Bottled water sales in the US have never been higher, despite what all of the trendy reusable and you see at the gym may have you believe. Not only is that bad news from an environmental perspective (plastic is literally everywhere now), but financially, buying bottled water on the regular isn't cheap.
If you're concerned about your water quality, you might want to consider investing in a water filter to get that bottled quality right from your tap. You've got several options, from Brita, Pur and other manufacturers, and can buy either a filter that connects directly to your sink, or a pitcher or dispenser that sits in your fridge.
I priced out how much you can save using athat connects directly to your tap -- the bestselling option on Amazon. I compared using the filters and their filter replacements to the cost of buying bottles of Aquafina, Dasani or Nestle Pure Life (among the top-selling bottled water brands) each week. Here's what I found. (You can also check out , and .)
Brita filter vs. Aquafina vs. Dasani vs. Nestle Pure Life
|Price per year (one 16 oz. bottle of water/day)||$70||$252||$108||$300|
|Price per year (three 16 oz. bottles of water/day)||$70||$756||$324||$900|
Breaking down the math
I used Walmart -- now among the largest grocery store chains in the US -- to price out both the cost of a Brita filter and its replacement filters, and of each bottled water option. Obviously, prices may vary based on where you shop and any sales that may be happening.
Harvard Medical School recommends most people drink up to six cups of water per day, or 48 ounces. What I would consider a standard size water bottle -- the type you would find in the refrigerator at a rest stop, or in a vending machine -- is 16.9 fluid ounces. If you're following the recommended amount, you'd be drinking about three water bottles per day, so I calculated that cost based on the cost of a 32-pack of water bottles, which you'd need to buy three of. However, since many people don't actually drink that much water, I also calculated the cost to drink one bottle per day, also based on the cost of just one 32-pack for the month.
For the Brita filter that attaches to your sink, the company recommends replacing the filter every four months. (For Brita pitchers and dispensers, that recommendation is every two months.) That comes out to three replacements per year. I priced out how much a three pack of those Brita replacement filters costs (Another note: If you go with a Brita pitcher or dispenser instead of the sink-mount version, there are cheaper options for filter replacements, like these $13that are compatible with those Brita options, compared to the $18 ).
The price difference is stark. Even accounting for the upfront cost to buy the Brita faucet filter and the replacement cartridges, buying one instead of buying cases of bottled water can save you hundreds of dollars a year, depending on which brand of water you buy.
The only other potential upfront cost here would be for a reusable water bottle or cup, which vary widely in price. But chances are you've got one lying around the house somewhere -- or you can always reuse one of your bottled water plastic bottles.
Faucet water filter vs. pitcher vs. dispenser: Which should you choose?
Now that we know how much you can save by switching to a Brita (or another brand water filter), we can break down the different options available: Filter (that attaches to your sink), pitcher or dispenser (which sit in your fridge or on your counter):
Brita Filter vs. Brita Pitcher vs. Brita Dispenser
||Brita filter||Brita pitcher||Brita dispenser|
|Replacement filters (yearly)||$34||$28||$28|
|Total per year||$70||$68||$66|
The cost differences here are very small, so the choice of which to buy purely depends on your sink setup and your preferences.
The Brita filter for the sink will only work with standard faucets, not pull-out or spray style faucets. The 10-cup pitcher is a good portable option, which you can leave on your counter or in the fridge and is easy to bring to the sink to refill. The 27-cup dispenser is larger, obviously, and will give you a bigger supply of water without having to fill it as often. (Having tried all three, I found that the dispenser could be a bit cumbersome to get in the sink.)
The different types of dispensers also filter different impurities, which you can learn more about on Brita's website.
Which brand of bottled water should you buy?
Some people have surprisingly strong opinions on the taste of different bottled water brands, which will of course depend on your preferences. I looked at three of the most popular brands, Aquafina, Dasani and Nestle Pure Life, all of which fall into a midprice range -- they aren't store-brand cheap, but they also aren't Evian expensive.
Here are the price differences by month and by between the different water brands, based on drinking one bottle a day or the recommended three bottles a day. There's quite a large range, even among these midtier brands:
Aquafina vs. Dasani vs. Nestle Pure LIfe
|Total per year||$252||$108||$300|
|Total per year||$756||$324||$900|
Again, all of those prices were drawn from Walmart.com on the same day in October and may fluctuate.
What's the difference between filtered water and bottled water?
Tap water filtered through a Brita removes or reduces common impurities that impact safety and taste, like lead and chlorine. These filters work through a method called activated carbon filtering, which pushes water through a physical and chemical carbon barrier that acts like a magnet for those impurities, trapping them.
The Food and Drug Administration sets standards for bottled water; however, different manufacturers use different types of water sources and treatment methods. Read the label on your water to find out how it's treated. (For example, Aquafina originates from public water sources and then is purified. Meanwhile, Dasani goes through the same process, but then adds minerals like magnesium sulfate and potassium chloride for taste.)
Basically, bottled water is often just filtered tap water, sometimes with added minerals. You'll find taste differences based on brand, but that's the biggest difference between buying bottled and filtering your own tap water.
For more We Do the Math, check out, and .