Are you looking for the best whole house water filter to remove chlorine, chemicals, bacteria and sediments from your water?
You’ve come to the right place.
Depending on the type of filtration it uses, a whole house water filter can remove chlorine, sediment, rust, dissolved metals, chemicals, and harmful bacteria from every drop of water entering your home.
This is because unlike an under-sink or faucet water filter, a whole house water filter is installed directly into the main water line coming into your home. This eliminates the need for other kinds of water filters throughout your house, which saves you money.
In this buying guide, we review & compare the best whole house water filters selling today and answer the most common questions about whole-home systems.
After reviewing the best filtration systems, we explain how to install and maintain a whole house water filter in your home including important issues that many overlook, like installing a bypass valve to make filter changes easy.
So let's get to it!
Best Whole House Water Filters 2020
The table below compares the best whole house water filters selling today on a range of features. We also note our best picks for the most common needs.
- 10 year filter
1 million gallons
- 4 filter stages
- - sediment
Home Master HMF2SMGCC
- 1 year filter
- 2 filter stages
- - sediment
- BUDGET PICK
- 1 year filter
- 2 filter stages
- - sediment
Home Master HMF3SDGFEC
- BEST FOR WELL WATER
- 10 year filter
1 million gallons
- 3 filter stages
- - sediment
- BEST FOR IMPROVING TASTE/ODOR
- 1 year filter
- 3 filter stages
- - sediment
Watts WH-LD Premier
- BEST SEDIMENT PRE-FILTER
- filter life depends on water quality
- 1 filter stage
- - sediment
- BEST UV FILTER
- 1 year filter
- 1 filter stage
- - biologicals
What's In This Buying Guide
Whole House Water Filter Reviews
Our Top Overall Pick:
Aquasana 10-Year Whole House Water Filter
The Aquasana 10-Year Whole House Water Filter provides whole-house water filtration for up to 10 years or a million gallons.
This powerful, certified home water filter removes up to 97% of chlorine content from your home water and removes heavy metals, chemical contaminants and sediments.
The only downside is the installation process, which takes time and requires someone with some plumbing experience to complete. Most customers will need a plumber, which adds to the overall cost.
1. 4-Stage Filtration
The basic system (without the water softener) provides four levels of filtration, as follows:
- Sediment pre-filter: removes large contaminants such as rust, dust, sediment, and silt. This not only enhances water purification, but it also prevents the rest of the system from clogging up. The 20” pre-filter has 2 times the capacity of standard pre-filters. It’s able to catch more impurities without lowering water pressure.
- Copper-zinc & mineral stone filter: this filter reduces the amount of chlorine in water and inhibits the growth of bacteria and algae. It also reduces dissolved metals such as mercury and lead.
- Activated carbon filter: Reduces chemical contaminants such as herbicides and insecticides.
- Post-filter: Catches the tiniest impurities that remain including organic particles, microscopic cysts, and sediment as small as 0.35 microns.
Note: this filter only works for municipal water supplies that contain chlorine / not chloramine.
Some utilities use chloramine (a combination of chlorine and ammonia), instead. It gives water a strong metallic taste and is harder to remove than chlorine.
We’ve reviewed other filters below that can remove chloramine. Aquasana also sells a 4-year chloramine filter.
You can also call your water utility and ask them.
2. Efficient Water Filtration
Aquasana has designed this system for maximum efficiency and minimal maintenance.
A dual tank design (where two tanks are aligned vertically rather than set up side by side) maintains the right level of water pressure, prevents clogging and increases the amount of time the water stays in contact with the filters.
The addition of the pre-filter and post-filter greatly increases performance, ensuring that even the tiniest impurities do not make it past the filters.
3. Professional Installation Kit Included
Everything you need to install the filter is included.
This includes brass fittings, shut-off valves, bend supports and couplings for a 0.75” pipe.
Note: the pro kit is required to work with PEX Tubing, which is not included.
4. Upgrades Available
This system removes sediment, chlorine, chemicals and dissolved heavy metals.
If your home gets hard water, there is an upgrade kit consisting of the basic filtration system plus a salt-free softener tank.
If you want higher-performance water purification, there’s another option consisting of the basic system, a softener, and a UV sterilizer.
UV filtration kills bacteria, viruses and other bugs that are resistant or chlorine disinfection.
Issues and Limitations
1. Time-Consuming and Tricky Installation Procedure
The main issue with this system is the installation.
Like any other whole house filter, it’s going to take time to install. You’ll also need to have a bit of experience around plumbing.
If you are not sure that you can install it yourself, play it safe and hire a plumber. This will add to your initial cost, but it's worth it to ensure proper installation.
