The Best Water Filters for Renters: Affordable Options for 2024

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If you don’t own your own home, it can be difficult to set up your own water filtration system, as there are limits to the changes most renters can make to their plumbing. As the water filtration industry continues to grow in exciting new ways, however, more great options for renters make their way to the market. In this article, we’ll walk through some of the issues surrounding having a home water filtration system as a renter, as well as some of the best setups on the market for renters.

Why Renters Need Water Filters: Overview

Everyone can benefit from having some form of water filtration system in their homes, whether they are renting or own. Water problems affect all properties equally, so any problems in the municipal water affecting local homeowners will affect renters in the exact same ways. Furthermore, most apartment complexes don’t offer additional filtration on-site, meaning that you are generally stuck with whatever your municipality has to offer. That may be great for some–if you are fortunate enough to live in an area with good municipal water–but many cities, even in the United States leave much to be desired when it comes to water quality.

City water, even in more heavily populated and polluted areas, may be technically safe to drink, but it often comes at a cost, such as elevated chlorine or chloramine levels, water hardness, high sediment levels, or any number of other possible problems. If you want to learn more about what is in your local water, a good place to start is by Googling the most recent federally mandated local water quality report for your city or municipality. To hone in on the water in your building or street, you can mail away a sample of your water to a laboratory for professional testing.

Types of Water Filters Suitable for Renters

If you are renting, then you’re very unlikely to be able to install any large systems designed for whole-house applications, such as a water softener, or a multi-stage point-of-entry system. Some landlords may allow you to make minor under-sink modifications, which would open up the possibility of installing a reverse osmosis system, but that won’t be possible for a majority of renters. What makes a reverse osmosis system a tough sell to a landlord is the need to drill a hole in the drain pipe to accommodate wastewater. An inline filter installed under the sink, or even a small multi-stage sediment and carbon system can be installed with no permanent changes or damage to existing plumbing, making these some of the best options for renters, alongside other options such as countertop and pitcher filters.

Sediment Filters

If you want to build a quality, small-scale filtration system, your first stop needs to be a sediment filter. Usually made from polypropylene, a sediment filter enhances the water quality by reducing physical particulates in water. These pair perfectly with activated carbon filters, as carbon filters work chemically, through a process called adsorption, whereas sediment filters work mechanically, akin to a screen door or a colander. When paired together, these make a powerful one-two punch that can address most residential water problems.

Sediment filters deserve special mention because they are harder to come by as a renter than activated carbon, which appears in refrigerator filters, pitcher filters, and screw-on faucet filters. Some more advanced pitcher filters may have small sediment pads, but if you live in an area with high-sediment water, you may want to consider a dedicated in-line sediment filter, or a multi-stage system starting with a polypropylene cartridge.

Countertop water filters

There are a variety of countertop water filters available, from gravity-fed drip filters to countertop reverse osmosis systems that require no plumbing at all to function. These systems have a carafe that you fill with water; the reservoir takes in the wastewater, which can be dumped down the drain daily, and replenished with fresh water. Systems like this are ideal for renters, as they require no under-sink work whatsoever. Countertop RO systems can be used in kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, or at the office.

Pitcher filters

Pitcher filters are a variety of gravity filters, that work in just the way that name implies. A top reservoir is filled with water, and a filter, usually containing some blend of activated carbon, alongside any number of other potential filtration media, to swiftly filter a small amount of water for quick and easy drinking. These pitcher filters are form-friendly and can do well, though the small surface area of a little filter made to fit inside a pitcher means that the filtration capability is intrinsically limited, meaning that in harsh water conditions, you will be changing the filters out rather frequently.

Under-sink filters (non-permanent)

There are a variety of filters that can be temporarily installed underneath your kitchen or bathroom sink, with a small two-stage sediment and carbon combination system being a very sensible choice for most renters. As discussed above, these two media in conjunction cover the widest range of common problems seen in city water. If your water is on the bad end of the spectrum, you can always add an additional carbon filter–the more contact time carbon has with problematic water, the better the water becomes.

Portable water filters

There are water bottles with small filtration elements built in, and other portable devices for camping and survival purposes. Such filters can work in a pinch–that is what they are designed for, after all–but they shouldn’t be looked at as a reliable source of daily filtration.

Criteria for Choosing the Best Water Filters

Look for filters made by reputable companies, that list key pieces of information about the filters, such as the micron rating, any certifications from NSF or IAPMO, the type and nature of the filtration media used, and so forth. Determine what problems you want to fix in your water first, and then find the filters that address those needs.

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Installation and Maintenance Tips for Renters

If you are renting, don’t try and do any work under the sink without speaking to your landlord first. Water damage can add up incredibly quickly, especially if you are on the top floor of a high-rise apartment building. You don’t want to be liable for any water damage, so determine what you are allowed to do, and work with your apartment manager and maintenance worker to do the job right, if you need to do anything at all under the sink.

Conclusion

Getting a water filtration system up and running can be more difficult for a renter, but there are plenty of options today that can make clean, affordable water a reality for renters as well as buyers. Figure out what you need to treat, work with your landlord, and consider easy options like countertop RO systems, to avoid having to go under the sink.