While not as many households opt for point of entry, or whole house water filter systems as they do point of use (such as the under sink water filters), they are still in demand. Thousands of people across the country have serious issues with water quality, and not just for drinking. For some people, the mineral content is so high that it discolors sinks, tubs, and showers, and compromises fixtures. In numerous cases, the smell of the feed water is terribly offensive – even when the water is being used for purposes other than drinking.
For homes like this, oftentimes the whole house solution makes a lot of sense. Once installed, no matter what faucet is turned on for whatever reason, the end user can be assured that the water coming out of the tap (or into the refrigerator or into the washing machine) is clean and safe to consume and use.
And these systems are effective. So, when you couple how effective they are along with the high quality of the water itself, it’s easy to understand their popularity. Of course, as is the case with every option, there are pros and cons to using whole house water filters, and we’ll examine those in this article, along with a number of best choices on the market today.
NOTE: If you would like to jump ahead to the full article explaining Whole House Filtration Systems and how they work, CLICK HERE.
- 1 Top Rated Whole House Water Filters
- 1.1 AquaOx Whole House Water Filter
- 1.2 Pelican Whole House Filter
- 1.3 Best Whole House Sediment Filter Systems
- 2 What are Whole House Water Filter Systems?
- 3 Do I Really Need Whole House Water Filtration?
- 4 Your Guide to Buying a Whole House Water Filter System
- 5 Installing and Maintaining a Whole House Water Filtration System
Top Rated Whole House Water Filters
Some households only need to filter out particulates like silt, sand or rust, etc. If this is your situation, then you may need nothing more than a simple sediment filter!. So, let’s take a look at the best Whole House Sediment Filter Systems:
Best Whole House Sediment Filter Systems
Pelican Sediment Pre-Filter System: 10" Standard System
Approx 5 Stars on Pelican Site and Approx 4.5 out of 5 Stars on Home Depot
Flow Rate: Up To 18 GPM
Filtration: 1 Stage - Sediment Only (NOTE: This comes standard with other Pelican Whole House Systems)
NOTE: Exceptional Micron Filtration: 5 microns Approx 6-9 Month Filter Life
Pelican Sediment Pre-Filter System: 20" Standard System
Approx 5 Stars on Pelican Site (This 20" system not available elsewhere)
Flow Rate: Up To 20 GPM
Filtration: 1 Stage - Sediment Only
NOTE: Micron Filtration: 5 microns Approx 6-9 Month Filter Life
Watts WH-LD Premier Whole House Water Filtration System
Approx 4 out of 5 Stars on Amazon
Filtration: 1 Stage - Sediment Only
NOTE: Micron Filtration: 50 microns
DuPont DUPONT-WFHD13001B Universal Heavy Duty House Filtration System
Approx 4 out of 5 Stars on Amazon
Max 10 GPM
Filtration: 1 Stage - Sediment Only
NOTE: Micron Filtration: 20 microns; Takes DuPont DUPONT-WFHDC3001 Universal Heavy Duty House Pleated Poly Cartridge (which states 30,000 gallons, 5 GPM, 6 month Filter Life)
GE GXWH40L High Flow Whole Home Filtration System
Approx 4.5 out of 5 Stars on Amazon
Filtration: 1 Stage - Sediment Only (NOTE: Filter Not Included)
NOTE: Takes the GE FXHSC Household Pre-Filtration Sediment Filter - Micron Filtration: 30 microns
What are Whole House Water Filter Systems?
The easiest way to explain a whole house water filter is by starting with the term “Point of Entry” or POE. That is because this type of system treats the water at the location at or near where the water supply actually enters the building.
Once the source water, or “feed water” comes into the home, it is directed to and through a filtration system that is designed to treat the water that will be used by the “whole house” – from the water leading to your washing machine, to your water heater, to every toilet, sink, tub, shower, dishwasher, and even the refrigerator if yours has an ice-maker or water dispenser.
Typically, a whole house water filter will consist of one or more “stages” of filtration that the water will flow through before it is released to the rest of your home’s plumbing, including the water heater, and ultimately to its “point of use” – the tap, washer, etc.
How do Whole House Water Filters Work?
Of course much depends upon the type of system you need, but generally speaking most whole house water filtration systems on the market today will take the water through a series of filters designed to remove specific contaminants from your water source.