Another issue is the price, which is relatively high. The costs go even higher if you have to hire a plumber.
But the price tag is justified considering the 10-year filter life. If you have a tighter budget, we review several less expensive filters below.
Avoid this system if you are looking for a budget-friendly whole house filter or a smaller under-sink or faucet filter.
This water filter is a great for: Anyone looking for a high-performance whole house water filter.
When it comes to water purification, Aquasana can be trusted. This particular model has NSF certification for chlorine reduction (see their test results here).
They have also conducted extensive lab tests for the reduction of other contaminants including heavy metals, VOCs and chemicals.
If you have the time, consider doing your own water test before and after installation to see the difference.
Best Overall Value:
Home Master HMF2SMGCC Whole House 2-Stage Water Filter
If the Aquasana 3-stage system is a bit out of your budget, then this 2-stage system by Home Master is a great alternative.
This Home Master 2-stage filter removes sediment, dirt, chlorine / chloramine, heavy metals and chemicals from your home water supply.
The 95,000 gallon filter life is enough to support most families of four for about a year.
As long as you are OK with annual cartridge replacements, this unit is a great whole house system that will last a long time. And it's easy to install.
1. 2-Stage Sediment and Chemical Filtration
This filter uses a 2-stage filtration process to purify water as follows:
Multi-gradient-depth sediment filter: The Home Master water filters use a graded sediment filter. It consists of 4 layers of media that can capture different particle sizes. The layers have a descending micron rating starting from the topmost one: 25 microns, 10 microns, 5 microns, and 1 micron. The graded design improves filtration performance and reduces clogging (which can reduce water pressure).
Activated catalytic carbon filter: removes chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals such as mercury, copper and lead and chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides.
You may have noticed that the second filter uses activated catalytic carbon rather than activated carbon.
Does it make a difference? You bet. Catalytic carbon is better at removing chlorine/chloramines, hydrogen sulfide, VOCs and various other chemicals.
To enhance its performance, the catalytic carbon is mixed with KDF 85. This is a special type of medium designed to remove hydrogen sulfide and iron from the water. It also reduces bacteria, algae, and scale.
2. Removes Foul Odor and Bad Taste from Water
If you’ve noticed that the water coming into your home has a weird taste or foul odor, it might be because it contains chlorine, hydrogen sulfide (produces a rotten egg smell) and various other chemicals.
The catalytic carbon + KDF 85 filter removes over 95% of chlorine and other chemicals that affect water quality.
Immediately after you install the filter, you’ll notice your water tastes fresher and has no unusual smells.
3. No Noticeable Loss of Water Pressure
The filter comes with large filter housings and large 1” ports that can accommodate a flow rate of up to 10 gallons per minute.
You will hardly notice any drop of pressure in the taps or shower.If you notice a pressure drop after a few months or 1 year, it is a sign that it’s time to replace the cartridges.
Issues and Limitations
1. Replacement of Filter Cartridges
The main limitation of this unit is its filtering capacity.
With a 95,000-gallon capacity, the sediment and catalytic carbon filters are only good for one year.
You may have to replace them sooner if you use a lot of water or your water contains more impurities than normal.
If you don’t want the bother (and cost) of replacing the cartridges every 6-12 months, you’ll have to spend on a larger system such as Aquasana’s 10-year filter.
2. Leaky O-Rings (easy to fix)
Another issue you are likely to encounter is leaking from the O-rings in the canisters. But the fix is easy: buy food grade lubricant and apply it generously before securing the rings. That should solve the problem.
If you have any other issue, feel free to contact customer support. Home Master's customer service and support are really good.
Who should avoid it: Anyone looking for a high-capacity whole house filter for extra large families or high-throughout systems, it’s also not ideal for well water since it does not have a dedicated iron filter.
If you get your water from a well, the check out our next top pick - also from Home Master.
This Home Master water filter is a great choice for anyone looking for a really affordable whole-house system.
The best part is that it works as well as other more expensive systems.
The only major trade-off is the limited filter capacity.
On the other hand, the cartridges are not expensive, and replacement takes just a few minutes. So it’s not a huge sacrifice.
Best for Well Water:
Home Master HMF3SDGFEC Whole House 3-Stage Water Filter
This Home Master HMF3SDGFEC whole house water filter system is ideal for flltering non-chlorinated water from a private well or a community well.
The 3-stage filter can remove sediments, iron, manganese, chemicals and hydrogen sulfide (‘rotten egg’ smell/taste) from the water.
