Water Filter Choices: What type to get?

There are basically five types of drinking water filters to get slightly cleaner tasting drinking water. The type to get, imnsho is an under-sink or countertop charcoal filter that uses generic 10-inch filters. These generally require a wrench (like an oil filter wrench or strap wrench) to open them up. I like these because they last forever, have few parts to wear out, and are cheap to use.

I'll go over the other options, and explain why they don't stack up:

Inline water filters - are the cheapest up-front, and probably the most green, but are the hardest to replace. After all, you need to remove and re-install a filter to two pieces of tubing, usually tucked away in a hidden corner. If there's anything that's going to leak, it's going to be the connections that attach to the filter.

Small faucet-mounted filters - are also cheap up-front, and extremely easy to install, but the filters need to be replaced every few months because they are so small. Also, the filter holders tend to break and develop leaks. The filters also cost upwards of $10 each, which is expensive.

Under-sink filters with easy screw-in cartridge filters - these are basically like the generic filters, but there's no canister that holds the filter. You replace the cartridges. My main gripes with these are that the cartridges are extremely expensive, and the filter holders, while sturdy, are complex and have more moving parts. I had a holder that needed new O-rings after several years. It was cheap to fix, but the cartridges were $100 a piece and wore out after a year. I'd say these are best for professional environments that go through a lot of water and require frequent filter changes.

Tabletop filter pitchers - inconvenient and the filters are expensive. I won't even count these.

Reverse osmosis systems - the water quality is probably higher, but the prices are insanely expensive, and the plumbing is complex. All the positive effects of this water are probably undone the first time you wear some cologne or eat a hot dog or drive on the freeway.

Kangen water, alkaline water - I consider this stuff quackery.

This brings me back to the generic style filter. They sell these at Ace hardware and Sears; online the brands are Watts, Purenex, and I think Culligan still sells one of these. They all have a canister that holds the filter. The filter itself is a cylinder with rubber gaskets on each end. Water enters the canister and pushes through the filter from the "outside", and exits through the center of the cylinder. This helps preserve the water pressure. Water exits to a small faucet with a little lever to open it.

The units cost between $35 and $80 for a canister. If a wrench is not included, spend another $5 to $10 for one. You might also need to buy mounting hardware, a tee to draw water from the inlet, and tubing. (The Sears kit is expensive, maybe overpriced, but includes it all.) Replacement filters cost $15 to $25, and last between 6 months and a year, depending on usage. Replacement faucets are around $20, and last around 5 years - nowadays they are all plastic, and the entire unit is replaced, for better or worse. There are multiple companies making each of these parts, so the prices are always pretty low.