“Best reverse osmosis system” or “best RO system” is one of the most popular search terms on the internet when people come to find a reverse osmosis system for their home.
No doubt, they want the best unit, but the internet is full of recommendations from many websites, reviewers, and influencers.
So, finding the best reverse osmosis system for you is not easy at all.
In a bid to help you pick the right RO unit, we’ve put together here the top models with scores based on their position in the recommendations and in the search results.
First, here are the top 20 reverse osmosis systems recommended for 2023 by the top 10 websites that appear on the first page of search results.
Then you will find how we collected the list with their score.
|Home Master TMHP HydroPerfection
|AquaTru – Countertop
|APEC Water Systems ROES-50 – Essence 5-Stage
|Express Water RO5DX
|NU Aqua Tankless 600 GPD
|APEC Water Systems RO-CTOP-PHC
|Express Water ROALKUV10M UV
|Crystal Quest 1000CP
|Home Master TMAFC Artesian Full Contact
|Brondell RC100 H2O+ Circle
|Brio ROP100 Amphora
|Home Master TMAFC-ERP Artesian
|APEC Water Systems RO-90 – Ultimate
|NU Aqua 7-Stage
Reverse Osmosis System
A reverse osmosis water filter system is a water purification system that uses filtration cartridges that include a pre-filter, thin semi-permeable membrane, post-filter, and other accessories to remove undesirable materials and provide clean water for drinking and other purposes.
The process involves using pressure to force the water molecules to flow through the semipermeable membrane while stopping bigger molecules such as bacteria and other impurities.
With the capability of removing up to 99% of all contaminants in the water including dissolved inorganic minerals, reverse osmosis systems offer the most effective water filtration solution available on the market today.
They really do a great job when it comes to purifying water compared to various different types of systems out there.
Therefore, we’ve put together this comprehensive review article comprising some of the top models you can consider when looking for the best RO system for your household.
We take a closer look at each unit to give you a complete overview of what makes them stand out and why they are the ideal option compared to the rest. Also included is a buyer’s guide that provides all the necessary information you need to arm yourself with when making your selection.
Filtration Stages Of An RO System
The RO system basically involves 3 main filtration stages, Pre-filter, RO membrane, and Post-filter stage. Here is a closer look at what happens in each of these stages.
The first stage in the RO water filter system is pre-filter and its main purpose is to protect the RO membrane by filtering chlorine and fluoride and removing larger sediment as well as some dissolved solids.
Sediment filters which are often made of Polypropylene are primarily the first line of defense in the RO method. They reduce or completely remove suspended particles such as dirt, rust, organic materials, and sediments from the water down to 5 microns.
The granular activated carbon filter is commonly used to remove natural organic compounds, chemical contaminants, taste, and odor. It also reduces a range of other dissolved contaminants, particularly chlorine.
CTO Carbon block filters on the other hand basically have a filtration capability of about 0.5 to 10 microns which makes them quite helpful for removing chlorine, fluorides, taste, and odor, as well as for particulate filtration and insoluble lead reduction.
These pre-filters are essential because they help conserve the RO membrane which can get damaged due to exposure to too much chlorine and fluoride which are often found in municipal water or get clogged by excess sediment.
The RO membrane is a Thin-film composite membrane (TFC) which is typically a semi-permeable membrane made of two or more layered materials. It’s considered a molecular sieve with pores sized from 0.001 to 0.0001 microns.
The RO membrane is essentially the critical point of the RO system as its extremely tiny pores have a high rejection rate of around 95 to 98%.
It’s very effective and aids in removing microscopic contaminants such as bacteria, and viruses from the water, as well as dissolved solids like sodium and calcium.
Before the water is ready for use, it goes through a final stage which consists of one or more post-filters that help remove any remaining contaminant that may have slipped past the membrane.
This stage can consist of several other stages including carbon filter, UV light filtration, and PH & Alkaline remineralization, all serving different purposes.
The carbon filter gives the water one last polish by extracting any remaining chlorine, contaminants, odors, or taste residues missed by the membrane and the other pre-filters.
Many RO systems incorporate a further stage of filtration that involves an alkaline or PH filter. The purpose of this stage is to add or restore healthy minerals to the water which may have been removed as a result of the RO filtration process. The filters also help raise the PH of the water to more alkaline levels hence reducing the acidity of the water.
An optional stage in some RO systems is Ultra Violet light filtration which involves the use of UV rays to destroy germs and microbes after the RO stage. This stage helps kill harmful contaminants and bacteria giving you pure and healthy water to drink and use.
Other Basic Components of a RO System
Most RO systems have the same basic components and basically, work the same way. The only difference comes in the quality of the components used and how they look. With that said, the following are the main basic components that make up an RO system and its functions.
