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Best whole house water filtration systems

Find out what makes a great whole house water filter

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by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team
mother and daughter washing hands in kitchen sink

What is a whole house water filter?

A whole house water filter purifies your water from the very moment it enters your home through the main water line. Instead of 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 is getting clean, fresh water.

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. Other common issues include laundry that isn’t fully cleaned or dishes that consistently have water marks left on them after washing. Whole house water filters help purify water, making it more acceptable for drinking and everyday household use.

If you have city water, a whole house water filter can remove those chemicals before they ever get to your faucet. However, 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.

How much is a whole house water filtration system?
Most whole house water filtration systems will cost between $500 and $3,000, but large or high-tech models can run as high as $10,000 or more. Like any home appliance, a whole house water filter unit’s price will 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.

Expensive models usually come with more complex monitors. Many even have smartphone apps.

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Best OverallRead Reviews
  • Available models: 2
  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • Price: Starting at $790
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  • Available models: 1
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Price: Starting at $500
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Runner-Up Visit website
  • Available models: 2
  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • Price: Starting at $200

Find the best whole house water filter

To find the best whole house water filter, you need to first make sure you know the quality of your water and the exact needs of your home. If you are looking to remove specific chemicals, make sure the whole house water system you are looking to buy removes those chemicals. Other factors you should look for in a great whole house water filter include low environmental effect, high efficiency, high maximum water output, longevity, easy installation and low maintenance.

How do whole house water filters work?

Whole house water filters connect to the main water line 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 it may be more difficult and more expensive. The tank on a whole house water filtration system will need to be replaced every 3 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:

  1. Filter connects to the main water line
  2. Water is pre-filtered of sediment, dirt, rust and other large particles
  3. Crushed minerals like copper and zinc are used to filter out heavy metals, chlorine and other chemicals and prevent bacteria or other microorganisms from growing
  4. Particles in the activated carbon filter absorb contaminants and pollutants that the mineral filter cannot
  5. 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
  6. Water passes through an ultraviolet system that kills any bacteria or viruses that might still be in the water
  7. Water is directed to appliances or the water heater

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:

  • Lead and other heavy metals
    Not all filtration systems remove lead. Additionally, you have to make sure all of your pipes are lead-free.
  • Bacteria and viruses
    Units with UV filters will generally remove 99.99 percent 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 as well as through drinking and is harmful in high quantities. Most filters will remove between 95 percent and 99 percent of chlorine.

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.

The minerals water softeners deal with are not harmful, and therefore don’t need to be completely removed, but hard water can cause issues with appliances and pipes as the minerals build up. By using the system to soften the water, these minerals are prevented 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 filtration may remove hard water minerals anyway. If you are looking to remove chemicals and particles, only a filtration system will work.

Are whole house water filters worth it?

If you are 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.

Benefits of whole house water filters:

  • You only need to change one system’s filters
  • High-level filtration goes beyond what water filter pitchers can do
  • All faucets and appliances are served by the system
  • Can combine with water-softening needs
  • Professional installation is available

Disadvantages of whole house water filters:

  • These systems are more expensive than individual sink models
  • You may not be able to install the system yourself
  • Accessing the main water line can be a challenge if it’s under the foundation of the home or near the street

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Profile picture of Tom Rains
by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Tom Rains graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014 with a master’s degree in Professional Writing. Tom’s passion for delivering quality content fuels him to provide consumers with accurate, well-researched information on major life purchases.