The filter has a capacity of 100,000 gallons, which is perfect for a mid-size family. It’s good for around 1 year after when you need to replace the cartridges.
1. High-Performance Well Water Filtration
This filter uses a 3-stage filtration process as follows:
> Multi-gradient-depth polypropylene sediment filter: This filterer is layered to provide efficient sediment filtration. The layers are arranged as follows – 25 microns, 10 microns, 5 microns, 1 micron. This design also ensures the filter does not clog too quickly.
> Radial Flow Iron Reduction Filter: removes iron in the water. Iron is notorious for causing stains on tiles, walls, and clothing.
> Radial flows granular activated carbon: Removes manganese, hydrogen sulfide, herbicides and other chemicals that impair the quality and taste of water.
Most customers notice a difference immediately after installation. The water tastes significantly better, and there are no chemical smells.
2. Reduces Staining
Dissolved iron in well water stains every surface the water touches. You’ll find reddish or brownish stains in your bathtub, bathroom tiles, toilet bowl, and other plumbing fixtures.
Stains can also form inside your dishwasher, washing machine and even on white clothes and fabrics.
The culprit is oxidized iron that forms when the dissolved iron in water is exposed to oxygen in the air.
The Home Master water filter removes most of the iron from your incoming well water. It also removes manganese, hydrogen sulfide, insecticides, herbicides, and many other chemicals.
3. High Flow Rate and Low Maintenance
You’ll not notice any drop in pressure.
That’s because the filter uses oversized 1” ports. This increases the flow rate, allowing the filter to process up to 15 gallons a minute.
You’ll still enjoy the same great shower you did before installing the filter.
The filter is very low maintenance.
Just replace the filter cartridges at the end of their lifespan (1 year for the average family but this may vary depending on water usage and amount of contaminants in water).
Issues and Limitations
1. Ineffective Against Chlorine
An obvious limitation of this filter is that it does not remove chlorine or chloramines from the water. Do not buy it if your home is supplied with chlorinated water.
2. Replacement of Filter Cartridges
Another limitation is the capacity. It can filter up to 100,000 gallons, which is about 1 year of usage.
You may need to replace the filter cartridges sooner if you use more water or if your well water has a lot of impurities.
Use this table to estimate how long the filter will last. This only applies to the iron filter. For complete replacement instructions regarding the other filters, consult the user manual.
3. Leaky O-Rings (easy to fix)
One other issue brought up by several customers is the installation. It’s generally easy to install, but the O-rings in the canisters can be problematic and tend to leak after installation.
I recommend using food grade lubricant to create a tight seal around the O-rings to prevent leaking.
Other than that trick, installation is not hard. But if you a complete newbie around DIY plumbing, you may want to hire a plumber to install the system properly.
Who should avoid it: if you use chlorine- or chloramine-treated municipal water.
This high-performance well water filter effectively removes iron, hydrogen sulfide, manganese and other chemicals from any kind of well water.
You will notice results immediately - your drinking water will taste and smell better, and your toilet will no longer suffer from reddish stains
Best for Removing Taste/Odor:
iSpring WGB32B 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System
If you have too much chlorine or chloramines in your city water supply or our water suffers from a stinky sulfur odor, then the iSpring WGB32B 3-Stage whole house water filter is a great choice.
This is a 3-stage NSF/ANSI-certified filter system. Two of those stages are dedicated specifically for removing chlorine and a host of other chemicals.
The filter removes up to 98% of chlorine from your water. It also works great if your city disinfects water with chloramines.As with most other whole house filters, installation is not exactly plug-and-play. You may have to budget money to hire a plumber.
1. 3-Stage Filtration
Here’s how the 3-stage system filters chemicals and particulates out of your water.
> Sediment filter: The first blue housing contains a layered filtration system to capture different sizes of sediment and silt. The finest layer can filter out particles as small as 5 microns. The multi-layered configuration reduces the risk of clogging and ensures there is no impact on water pressure.
> two CTO Carbon Blocks: The other two canisters house high-quality coconut shell carbon filters that target chlorine and chloramines. They also remove dissolved heavy metals, hydrogen sulfide and chemicals such as herbicides and industrial solvents. Having two carbon filters greatly improves filtering performance.
2. High-flow Inlets/Outlets
In addition to a layered sediment filter, another technique this system uses to maintain water pressure is having wide 1” inlets and outlets. This maintains a high flow rate of 15 GPM in and out of the filters.
As most customers have noted, you will not notice any drop in pressure from your faucets or shower.
3. 1-Year Water Supply
This iSpring system is half the price of Aquasana’s 10-year filter because it has a lower capacity of just 1 year / 100,000 gallons.
