Posted: December 5, 2015
Q. What kind of water filtration system do you have in your home?
A. By the husband! Leonard Rubin
We get questions about water filters quite a lot, but now more than ever—since the water crisis in Flint is in the news. In response, Tamara and I, when asked, often share about the products we have chosen for our own home (FWIW.)
For those new to our page, we live in Portland, Oregon. Here in Portland we have to deal with lead, occasional biologicals and municipally added Chloramine in our local water system.
There is lead in everything from the city-owned pipes and meters with brass fittings to old lead pipes in many houses and older, lead-soldered copper in others, and of course leaded brass in most faucets and fittings (even in newer homes.)
As a result of legislation passed under the most recent Bush Administration – modern pipes, fittings and fixtures could be labeled “lead-free” as long as they contained less than 8% lead. Subsequent legislation passed and made effective in the last couple of years updated this standard and made it so that pipes, fittings and fixtures manufactured in 2016 and later have to comply with the latest standards (standards originally set by the State of California and determined to be protective of children’s health) and so are usually a good choice!
Fortunately, we do not have to also deal with fluoride as an additive here in Portland [as fluoride in combination with chloramine can leach lead into the water from these sources at an increased rate—resulting in increases of bio-available lead in the water by as much as 800%.] [We especially have concerns about lead in the water in our public school systems here, as those lead hazards have long been identified and quantified—yet the school district has not taken consistent action to make sure the water in the schools’ drinking fountains is safe for children. (Separate post on that to be linked here shortly.)]
If you want to support Tamara’s advocacy work,
please consider contributing to her GoFundMe!
Currently, we use filtered water in our kitchen only as (given our b. 1905 home) the cost of whole-house filtration was cost prohibitive for us. We cook with the filtered water, only drink filtered water and make sure each child is sent to school each day with a full water bottle (we use stainless or glass with silicone cozy) of fresh filtered water.
As our personal awareness of this issue has grown along with our knowledge base – and as our finances have permitted – we have evolved through a few different generations of water filtration products/systems.
This is a picture of the water filtration system we currently use (with the included faucet and filter wrench) Every water source and delivery system is a bit different and calls for a system that is tailored to individual specific needs.
[Example: In our case for instance, as I said, while fluoride is not present, lead, occasional biologicals (we had a city-wide e-coli scare here in Portland a couple of years back) and chloramine are.]
For our home we selected a 3-filter system [which as it turns out, cost less than half of what our previous very expensive (highly polished stainless steel housing, very expensive, proprietary cartridges, etc.) single-cartridge system did!] At $399 (and with promotions that can reduce that price to as low as $249) this seemed like a great system for the money – and it takes widely-available, more affordable industry-standard size filters. We also paid an extra $29 to upgrade the faucet to a “premium” model at the time of purchase.
These are the cartridges we chose for our house (yours will vary, according to your particular water issues):
- Chloramines CH
The cartridges we use are high-flow, and they are rated at “3-5 years”; we change ours every 3 years.
We keep a spare set on hand and reorder when we replace them; replacement cartridges run us about $175 for a “set” of all three.
Please comment below if you have any questions.
Leonard (& Tamara) Rubin
Thank you for your post. I emailed the water exchange based on your recommendation and the gentleman did indeed respond promptly. We have a whole house filter and he said it was sufficient for our water quality. I always appreciate when someone tells you you DON’T need their product–clearly a sign of an upstanding business person.
That’s so great to hear! We love this guy (even though we’ve never met him and have no business affiliation with him!)
how do you initially test water quality to see what the issues are and what you need? Erin Brockovich was in our city earlier this year complaining about water quality here.
I would like to know what kind of filters I need, is my fridge water/ice filter good enough? Do I need a watersupply/whole house filter? etc
One of my friends has a company that sells DIY water test kits and other test kits – his company is a good place to check out for starters (http://www.CertifiedKit.com) or you can have a hazard assessor come test your water. Some cities or states have programs that test the water for free – so you might want to call them first. I personally could never afford a whole house filtration system – so chose to focus on the water that goes in our mouth – but if I could afford whole house I would (with a similar system to what is discussed in this post.) Fridge filter are generally never good enough – one problem with them is that folks rarely change the filtration cartridge!
I have been looking for very good water filter for my family. It has been difficult to choose one. According to the website of the Water Exchange, as of January 2018, they retired. So, I suppose they are no longer in business? Do you have any other companies that you would recommend? Also, someone told me about Aquasana Inc.. But I am not sure if any of their products are safe or not. Have you tested their products? I have one more thing I would like to ask you. What would you recommend in order to have safe drinking water while traveling(I mean at the airport, during long flight, and outside the US)? Thank you! I have been praying for you and your family!
I am working on updating this. I will message you as soon as it is updated!
Please tag me on this. I am looking for a recommendation. Thanks!
Hiiiii! Thank you for all you do!
I’m looking for a water filtration system for our kitchen, as a whole house system is not in our price range at this time.
Is there updated information?
Amy Dearman says
I am thinking about ordering a water test kit to test our tap water. The city sent out the test results for our city water, and I am a bit confused as to what those results mean and how they compare to the levels in the water coming directly out of our faucets. The amount in the city’s results is 2.3 ppb. Should I be concerned with the level that the city came up with? Our house is the first house ever built in our town by our founding fathers, so the pipes are obviously old. However, we did put in Pex plumbing from the basement to our kitchen faucet. So, that makes me really curious what the results of a water test might be. I also wrote an email to our school tonight asking about testing the drinking fountain there due to reading your posts about Avi’s experience with high lead amounts in drinking fountains at his school. Thank you so much for all the research and testing that you do.
Hi Tamara, Thanks for the informative post on this important subject. I live in NY and currently using insinkerator filter with their instant hot water dispenser under the sink. Are you familiar with them? Do you have a new one you would recommend? Thanks!
We currently live in a rental, and are not in a position to take on a project like this. We have been using Brita pitchers and really like them. But now I’m trying to reduce plastic usage Do you have any recommendations for a filter system with glass pitcher?
What I’ve done in the past that works for a rental is hook one of these systems to the cold water under the sink so I didn’t need a second faucet for it.
The issue is that the cold water faucet at your sink often has lead and so can add lead back into the water after it has been filtered. Discussed a bit on this link: https://tamararubin.com/2023/06/what-is-the-safe-level-of-lead-in-water-how-much-lead-in-water-is-too-much-understanding-lead-levels-in-water/
Hence the need for a separate (known Lead-free) faucet.
Hi Tamara, thanks for this post ! I also live in Portland and am looking for an under sink water filtration system. It’s been quite the rabbit hole trying to find something good. Unfortunately, the photo you posted of your system doesn’t show anymore and the folks at thewaterexchange.net have retired. Do you mind letting me know which system you use? Thanks!
Is there a hiking/camp water filter you recommend? Thanks so much!
I’ve been using Berkey for 8 years, and I highly recommend them.
What’s the best way to test for lead in drinking water from our taps at home?
The thewaterexchange.net is not working anymore.
What brand of water filtering system is recommended ?
Are there any updates of this article available? We live in SoCal and we need a water filter in our house. I don’t know where to start. There are so many options and how do I know what’s best for our house? Could you please point me in the right direction? Thanks!
My tap score.com
Check https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/ what you have in your water. I love my water filters from friends of water. They have full house filters as well. Make sure your faucets are stainless steel and lead free.