Water Filtering Made Crystal Clear

You have lots of choices when it comes to products that filter your home drinking water.

To help narrow the search for the best water products, Consumer Reports tested 38 purifiers for the best water results. And on "The Early Show" Wednesday, Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor of Consumer Reports, shared their top findings in five categories: carafe, faucet-mounted, countertop, under sink, and reverse-osmosis.

View the Consumer Reports water filter results

For its tests, Consumer Reports spiked water with lead and chloroform (a surrogate for organic compounds like atrazine, and benzene and for bad taste) to test the 38 models. While many filters did the job, some removed less of each contaminant than promised, and even the best can be overwhelmed by surges in contaminants.

Carafe Filter
Brita Smart Pitcher $32

The Brita Smart Pitcher 0B39/42632 ($32) offers superior clog resistance but isn't claimed to remove organics. It's also going to cost you about $48/year. The cost of a filter is not the only cost; you have to take it into consideration changing the filter cartridges. And when you don't change them you end up dumping contaminants back in the water. This one stuck out because it was excellent at removing lead and bad taste and it had a very good flow rate which means it didn't take a long time for the pitcher to filter the water.

Carafes tend to be inexpensive and don't require professional installation; however they are not suited for households requiring more than a couple of gallons of water a day. If you've got a large family you would need more than one. Filter life is relatively short. Carafe models cost $20 to $40, plus $40 to $100 per year for additional filters.

Faucet-Mounted Filter
Culligan FM-15A $15

The Culligan FM-15A costs $15, part of the reason it stood out it performs really great at a low price point. It did an excellent job at removing lead, removing contaminants and improving taste. With the faucet-mounted filters, they're pretty easy to install. It's quick to switch between filtered and unfiltered water.

Cons: The water coming out can be a little bit of slow. You also can't use them if you have a pull down or spray faucet.

Countertop Filter
The Aquasana AQ-4000 $100

The Aquasana AQ-4000 ($100) is excellent at removing lead and chloroform and improving taste and clarity. It's worth it if you need to filter a large volume of water, like if you have a big family.

Countertop models are good at filtering large volumes of water without any plumbing work, all you do is hook it up to the faucet, however they can add to countertop clutter and can't be used with most spray or pull-down faucets. Prices vary from $50 up to $300, plus $50 to $100 per year in replacement filters. It's a very good price point at $100.

Under Sink Filter
Culligan Preferred Series 350 $145

The Culligan Preferred Series 350 ($145) has one of the longest-lasting filters.

Under sink models require plumbing, sink, or countertop changes but can filter large volumes of water without cluttering the countertop. Price ranges from $100 to $550, plus $50 to $150 per year in replacement filters. You don't have to modify your faucet. The cons is its going to take up room underneath and it will require you to do some plumbing work and you're going to have a hole in the countertop for the water dispenser...which may or may not end up being a big deal.

Reverse-Osmosis Filter
Omni R02000 $230

It's a last resort if you have serious water issues, meaning many contaminants in your water. If you're on a well and a report says there are contaminants you would want to have this type of system, for those people it's either this or bottled water.

This model did an excellent job of removing lead and contaminants from water, but like other systems, it's not one that everyone needs.

These filters remove the widest range of contaminants, including arsenic, but they require plumbing modifications and periodic sanitizing with bleach. These models also waste three to five gallons of water for every gallon filtered and some are slow. Consumers should expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $900, plus $100 to $200 per year in filters or professional servicing.