There are many reasons to prefer filtered water. A big one is that they remove bad smells and tastes from the water. Filters also screen out unhealthy contaminants. Particulates like rust and dirt, for example, get trapped in the filter.
The differences come from which chemicals they can filter. You should have a filter that eliminates, at the least, lead and other heavy metals. Heavily chlorinated water can also be improved with the use of filters. Most do not filter fluoride or other useful additives out of the water.
Filters are also good for your refrigerator. Because they can remove contaminants, they also keep the lines in your refrigerator’s water system clearer of particles and chemicals that can adhere to lines and cause blockages. This is a good reason to keep the filters clean in your refrigerator, whether you care about drinking filtered water or not.
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Of course, the filtration system doesn’t do much good when the filters have stopped working. This is why it’s so important to change the filters as often as the manufacturer recommends. This will vary from model to model, of course.
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Some refrigerators have a warning system that will alert you with a “change filter” light or by changing the color of the light. This type of sensor uses volume of water filtered to determine the lifespan of a filter, which is the best way to judge. Refrigerators without this type of sensor give you a timeline on how often to change filters instead of a warning system. Again, the amount of time between filter changes will vary from three to six months, usually. If you use more water than the average, it can be a good idea to change the filters more often, as the timeline is based on average usage. With most systems, changing the filters is recommended after a certain amount of time, regardless of whether the system has indicated that it’s time to change the filters.
It can be difficult to remember when a filter was last changed, so you might want to write down the date. Digital reminders, such as those set on smart phones or computers, can be used to remind you. For a low-tech solution, you can write the date it was installed on a piece of tape and attach it to the filter.
Even with reminders, filter changing time can sneak up on you. As long as they are kept in a dry environment, replacement filters will not go bad, so it’s a good idea to keep one on hand to avoid using the water system without a good filter for too long. Buying in bulk can save you money, as well.