The water main, or main water line, will be hooked up to the system, usually beginning with a filter to remove whatever rough sediments and particles (such as rust, silt, or sand) may be present. That, in itself is already a helpful step!
The journey through the filters begins either after the water meter (if you are on a municipal supply), or after the pressure tank (if you are on well water). Valves are installed to direct the water through the filter system instead of the main line, and once filtered, it exits the system and is directed back into the main water line. The valves can easily be turned off to bypass the system when it’s time to perform maintenance (such as changing out filters).
Since a picture can sometimes help me visualize how things work, we thought it might help you as well. Using the popular Aquasana 10-Year, 1,000,000 Gallon Whole House Water Filter with Salt-Free Descaler and UV Filtration option as our example in the illustration below, you can see how this system would work.
What are the typical filtration stages in a Whole House Filter?
Most Common Filters
This first filter, known as a “pre-filter” or “sediment filter” is a stage common in nearly every option available in whole house systems, including reverse osmosis water filtration systems, which are some of the most popular options for homeowners (especially for under sink filters). Removing these larger particulates early in the process is important as it helps to lessen the wear and tear on the filters and membranes in the filtration stages that follow.
Typically, the next stage is the activated carbon filter. If you read our section about how granulated activated carbon (GAC) works, you will learn that GAC does not work through ABSORPTION (that is, it does not absorb contaminants); rather it works through “ADSORPTION” – meaning that specific contaminants that are attracted to the carbon surface will adhere to it in the filter.
This is an important stage, because there are several types of compounds that must be removed from the water via adsorption since they cannot be reduced by other methods such as distillation or reverse osmosis. This includes Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are synthetic organic carbon chemicals that vaporize or evaporate into the air at relatively low temperatures. The smell of chlorine coming from a water source is a good example of this, and a carbon filter is an effective means by which to remove the smell and taste of it from your water.
Additional Filtration Stages and Options
For example, there are some filtration products whose sole purpose is to reduce bacteria levels via an Ultra Violet (UV) lamp (as noted in the illustration above). Nothing else would be removed in this case (i.e, any chlorine, fluoride, iron, lead or other unwanted contaminants would remain in the water).
Some units have another stage or phase of filtration. For certain models, there will be an additional carbon filter for the water to pass through. In others, water will pass through an ionically charged “Kinetic Degradation Fluxion” (KDF) filter. In these models, the KDF filter is made with a highly purified copper-zinc compound. This will likely be on models that include the carbon filter stage, because the technology works best in combination with carbon. You may have seen KDF filters used in some of the best shower filters because it works well with higher temperature water.
It is in this stage that you will remove heavy metal substances such as chlorine, arsenic, lead, viruses, mercury, aluminum, iron, that “smelly” hydrogen sulfide, and more. It also is shown to inhibit the growth of algae and bacteria. If this is of interest to you, then a system that includes the KDF filter may be a good option.
There are also whole house models that include a descaling option. “Descaling” is actually the correct term for “salt-free water softening” since water isn’t actually “softened” in the process; rather, it is “descaled.” This means that the minerals that “harden” the water are going to be stopped from going to your tap by the system which will be creating an electrical charge to hold them back.
Because descaling doesn’t really “soften” your water, it will still technically be considered “hard” and can still wreak havoc on your small appliances if water hardness is an issue.
If your water is hard, your whole house filter may benefit from an actual water softening phase, which does use salt (since this is considered an ion-exchange system).
Do I Really Need Whole House Water Filtration?
It’s possible that you do not need to treat/filter ALL the water coming into your home, or you may only need to filter out a few things (like silt or other sediment). Ask yourself the following questions with a look at the potential solutions for each scenario:
Q: Does the water smell foul out of every tap? How does it look? Is it cloudy? Are there particles floating in your water?
Potential Solution: If so, you may want to consider a whole house solution since filtering the water as it enters your home will take care of these concerns at every level.
Q: Are there contaminants that you feel are undesirable in your drinking water, but not necessarily a concern for uses such as bathing, flushing toilets or washing clothes?
Potential Solution: If this is the case, perhaps a point-of-use system such as an under sink water filter in your kitchen and or bathroom sinks might do the trick. Also, while they don’t filter everything, there are numerous excellent water filter pitchers on the market that may be all that you need to improve the quality of your drinking water. If, however, you want to ensure that all the taps in your home produce suitable, filtered water for drinking, it may be more cost effective for you to install a whole house solution rather than separate units at different locations.