Inlet Line and Valve
The inlet line and valve are the first points of the RO process. They are positioned between the RO system and the main water supply to let water gets into the RO system.
These components are simple but crucial.
The Auto Shut-Off Valve (SOV)
To help conserve water, the RO system is equipped with an automatic shut-off valve which closes immediately the RO storage tank is full thereby stopping any more water supply through the membrane.
The valve activates when the pressure in the tank is around 2/3 of the feed pressure which helps prevent an over-spill of the water tank.
Once the water is drawn from the faucet, the tank pressure drops and the valve opens to allow the drinking water to pass through the membrane while diverting the contaminated wastewater down the drain.
Also known as a backflow prevention valve, the check valve is positioned just in the RO membrane outlet end and its work is to solely let water out so as to prevent any backflow of the already treated water from the storage tank.
Due to the pressurized RO system, a backward flow could ultimately rupture the RO membrane. Therefore, the check valve ensures water doesn’t flow backward from the system.
The flow restrictor is often located at the RO drain line just after the membrane. Since the RO process operates at very high pressure, the flow restrictor helps maintain the water flow at the correct level required to ensure the system runs smoothly to deliver the highest quality drinking water.
Regulating the water flow also helps with the system’s efficiency as excess water doesn’t get washed.
The RO storage tank holds the purified water once the reverse osmosis process is complete. There are two bladders inside the tank that keep the water pressurized which enables it to exit when the faucet is opened.
The pressure also enables more water to enter the tank only until it is 2/3 of the water inlet pressure. Most standard RO storage tanks have a capacity of 2-4 gallons although the size can range from 2 to 9 gallons.
RO Faucet: Normal/Air Gap
At the end of the RO system is the RO faucet which is normally installed on the kitchen sink. It’s what you use to dispense the purified water. It can be an air gap faucet or a normal faucet, but the most common of the two is the non-air gap model.
The drain line connects the outlet end of the RO membrane housing to a waste pipe and its purpose is to dispose of the wastewater containing all the impurities filtered out by the RO system.
The RO system is a pressure-driven process and as such its efficiency often relies on the incoming water pressure of the feeding system.
Low inlet pressure will ultimately affect the performance of the system and even compromise the water quality produced if it’s below 45 psi.
A typical RO system operates better at a water pressure of at least 50 psi. Therefore, a boost pump is used to raise the water pressure going into the system when it’s low.
It’s an optional component as the typical city water pressure is usually 60 psi and RO units can run well under this pressure. However, they can are even much better when using the RO booster pump as it can increase the water pressure to 80 psi or even higher.
Reverse Osmosis System Working Process
The RO system is basically reverse osmosis as it uses external pressure to reverse the natural osmosis process.
By applying external pressure, the system overcomes the natural osmotic pressure thereby forcing the water containing different kinds of dissolved contaminants through a semipermeable membrane.
The membrane only allows the water molecules as well as some other smaller organic molecules to pass through while blocking unwanted molecules and larger particles.
These filtered contaminants are then flushed away thereby leaving clean, fresh drinking water. Typically, the efficiency of any RO system will rely on the water pressure feeding into the system.
Here are the steps.
- When the pressurized water first enters the system, it passes through the prefiltration stage which consists of several filters including a sediment filter, granular activated carbon filter (GAC), and CTO Carbon block filters. Here, contaminants like sediments, chlorine, dirt, salt, and odor that may damage or clog the RO membrane are removed.
- After pre-filtration, the water is then forced through the RO membrane where the smallest impurities and dissolved particles down to 0.0001 microns are trapped. Only water passes through the membrane at this stage as well as some other very tiny molecules.
- After the water exits the membrane, the clean drinking water flows to the RO storage tank where it’s stored until needed while the wastewater containing the removed contaminants gets flushed away in the drain line.
- Finally, once you open the faucet, the treated water goes through a final postfiltration stage which effectively polishes the water and removes any remaining contaminants that may have slipped past the membrane before it enters the faucet for consumption.
What Can An RO System Remove
The RO process can remove a wide range of contaminants from dissolved to suspend ones both organic and inorganic including bacteria and viruses. The RO membrane consists of tiny pores ranging from 0.0001 to 0.001 microns.
Therefore, only water molecules get through while all other contaminants of larger size are collected and flushed away. This includes dirt, dissolved salt, rust, metallic ions, fluoride, chlorine, nitrates and nitrites, cryptosporidium (cyst), bacteria, viruses, and more.
What May Not Be Removed
In theory, some dissolved gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia may permeate the RO membrane without being removed. Other molecules and dissolved organic matter like formaldehyde and methanol may also pass through the membrane.
