The Absolute Best Reverse Osmosis Systems for 2021
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If you've been shopping for a reverse osmosis system, you know there are a lot of brands and models out there to choose from. Doing the research takes a lot of time, and it can get pretty confusing.
Let me help you out.
After doing many, many hours of research myself, I've put together this review of what I think are the five best RO systems for home use. I hope it will clear up some of the confusion and help you find the product that meets your needs.
You can click on a topic in the quick navigation below, or scroll down to read the whole review.
Top 5 Reverse Osmosis Systems
In the table below, you'll find the top rated RO systems along with some basic comparison information.
Best RO System Comparison Table
Water Waste Ratio*
90 gallons per day
RO & post-filter: 3-5 years
Pre-filter: 1 year
75 gallons per day
RO: 2-3 years
Other filters: 3-6 months
Home Master TMAFC
50 gallons per day
Express Water RO5DX5
50 gallons per day
400 gallons per day
RO: 2 years
*Water waste ratio refers to the number of gallons wasted per gallon of filtered water. For example, 1:3 means that for each gallon of filtered water, 3 gallons of water are wasted down the drain.
As you can see, the first four systems look a lot alike. Three of those are in the same general price range, but the Express Water system is a good bit less expensive. The APEC RO-90 has the greatest capacity of the four.
The other model - the Waterdrop G3 - looks different because it doesn't have a water holding tank. It filters water the same way the others do, though. (More details further down the page.)
All of these models remove up to 99% of contaminants like chlorine, chloramines, VOCs, fluoride, bacteria, viruses, lead, and other heavy metals.
And, by the way, reverse osmosis is one of the most effective ways to filter out viruses. For more information, see Can Water Filters Remove Viruses?
A lot of people are concerned about lead contamination in their drinking water these days. Reverse osmosis is also one of the best ways to filter out lead.
There are some differences between these RO systems, so you'll want to check them out a little bit more closely.
Below are summary reviews that will help you to see what the main differences are. I've also included links to some more in-depth reviews if you want to dig deeper.
Premium Grade APEC Ultimate RO-90 (best basic RO system)
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who want a basic RO system that produces a high volume of filtered water every day. Great for large families.
It can produce up to 90 gallons of filtered water per day, depending on your water pressure. The storage tank holds 14 gallons - that's much larger than the other brands!
*Please note that, according to the manufacturer, the APEC RO-90 "helps" to reduce chloramine. They say to contact them if you need full chloramine removal.
The pre-filters last about 12 months, and the reverse osmosis membrane and post-filter last from 3 to 5 years.
Made in the USA, it comes with a 1-year warranty and lifetime free support. Reports are that APEC customer support is excellent and always willing to help if you need it.
APEC RO-90 Pros and Cons
What People Like
- Long lasting filters
- High capacity
- WQA certified
Don't Like So Much
- Wastes a lot of water
iSpring RCC7AK (best remineralizing RO system)
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who want alkaline water.
The iSpring RCC7AK 6-stage reverse osmosis system is also WQA certified, and it also removes up to 99% of contaminants.
What makes the RCC7AK different is the addition of a remineralization filter.
Reverse osmosis removes all the minerals from water, but some people prefer to have a slight mineral taste in their water. Also, RO can make water slightly acidic, so adding minerals back to the water makes it more alkaline.
This one can produce up to 75 gallons of filtered water per day, and the flow rate of the faucet is 2 gallons per minute. The capacity of the holding tank is 3.2 gallons. It comes with a pump (non-electric) to help keep up the water pressure.
The RO membrane will last 2 to 3 years, and the other filters about 3 to 6 months.
That's not as good as the APEC RO-90, but the iSpring replacement filters are less expensive than the APEC ones.
It has a 1-year warranty and a 30-day money back guarantee. Customer service is helpful and responsive.
iSpring RCC7AK Pros and Cons
What People Like
- Adds minerals back to water
- Good capacity
- WQA certified
Don't Like So Much
- Pump can be loud
Home Master TMAFC Artesian Full Contact RO (best for ease of use)
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who want alkaline water AND easy replacement filters.
The Home Master TMAFC removes contaminants just like the other systems do.
Like the iSpring, this model remineralizes the water, but it does it twice during the filtering process.
The first addition of minerals happens just before the water goes into the storage tank. This is because more acidic water will degrade the storage tank. By adding minerals and raising the pH of the water, the tank will last longer.
Minerals are added to the water a second time after the water leaves the storage tank, on it's way to the faucet.
One major difference with Home Master is that each filter and its housing (canister) are a single unit. With other brands, you take the old filter out of the canister and put a new filter into the old canister.
But with Home Master, you replace the whole thing. This makes filter replacement a lot easier. It also prevents leaking and contamination that can happen when canisters get old.
