Whether you’re going to water vegetables, wash your laundry or drink it, having clean water is important. A whole house filter is the only system that can provide you with clean water throughout your home, including guest bathrooms and garages. The best whole house water filter can be quite an investment, but one worth making if you have poor water quality.
Do I really need a whole house water filter?
When most people think about filtered water, they think about the water they consume more often than not. If you have heavy chlorine in your water or use a well with high levels of heavy metals, you probably want to purify more than just your drinking water. Contaminated water can dry out your skin and cause issues with your hair and nails – that’s just putting it mildly.
Would you want to cook with water that has an “acceptable” level of arsenic? No, and you wouldn’t want your pets drinking it either. That’s where a whole house water filter comes into play. These systems are an excellent option when you need to clean up more than chlorine, and want to have filtered water on all the taps instead of one.
A whole house water filter can provide clean water for your family to cook with, drink, and bathe in. Your pets will thank you for it, and so will your appliances considering bad tap water can cause issues with ice makers, coffee pots, and other common household appliances.
Breaking Down Whole House Water Filters
There are two ways you can treat water in your home with a POE or POU system. POU’s are considered “point of use” products which cover things like pitchers and screw-on filters. As the name implies, these systems allow you to treat water after it comes out of the tap.
A whole house water filter falls under the POE category, which means it’s known as a “point of entry” system. POE’s are larger and generally placed in your water system at a junction before the water heater. As water passes through the filters, contaminants are trapped, and the end result is clean water throughout your household.
How those filters work depends on the type of system you choose, but all will use a form of multi-stage filtration. There are a few GE whole house water filters and ones from Culligan that are exceptions, but those are typically made for sediment, not chemicals or chlorine.
A whole house water filter can usually cover an entire house, but larger homes will require systems with a higher flow rate. Your plumbing can have an obvious effect on things as well. When you see a manufacturer mention GPM, it stands for gallons per minute and tells you how much flow to expect.
Types of Drinking Water Contaminants
In general, most consumers have common tap water contaminants that fall into a few simple categories with Sediments, Heavy Metals, Chemicals or VOCs, and Bacteria. While not contaminants, there are also some additives that can affect the taste or smell of your water as well.
One of the ways treatment facilities clean up your water is with Chlorine and Chloramine, two common secondary disinfectants. When too much is in your tap water, carbon filters can bring those levels down quickly. Sediments like rust are also easy to deal with, and something every whole house filter system should take care of.
Heavy metals can occur naturally from erosion but are also a byproduct of industrial waste and old pipes inside and outside of your home. Lead is the most common, but Arsenic, Chromium, Copper, and Cadmium are a few other metals that could be present in your water. If you live near factories or farmland, herbicides and pesticides can leech into the water supply as well.
Bacteria can be difficult to treat, along with viruses and cysts. While it depends on the type of microorganism you’re dealing with, whole house systems with UV filters can deal with things carbon can’t touch. Alternatively, a filter that works wonders on bacteria may not do a great job at dealing with heavy metal or chlorine as that depends on your system as a whole.
How to Choose the Best Whole House Water Filter
If you’ve decided a whole house filter is the right choice, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Our buying guide will help you choose the right system to suit your needs while touching on key areas like flow rate and filter life.
Before we get to flagship features or capacity, the first thing you need to consider is placement. As mentioned, this type of filter is installed in-line at a junction in your home. That means it’s not as easy to install as a system that sits under your sink. You may need to break out more than just a hacksaw and some glue depending on the system’s location.
Our installation guide can help you install a whole house filter or find a professional, but the first specifications you need to look for are port size, flow rate, size, and weight. After that, it’s time to think about the quality of the water in your home.
What contaminants do you need to remove?
Barium and lead could be an issue in a neighboring county or state, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that’s over the acceptable limit in your tap water. The first step in deciding what type of whole house water filter you need is to check the quality of the water in your home.
Your local utility board should have that information readily available online, but you can also pick up an in-home test kit. Some are more accurate than others; however, so an independent lab is your best option if you want accurate levels. You may prefer not to rely on the agencies in charge of quality control in your area or may live in a remote location.
Once you know exactly what’s in your water, you’ll understand the best way to treat it. That leads us to the most important component of any whole house water filtration system – the filters.
The Stages of Filtration
Whole house water filters can be single or multi-stage systems depending on what you need to remove, but most have a minimum of two stages. Single-stage systems will have one filter for removing sediment, while a multi-stage system has multiple filter slots for things like chlorine and heavy metals.
Most systems top out at three stages, but a few high-end whole house filters have 5 to 6 stages, and most allow you to add other filters into your water chain as well. Some of the best whole house water filters can reduce anything that comes through your tap while others are only made to deal with certain contaminants. In the end, it all comes down the filters and what’s inside of them.
