Reverse osmosis sounds like something we learned in science class, but what does a reverse osmosis water filter do? In a nutshell, it helps homeowners get better-tasting water by removing certain elements. After installing a reverse osmosis system, many folks appreciate the high-quality water that comes out of their taps; the water tends to taste and smell better, and the ice cubes are clear.

“It’s as if you’re drinking bottled water without the bottles,” says Mike Paice, a water specialist with the Sunny Plumber in Las Vegas.

Evian-quality water flowing freely from your kitchen faucet? It sounds like a real money saver, especially if you frequently buy bottled water. Read on to learn if installing an RO water filter in your home is a good decision for you.

What is a reverse osmosis water filter?

Water that runs through an RO system is filtered a number of times: through two different types of liquids and a permeable film that allows through only the water molecules. Therefore, the water that comes out of your faucet will be rid of impurities but still have important minerals.

RO systems are typically installed under the kitchen sink, and the filtered water comes out of a separate faucet. The filtration system can have anywhere from two to five filters, but the number of filters isn’t as important as the integrity of the filters, says Paice.

The two filters you’ll want to look for are carbon and sediment. These filters will remove contaminants such as Giardia, salmonella, E. coli, and Norovirus, and common chemicals, including sodium, chloride, copper, chromium, and lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Paice says to make sure the water filter you purchase is certified by the Water Quality Association.

RO water filters last about 10 years.

Reasons to not install a reverse osmosis filter

If your home’s water pressure is below 65 psi (pounds per square inch) or higher than 100 psi, you might have issues with an RO system.

When you put water in a filter system, it reduces the water pressure. If the water pressure is too low, your ice maker won’t get enough water and your showers will be miserable.

But if the pressure is too high, the pipes on the RO system can break and potentially flood your home. This is rare, but it can happen. If you’re seriously considering installing an RO filter, the smartest thing to do is consult a plumber to determine if it will work with your home’s water system.

If you want to test your home’s water pressure yourself, place a pressure gauge on your hose bibb, aka the faucet on your home’s exterior. If water pressure is an issue, you can still get a filter, but you’re more likely to have problems, says Mike Donley, president of Phoenix-based Donley Plumbing and Air Conditioning.

Demineralizing the water can remove beneficial elements such as calcium or fluoride from the water. But cooking with demineralized water is also shown to keep essential elements from food, so it might be wise to speak with your doctor before installing an RO filter.


One of the biggest advantages of an RO system is that you can install it and not bother with it for a while. They’re very low maintenance, and the filters need to be changed only once a year. You can do this yourself or hire a pro. If you go the DIY route, make sure you’re buying the appropriate filter for your system and that you shut the water off before you change the filters. The cost of a visit from a plumber is about $150, says Donley.

Every few years, you’ll have to repressurize the storage tank, which is a job for your plumber.

Installation and cost

The average cost of an RO system, including installation, is $500 to $700, according to Donley.

If you’re having a system installed, you’ll want to clear out the space underneath the sink for the plumber. Installation will take a few hours. Afterward, you’ll have to flush the system out a few times. You also won’t be able to drink from the faucet when the system is being flushed out and the storage tank fills with water. But within a half-day, you should have fresh drinking water.

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Published Date: April 16 2018