What is the Difference Between Filtered Water, Distilled Water and Tap Water
The water that comes into your home is vital to your health and well-being, but can you drink it without worrying about what's riding in with the water? That's a question more and more people are asking, especially as stories about municipal water mis-management issues like those in Flint, MI, come to light. Understanding your options for safe water and the issues underlying tap water access in your area are both important to making the right choice. Before you can do that, though, you need to understand the difference between filtered water, distilled water and tap water.
So What Is Tap Water?
This is the easiest term, it's literally just water out of the tap. Where it comes from and how pure it is depends a lot on where you live. In cities, water tends to be treated before being piped into your house. Often, this treatment eliminates biological hazards like bacteria but introduces other contaminants like a chlorine disinfectant and disinfection by-products in the process. In most cities, treatment also introduces fluoride which can help with dental health at low levels, but cause skeletal fluorosis and neurotoxicity at higher levels.
In rural areas, fluoridated water is less common because more people depend on wells that draw from groundwater.The purity of well water is highly dependent on the purity of the local water table, which means it can be affected by changes like industrial pollution very quickly. It's possible for tap water from a well to test out as pure and healthy for decades, only to turn contaminated after rapid industrial development in an area. Wells can be prone to biological contamination under some circumstances, so annual purity testing and safety inspections are vital if you're using a well on your property.
While the treated water in cities should be more predictably pure than well water, the introduction of chlorine and other substances to address high risk contaminants can pose their own risks. Additionally, the high population density and increased commercial and industrial activity in cities contribute to the presence of contaminants in the water table, many of which are not removed by water treatment programs or even monitored. Those include residual pharmaceutical substances that are improperly disposed of, as well as industrial chemicals that lie outside the range of testing used by municipal water departments.
Differences Between Distilled and Filtered Water
Distilled water is purified by reducing it to its constituent elements and then allowing them to re-bond in a controlled way, so there's absolutely nothing dissolved in the final distillation. It's just pure water. That sounds ideal at first, but keep in mind that humans and other living things evolved in situations where completely pure water was unknown. Even surgically sterile water typically contains some trace minerals, including salt. Distilled water has none. As a result, people who drink it frequently say it has a different texture or even taste than they expect.
Filtered water does not produce that same level of purity, but it gets very close. Depending on the type of filter, it is possible to practically eliminate contaminants while leaving helpful minerals intact. It all depends on the size of the filter and the filtration method. Carbon filters can achieve a high degree of purity with little loss of water, and they operate quite quickly. For maximum purity without distillation, though, reverse osmosis methods outcompete carbon filters. They're less efficient, but the result is great tasting water without the odd characteristics that are often noted in distilled water.
Costs of Filtration vs. Distillation
When weighing pros and cons of filtered water, cost is one of the biggest considerations. Carbon filters tend to be the most cost-efficient, whether they're used in countertop units or larger household systems. Filters are a little cheaper to replace and less water is lost by the filter, but there's also less control over the final product. Reverse osmosis costs a bit more but allows for control over the product so you can enjoy mineral water out of the tap when remineralization is included in the system design. Using remineralization following reverse osmosis is crucial for water used to make coffee. Distillation is the most expensive and longest process, and chances are you won't find a competitively priced home distillation unit that can supply your whole house.
That's not an accident. Distilling water is quite energy intensive at small scales, and the companies that provide it to the consumer market make it affordable by producing it at industrial scales. A small home distillation system isn't really cost-effective, and the situations where distilled water provides a noticeable benefit over filtered water are rare enough that it's more cost-effective to buy your distilled water in containers while filtering your daily drinking and washing water.
So When Is Distilled Water Preferred?
Some home medical equipment specifically instructs the user to rely on distilled water for warranty compliance. CPAP machines commonly have this requirement, as do some kinds of mechanical home dental care equipment. The performance difference between filtered and distilled water in these situations tends to be quite small, but some connoisseurs are adamant about them. Beyond those common scenarios, most of the situations where distilled water provides a clear advantage are niche applications, like hobby projects that use specialized fabrication methods or home chemistry experiments designed to help kids learn science in more hands-on ways. Therefore filtered water is all you need!
Picking a Filtered Water Home Filtration System
Not everyone is in a place where an investment in a full home filtration system is a good idea. That's why there are options like single-tap units or even pitcher systems that sit on the countertop. If you're looking for a low-cost way to start providing your family with better drinking water, it's easy to get started. Check out our under counter and counter top systems and more now.