The Best Reverse Osmosis Systems for 2020
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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 four 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 4 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
Home Master TMAFC
Express Water RO5DX5
Capacity: 90 gal/day
Capacity: 75 gal/day
Capacity: 50 gal/day
Capacity: 50 gal/day
Best for large families/high volume
Best for making water more alkaline
Best for ease of use
Best for being budget friendly
1 year warranty
1 year warranty
5 year warranty
1 year warranty
As you can see, these systems look a lot alike.
Three of them 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.
All of these models remove up to 99% of contaminants like chlorine, chloramines*, VOCs, fluoride, bacteria, viruses, lead, and other heavy metals.
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 them, so you'll want to check them out a little bit more closely.
Below are some summary reviews that will help you to see what the main differences are. I've also included links to more in-depth reviews if you want to dig deeper.
*According to the manufacturer, the APEC RO-90 "helps" to reduce chloramine. They say to contact them if you need full chloramine removal.
Premium Grade APEC Ultimate RO-90 Reverse Osmosis System
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!
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.
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who want a basic RO system that produces a high volume of filtered water every day. Great for large families.
iSpring RCC7AK 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System with Alkaline Remineralization
The iSpring RCC7AK is another WQA certified system. 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.
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.
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who want alkaline water.
Home Master TMAFC Artesian Full Contact RO Water Filter System
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.
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.
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who want alkaline water AND easy replacement filters.
Express Water RO5DX 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis System
This system is the least expensive of my Top 4 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."
BEST CHOICE FOR: Those who are on a tight budget and just want a basic system.
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.