But a 100,000 gallon capacity is enough for most families.
Note: The 1-year estimate is for an average family of 4 people. Depending on your family size, how much water you use and the level of impurities in your water supply, the filters can last 6 months to 2 years.
To monitor the status of the filters, I recommend installing pressure gauges both before and after the filters.
This allows you to monitor the pressure of the water coming in and out of the system. It should be about even.If you notice a significant drop on the exit pressure gauge, it means the filters have started to clog, and it's time to replace them.
Issues and Limitations
1. For Municipal Water Only
This particular system is not for well water. It does not remove dissolved minerals like iron and manganese. It’s designed to treat chlorinated municipal water.
If you get your water from a well, iSpring offers two other filters: the WGB32B-M model for iron and manganese removal and the WGB32B-PB for lead and iron removal.
The only other minor issue that several customers have mentioned is leakage.
The connectors from plumbing to the canisters and between individual canisters can start leaking in a few months. But it’s something easy to fix yourself.
Just shut off the valves to bypass the water, remove the filters and reseal the connectors using food-grade lubricant.
Who should avoid it: Homes that use well water, which contains no chlorine or chloramine.
This water filter is great for homes that suffer from highly-chlorinated municipal water.
If you detest the smell and taste of chlorine, this filter will help. It also makes water safer for your skin and hair.
Note: this system also removes chloramines.
Best Budget Whole House Filter:
3M Aqua-Pure Whole House Water Filtration System
If you are looking for a low-priced whole house water filter to remove chlorine and sediment from your water, I recommend the 3M Aqua-Pure.
Unlike most of the other filters that have two or three canisters, this one consists of a single cartridge. Both the sediment filter and carbon filter (for chlorine) are housed in the cartridge.
The capacity is still the same as most of the other filters – 100,000 gallons or 1 year.
But this 3M filter has a higher flow rate (20 gallons/minute) and simpler filter replacement process.
The main downside is that it doesn’t remove chloramines – only chlorine.
You are out of luck if you live in one of the cities that use chloramine like Miami, Minneapolis, Austin, Arlington, San Francisco, and others.
1. Removes Chlorine and Sediments
This single-cartridge filter is designed primarily for removing chlorine and sediment.
As I mentioned above, it is not the best filter for heavy metals, chemicals and things like iron and manganese.
But if your goal is to remove silt, rust, and sediment and also get rid of the unpleasant chlorine taste, this filter is perfect.
The cartridge houses the filters for sediments and chlorine.
For sediment and particulates, it uses non-woven pleat media that captures particles as small as 5 microns.For chlorine, it uses a carbon block to remove the taste and smell from the water.
2. High Flow Rate
This filter can sustain a flow rate of up to 20 gallons per minute, which is higher than the 15 gpm of most other filters.
It’s actually not that surprising that this filter has a higher flow rate than the other 2 and 3-canister filters.
With just one cartridge for water to go through, the water can flow through faster.If you notice a drop after a few months, it’s most likely the filter is clogging up and it’s time to get a new one.
3. Easy Filter Replacement
This filter is super easy and quick to replace. Best of all, you don’t have to touch any wet and messy filter.
Unlike the other cartridges where you have to take the filtration media out of the cartridge and put in a new one, the 3M filter does not come out. You replace the entire canister.
A replacement cartridge costs about $300.Just shut off the water valves, unscrew the existing canister using your hands and screw in the new one. No tools needed and no mess on your hands.
Issues and Limitations
1. Only Effective at Removing Chlorine and Sediment
The biggest limitation for this filter is the range of chemicals it can remove from water. It’s great for chlorine and sediment, not so much for heavy metals, chloramines, iron, herbicides, and manganese.
I recommend it for homes that are already getting relatively clean water and their biggest issue is sediment and chlorine smell/taste.
Who should avoid it: Homes that receive well water or dirty water containing chemicals and minerals such as heavy metals, iron, manganese, VOCs and herbicides.
This filter is perfect for: anyone who needs a simple and affordable whole house filter to remove chlorine, rust, sediment and silt from a typical city water supply.
The filter does not perform as well as most we have reviewed, but it does a fine job.
Best Sediment-Only Whole House Filter:
Watts WH-LD Premier Whole House Water Filter System
If your biggest issue is bits of sand, dust, silt, and rust in your water, there is no need to buy an expensive 2 or 3-stage filter. Buy this Watts WH-LD, instead.
The Watts Premier house filter is a really low-cost system that's surprisingly effective for filtering sediment from well water.
1. Removes Sediments Well
While sediment in water is not as harmful as heavy metals or chemicals, it can still be annoying.