Keep in mind also that if your water has undesirable chemicals for drinking, it’s also possible that some may be released into the air in the way of water vapor when you are in the shower – so that is something else that may tip the scales in favor of a whole house solution.
Q: Have you read a municipal water quality report (if applicable) and tested your water (which hopefully you have done or will do)? If so, do the results make you uncomfortable? For example, does the chlorine level bother you? Is there a chance that your water contains high levels of bacteria, lead, arsenic etc?
Potential Solution: If you are uncomfortable with your water report and/or your water test results, a point of entry water filter may be the best way to address numerous concerns. In many areas, whether the source is from a municipal supply or your own well, when it comes to a multitude of contaminants or issues, you might feel better if you filter all the water in the house.
Q: Do you like the idea of drinking filtered water, but have concerns about the environmental impact of buying bottled water?
Potential Solution: Many people want to drink filtered water, but are uncomfortable with the idea of the inevitable waste factor that comes with buying bottled water. BPA in many plastic jugs that hold the water is another concern. If this describes you, one of the best ways to get the water you want while reducing your carbon footprint is to install either point-of-entry or point-of-use water filtration systems since there is far less waste involved (not to mention less strain on your wallet over time).
When Installing a Whole House Water Filter is Your Best Option
There are times when it becomes evident that installing a whole house water filtration system is in the best interest of the entire household. Yes, it would be wonderful if it wasn’t necessary to begin with, but sadly, the fact is that despite the fairly safe water supplies in our country, there are still some serious concerns. Elsewhere on this website, we touched on the recent water emergency in Flint, Michigan. We also talked about the aging infrastructure of the country’s water supplies.
If that’s not enough, more and more chemicals and contaminants are making it into our water – whether it comes from our local water precinct or our own wells. The chemicals used to treat municipal water supplies help to disinfect water to make it technically safe to drink; however, many people do not want these chemicals in their water.
We have already touched on the fact that a whole house unit is a far more environmentally friendly option to using bottled water, or even water delivery services (which use vehicles to transport).
Finally, unless your system is a Reverse Osmosis unit, you won’t produce waste water. And even the amount of waste water produced by Reverse Osmosis (RO) is not always a concern depending on your usage. Some RO system manufacturers state that for every 4 gallons of filtered water, 1 gallon is considered waste water. Again, it depends on the model.
The fact is that for most people, one of the standard whole house water filtration systems that we talk about here is going to be fine. If substances like fluoride are an issue, a secondary reverse osmosis for under the sink will be perfect for drinking and cooking.
Your Guide to Buying a Whole House Water Filter System
As you have learned, filtration systems and media vary, depending on the contaminants they are designed treat. While one household will need a system to remove hydrogen sulfide (“rotten egg”) smell, another may need to address excessive iron in the well water, and yet another may want to reduce the fluoride that the municipality adds to its supply.
This means that a system with a simple carbon filter will be more than enough for one family, while another family may need a whole house reverse osmosis water filter to ensure that the fluoride is removed. For a family trying to deal with the stains and corrosion caused by hard water, a water softening unit may be required.
Things to Consider When Selecting a Whole House Water Filter
There are a few things that you need to know before deciding on a filter.
- What is your “Feed Water Pressure?”
Your water pressure is measured in “pounds per square inch,” or “PSI.” This is the measure of how much force is “pushing” the water from the source feed into your home. Most houses will have water pressure in the range of 40 – 80 psi which is going to be what many systems are designed to work with.
- Why do I need to know my water pressure?
It is important to know what your pressure is because most filtration systems will have a range in which they can operate. For example, the 3-Stage iSpring Whole House Water Filter System (Model WCB320) runs on a feed pressure of between 40-95 psi.
- What is your home’s water flow rate requirements?
“Water Flow” or “Flow Rate” is different from water pressure. The Flow Rate is how much water flows per minute, usually measured in Gallons per Minute, or GPM. Think about all the places in your home that call for water: Your washing machine, dishwasher, shower, toilet, faucets, etc. Each of these have a “Flow Rate.” You may have heard of water-saving “low flow” devices in recent years, for example, “low flow shower heads” designed to conserve water. In this example, a standard shower head may have a flow rate of 2.5 GPM whereas a “low flow” shower head may have a rate of only 1.5 GPM.This is important, because depending on the size of your household, you may require more or less GPM from your filtration system. Using the example from earlier, the iSpring model WCB320 produces approximately 12 GPM. They estimate that a household’s water flow rate requirements can be anywhere from 5 to 40 GPM depending on the size of your home and household. If it turns out that you need 40 GMP, then the iSpring WCB320 wouldn’t be the right system; you would need something with more capacity.
