Best whole-house water filtration systems

Find an efficient, long-lasting system that targets chemicals you’re worried about

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A whole-house water filter purifies your water from the very moment it enters your home through the main waterline — rather than dealing with individual filters, all the water in your home is filtered from the start. That way, every appliance, faucet and person who comes into contact with your water gets clean, fresh water.

Expensive models usually come with more complex monitors. Many even have smartphone apps. But which system is right for you? We’ve got some tips to make shopping around easier.

Key insights

  • The best whole-house water filters are efficient, easy to install and low-maintenance. They also have longevity, a low environmental impact and a high water output.
  • The water filtration process involves pre-filtration, mineral-based filtration, carbon filtering, water softening and UV treatment.
  • Whole-house water filters tend to range in cost from $500 to $10,000, depending on size and technology.

Best whole-house water filters

To find the best whole-house water filter, start by making sure you know the quality of your water and the exact needs of your home. If you’re looking to remove specific chemicals, make sure the whole-house water system you’re looking to buy is built to filter out those chemicals.

Other factors you’ll want to consider are environmental effect, system efficiency, maximum water output, expected longevity, ease of installation and maintenance requirements.

» PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT: Best home warranty for plumbing

How do whole-house water filters work?

Whole-house water filters connect to the main waterline in your home, usually before the line connects to your water heater. In some cases, you can even connect your outdoor water systems, including your irrigation and sprinklers, to a whole-house filter, though this may be more difficult and more expensive.

The tank on a whole-house water filtration system will need to be replaced every three to 10 years, depending on the size of your system and how much water passes through it. The sediment pre-filter will need to be replaced every three to six months.

Water treatment process

First the filter connects to the main waterline, and the water is pre-filtered of sediment, dirt, rust and other large particles.

The system uses crushed minerals like copper and zinc to filter out heavy metals, chlorine and other chemicals and prevent bacteria or other microorganisms from growing. Particles in the activated carbon filter then absorb any contaminants and pollutants the mineral filter can’t. For those with hard water, the process of water softening is used to keep minerals in water from clumping together and collecting on surfaces and in pipes.

The water then passes through an ultraviolet system that kills any bacteria or viruses that might still be in the water, and the water is directed to appliances or the water heater.

» COMPARE: Best water softeners and treatment systems

How much is a whole-house water filtration system?

Most whole-house water filtration systems cost between $500 and $3,000 as of publishing, but large or high-tech models can run as high as $10,000 or more. Like with any home appliance, whole-house water filter prices depend on a variety of factors, including the type of filter — whether it’s carbon or reverse osmosis — the active life of its replacement parts and the size of your home.

Water softener vs. water filter

A water softener and water filter are not the same thing. A water softener is a system that uses chemicals or materials to keep minerals and metals from clumping together and leaving a residue; a water filter removes particles and chemicals from the water.

» MORE: How does a water softener work?

The minerals water softeners deal with aren’t harmful, so they don’t need to be completely removed, but hard water can cause issues with appliances and pipes as the minerals build up. By using a system to soften the water, you can prevent these minerals from building up so they don’t cause an issue.

Filters, on the other hand, remove particles. Some filtration systems include a water-softening step, and some may remove hard water minerals anyway. If you’re looking to remove chemicals and particles, only a filtration system will work.


Do I need a whole-house water filter?

If you've noticed the water throughout your house tastes or smells weird, you might want to buy a whole-house water filter. This kind of filter can also help if your laundry isn’t getting fully cleaned or your dishes consistently have watermarks on them after washing.

Whole-house water filters help purify water, making it more suitable for drinking and everyday household use. If you have city water, a whole-house water filter can remove chemicals before they ever get to your faucet. Even well water users may need a whole-house water filter; wells need to be constantly monitored for quality and bacteria, and a whole-house filter can ensure consistent water quality.

What do whole-house water filters remove?

Whole-house water filters remove a variety of contaminants, chemicals and other materials from your drinking water. Filters certified by the NSF, which is a public health and safety organization, are held to a standard of removal to ensure safety.

The best whole-house water filters remove the following:

  • Lead and other heavy metals: Not all filtration systems remove lead (you also have to make sure all your pipes are lead-free).
  • Bacteria and viruses: Units with UV filters generally remove 99.99% of bacteria and viruses.
  • Chlorine: In many cases, municipal systems use chlorine to kill bacteria in the water. This chemical can be absorbed through the skin and by drinking it, and it’s harmful in high quantities. Most filters remove between 95% and 99% of chlorine.
What are the benefits of whole-house water filters?

With this type of filtration, you only need to change one system’s filters, and the high-level filtration goes beyond what water filter pitchers can do.

These systems are more expensive than individual sink models, however; you may not be able to install the system yourself. Accessing the main waterline can also be a challenge if it’s under the foundation of the home or near the street.

Bottom line

If you’re concerned about what’s in your water — especially if you don’t like the way it tastes or smells — a whole-house water filter might be right for you. The peace of mind that comes from knowing all the water in your home is clean and pure may be enough of a reason to set one up.

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