The most common filter material used in a whole house water filter system is carbon. You can find it in Brita pitchers, but it’s also used in 20-inch filters for removal of chlorine and other additives that may be in excess. The type of carbon varies, so it could be GAC, a carbon block, or a coconut fiber carbon filter.
KDF85 is another popular option, and something you’ll find in many multi-stage systems. It stands for Kinetic Degradation Fluxion and is a mix of copper and zinc. The 85 lets you know the percentage as these 85% copper and 15% zinc in these filter canisters. KDF85 reduces iron and hydrogen sulfide while helping to control scale.
The best advice we can give you with filtration stages is don’t go for a massive system if you don’t need it. It can be easy to be blown away by a whole house filter that lasts for a decade with a flow rate of 15 GPM. That amazing system may live up to the hype, but it won’t do you much good if you’re got issues with iron or cysts and it’s built for chlorine and sediment removal.
What about hard water?
Hard water can cause your filters to clog up prematurely and something most whole house filters can’t tackle without some additional help. If you have hard water in your home, it’s best to treat it with a water softener before it enters your system, to begin with. An in-line filter can do just that, but several of the top whole house filters have softeners built into their filtration chain as well.
When you’re dealing with liquids, usually capacity refers to how much water something can hold. That’s not the case with whole house filters; however, as capacity means how much water a filter can clean before it needs replaced.
Manufacturers list this statistic in gallons or months although a few have systems that can go years without the filters needing replaced. Wondering how long a 100,000 gallon filter will last a family of three? Well, that all depends on how much water flows through your pipes on daily basis as well as the overall quality of their unfiltered water.
Everyone’s water requirements are different, so a 100,000 gallon filter could exceed a year with a couple. If you add a teenager to the mix and an aquarium, the filter lifespan will take a significant hit. Whether it’s six months or five years, eventually you will have to replace the filters in your system so consider replacement costs beforehand along with how many filters you need to replace.
Whole House Water Filter Features
Most water filtration systems are simple by design, even if the materials used to trap contaminants can be quite complex. They are not as high-tech as many of the new countertop or under the sink water filters, but there are a few features you should be on the lookout for.
Every top-tier whole house system will have a sediment filter, but most are made from colored plastic. That means you need to remove the housings to get a look at the filter unless it has a reminder system, and that’s something most don’t have. Clear housings alleviate that problem, and a series of pressure gauges will also let you know if there’s an issue.
Quick-release systems are something we’d love to see more of, but not nearly as common as you’d expect. Big Blue filter housings are a huge perk as it allows you to use common third-party filters, which can save you a great deal of money. Any whole house filter system that is flexible in that regard should be very high on your shopping list.
There are only a few things you’ll want to keep in mind with water safety with this style of filter, and it’s all about the company manufacturing your product. While the EPA and WQA are agencies that monitor water standards and set them, NSF and ANSI certification is what you’ll want to look for with a whole house filter.
In short, when a product has been NSF certified, it’s been tested to meet a series of health and safety standards. With a whole house system, you will want filters that have been certified by NSF International if you want to be on the safe side. Each number stands for a type of certification as well, so the NSF/ANSI 42 standards are completely different from ANSI 401.
Most manufacturers openly list these certifications, but it’s something you can check for yourself as well. The NSF site has a search feature which allows you to look up any company’s products, and you might just be surprised by what you find.
When considering the cost, you’ll want to think about what comes with your whole house system. Most will provide you with a few fitting to get you started, but you’ll probably need to make a trip or two to the hardware store. Systems with “Pro” kits are a great option although the quality and style of those fittings can vary quite wildly.
Hiring a plumber to install your system can be as much or more than a cheap whole house filter, but something you may have to do with some of the best whole house water filters. Pay close attention to the warranty for those details or you may void it before ever firing up your system. The cost of replacement filters over time should also play a part in your decision along with the price of any replacement parts.
The Best Whole House Water Filter System
We spent countless hours looking through whole house reviews from verified users on all the top sites and dug through reviews from contractors as well. In the end, we found there are only a half-dozen or so whole house water filter systems that qualify as the best, as many aren’t properly certified or have poor quality control. While we didn’t include single-stage systems, our picks are geared to suit a wide variety of tastes…
- Capacity: 600,000
- Flow Rate: 10 GPM
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime
- Capacity: 100,000
- Flow Rate: 15 GPM
- Warranty: 1 Years
Express Water WH300SCKS
- Capacity: 100,000
- Flow Rate: 15 GPM
- Warranty: 1 Year
Home Master HMF2SMGCC
- Capacity: 95,000
- Flow Rate: 10 GPM
- Warranty: 2 Years
- Capacity: 500,000
- Flow Rate: 7 GPM
- Warranty: 5 Years
1. Pelican Whole House Carbon Water Filtration System PC600
The Best Whole House Water Filter
Pelican Water has been one of the leaders in home water filtration for over a decade. Whether you want to adjust your pH, reduce manganese, or simply filter chlorine, they have something for you. Our top pick from the company is one of their simpler systems, but a water filter that is also extremely efficient.