- How can I estimate my Flow Rate?
Begin to estimate the “demand ratings” for the appliances you have in your home. Fortunately there are several guidelines to help you with this estimate! According to the Cooperative Extension System1 here are a few general estimates that you can use to begin. Remember to consider how many of these are in your home, and multiply accordingly:
|APPLIANCE||Toilet||Sink Faucet (Kitchen/Bath)||Shower||Washing Machine||Dishwasher|
|ESTIMATED GALLONS PER MINUTE (GPM)||2-3||2-3||1.5 - 3.00||3-5||2-4|
- What is my budget?
You will need to determine what your primary needs are first, along with the required flow rate. If all you need to do is filter out sediments such as rust or silt, you can get a simple sediment filter for anywhere from about $50 – $175, and replace the filters very inexpensively. If you want a fairly simple 2-3 stage system and only need a sediment and carbon filter, you can find units for around $300. As you add more stages of filtration (heavy metals, etc) you will want to budget for a little more. Also, for filtration systems with a longer filter life with higher capacity (e.g. 1,000,000 gallon, 10 year filters) you will spend more on the initial outlay; however, you won’t need to change the filters as often. It is our experience that you can find a very good, reliable whole house filter from anywhere from $400 – $2,000. We show you examples in all these price ranges.
- What types of filters will I need?
Once you know which contaminants you want to remove from your water, then you will be able to whittle your choices. For example, if your water test reveals a high level of bacteria in your water, you may wish to opt for a UV light sterilization filter. If your test high for iron, lead or other heavy metals, a unit with the Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) copper/zinc filter.
What Type of Whole House System is Best for My Home?
Now it’s time to start narrowing down your options! By now, you are most likely armed with the following knowledge:
- The Filters You’ll Need: You know what you want to remove from your water; therefore, you have a good idea of the types of filters you will need (to review what the different systems are effective for various contaminants, you can see the tables here). Here is a brief rundown:
FILTER TYPE Sediment (Usually the 1st Stage) Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Activated Carbon Block Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) copper/zinc filter Bone Char Carbon WHAT DOES THIS FILTER REMOVE? Sand, Rust, Silt, Dust, Grit, Dirt - Generally speaking, large particles Chemical contaminants such as Chlorine and Chloramines, Herbicides, Insecticides, and Solvents, Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC), Trihalomethanes (THMs), cloudiness, foul or bad tastes and/or odors. Heavy Metals, Chromium, Hydrogen Sulfide ("rotten egg" smell), Magnesium, Mercury, Calcium Carbonate, Arsenic, Iron, Lead, Algae, Sulfur, Viruses, Fungi, Chlorine, Microorganisms, Aluminum and more. This stage is focused on capturing heavy metal contaminants. Fluoride (Note: Reverse Osmosis is also effective for removing fluoride). Can also remove Copper, Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, Radioactive Particles such as Strontium, Vanadium, and Uranium, and also Trihalomethanes (THMs)
- Maintenance/Filter Life: Another thing to consider is how often you will be changing your filters. Fortunately, most of the whole house water filter systems do not require that much in the way of maintenance; nonetheless, you will still have to change the filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This is when you may ask yourself if a filtration system that boasts a filter set-up that will be good for 100,000 gallons of filtered water, with the filters lasting from 6-12 months (such as the 3-Stage Express Water Whole House Water Filter, which runs about $400 or so). Or do you want to save a little money up-front and have a system good for about 35,000 gallons before needing to change out the filters in 6 months (such as the iSpring WCB320 we have noted earlier)?Of course, there are some units that state a 10-Year, 1,000,000 Gallon capacity such as the Aquasana Whole House Water Filter (which runs approximately $900 or so).
- Your Personal Water Consumption: Don’t forget to take into account how much water your household uses. We discussed this above in the section about estimating your required GPM as well as the water pressure coming into your home. In each of the filter systems, you will see that they state
Installing and Maintaining a Whole House Water Filtration System
How Do I Install My Whole House Water Filter?
