

How to know if water is hard?

We see A LOT of questions going unanswered about reverse osmosis systems… well that trend stops here. We will answer every single question about a reverse osmosis system. Yes, we mean. Every. SingleQuestion. Ok, let’s go.

  • Is RO water better than bottled water?

Yes. In fact, bottled water has less filtration requirements than municipal water and we’ve already gone over the nasty stuff in municpal water. You do the math. RO systems offer literally the purest water in the world. It is just straight H2O into your body. Nothing but two hydrogen atoms with an oxygen atom bound to it.

Now, these RO systems do have some different tiers to them. A 7 stage filter will be more pure than a poverty 3 stage filter. However, all of these will still be better than bottled water. They’re better by a lot.

  • “I keep seeing ‘WQA’ on everything. What does this mean?”

Well, it stands for Water Quality Association. They are an association that certifies the quality of water.As mentioned earlier, it’t not a “pay to certify’ type operation.

No, this is a legitimate operation that is highly respected in the industry. Receiving certification for reverse osmosis requires a 58 point test on a wide range of components that go into water filtration. This obviously includes testing the water. It also means testing the filter over a period of months, annual inspections of the factory, and inspecting the materials that make up the filter.

Like I said, this isn’t a joke certificate. Notice how not every filter has a WQA Certification. That’s why.

  • Do I need UV filtration with one  of these systems?

In the United States you most likely do not. This is because the United States adds small amounts of chlorine to the water to disinfect it, which makes a UV filter redundant. Now, if you don’t trust the chlorine in the city or you run off tapwater, then you should purchase a UV light for maximum protection.

You just have to make sure that the water is moving at a slow enough flow rate.

  • Where can I put an RO filter?

You can put it anywhere you have a water connection. We don’t recommend putting them outside though. Just don’t do it.

Most people will put them underneath their kitchen sink and this works fine. These units are not massive tanks that you can walk in or anything. They are all relatively small and easy to fit inside a cabinet. Even with the S-bend you have in the plumbing found in your kitchen.

Also, you can put the holding tank on its side. Just make sure your manufacturer recommends it before you do it. Most will have no issue with it on their unit.

Some people will run these massive hoses from their water line to their reverse osmosis system. You can do this too. Perfectly acceptable. Just make sure that you have enough water pressure or it won’t work. Like if you have 55 psi, then you will have  a bad time doing that.

  • Where do I buy replacement filters? Can I use replacement filters from other brands?

The manufacturer will also sell replacement filters, In fact, that is how they make most of their money.

You can use replacement filters from other brands, but we don’t recommend this. Some of those brands could be cheap Chinese knockoffs and do you really want to spend hundreds of dollars on a reverse osmosis system only to compromise your water quality because you wanted to save $20 on a filter?

Of course you don’t. Only buy replacement filters from your manufacturer. We will put up a small guide on buying a replacement filter. It really isn’t that hard, but it’s still a good thing to know. I know it can be intimidating buying your first replacement filter. It’s even more intimidating when you’re changing it. Not fun.

  • Do I need to clean my RO system?

Yes. Yes, you do.

Don’t be that person that buys one of these systems and then does not bother to clean it. Seriously. That defeats the whole purpose of purchasing the system. I mean, you don’t have to do a thorough clean everyday or anything. You should clean out the tank about once a month. Sometimes it has the nasty habit of getting full of mildew.

Remember, these things can hold a decent amount of water for days. This will lead to mildew. Especially if you live in a warmer location. Make sure to clean it that thing out every now and then.

  • How important are the minerals in water?

First, some context. One of the biggest knocks against purified water is that it does not contain an adequate amount of minerals. Well, of course this is true because the reverse osmosis process removes everything from the water.

Now, the people that run around touting this claim generally have an agenda to push. Usually they are heavily involved in some other area the water filtration industry. In all honesty, we get most of our minerals from the food we eat.

Just think about it for a second. Do you really think humans get their daily intake of magnesium and potassium from water?

Of course they don’t. It comes from the food. Sure, water helps a little bit, but water does not contain enough potassium and magnesium to have any signifcant impact on the health of the body.

Now, the difference between the amount of lead found in water is big. You don’t want to drink water with lead in it. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about that with a reverse osmosis system.

If you really want the potassium and magnesium, then you can purchase a device that will add those minerals back into the water. Yes, that is not a joke. Remineralization of purified water is an actual thing.

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