Virtually all home reverse osmosis filtration systems are designed to be installed under the sink. But there are a few that you can install on your countertop.
The compact-sized APEC RO-CTOP-C is the best countertop RO system.
It’s also the best portable RO system.
That’s right; you can carry the RO-CTOP-C with you and connect it to a standard faucet wherever you are in minutes.
It’s a good choice if you spend a lot of time on the road. You can enjoy clean and safe drinking water from your hotel room without having to buy bottled water.
A countertop RO filter is much easier to install though you’ll need to replace the filters a bit more frequently.
Read on for the full review of the APEC RO-CTOP-C countertop RO system.
If you are looking for a regular under-sink RO filter, we’ve got some great recommendations in our reverse osmosis water filter buying guide.
Filtration System Design
Despite its compact size, the RO-CTOP-C has a fairly similar design to full-size reverse osmosis systems.
It has a 4-stage filtration system with the only difference being that it has only one carbon pre-filter, rather than the usual two found in other APEC RO filters.
It also lacks a remineralization filter, which is not a surprise.
Something else missing is a reserve tank, which again is not surprising for a system designed for portability.
All four filters are made in the US, which guarantees the highest quality and performance. They all rest on a base and are linked together by ¼” quick-connect fittings.
There are two versions of this RO system.
The first is the RO-CTOP where the filters are stacked uncovered on the base. The exposed cartridges and tubes can be a bit unsightly on the countertop.
The second is RO-CTOP-C. This one comes with a case that covers the filters and fittings. With the case, the unit looks like a box with only the inlet, outlet, and drain tubes visible.
The RO-CTOP-C has a cleaner look and is far more convenient for traveling.
Here are more details on each filtration stage.
The RO-CTOP-C has two pre-filters instead of the usual three.
The first is a sediment filter.
It’s an in-line 10” filter made from polypropylene. It captures particles of dirt, dust, and sediment suspended in water.
By doing so, it reduces water turbidity and protects the carbon filter and the RO membrane from clogging up.
The second pre-filter is a coconut shell activated carbon filter.
This 5-micron filter removes organic chemicals, some of which are harmful to your health and others that create an unpleasant smell and taste in the water such as chlorine.
The filter has a friction-welded construction that doesn’t contaminant the water (unlike filters that use glues or binders) and provides a tight no-leak seal.
In addition to protecting you from harmful chemicals, the RO membrane also ensures potentially damaging chemicals like chlorine don’t reach the sensitive RO membrane.
The DOW FILMTEC membrane used in the RO-CTOP-C is just as effective as any other high-quality RO membrane at filtering heavy metals, biologicals, and other impurities from drinking water.
The membrane is designed to provide the best filtration performance (removes 90-99% of TDS) while maintaining a high flow rate.
An activated carbon coconut shell filter removes any remaining odors and tastes before the water flows out of the unit.
The RO-CTOP-C is comparable to full-size under-sink RO systems in terms of performance. You can test the pure water yourself using a TDS meter and compare it to normal tap water.
The pure water will have TDS levels 90% to 99% less than the tap water.
The smaller footprint doesn’t make it less effective at filtering impurities. The trade-off is not in performance; it’s in flow rate.
The water comes out in a frustrating trickle.
It takes almost an hour to fill a 5-gallon bottle.
The reason for this is that water doesn’t come from a pressurized reserve tank when you turn the lever to get purified water.
It flows directly from the tap, through the filters and RO membrane and out of the outlet tube.
And because water generally flows slowly through RO filters, it comes out as a trickle.
The best way around this is to fill a large water bottle or pot in advance when you are not in a hurry. This gives you easy and fast access to pure water when you need to drink.
Don’t worry whether the RO-CTOP-C can fill a large bottle.
It has a daily production capacity of 90 gallons, which is more than most full-size RO systems.
The RO-CTOP-C countertop RO filter is more efficient than most under-sink RO systems.
It drains 2 gallons of water for every gallon of purified water (2:1 efficiency ratio). Most under-sink systems waste 3 gallons.
If you feel bad about the wastage, you can always collect the drained water and use it in gardening.
The drain water comes out through the adapter that connects to the existing faucet. When you turn on the RO water, the drain water will automatically begin to flow out into the sink.
Installation and Maintenance
This is one of the best parts of the RO-CTOP-C – it requires no installation.
If you’ve ever installed an under-sink RO system, you know that it can take up quite a bit of time to set it up. It requires drilling a hole in the sink and drain pipe and mounting the filters on the wall.
None of that is necessary when setting up the RO-CTOP-C.
It comes with an adapter that connects to your existing faucet. You need to remove the aerator from your faucet and screw on the adapter.
The adapter has two ports. One for the inlet tube that diverts tap water to the RO filter and another that brings back wastewater for draining.
The filter has an outlet tube that produces ready-to-drink purified water.
The adapter is compatible with most standard faucets. The only faucets are doesn’t work with our pull-out faucets, sprayer faucets, or any custom designer faucets.
One advantage of having a countertop RO system is that you don’t have to worry about having a big enough under-sink space to install the filter.
The RO-CTOP-C is great for dorm rooms, RVs, boats, and apartments that may not have the space to install a normal reverse osmosis filtration system.
Maintenance is not any different from full-size RO systems.
Your main job is to replace the filters at the right time.
The sediment and carbon pre-filters are good for 6-8 months.
Use a TDS meter to monitor filter life. This will ensure the pre-filters don’t get to a point where they allow chlorine and other chemicals that can damage the RO membrane through.
If you replace the pre-filters on time, the RO membrane and the post-filter can easily last for 2-3 years.
Other replacing the filters, watch out for any leaks, especially around connectors.
The RO-CTOP-C uses high quality and well-constructed components, so leaking is rare. But if it happens, it’s easier to spot compared to an under-sink filter.
What We Like the Most About the APEC RO-CTOP-C Countertop RO System
What We Don’t Like
The APEC RO-CTOP-C Is Perfect For You If...
You are looking for a countertop reverse osmosis filter that works just as effectively as a normal under-sink system.
We also recommend it for frequent travelers who spend a lot of time in hotel rooms.
Our Bottom Line
For those of us who cannot or don’t want to install an under-sink RO system, the APEC RO-CTOP-C is a great alternative.
The best part is that there’s not much you’ll sacrifice by buying a countertop RO system.
Other than the reduced flow rate, which you can easily work around by storing the water, the RO-CTOP-C filters the water just as well as other systems and produces much water. Moreover its maintenance very easy.