There are actually two answers to that question, and depending on your “DIY” skills (and desire), rest assured that this is not a terribly difficult task! If you love working on your house and doing home improvement projects, you will be able to install the typical system in a few hours (once you have everything you need on hand!).
If you aren’t very comfortable working on your own homeowner projects by yourself, a call to a licensed plumber, or even a local and trusted handyman will be all you need.
Fortunately, most manufacturers of whole house water filtration systems include excellent instructions and some even have video instructions that are very helpful.
If you have decided to install your system on your own, start here:
- Before beginning, lay out all the pieces that have come with your system, and identify them – becoming familiar with each component as described in the instruction manual.
- Read through any reviews left by previous customers, in case there are some helpful hints from someone who has done this before you. Sometimes reviews offer photos and little tips such as, “have extra Teflon tape because the fittings will need it,” etc.
- Watch any instructional videos that may be offered by the manufacturer.
- Decide on the location where you will install your system. It must be after your water meter or your pressure tank (if on a well). Remember that you will need to give yourself enough space to perform routine maintenance and filter changes.
- Be sure you have appropriate tools, mounting hardware and supports. Read the instructions; while your whole house water filter system will come with everything necessary to the system itself, it won’t necessarily include all the tools, valves or fittings you will need.
After you have familiarized yourself with the process before you, the general process will be along the following lines (again, each system is different, so this is a general guideline):
- You will need to shut off you valve for your water supply. You may need to shock/chlorinate your pipes before you begin.
- Once your water main is off, you will probably need to open all your taps to drain your system.
- Turn off all electric power to your water heater.
- You will need to cut and remove some of the water main pipe; be sure you have measured carefully, taking into consideration that you will need room to fit valves, fittings and the filters themselves. Of course, the old adage, “Measure Twice – Cut Once” is a wise one to heed!
- Your instructions will detail the next steps which will entail you installing the shut-off valves, fittings, and mounting the unit itself. They will outline the order in which to attach the pipes, fittings and valves. Take your time, and be sure that you do things in the exact order presented in your instructions.
- If your instructions advise you to grease the fittings on the filters, be sure to do it! It is important for your filters to have an appropriate seal.
- Once your system is in place, your instructions will tell you the order in which to turn your water back on, and how to flush your system.
- Follow the instructions as they are given, and remember that nearly every manufacturer has a customer support number for you to call if you have any questions.
- Keep any specialized tools near the installation site for future maintenance (e.g. filter housing wrenches, if your unit came with them)
- Once your system is installed and sufficient water has been flushed through your filters and pipes, enjoy your freshly filtered water!
Maintenance and Changing Your Filters
Fortunately, there isn’t usually a whole lot of maintenance when it comes to your filters other than changing them! Of course each model features different designs and fittings, but once you have switched them out once, you will realize it’s easier than you might have thought!
Remember of course that each system has it’s own fittings, so we would ask that you consult the official instructions that come with your unit. Also, as mentioned earlier, your system likely has a customer service number for you to consult if you have questions.
That said, here are the basics that are likely to be common to whichever whole house system you are using:
- Check your system periodically to ensure that there are no leaks or breaks in any lines.
- Be prepared by knowing ahead of time when your filters are due to be changed out.
- If you are on well water, you may be instructed to shock chlorinate your pipes (along with the well) before you begin changing the filters.
- Shut off the water supply – remember to shut if off BEFORE the system!
- You may be asked to empty your hot water heater. Follow the instructions – if you are supposed to drain your hot water heater, this step may come later, depending on your system.
- It’s always a good idea to have a bucket ready under each filter to catch any excess water.
- Follow your system instructions for pressure release. Some will say to leave a tap open. Read the instructions before removing any filters.
- Remove filters according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. You are likely to have a wrench for this purpose that would have come with your unit.
- Discard old filters; do not attempt to clean or reuse them.
- Clean and sanitize the system and parts per the instructions.
- If you are instructed to lubricate any parts of the system, do not ignore this. It is critical that your system be correctly sealed.
- Place the new filters into the housing per instructions.
- Once the filters are changed, you will be given the correct sequence in which you will open the valves and turn the water back on.
- You will also be given instructions regarding how long you should run the water through the filters before it is ready for consumption. Remember to keep the buckets underneath the filters until you are sure there are no leaks.
FOOTNOTES AND SOURCES: