Reverse osmosis is water filtration at its finest, however, like all things, it does come with its drawbacks. For one, reverse osmosis filtration inevitably creates wastewater. There are also more filters to monitor than in other water filtration systems. So what is the best alternative to reverse osmosis? That’s the question I answer for you in my guide below. I thought outside the box so you don’t have to.
In this guide, I share:
- Top 5 Alternatives to Reverse Osmosis Water Systems
- Water Filtration System Reviews
- Tips on How to Choose the Best Alternative to Reverse Osmosis for Your Home
|#1) Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter||
|#2) Megahome Countertop Water Distiller||
|#3) Durastill Manual-Fill Water Distiller (30H4.5)||
|#4) iSpring CU-A4 4-Stage High Capacity Drinking Water System||
|#5) Zero Water Glass Dispenser (ZBD-040-1)||
Water Filtration System Reviews
Did any of my alternatives to reverse osmosis surprise you? There are several advantages to choosing the systems in my Top 5 over reverse osmosis, such as less maintenance and better yet, minimal to zero wastewater production. Of the options in my Top 5, water distillers do the best job of purifying water. Like RO water, there is debate over whether plain distilled water is healthy since its devoid of minerals.
On one side of the fence, people believe that drinking demineralized water long-term leaches minerals from the body. Then, of course, there are the naysayers who believe that the idea is hogwash and water is water (*). Additionally, not everyone is a fan of the taste of demineralized water, which may be more important to you than the whole leach debate.
If you’re concerned about preserving minerals for taste, Berkey water filters are your best alternative to reverse osmosis because Berkey systems target contaminants, not minerals. Your second option is the iSpring CU-A4 under-sink system, which filters down to .1-micron. The drawback to the CU-A4 system compared to Berkey filters is it doesn’t provide the same level of purification. Berkey is tough to beat in that department.
With those notes out of the way, let’s examine the systems in my Top 5 in greater detail and see what current owners have to say about their systems. Are they truly better than RO systems?
Berkey Water Purifier
The Berkey water purifier is a one-of-a-kind type of water filter, hence its sustained & growing popularity. The stainless steel Berkey tank and Black Berkey Purification Elements are ready to turn even the most contaminated water into potable water. With the wide variety of sizes available, there are Berkey systems for every use you can think of, from home to a remote cabin.
One thing I really like about Berkey water purifiers is the long filter life. Each Black Berkey filter has a 3,000-gallon filtering capacity. The cool part is the larger systems, such as the 6-gallon Crown Berkey, can use up to 8 Black Berkey filters at once to increase the flow rate and the total filtering capacity. An 8-filter setup can filter up to 24,000 gallons of water. That’s just amazing.
Other highlights of the Berkey compared to a reverse osmosis system are no electricity (some RO systems use UV light and booster pumps), no wastewater, easier filter changes & maintenance, portability (take your Berkey anywhere), no installation or plumbing, and no need to remineralize Berkey filtered water. The Berkey is also perfect for emergency situations.
On the flip side of the coin, there is some controversy surrounding the company’s refusal to get certified for sales in California and Iowa. Also, Berkey only offers “independent” lab test results for its filters rather than authentic tests with the WQA and/or NSF. While I’m not hugely concerned about this shortcoming, it is something to think about before you buy a Berkey.
Below are the pros and cons I found reported by owners in the Berkey water purifier reviews:
Megahome Water Distiller
If you’re not a believer in the power of the Berkey filters, the science behind the effectiveness of water distillation to purify water is irrefutable. Water distillers work by bringing water to a boil, then capturing the steam and recondensing it to make purified water. As the steam rises, it leaves behind everything that was in it, including minerals and impurities. The high boiling temperature also helps to eliminate any bacteria or other harmful microorganisms that might be lurking in your water, particularly well water.
What I like the most about a water distiller is its simplicity. There’s no need to install multiple filters, including UV purifiers, RO membranes, carbon filters, KDF filters, and more. There’s no complicated installation process or maintenance. No need to enter a crawl space or hire a plumber for a sophisticated installation. With a countertop water distiller, you simply fill the distiller, push a button, and wait for purified distilled water to enter the glass collection bottle.
Obviously, the biggest drawbacks are the time it takes to make distilled water and the need for electricity, unlike the Berkey. Depending on the size of your household, a countertop water distiller may or may not be sufficient. For larger households, the Durastill model featured in the following review is a better choice.
Below are the pros and cons I found reported by owners in the Megahome countertop water distiller reviews:
Durastill Water Distiller
Durastill water distillers are made for larger housholds and high-demand applications. The company manufactures a range of both automatic and manual-fill distillers. The advantage of an automatic distiller over a manual-fill distiller is automatic models have a manual function, simply flip a switch to go between manual and automatic modes.
The clear advantage of a Durastill distiller over a countertop distiller is the production rate. Durastill manufactures distillers that produce up to 42 gallons of distilled water daily. For home use, the 8-gallon manual-fill distiller should be more than enough. You might also want to consider the 8-gallon automatic distiller with a 10-gallon reserve tank, depending on your budget. At the time of this writing, the 8-gallon manual-fill (model 30H4.5) is the most affordable.
Another advantage of Durastill over the Megahome countertop model is the automatic shut-off function. There’s no need to worry about the supply tank running dry in a Durastill distiller because the system uses a float valve. Lastly, the stainless steel reserve tank is superior to a glass collection bottle that’s prone to breaking.
Below are the pros and cons I found reported by owners in the Durastill reviews:
ZeroWater 40-Cup Water Dispenser
If you’re fond of the thought of 0 TDS water on tap in your home, look no further than the ZeroWater 40-Cup Water Dispenser. ZeroWater started as a competitor to standard Brita water filter pitchers and has blossomed into a more well-rounded water filtration company. Along the way, the company has ruffled some feathers due to the idea its created in the TDS department. I’ll admit that 0 TDS from a ZeroWater filter is not on par with distilled water from a quality distiller, but it is a nice convenience for a lot of folks.
Out of my top five alternatives to reverse osmosis, the ZeroWater dispenser is the most user-friendly, requiring the least amount of maintenance. The hardest part is putting it together and swapping out the filter when it’s time for a replacement. Unlike the Berkey water purifier, there’s no need to prime ZeroWater filters with a vegetable peeler, which I know is a major turnoff for some people.
The biggest drawback to ZeroWater filters is their short life. The higher the TDS of your tap water the shorter your filter life. The best idea is to buy in bulk or install a point-of-entry spin-down sediment filter at a minimum, especially if you’re on well water. If you have an existing whole house water filter, you may find that the ZeroWater glass dispenser is a wise investment and advantageous compared to maintaining an under-sink reverse osmosis system.
Below are the pros and cons reported by ZeroWater users:
How to Choose the Best Alternative to Reverse Osmosis
Out of the five alternatives in my guide, a water distiller is clearly the best alternative to reverse osmosis. The remaining options rely on contact between your tap water and filtration media to compete with reverse osmosis, which is a tremedously difficult feat.
Reverse osmosis filtration works by forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane with microscopic pores. It’s incredible to think that reverse osmosis water is on par with distilled water without using heat. Having said that – full disclaimer: I’m a huge fan of reverse osmosis – RO systems do come with their drawbacks.
The Disadvantages of RO Systems
- Wastewater – The biggest drawback to an RO system is the wastewater it creates. Inefficient RO systems can have up to 1:4 wastewater ratios or worse. This means for every gallon of filtered RO water, four gallons of water gets wasted. A more optimal ratio is 1:1, and this is achieved by increasing incoming water pressure to the RO membrane with a permeate or booster pump.
- Replacement Filters – Before your tap water reaches the RO membrane, it must undergo filtration or the untreated water will wreak havoc on the RO membrane. For this reason, the RO membrane typically has the longest life of all the filters in a home RO system. The drawback is the need to monitor, replace, and buy replacement filters at different times. For example, you might find that the 1st stage sediment filter needs to be replaced every 3 months while the carbon filters need to be replaced every 6 months. Then the RO membrane has a 1 to 2-year life. You get the picture.
- Installation – Most people can install an RO system, but the installation must be done right to avoid potential leaks that can cause significant damage. Compared to a set-it-and-forget-it countertop water distiller, there are a lot more moving parts and places where potential leaks can occur in an RO system.
Reverse Osmosis Water vs Distilled Water
Both RO water and distilled water are demineralized with a TDS level at or near zero. Not everyone prefers the taste of demineralized water, which is the precise reason why bottled water companies add minerals “for taste” to enhance the flavor of RO water.
Below are several key considerations to make in the debate of RO water vs distilled water:
- Distilled water takes a long time to make and requires electricity. There’s a certain level of monitoring required that not everyone wants to worry about.
- High-demand tankless RO systems can make enough RO water to supply an entire home when combined with a large holding tank. The same can’t be said about distilled water.
- An under-sink RO system provides you with on-demand filtered RO water. Most RO systems are rated for 50 gallons per day or more. Even several of the large Durastill distillers only produce up to 8 gallons per day.
- The possibilities for RO applications in home water filtration systems are almost endless. Distillers are not something you can use inline in an existing home filtration system to get water on tap. Even an automatic distiller has its limitations for home use.
- You might notice a difference in taste and prefer one over the other. Essentially, pure water is pure water. The distillation process condenses the steam from boiling water to make pure water, while reverse osmosis relies on forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane to make pure water.
- Lastly, the distillation process produces considerably less wastewater than the reverse osmosis process.
Which do you prefer?
When choosing the best reverse osmosis alternative, it’s critical to consider your plan first. If all you want is daily purified drinking water for 1-3 people, then a water distiller might be a better option for you than an under-sink reverse osmosis system. If you require on-demand water for a larger household or want to use a whole house reverse osmosis system to supply your plumbing fixtures, then a distiller is not for you.
For people who want a near maintenance-free and simple water filtration experience, Berkey water purifiers and the ZeroWater glass water dispenser are the best options. Be sure to consider your home water filtration plan and daily water requirements before you choose between reverse osmosis and its alternatives.