Another big plus is the extra large tubing and fittings that allow water to flow twice as fast as other brands.
This model can produce up to 50 gallons of filtered water per day, and the storage tank holds 3.2 gallons. You might get less than 50 gallons a day if your water pressure isn't adequate. In that case, you might want to buy an optional permeate pump.
The filters last for 2,000 gallons or one year.
It's backed by a 5-year limited warranty, and it's made in the USA.
Interested in more options like a different faucet, bigger tank, or refrigerator kit?
No problem! You can upgrade this system when you purchase directly from the manufacturer, Perfect Water Technologies.
Click here to shop at Perfect Water, and use the code HealthyFreeRO for free shipping.
Home Master TMAFC Pros and Cons
What People Like
- Remineralizes the water
- Super easy filter replacement
- 5 year warranty
Don't Like So Much
- High water waste ratio
- Cheap looking faucet
Express Water RO5DX (best budget-friendly RO system)
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who are on a tight budget and just want a basic system.
This 5-stage reverse osmosis system is the least expensive of my top picks, but it seems to be just as effective as the others.
The Express Water RO5DX can produce 50 gallons of filtered water per day, and the tank holds 4 gallons.
The filters last from 6 to 12 months, depending on the quality of your input water and how much you use. It comes with an extra set of replacement filters. This may be a limited time offer, though.
Users report that it's easy to install and that customer support is very good.
There's a one year warranty on this system.
I've been trying to find out where the Express Water systems are made. I know that they're shipped out of California, but the country of origin is not clear. I've sent a message to them requesting that information. When I get an answer, I will update this post.
Update: I never did hear back from the company, but I found a couple of reviews that said some of the parts are marked "made in Taiwan."
Express Water RO5DX Pros and Cons
What People Like
- Budget friendly
- Color coded for easy assembly
- Excellent customer support
Don't Like So Much
- Very high waste water ratio
- Short filter life
Waterdrop WD-G3-W (best tankless reverse osmosis system)
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those with limited space under the sink and/or who want to conserve water.
Tankless reverse osmosis filter systems like the Waterdrop G3 are relatively new and have become quite popular.
Because there’s no holding tank, it doesn’t take up a lot of space under your sink. It also means that your drinking water hasn’t been sitting around at room temperature in a tank, so it’s ultra fresh.
The Waterdrop G3 has a super fast flow rate of 400 GPD (gallons per day). Compare that to a traditional RO system with a tank, which is generally about 50 GPD. It’s fast because it has an electric pump and doesn’t just rely on water pressure to push water through the system.
Keep in mind, though, that if you have a power outage, you won’t be able to filter your water unless you have it hooked up to a generator.
This RO system also has a much better ratio of waste water to filtered water than traditional systems - 1:1 instead of 1:2-4. So if conserving water is important to you, this is a big plus.
Like all reverse osmosis filtration systems, this one has several stages. This one has 7 stages, contained within 3 filter cartridges:
- CF: a 3-in-1 pre-filter that blocks small particles of rust, sand, and suspended solids. It also removes chlorine and some other impurities, plus bad taste and odors. It’s made of activated carbon block sandwiched between two layers of PP (polypropylene) cotton. PP (#5 plastic) is the safest of all plastics and is approved for food and beverage storage.
- RO: a triple layer Dow brand reverse osmosis membrane that removes microbiological contaminants like bacteria, viruses and cysts, heavy metals, fluoride, arsenic, and many other organic and inorganic pollutants.
- CB: - another activated carbon block filter to give the water a final polishing and remove any lingering bad tastes or odors.
Made in China, the Waterdrop G3 is NSF/ANSI certified to Standard 58 and Standard 372. It’s also UL listed. So, you know it’s safe to use and the contaminant reduction claims are valid.
Click here to see the lab test results for the G3.
Another great feature of this model is the smart TDS monitoring panel that monitors your water quality. Indicator lights change colors to tell you when it’s time to replace each of the filters - blue means good, yellow means replace soon, and red means replace now.
You have to touch the indicators to get a reading, so they also made the faucet with an indicator light that stays on all the time. The colors have the same meanings as the indicators on the panel.
It’s good that it has these indicators because the three filters have to be changed at different intervals:
- CF pre-filter - every 6 months or 550 gallons
- RO membrane - every 24 months or 2200 gallons
- CB post carbon filter - every 12 months or 1100 gallons
Along with the color indicators, the digital display gives you a TDS reading so you can be sure everything is working properly. As long as the number is over 90, you’re good.
The display will also tell you if there’s some kind of malfunction like a leak inside the unit or if the pump has been overworked. If there’s a problem with the pump, it’ll shut down automatically. All these safeguards help the system function better and last longer without you having to pay a lot of attention to it.
Everything you need to install the system is included. But, you’ll need to drill a hole for the faucet in your countertop or sink, and another hole in the drain pipe.
Plus, you need an electric outlet inside the cabinet or on an adjacent wall to plug it in. In the case of a wall outlet, you’ll need to make a hole in the cabinet for the power cord to pass through.
So, if you’re not comfortable doing all that, you might want to hire out the installation. If you choose to do it yourself, the instructions are clear, and you can always call Waterdrop for technical support if you’re having trouble.
The dimensions are 18.1 x 5.7 x 17.8 inches. Be sure to measure your space and make sure it’ll fit before you decide to buy one of these.
Waterdrop offers a 1 year limited warranty and 30 day money back guarantee on this product. Along with that, they offer lifetime technical support.
Waterdrop G3 Pros and Cons
What People Like
- Space saving - no tank
- Very low water waste ratio
- Easy to change filters
- Never run out of water - high capacity
- Good flow of water
- NSF certified
Don't Like So Much
- Can't use during power outage
- Pump takes a few seconds to pressurize water line
Reverse Osmosis FAQs
Chances are you have some questions about reverse osmosis. Below I've included some questions and answers that I hope will help you decide if an RO system is right for you.
What are the benefits of reverse osmosis water?
The main advantage of reverse osmosis is that it removes up to 99% of almost all contaminants from drinking water.
RO filtration also removes bad tastes and odors from the water. That makes sense, since it's contaminants that give water an off taste and smell.
A few other perks of having a reverse osmosis system include:
- better tasting water for cooking
- better tasting coffee, tea, and ice cubes
- sodium free water for those with dietary sodium restrictions
- safe water for cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems
- more economical and better for the environment than bottled water
- makes ideal water for aquariums and hydroponics
What are the disadvantages of drinking RO water?
One objection that people have to RO water is that it removes beneficial minerals along with everything else.
The counter argument is that there is only a tiny amount of minerals in water to begin with. And, anyway, we get plenty of minerals from the food we eat.
Another result of taking out the minerals is that the water becomes slightly more acidic. What you want to aim for is pH neutral water, in the range of 6.5 to 7.5.
The final pH of RO filtered water will depend in part on the pH of your input water.
You can always get an inexpensive pH tester and test the pH of your water if you want to know exactly what it is.
How does reverse osmosis work?
A reverse osmosis filter system is made up of several parts, or stages. That's why you'll see them called 5-Stage or 6-Stage, or maybe even higher numbers.
First the water goes through three filters that capture contaminants like dirt, chemicals, and bad tastes and odors.
Then it passes through the reverse osmosis membrane. This membrane has tiny pores that allow clean water to pass through while blocking contaminants like bacteria, viruses, pesticides, and fluoride.
After leaving the RO membrane, the clean water goes into a storage tank, and the impurities go down the drain. The water gets one final filtering on its way from the storage tank to the faucet.
Depending on the model, there may be one or two other stages of filtration that the water passes through.
This video shows how a reverse osmosis system is set up and how it works. It's showing an APEC, but all the brands work the same way.
What does reverse osmosis remove?
Here's a list of what a reverse osmosis membrane removes, according to the CDC:
- Protozoa (such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia)
- Bacteria (such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli)
- Viruses (such as Enteric, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Rotavirus)
- Common chemical contaminants such as lead, chromium, chloride, copper, sodium, arsenic, fluoride, radium, nitrate, sulfate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus
And here's what the other filters in the system remove:
- Dust, dirt and rust
- Bad tastes and odors
- VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
Does reverse osmosis remove fluoride?
Yes, reverse osmosis is one of the few types of filters than can remove or greatly reduce fluoride.
Does reverse osmosis remove chloramine?
Yes, most reverse osmosis systems will remove or reduce chloramine because they include activated carbon filters as part of the process.
The models in this review that claim to reduce chloramine are:
- iSpring RCC7AK
- Home Master TMAFC
- Express Water RO5DX5
Why is reverse osmosis water acidic?
Minerals in water naturally make it more alkaline. By removing the minerals from the water, reverse osmosis lowers the pH, resulting in more acidic water.
Why does reverse osmosis waste water?
The contaminants blocked by the reverse osmosis membrane have to go somewhere. Water carries the contaminants down the drain.
The waste water to clean water ratio varies from system to system.
That's something to consider when choosing a model.
The thing to remember, though, is that we're only talking about your drinking water. The water you use for your toilet, laundry, cleaning, and bathing doesn't go through the reverse osmosis system.
Drinking water is a small percentage of the total amount of water you use.
And if you're really resourceful, you could collect the waste water and use it for something else, like scrubbing the floor, watering the garden, or washing your car.
Have another question? Feel free to leave it in a comment below, and I'll do my best to find the answer if I don't know it already.
Last Updated on February 8, 2021