reverse osmosis system

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.

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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.

Comparison Table: Best RO Systems

**This table is best viewed in horizontal orientation on mobile devices.**

Product

Capacity

Water Waste Ratio*

Filter Life

Warranty

Check Price

APEC RO-90

APEC RO-90 reverse osmosis system


90 gallons per day

1:3

RO & post-filter: 3-5 years;

Pre-filter: 1 year

1 Year

iSpring RCC7AK

iSpring reverse osmosis system

75 gallons per day

1:2

RO: 2-3 years;

Other filters: 3-6 months

1 year

Home Master TMAFC

Home Master TMAFC reverse osmosis system


50 gallons per day

1:3-4

All filters: 1 year

5 years

Express Water RO5DX5

Express Water RO5DX5 reverse osmosis system


50 gallons per day

1:4

All filters: 6-12 months

1 year

Water

Drop

WD-G3-W

Waterdrop G3 reverse osmosis system


400 gallons per day

1:1

RO: 2 years;

Pre-filter: 6 months;

Post-filter: 1 year

1 year

(Use coupon code MSG3 for $55 off)

*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.

Top 5 Reverse Osmosis Systems

In the table below, you'll find the top rated RO systems along with some basic comparison information.

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.

APEC RO-90 reverse osmosis system

See the APEC RO-90 at Amazon.

The RO-90 is APEC's top of the line basic RO filter system.  It meets NSF/ANSI 58 standards and is WQA certified. So you know it's undergone rigorous testing and it does what they say it does.

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 3200 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.

iSpring RCC7AK reverse osmosis system

Shop at Overstock for the iSpring RCC7AK.

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
  • Won't operate if containers are not in correctly
  • 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 filter

Home Master TMAFC reverse osmosis system

See the Home Master TMAFC and other available options at Perfect Water Technologies.

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.

Express Water RO5DX5 reverse osmosis system

Get this budget friendly RO system at Amazon.

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.

Waterdrop G3 reverse osmosis system

Grab a smart space saving tankless RO system at Waterdrop.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Changing the filters is easy. They just twist off and twist on. You can check the price of replacement filters at Amazon or buy them directly from Waterdrop.

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

  • Expensive
  • Can't use during power outage
  • Pump takes a few seconds to pressurize water line

Click here to check the current price at Amazon.

Click here to check the current price at Waterdrop. Save $55 off the G3  when you use coupon code MSG3 at checkout.


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?

glass with water & ice

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.

If the loss of minerals is a concern, you can get a system that adds minerals back to the water, like the APEC ROES-PH75, iSpring RCC7AK, or Home Master TMAFC.

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.

illustration of reverse osmosis system

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
  • Chlorine
  • Bad tastes and odors
  • Colors
  • 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

Suggested Reading - Chlorine vs Chloramine in Drinking Water: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

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 April 18, 2022

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  1. Very helpful, thank you. We use Waterdrop for years, and very cost-effective with good value. Use advanced activated carbon for high-efficiency filtration and maximum removal of impurities. It also makes my coffee taste better:)

  2. Looking for an RO since my old countertop Shaklee Best Water finally died after 18 years. Lots have changed since then and thanks to your website I have decided on The Home Master because of the east of filter replacement.
    I am wondering if the ROs of today also filter out the tiny bits of plastic that has entered our water taps?? Another question is, I have been using an ozone machine after a minimal filter while researching a new RO. Will I need to keep using it on RO water? It’s great for soaking produce to destroy viruses and bacteria too, by the way.

    1. Hi, Marcia! Reverse osmosis does remove microplastics from water. The RO membrane filters particles down to 0.001 micron, and microplastic particles are much larger than that. So, RO is one of the best ways to filter microplastics.

      I can’t answer your question about using an ozone machine because I haven’t done any research on it before. It sounds interesting, though!

  3. I am looking into the Aquasana as my mom and sister have it and are very happy. When might you review that one? I love your website and just purchased your number 1 recommended pitcher the RO is for my son and his family as a house gift. Are all water spigot opening sizes standard ? Do some take up more room under the sinK?

    1. Hi, Terri! I plan to review the Aquasana RO sometime in the next few months. There are so many I haven’t gotten to yet! The systems are all different, so you’ll need to look at the specific dimensions for each one to see how much room they take up under the sink. I think the faucet sizes are standard, but, again, you’ll need to check the manufacturer specs.

  4. Hello,

    I have seen Aquasana ro filters get good reviews on other sites and they make claims, backed up by testing, about removing many contaminants as these systems do. Why is Aquasana not one of your picks?