It clogs up your plumbing, leaves unsightly stains in appliances and on your clothes and can damage machines like icemakers and water heaters.
The Watts WH-LD filter filters out sand, silt, rust, and sediment. It is designed to deal only with sediment larger than 50 microns
This covers almost every particulate that finds its way into your water except for the superfine bits that don’t cause stains and clogging anyway.
2. Easy to Install and Replace
Thanks to its compact size and design, the Watts filter is easy to install. You can do it if you have some basic plumbing skills.
The filter comes with everything you need to install it. This includes a ball valve (for diverting the water during filter replacement or maintenance) and a wrench.
You can install the filter as it is without something to secure it to the wall, but most buyers recommend buying the Culligan UB-1 Mounting Bracket.
Replacing the filter is just as easy. Just unscrew the filter, put in a new filter and screw it back in using the wrench.
The kit comes with two bonus 50-micron filters so you won’t have to buy new ones for a while.
Issues and Limitations
1. Sediments Only
If you are looking for a filter to remove the chlorine or “rotten eggs” smell from your water, then this filter is not it.
It also cannot filter out heavy metals or impurities like iron and manganese that are found in well water.
In other words, this is not the filter to buy if you need some heavy-duty water purification. It does only one thing – filtering sediment.
Avoid this one if you want a filter that can remove chlorine, heavy metals and chemicals from municipal or well water.
This filter is great for: Anyone looking for a whole house filter to remove sediment, rust, and silt from the water. And the price is incredibly low.
Best UV Whole-House Water Filter:
VH410 VIQUA UltraViolet Water Disinfection System
If you suspect your water has biologicals in it like E.coli, Vibrio cholera, and Legionella, then the Viqua UV whole house water filter is your best protection.
Most whole house filter systems start with a sediment filter that removes small particles of sand and rust from your water. Next, activated carbon filters remove chlorine, heavy metals and chemicals.
Adding a UV water purifier at the end of the filtering process finishes the job by killing harmful bacteria and viruses that may remain.
This Viqua UV filter is easy to install in your main water supply line.
The only maintenance required is to replace the UV bulb every year or so.
You can install the UV filter on its own, but I highly recommend you install it along with one of the filtration systems we have reviewed above. Place it into your water supply line after all other types of water filters and water softeners for best results.
1. High UV Output
The VH410 filter is relatively compact compared to most other whole house UV filters. The smaller footprint makes installation and maintenance easier.
Though small, the UV bulb has a high output, allowing the unit to provide the same water purification performance as other bigger UV filters.
2. High Water Flow Rate
Installing this filter will not affect your faucet or shower water pressure.
Unlike carbon and sediment filters, there is no filtration media for the water to pass through. It simply goes through a tube where bacteria and microorganisms are irradiated with UV light.
3. Easy DIY Installation
Most customers did not need to hire a plumber for installation. The filter is easy to install – 30 minutes to one hour max.
Simply connect your plumbing to the inlet and outlet ports and then install the UV bulb. You’ll need 3.4” or 1” connectors depending on which threading you use.
If you use the outer threading, get 1” connectors. If you opt to use the inner threading, buy 3/4” fittings.
The filter comes with a bracket to secure it to the wall.
I recommend installing a water gauge (get a dual one that can measure pressure and flow rate), just before the UV filter.
Check what the flow rate is. You don’t want it to be too high. The longer the water stays in the chamber, the more effectively it is disinfected.
VIQUA recommends a flow rate of 18gpm. That provides a disinfection rate of 30mJ/cm2 (millijoule per square centimeter).
That’s enough to kill most microorganisms including Streptococcus and Listeria.
A lower flow rate of 14 GPM results in even better 40mJ/cm2 disinfection.
But if the water is flowing too fast, say 34 GPM, the disinfection is going to be at a low 16mJ/cm2.
4. Replacement Reminder
The UV bulb has a lifespan of 9,000 hours. That comes to 375 days of 24/7 bug killing.
VIQUA recommends replacing the bulb annually. A replacement costs about $100.
As the replacement date approaches, the filter will produce audible reminders. It will also alert you if the bulb fails.
Issues & Limitations
There is really nothing bad to say about this filter. It’s easy to install, and works exactly as advertised.
The only issue is the price. Compared to other whole house UV filters, it is pricey. And that’s excluding the $100 annual bulb replacement costs.
But considering it is one of the best and most reliable UV water filters, the price tag is worth it.
Avoid this system if you are unconcerned about microorganisms in your water. If your main concern is chlorine, sediment, and chemicals, then a standard sediment + carbon filter system will do.
