How We Review Water Filters: Product Testing Methodology

Updated on:
November 13, 2023

Effective and efficient water filtration is an exact science. 

Reviewing and recommending the best water filters is too.

To ensure every product we present as the “best” actually is, we’ve developed a rigorous research methodology we apply to all our reviews. 

Here’s a bit more about our approach to product research and testing:

A Fact-Based Approach

The foundation of all our reviews is facts. Without a baseline of truth, nothing else really matters. 

This is particularly important in the world of water filtration where shady players will try to sell you snake oil. 

Few people understand the science behind filtration. Less trustworthy manufacturers know this and will use fancy words and complex-sounding names to try and fool you into spending more of your hard-earned money.

We cut straight through these wild claims and get to the scientific heart of the matter. You can trust that any product we review has passed this basic test and is free of unsubstantiated claims.

Insights From Scientists and Industry Experts

Expert advice is best given directly by experts. 

Our entire team has experience in the world of water filtration, but you want more than just experience. You want expertise. 

That’s why we partner with biologists and water filtration experts such as James Layton and Tommy Stricklin. Their extensive knowledge of filtration science and the filtration industry helps us dissect and verify claims made by manufacturers. 

Data-Driven Decisions

Cold-hard data reigns supreme when verifying claims made by manufacturers. It’s our aim to independently verify (or discredit) statements from water filter companies using as much data as we can get.

We do this by obtaining pre- and post-filtration data to confirm the filter being tested does what it says it can. Most of these tests take place in our lab, though we will outsource to one of our trusted partners when logistics are required. 

Thinking Like a Homeowner, For Homeowners

Our reviews ultimately serve one purpose: to help you find the best water filtration products.

It’s important a product tests well, but it also needs to align with the needs and requirements of you as a homeowner.

On top of testing and verifying the science behind each product, we also scrutinize its viability. This starts by compiling a list of products to review that are readily available to retail consumers.

We also take into account other factors important to homeowners: 

  • Total cost of ownership
  • Maintenance costs and requirements
  • Durability
  • Installation requirements
  • Warranty details and restrictions
  • Customer service

Some of these factors are more subjective than others, such as customer service experience and ease of installation. When evaluating these aspects of a product, we gather information from as many different sources as possible, including existing customers who can provide invaluable firsthand experience.

Our Water Filter Review Process

Keeping true to our overall approach, we use a seven-point process for reviewing and vetting products:

Use analysis

The first thing we do when we review a product is determine its best use. Water filtration is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Instead, you need to buy a filter that responds to the specific problems with your water supply. 

Here are some of the questions we ask about each filter we test: 

  • Is this filter better suited for well water or municipal (city) water?
  • Which contaminants does this filter most effectively filter?
  • Will this filter work on its own or is it best paired with other filters?
  • Is this filter more practical for residential or commercial applications?

After we conduct our use analysis, we are often able to remove several options from consideration. 

You can read more about the use analysis step of the review process here.

Tech check

The next step of the review process is to do a tech check. This means picking apart the filtration technology in use to verify it’s properly equipped. 

Many people don’t realize there is more to filtration than just running water through a screen or material with small pores. While basic filtration relies on little else, removing many of the most common contaminants involves chemical processes that trap certain molecules and remove them from the water supply. 

For our water filter experts, it’s easy to spot shady or ineffective technologies. 

You can learn more about the different filter technologies used in today’s water filtration industry as well as how we vet new ones here.

Water test data

Once we’ve verified the viability of the technology being used in a particular water filter, our next step is to obtain some data on the filter. 

Our primary goal during this phase of the review is to verify the claims being made by the manufacturer. 

For example, if a company claims its product can filter out 5 ppm of sulfur from well water, we will run a water supply with 5 ppm of hydrogen sulfide through the filter and test the sulfur content of the water after it’s been filtered. 

You can read all about how we obtain our test results here.

Installation test

At this point, if a product remains on our list, we turn our attention to the user experience. It’s important a filter is effective, but if it’s a pain to own it, this can take away from its overall value. 

The first step is to review the installation process. If the company claims you can do it yourself, we want to make sure the average DIY homeowner actually can. If it’s not something you can do, we want to know exactly how complex it is. This will help estimate installation costs.

You can read more about how we test the installation process here.

Cost-of-ownership analysis

Water filters, especially whole-house filters, are fairly large up-front investments. For most homeowners, clean drinking water for you and your family is worth it. Many filters, however, require ongoing maintenance, which can inflate the overall cost of ownership. 

Depending on the filter, you may need to replace filter media every six months. For others, it’s every 10 years. Many filters also waste water, and some use electricity. 

To help compare the products we’re reviewing and pick the best ones, we analyze the total costs of ownership. This gives a clearer picture of total cost and is a big factor in determining which product is best.

You can learn more about how we calculate the cost of ownership here.

Warranty check

There’s nothing worse than buying a product and having it break shortly into its life. At times, this just happens. No product is perfect. But how does the manufacturer respond? 

Given the high initial costs of some of these products, it’s essential a manufacturer provides some sort of warranty. But having a warranty and having a good warranty are two separate things.

We dig deep into the fine print of a warranty to find out what’s actually covered, what’s not covered, and what surprises might be awaiting unsuspecting homeowners down the road. 

Check out how we analyze warranties here.

Customer service test

Alongside our warranty check, we also do a customer service test on each of the manufacturers we review. While we all want to think nothing will ever go wrong, we all know that stuff can happen. But when it does, how will the manufacturer respond?

We reach out to existing customers to learn about their experiences with a company’s customer service team. We will also contact these companies ourselves to see how well they respond to our questions. 

For a filter to receive our recommendation, we want to be sure the company making it will be there for you when you need it most. 

Check out what goes into our customer service test here.

Picking a Winner: How We Choose the “Best”

After we run through this seven-point review process, a winner typically emerges. The rigor of this test helps us weed out all the inferior products.

Often, several products emerge as top options. The reason for this comes down to the use case. There may be several “best” products because they each do something slightly different and are each uniquely equipped to handle specific water quality problems.

In the event we find multiple “best” designed for the same purpose, we don’t go out of our way to differentiate. If we can confidently give you multiple options, our job is complete and it’s time for you to make a choice.

If you still can’t decide, just reach out to us and we’ll do our best to help.