    Do you know which of these 4 systems wastes the least amount of water?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi, RT! Of these four models, the iSpring wastes the least amount of water. The ratio is 1:2. That is, for every gallon of filtered water, 2 gallons is wasted. Here are the ratios for the others: APEC 1:3, Home Master 1:3, Express Water 1:4. I just added that information to the comparison chart.

      I haven’t had a chance to review Aquasana yet, but I may soon.

    1. Hi, Tom! Interesting question! Reverse osmosis does filter out amoeba. From what I’ve read, the brain eating amoeba enter the body through the nose, not from drinking. So I suppose the main danger would be if you’re using water for a Neti pot. I’ve never heard of anyone getting brain eating amoeba from home tap water, though.

  5. The better Home Master units, also have a Permeate Pump, which brings the ratio of filtered water to waste water down to 1-1.
    All other systems, have a ratio of 1-4.
    So you waste 4 times more water with the other systems.

  6. Hi, I have a question. I’m considering both a softener and RO systems for my residential well water. My plumber uses Home Master. For RO, he recommended the WOW system, instead of the one here reviewed. Do you think is is comparable, better or worse? I AM interested in water re-mineralization / alkaline water. Their WOW RO system also seems more expensive. I will also look on this site to see is a Home Master softener system is advisable / high quality / durable, or if others are recommended. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Tina! Sorry, but I’m not familiar with WOW. I did find their website, though. It looks like a good system. If I were making the decision, I’d consider the initial price, annual cost of replacing the filters, and warranty.

  7. Hello. I have the i spring 7 stage RO system but the UV is currently not functioning so it’s really 6 stages. I was wondering if you have any info regarding whether or not it removes glyphosate. I’ve not been able to find any info on it. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi, Casey! I can’t tell you for sure, but generally reverse osmosis combined with carbon filtration will do a good job of removing glyphosate. I will contact iSpring to ask them for confirmation, and I’ll update here when I get an answer.

      1. Here’s the answer I got via email from iSpring: “Reverse osmosis will remove glyphosate from your water if any is present, but the exact percentage it removes will vary depending on your water quality.”

    1. Hi, Jay! Reverse osmosis filters are excellent for removing lead. All of the models in this review remove 99% of lead, according to the manufacturers.

    1. Hi, Lorraine! Although trihalomethanes are not in the list of contaminants removed on the CuZn website, we know that activated carbon is effective in removing or reducing this contaminant. So I would say, yes, it does. If you want to confirm that, you could contact CuZn directly,

      For anyone else interested, the CuZn filter Lorraine is referring to is included in another post, Your Guide to Today’s Best Under Sink Water Filters. It’s not a reverse osmosis system, so it’s not reviewed in this post.

  8. Hello, what are your thoughts on the Enviro RO system? I believe it’s the same as the Pelican 6 Stage RO system? I’m remodeling my kitchen and this is the one my plumber is suggesting. Thank you!

  9. Hi
    This info is extremely helpful. Thanks! I read an article on GAC systems filtering out PFAS but using less water and costing less than RO systems, however I am having trouble finding just GAC systems. Any thoughts?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi, Matt! You’re right – it’s about impossible to find a filter that uses only GAC (granulated activated carbon). That’s probably because GAC is limited in the kinds of contaminants it can remove. So most filter systems combine different filtration media for more effective contaminant reduction. And GAC isn’t as effective as a carbon block filter. That’s because the water stays in contact with the carbon for a longer period of time with the carbon block than it does with GAC. GAC is found most commonly in pitcher type water filters, by the way.

  10. Marge, I just found out about the AquaTru countertop 4-stage RO water filter ( http://www.aquatruwater.com; also can be seen on Amazon.com, and more info and demos on UTube). It requires no installation, plugs into an electric wall socket and is ready to go. It’s highly recommended by Ty Bollinger of the “Truth About Cancer” documentary series, and Ocean Robbins at his natural Food Revolution website. The Certified list of what’s removed looks impressive. Weighs only 15 lbs; very portable. I’m curious what you think from the descriptions? Now I’m having to decide between this system, or the ceramic AquaCera Aquavas gravity model…difficult to decide. The prices are comparable. The main difference is the AquaCera can handle more polluted water if there’s an emergency, the AquTru uses city tap water only–but AquaCera might be more breakable in an emergency. (I don’t want to use stainless steel model). I realize there are pro’s and con’s for everything. I greatly appreciate any input from you. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Barbara! I haven’t had a chance to look at the Aquatru in detail, but would like to sometime soon. Just looking at the Amazon reviews, it seems like it might not be very well made.

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About the Author

I'm a healthy living blogger who loves to help people who care about having a healthy home environment make smart choices and save money. Read more