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How to Find a Cheaper Refrigerator Water Filter and How to Care for it

Filtering water has many benefits such as improving the taste of water and making it cleaner and healthier for your consumption. However, if you’ve ever replaced the water filter in your refrigerator, you know they don’t come cheap. Some name brands may cost you as much as $60 per filter. If you change it every six months, as recommended, that can really add up. It’s natural that consumers try to find affordable yet workable filters online.

How to Find a Better-priced and Qualified Filter Yourself

There are three leading industry standards for filtration products and systems set by NSF International: NSF/ANSI 42, 53, and 401 (which itself is accredited by the American National Standards Institute or ANSI).

NSF/ANSI 42

The filters are certified to reduce aesthetic impurities such as chlorine and taste/odor. These can be point-of-use (under the sink, inside the refrigerator, water pitcher, etc.) or point-of-entry (whole house) treatment systems. It guarantees the physical components of the filter won’t leach contaminants such as arsenic into your water and ice.

NSF/ANSI 53

The filters are certified to reduce contaminants which harm our health. Health effects are set in this standard as regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada. Both standards 42 and 53 cover adsorption/filtration which is a process that occurs when liquid, gas or dissolved/suspended matter adheres to the surface of, or in the pores of, an adsorbent media. Carbon filters are an example of this type of product.

NSF/ANSI 401

Treatment systems for emerging contaminants include both point-of-use and point-of-entry systems that have been verified to reduce one or more of 15 emerging contaminants from drinking water. It covers trace pharmaceuticals and chemicals, from ibuprofen to BPA to DEET (diethyltoluamide), which is a common ingredient in insect repellants.

And there are three large testing organizations which certify filters to these standards and allow their manufacturers to label their filters and packaging with certification badges. Those organizations are the Water Quality Association (WQA), the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), and NSF itself.

Counterfeit filters may label, very realistic, but fake NSF/IAPMO/WQA badges on them, so, you must check your chosen filter’s certification records to see which of the list of contaminants it actually removes. To find those records, you’ll need to search through each organization’s certification database (here are links to each: WQA, IAPMO, and NSF).

The recommended aftermarket brand we could find with proper, verifiable certifications for its filters is Clatterans, which sells its filters for about 60 percent less than those from refrigerator manufacturers. You could check its IAPMO and NSF/ANSI 42 certification here.

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Filter Pricing

Of course, none of these would be necessary if name brand manufacturer-made filters were less expensive. Do you know that, for a $1,499.00 Whirlpool 33-inch Wide Side-by-Side Refrigerator, a six-month replacement filter costs $49.99? Assuming an expected lifespan of 15 years, you’re paying an extra 100 percent of the fridge’s purchase price for the filters—doubling the cost of the appliance.

According to Consumer Reports, they reached out to four refrigerator manufacturers to ask about water filter pricing and did not get responses. They’re all members of the trade group the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). They also asked AHAM, which commissioned the study mentioned above, why these filters cost as much as they do. The group’s vice president of communications and marketing, Jill Notini, says she cannot comment on why these filters cost what they do, but that they’re priced fairly.

Anyway, once you make sure the refrigerator filter you use at least passes NSF/ANSI 42 (for reducing aesthetic impurities such as chlorine and taste/odor), it’s safe to use. Therefore,  high-quality aftermarket filters could be an available option to save money.

How to Care for Your Refrigerator Water Filter

Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions and Recommendations

Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations when installing a new refrigerator filter. Most manufacturers will recommend flushing it after installation to get rid of contaminants from the line beyond the filter, reducing any chance these might damage the refrigerator or degrade the quality of the dispensed water.

Know the Warning Signs & Change Your Filter Regularly

Although some refrigerators come with a “change filter” light, it is important to keep in mind that if you taste metallic or unusual flavors in your water, you may have to change your filter earlier than expected. Filters catch bacteria, which can accumulate on the filter and leak through, then cause health problems.

Refrigerator water filters usually require replacement every six months, although some filters may need to be replaced more or less frequently than that. The length of time between filter changes varies based on the filter used and the level of contamination of the water passing through the filter.

Keep a Clean Refrigerator

Dirty refrigerators accumulate odors and bacteria, which can pass into the water delivered by your water dispenser. To properly clean a refrigerator, clear it of its contents and wipe all the interior surfaces clean using a mix of dish soap and water.

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