This filter is a great choice for anyone who wants to add a high quality UV water filter to their whole house water filtration system.
If you suspect your water might contain dangerous bacteria and viruses, adding this UV filter to your main supply line ensures that you get water that is clean and safe for your family.
Specification Chart: Top Picks Compared
The table below compares the whole house water filters we just reviewed on specifications and price. Click on a product to learn more.
Why You Need a Whole House Water Filter
Even if you are on a municipal water supply, your tap water may still contain sediment, dissolved chemicals like pesticides, and other contaminants. It also most likely contains chlorine, which gives water an unpleasant taste.
Water from a private well or cistern is likely to contain even more contaminants, some of them dangerous for your health and others like rust a nuisance.
A whole house water filter removes all or most of these impurities from your water supply before it enters your home, so everything and everyone in your house that uses water is protected.
This isn’t just good for your health - a whole-house water filter also protects your skin and hair and keeps your clothes and utensils from staining due to contaminants like iron.
In addition, a whole house water filter improves the taste of your drinking water by removing chlorine and hydrogen sulfide, which gives water a rotten egg smell.
Some whole house water filters also soften your water in addition to purifying it. This is beneficial if you have hard water problems (high mineral content)..
How To Select The Right Whole House Water Filter For Your Home
The most important thing is to know what kind of filter you need.
This depends on what you intend to remove from your water. It can be chlorine, iron, sediment bacteria or a combination of different contaminants.
If you use well water, it’s a good idea to get your water tested first to know exactly what kind of filter you need.
The flow rate is also important. If it is too low, the filter will affect your water pressure.
Two other important considerations are filter size and filter lifespan.
What Type of Whole House Water Filter Do I Need?
The best type of water filter will depend on your particular water purification needs. This is because filters are categorized based on what they filter out.
There are carbon filters for chlorine and chemicals, iron and manganese filters, sediment filters and so on.
Here are the different varieties available in the market and their purpose.
Note: Most house filtration systems combine several of these filters into one unit. But you may also choose to install them individually.
1. Activated Carbon Filters
Activated carbon is the most common type of media found in water filters.
It is very effective at removing a wide range of chemicals, and it doesn’t add any chemicals to the water. It is also affordable.
Activated carbon has a very porous surface that allows molecules of chemicals like chlorine and hydrogen sulfide to get into the carbon structure where they are trapped.
It is highly effective at removing 81 chemicals and moderately so in 50 others.
These include herbicides, benzene, glycols, pesticides and THMs (Trihalomethanes).
But the most common use of carbon filters is to get rid of the unpleasant taste and smell of chlorine or chloramines found in city/municipal water.
But there are contaminants that activated carbon cannot filter out of the water. They include:
Because of its level of versatility, a carbon filter is the best option for most families.
2. Sediment Filters
While activated carbon can filter out some sediment, it is not the best media for removing suspended solids in water.
It will not catch all the particles and will get clogged quickly, which will reduce the lifespan.
A dedicated sediment filter is much more effective.
A standard sediment filter can easily filter out anything that’s bigger than 50 microns while finer filters are rated at 20 microns and higher. Ultra-fine sediment filters can catch particles as small as 0.35 microns.
Sediment filters usually come in a multi-gradient design consisting of several layers rated at different microns.
Such filters provide better filtration and have a longer lifespan because they don’t clog quickly.
Sediment filters can remove a wide range of suspended particles in water from large ones like sand to tiny ones like silt and rust.
The filter is usually installed as part of a multi-filter system where it is always first in line to ensure the large particles don’t clog up the other filters ahead.
You can also install a sediment filter on its own, but it will not protect you from chemicals, heavy metals or chlorine-tasting water.
A sediment filter is particularly helpful for homes that receive well water, which is likely to contain more suspended particles compared to city water.
3. Iron Filters
Well water contains significant amounts of dissolved solids including minerals and metals.
One of the most common soluble metals is iron. It causes many issues for homes that receive well water.
When exposed to air the dissolved iron (known as ferrous iron) oxidizes and turns into reddish brown sediment (known as ferric iron).
You’ll find deposits of it around your home in the toilet bowl, bathtub, washing machine, dishwasher and even on your clothes.
Since activated carbon is not very effective at filtering out dissolved solids, a specialized iron filter is the best choice.
As with the other types of filters, you can buy and install it on its own or get it as part of a complete filtration system.
4. UV Filters
With the above filters, we have removed sediments, iron, chemicals, and chlorine from the water.
Bacteria and viruses are still in the water. These are the most dangerous water contaminants.
They may not cause your water to turn a weird color or taste funny, but they can be deadly.