According to experts some bacteria and viruses may as well get through the RO membrane although it’s quite rare. An RO system fitted with UV light filtration can help remove all living organisms and viruses.
How To Find Your Best Reverse Osmosis System
Reverse osmosis provides a very effective solution to purifying water, but like any other device that you invest your hard-earned cash on, you want to make sure you choose the best system for your home.
With this in mind, here are some key factors that you should consider when purchasing a reverse osmosis system.
The first thing you want to consider before you proceed to purchase a reverse osmosis system is the type of source water that will go into the system. The two most common water sources are well water and municipally treated water or city water.
The type of water source you use will largely determine the type of unit you choose. If you use city water that has undergone treatment, then the water is relatively free of bacteria and chemicals.
It might also contain some level of inorganic dissolved contaminants, so it’s not completely contaminant-free. In this case, a basic or entry-level reverse osmosis system can do a great job. It will give sufficient filtration to give you fresh, clean water.
If your source is well water, then there’s potential for chemicals and harmful pathogens. Therefore, you will need a unit with a powerful filtration system like the iSpring RCC7AK-UV.
An advanced reverse osmosis system such as the iSpring RCC7AK-UV above is the best because they are able to eliminate all kinds of contaminants in both well water and city water.
The second important thing you should consider is the amount of water you and your family use. You want to make sure you account for everything from drinking to cooking to cleaning to even all your water-using appliances like ice machines and refrigerators.
Most RO systems have a capacity of 50 gallons per day which is enough for a relatively small household. There are other systems that can produce 75 to 90 gallons each day. If you have a large family then a system that delivers 75 gallons or more will be enough.
The filtration process and the number of stages are also important features to consider when shopping for a reverse osmosis system. Most units have around 3 to 5 stages of filtration.
Some more advanced systems like the iSpring RCC7AK-UV feature 6 to 7 stages of filtration. These systems come with additional filters like the remineralization filter and Ultraviolet (UV light) filter.
Systems with 3 to 5 stages are ideal for most applications particularly if you reside in an urban area or your source is municipally treated water. They have all the mandatory filters required to remove all contaminants remaining in the water.
If your source is well water, then the best option would be an advanced RO system with 6 to 7 filtration stages.
Water from wells has high levels of contaminants. They require thorough filtering and an advanced system like iSpring RCC7AK-UV with 7 powerful filters that can effectively clean even the foulest water.
Generally here, the more the number of stages a unit has the better and much effective filtration, purification, and sterilization process the water will undergo. Therefore, make sure you choose a unit that has more than three stages so that you are guaranteed at least some good results.
The RO system is designed such that there is always wastewater produced. That’s how the technology works. So, if you are sensitive when it comes to your water bills, then this is a factor that you would want to consider too.
How much is too much and how much is reasonable? That’s the question that you need to ask yourself. The most preferred ratio is either 1 gallon of wastewater for every gallon of purified water or 2 gallons of wastewater for each gallon of purified water.
However, most units will produce 3 gallons of wastewater for a gallon of purified water. Basically here, the higher the capacity of the unit the more likely it’s going to produce a lot of wastewater. So, your choice will depend on your water demand but make sure not to pick something that produces more than 4 gallons of waste for a gallon of purified water.
Filter Life and Replacement
The main cost of the RO system is in replacing filters. It’s a long-term running cost and as such you want to ensure you pick a unit whose filters have a longer lifespan. Cheap filters usually require frequent replacements due to their shorter lifespan and as a result, they end up costing more in the long term.
Look for models that have pre-filters that are changed at least once a year. The lifespan of the other filters should range from 2 to 5 years. That way, you will be able to maintain optimum performance and reduce your running cost.
In general, reverse osmosis systems are one of the best and most effective water purification systems available for households.
When you install an RO system, you can be guaranteed pure, great-tasting, healthy drinking water right from your kitchen faucet.
It’s a smart investment that will not only help keep you and your family healthy but will also save you a lot of money in the long run as you will be spending less on bottled water.
The benefits of using a reverse osmosis system to purify your water are countless. They offer one of the most effective and advanced ways of producing clean water. However, to benefit from an RO system you need to pick the best system that will address your particular needs.
The ten options we reviewed above represent some of the top models you would find in the market both in terms of performance and price. The iSpring RCC7AK and the Home Master TMAFC Artesian system in fact offer great value for the money for those looking for quality.
If you live in the suburbs where the source of water is a well or just want a more thorough filtration system, then I would highly recommend the iSpring RCC7AK-UV.
All in all, you should go for a unit that will address all your needs and is suitable for your particular water source. Use the guide above to evaluate every option you consider and in the end, you will be able to pick the right unit for you and your family.