The Pelican PC600 is a whole house system that’s capable of handling 10 gallons per minute. It’s rated for 1 – 3 bathrooms according to the company, and the filter life is excellent as well. At 600,000 gallons, it can last for around five years before you need to remove and replace media inside the tank. The sediment filter doesn’t last nearly as long at 6 to 9 months, but that’s par for the course with pre-filters.
As for the filters, the first stage is the pre-filter which uses a 5-micron filter to remove sediment. It keeps rust and debris from gumming up the few stages including two and three. That’s where activated carbon factors in, which is ideal to for chloramine and chlorine removal. The last stage features a bacteriostatic copper-zinc combo which helps prevent bacteria or algae.
The PC-600 is rated for a 97% chlorine reduction and can reduce some common contaminants like all carbon-based filters, but it’s not built to deal with an excess amount of lead or things like bacteria. It does meet NSF/ANSI 42 and 61 however and requires very little maintenance due to the capacity. It has a 1” port and measures 18”W x 18”D x 49.5”H with a weight of 21 pounds.
Pelican’s systems are not cheap, although the PC600 is one of their more affordable systems. It’s well-built with a stainless steel tank, and this whole house water filter system comes with a limited lifetime warranty as well. The filters are expensive, but you won’t have to worry about that for around five years. Overall, it’s an excellent choice for families that want to take down the chlorine and chloramine levels in their home.
2. iSpring WGB22B Big Blue Whole House Filter
The Best Budget Whole House Water Filter
It’s not difficult to find a manufacturer with a two or three-stage whole house water filter. Finding a high-quality system that’s actually affordable is a different story. iSpring managed to pull that off with the WGB22B, a budget-friendly whole house filter that uses Big Blue housings.
In its base configuration, the LittleWell 2-stage filter sports a multi-layered sediment filter and a carbon block. That’s good for a 95% reduction in chlorine, copper, lead, and iron along with various contaminants found in municipal water systems. Both are 5 microns, 20 inches and rated with a capacity of 100,000 gallons under optimum conditions.
As the company went with Pentek’s Big Blue housings, you can use a variety of third-party filters in this system along. That said, the company already offers filters for iron, lead, and manganese removal for this model. It has a 1” port and is capable of filtering up to 15 gallons per minute. The design is simple, but it’s well-built and easy to maintain.
This two-stage system measures 15.5”L x 27”H x 8”D and tips the scales at close to 33 pounds. While it’s an ideal system if you want to add a UV filter or post-filter down the line, it only comes with the bracket, housings, filters and a housing wrench out of the box. A variant with hose connectors is available as well, but at an inflated price which increases the cost of the system substantially.
The iSpring WGB22B is the perfect whole house water filter if you want to reduce contaminants in your city water without breaking the bank. With the right filters, it could also be used to supplement a well water system. You’ll get a 1-year warranty with the LittleWell whole house filter along with lifetime tech support.
3. Express Water Heavy Metal Whole House Water Filter
The Best Whole House Water Filter for Heavy Metals
If you get your water from a well, you can experience an increase in heavy metals. The best way to rid your tap water of those contaminants is with a heavy metal whole house filter. Well, we’re happy to say that the WH300SCKS from Express Water will definitely do the trick.
This flexible system can reduce or remove a wide range of contaminants and has a few convenient features that set it apart from other water filters on our list. Filter changes are easy thanks to a series of pressure release buttons and housings that twist off. Those filters are housed in a sturdy free-standing frame which gives you more freedom in the installation department as well.
If you’re concerned about drops in pressures, you will be thankful for the series of pressure gauges that sit above each housing. We also like the fact the sediment filter is clear as it’s a simple touch other manufacturers tend to skip. The system is large at 65 pounds with a standard port, and measures 29”H x 24”W x 8.5”D. Filter capacity is listed at 100,000 gallons which should last between 6 to 12 months.
Express went with a 3-stage system for he WH300SCKS, and the first stage is a 4-layer sediment filter that’s capable of removing contaminants down to 5 microns. KDF85 is in the second stage for lead, arsenic, mercury, and other contaminants while the third stage is a carbon block or ACB filter. Chlorine reduction is listed at 97%, while copper, iron, and lead come in at 96%.
This whole house water filter is a great fit for homes with well water where heavy metals are a concern. It’s cheaper than some 2-stage systems, and the company has a wide range of filter packages available in case you want to swap the carbon block or KDF85 for something to reduce the scale or switch to GAC. The Express Water WH300SCKS comes with lifetime technical support but only has a short 1-year warranty.
4. Home Master HMF2SMGCC Water Filtration System
An Excellent Option for Chlorine and Chloramine
The best whole house water filter can come in many shapes and sizes, but most share common similarities in the design department. The minds at Perfect Water Technologies didn’t make the HMF2SMGCC fancy, but it is a reliable alternative that’s a breeze to use.
From a design standpoint, the Home Master whole house two-stage filter doesn’t look like much. There’s a white metal bracket with a series of bolts that hold the filter housings in place, but it’s simple and easy to maintain. The oversized housings are a nice touch although we had difficulty finding certification on this product once we looked into the filters.
The HMF2SMGCC is a dual-stage system with the first stage acting as a sediment filter. It is NSF certified and can filter out particulates down to 1 micron. It’s a multi-layer filter with an additional 10 and 5-micron layer, whereas the second stage is filled with KDF85 media. That filter has no certification on the NSF site but removes up to 95% of chloramines, chlorine, pesticides along with water-soluble heavy metals.
Like many systems of this nature, you can swap out the KDF85 filter cartridge if you need to concentrate on iron removal from well water or other contaminants. The port size is standard at 1”, and the filters have a capacity of 95,000 gallons or 6 to 12 months… whichever comes first. The Home Master HMF2SDGC whole house filter is 28”H x 15”W x 9”D with a weight of around 36 pounds and comes with everything you need for a painless installation.
This simple system is half the price of larger whole house water filters but is capable of reducing the same contaminants. It’s not quite as capable as models with a higher reduction rate, but will definitely get the job done without breaking the bank. Replacement filters are reasonable depending on your water quality, and the 2-year warranty is better than average for this style of filter.
5. Aquasana EQ-WELL-UV Whole House Filter
The Best Whole House Water Filter for Bacteria
Well water is by far the hardest water for homeowners to deal with due to the range of contaminants that could be present compared to municipal water. If bacteria and chemicals are more of an issue than over chlorination, the Aquasana EQ-100-AST-UV may the best whole house water filter for your home.
The draw of this system is its additional filtration power. Aquasana used a SimplySoft descaling filter in this system, and while it’s not a “water softener” it will certainly reduce buildup throughout your home. It uses SCM tech to condition your water naturally without salt, so you’re water won’t be demineralized. Their UV filter will destroy 99% of bacteria and viruses, including E.coli and giardia, among others.
Chlorine, pesticides and various other contaminants will be reduced through the company’s Rhino whole house filter. This NSF certified dual-chamber filter has 3-stages with a mix of KDF and carbon and rated for around 500,000 gallons. Chlorine reduction is at 97%, but it’s not an ideal system if you have high levels of iron and other heavy metals which may require specialized filtration. The Aquasana whole house well water system also comes with pre and post-filters.
The EQ-WELL-UV is a beast of a system at 115 pounds. At around 50”H x 20”W x 10”D, you’ll need some space to install this whole house water filter. You’ll also want to call in a professional in order to take full advantage of their warranty. The flow rate is less than spectacular for obvious reasons at 7 gallons per minute, but it does an excellent job of clearing out contaminants and killing bacteria.
The Aquasana Rhino system is available in sever configurations, including a 10-year system. We chose this particular model as the replacement filters are cheaper. With that in mind, whether you get 5 or 10 years from the filters depends on the quality of your water.
Q: Can any whole house filter work with well water?
A: Yes, but it may not filter out the contaminants you need reduced. Be sure to check your water quality before choosing a system for well water. Some well water systems also don’t offer enough coverage, so a test is vital for well water.
Q: Will a whole house filter remove or reduce Fluoride?
A: Not unless it has a filter for fluoride reduction, and that’s rare. There are only a handful of reliable whole house fluoride filters, and they are far from cheap. In most cases, you’re better off treating fluoride with a POU filtration system.
Q: How long does it take to install a whole house filter?
A: If you have everything you need, it should only take a day. If you’re installing a system with 5 stages or have special requirements, it could take longer unless you decide to call in a pro.
Q: Is it easy to maintain a whole house water filter system?
A: For the most part yes. Some models can have filters that can be tricky to change, but there isn’t as much maintenance as you’d encounter with a reverse osmosis system and other forms of filtration.
We hope you found our guide useful and a system that suits your household’s needs. A whole house filter is a wise investment for consumers with well water and H2O that’s over the limit in key areas or too harsh for you needs. If you feel a whole house water filter is out of your range or just need a point of use filter, check out our guide to the best under sink water filters.