These microorganisms cause water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, Giardia, and diarrhea.
This is where a UV water filter is very helpful.
Water passes through a chamber where it is exposed to UV light. The radiation inactivates the bacteria, making it impossible for them to reproduce or spread infection.
A UV filter is often installed as part of a filtration system. You set it up as the last filter before the water moves on to the various parts of the house.But if you don't have the need for the other filters, you can install a UV filter on its own.
Other Types of Filters
The above are just the most common types of whole house filters. There are a few other types you can install in your home.
For instance, there are sulfur water filters that remove the ‘rotten egg’ smell in the water. They work by exposing hydrogen sulfide – which is responsible for that awful smell – to oxygen.
Catalytic carbon filters are great at removing chloramine, a stronger disinfectant than chlorine that is used by many cities.
You may also have heard of reverse osmosis or RO filters. But it is rare to find a whole house RO system. Most are designed for single faucets or installation under the sink.
The Definitive Buyer's Checklist: What To Look For
1. Single or Multiple Stage Filters ?
If you only need to remove one thing from water – chlorine, iron, bacteria or sediment – then you just need a single filter.
Depending on what you want to remove, it can be a carbon, UV, sediment or an iron filter.
But multi-stage filters are the best for most homes. They can remove several types of contaminants from the water.
For instance, a standard 3-stage filter can remove sediment, chlorine, iron, and chemicals.
A bigger system consisting of 4 or 5 stages might also have a UV filter and a water softener.
2. Flow Rate
Flow rate refers to how fast water flows through the filter.
A good flow rate is important in ensuring that the filter does not slow down water, causing pressure in the shower and faucets to drop.
The best water filters have a flow rate of at least 15 gallons per minute. Some can go up to 20 gallons per minute.
One way to tell that a filter has a good flow rate is to look at how big the inlet and outlet ports are.
They should be at least 1” wide.
3. Filter Size and Lifespan
The size of the filter is an indication of how long it will last.
Take Aquasana’s 10-year filter as an example. Each canister is 46” high.
Compare that to the Home Master HMF3SDGFEC 1-year filter. The canisters are 28” high.
It makes sense. A larger filter is able to take on more impurities. So it is going to be some time before you’ll need to replace it.
If you have a big family, I recommend a larger filter – at least 3 years.
If you buy the standard 1-year filter, it may not even last that long because you will most likely use more than the 100,000 gallons the average family consumes in a year.
You’ll find yourself buying replacements every 6-8 months.If you live all by yourself or have a small family (less than 4 members) a cheaper 100,000-gallon filter will do. It may even last more than a year.
How We Evaluate Whole House Water Filters
We evaluate water filters on an objective 5-star scale.
Our ratings are based on the features and capabilities of a product, our expert opinion as well as customer feedback.
Here are the features that we consider most important when evaluating whole house water filters.
We prefer filters that have a lifespan of at least 1 year or 100,000 gallons. These filters have the best balance between affordability and convenience. They are adequate for most families.
3 and 5-year filters are also good and are not too expensive.
10-year filters (1 million) are the best in terms of capacity and lifespan but are too expensive for most customers.
But if you have the budget for a 10-year whole house filter, go for it. It will save you the trouble of replacing the filters every year.
Number of Stages
The best filter for most homes is one that filters multiple impurities and chemicals.
That’s why we recommend a multi-stage filter over a single-stage one.
A multi-stage filter can remove sediment, chlorine, heavy metals and chemicals from your water. Others can remove sediment, dissolved minerals and soluble metals such as iron and manganese.
Such a system is very convenient since you do not need to buy all these filters separately.
But that doesn’t mean single-stage filters are bad. They are useful in certain situations.
If for instance, your aim is to just remove sediment and rust from the incoming water, you just need to install a sediment filter.
If your water is free of sediment and chlorine (or maybe you don’t mind the chlorine taste), but you are concerned about bacteria, a UV filter is adequate.
But unless you have tested the water and know exactly what’s in it, we recommend a multi-stage filter system. It provides the best protection.
One of the things we check when reviewing a certain filter is whether there are any complaints from customers regarding water pressure.
If several customers say the filter lowered the pressure of water coming out of the shower and faucets, we give it a lower rating.
The best whole house filters have little to no effect on water pressure.
They have large inlet sizes and innovative filter designs to maintain water flow rate.
Ease of Installation
Some filters can be a headache to install even if you hire a professional plumber.
We check customer reviews to see people’s installation experience. Products that earn the highest marks are those that were simple and straightforward to install with few or no issues.
Warranty and Customer Support
Finally, we evaluate how well the company supports their product.
The first thing we look at is the warranty.
We expect a 1-year warranty for small single-stage filters such as UV and sediment filters.
But for larger multi-stage systems, we expect the warranty to be no less than 2 years. The longer the lifespan of the filter, the longer the warranty should be.
That’s part of the reason we rate the 10-year Aquasana filter highly. It comes with a 10-year warranty.
You can be sure the filter will last as long as the manufacturer says it will.
We also find out how well the company answers customer queries and handles issues such as broken or missing parts.There are a few brands that have attracted many complaints, but most companies do a good job helping customers install, configure and maintain the filter.
How To Install a Whole House Water Filter
Unless you have some experience with DIY plumbing projects, we recommend hiring a professional plumber.
Multi-stage systems can be especially tricky to install.
If you decide to do it yourself, here’s a general process that applies to most filters.
Note: Read your product manual for specific installation instructions and warnings.
I recommend you also set up a bypass with a valve. When you need to replace the filters, just turn off the inlet and outlet valves and turn on the bypass valve.
This gives you time to work on the filters without disrupting water supply to the house.
Something else you should consider installing is a pair of pressure gauges, one before the filter and another after.
This allows you to see whether the filter is affecting water pressure. It is also a good way to determine when the filter has clogged and needs replacement.
You’ll notice the water pressure in the outlet pressure gauge dropping.
Care and Maintenance of Whole House Water Filters
Whole house water filters need very little maintenance.
Just check for leaks. If there are some, turn off the valves, take apart the system and reseal the connector that’s leaking.
Then at the end of the filter’s lifespan, replace the filter cartridges. It takes just a few minutes since you don’t need to take the system apart.
Just turn off the water valves and then follow the replacement instructions in the manual.
Frequently Asked Questions About Whole House Water Filters
Is whole house water filter really necessary?
It depends on the quality of your water and your preferences. For instance, you might be getting clean city water but don’t like the chlorine they use for disinfection. A whole house water filter can remove it.
Or maybe you get your water from a well. Well water has dissolved metals like iron and manganese that leave stains all over the house and on your clothes. It also contains sediment.
Most filters can also remove chemicals, heavy metals, and some dissolved minerals.
The biggest advantage of a whole house water filter is that it treats all the water coming into your house. You do not necessarily need to invest in under-sink or faucet filters.
Can I buy a whole house water filter and softener combo?
Yes, you can.
Companies like Aquasana sell systems consisting of several types of filters plus a water softener.
You can also buy the whole house water filter and water softener separately and then install them together.
Can a whole house water filter remove sulfur?
Yes, it can.
If your water has a rotten egg smell, it is because of hydrogen sulfide. An activated carbon filter or a specialized sulfur filter can remove it from your water.
Do whole house water filters remove lead?
Yes, but you need to have the right kind of filter. Not all carbon filters can remove lead. Look for NSF-certified lead removal carbon filters.
How does a whole house water filter work?
The water passes through several types of filtration media such as activated carbon. Impurities like sediment and dissolved metals are left behind while the water passes through.
By the time the water comes out on the other end, almost all the targeted contaminants are gone.
How to change a whole house water filter?
Turn off the inlet and outlet valves. Using your hands or a wrench, loosen the filter housing. Make sure there is a bucket underneath to catch the water.
Remove the old filter, clean the inside of the housing and put in a new filter.
Screw the filter housing back on being careful not to over-tighten it.
How often do I change a whole house water filter?
It will depend on the filter’s advertised capacity and the amount of water your family uses.
100,000-gallon filters can last between 6 months and one year. The highest capacity filters can last up to 10 years or 1 million gallons.
If you install a pressure gauge before and after the filter, you will know when to change the filter (a drop in water pressure means the filter is clogged and needs to be replaced).
What size of a whole house water filter do I need?
The size of a water filter is measured in gallons and ranges from 100,000 gallons (1 year) to 1,000,000 gallons (10 years).
A 1-year filter is adequate for the average family. If you use a lot of water, consider a 3 or 5-year water filter.If you don’t want to keep changing the filter every few months or years, get a 10-year filter.
Where do I install a whole house water filter?
On the main water line just after the meter and before the water heater.
How To Get The Best Deal on a Whole House Water Filter
Most companies offer frequent coupons and discounts on their water filters. Check their official websites or Amazon product pages for the latest offers.
You can also get some great deals on special occasions such as Black Friday, Christmas and other holidays.
Another trick is to get a bundled filter system instead of buying individual filters. A combined sediment, chlorine and UV filter might save you a good chunk of money.
Check out our other popular water treatment guides on this site: