How to Change Any Water Filter In Your Home

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Water filters require ongoing maintenance, so be prepared to know how to change one.

A water filter can provide you with healthy, great-tasting water. If you’re lucky enough to have one, the time will come when you’ll need to know how to change it.

Changing your filter allows you to keep your water odor- and contaminant-free, which is especially beneficial if your water source has previously been untreated. Let’s take a look at the most popular water filtration systems and the steps you’ll need to take to replace each one.


Water Filter Options

When it comes to water filters, you’ll be able to choose from different options:

  • Whole house.
  • Refrigerator.
  • Under the sink.
  • Pitcher.

Each kind of filter has its strengths, and you may find one type suits your needs better than another.

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How to Change a Whole House Water Filter

The whole house water filter variation requires the most prep work and is the most complicated to replace.

1. Be Prepared

Here are the supplies you’ll want to have on hand before you tackle the filter change:

  • New filter: Make sure you have the appropriate filter that works with both your system setup and the type of water you have.
  • Filter wrench: This wrench is oversized and designed to fit over the filter housing. You’ll want to have the one that’s made for your filter, to get the leverage you need to unscrew the unit.
  • Strap wrench: Though not necessary to complete installation, a strap wrench can help you navigate any difficulties in unscrewing the filter.
  • New O-ring: Your old O-ring may look fine, but it’s best practice to replace it with every filter change. A damaged O-ring will compromise the seal and lead to leaking. Make sure you have the right-sized one.
  • Silicon grease: This is your water source, so make sure you have grease that’s approved for use with food.
  • Plumber’s tape: This reinforces the seal and prevents leaking.

Once you’re fully prepared, it’s time to change the filter.

2. Turn Off Your Water

There should be a shut-off valve located near your water filter. You’ll want to make sure this is in the off position before you proceed with your installation.

You may feel more comfortable turning off the water to your entire house during this process. This is a great way to prevent any accidents from taking place if you encounter an unexpected problem during installation. At the very least, you’ll need to have identified where the external shut-off is and know how to turn it off if necessary.

Top Tip

Before you turn off your water, we recommend reserving a bucket of clean water. This will allow you to clean up a little before turning your water back on. This should prevent unnecessary transfer of dirt and grime around your house.

3. Depressurize Your System

You must remove the extra pressure caught in your plumbing before you move on with your installation. To do this, open up a sink or bathtub tap, which allows the trapped water and pressure to be released.

If you live in a multi-floor home, we suggest using a tap on the first floor, or one with the lowest amount of elevation. This works to drain as much pressure out of the lines as possible. Go ahead and leave the faucet open for the duration of the filter change.

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4. Prep the Water Filter Area

Now, you’re ready to get to the actual filter change. Newer plumbing setups usually have three different valves that let you control the water filter’s supply separately. These valves can move 90 degrees and are typically well-labeled.

Moving from the water filter, the first lever you come to will be the water filter’s intake. Turn this off to prevent water from moving into the water filter during the process.

The next lever should also be moved into the off position to prevent any backflow once you remove the existing water filter.

The third valve is the bypass valve. If you have this valve in place, it’s usually set to off. It allows the water in the system to make its way to the filter. During your filter change, go ahead and open this valve, so any water in the line continues past the entrance to your water filter.

Take notes of which levers you move and how they’ve been changed. Once your new filter is in place, you’ll need to return everything to how it was to get your system functioning correctly.

Keep In Mind

If you have an older home or non-standard plumbing, determining which lines you need to access may be harder. Contact your regular plumber for help identifying where your shutoffs are, and leave them labeled for future needs.

5. Open the Canister

This is where you’ll need that oversized plastic water filter wrench. Some people encounter difficulty during this step, and there are two main causes for this.

The first is that the water filter was overtightened previously during its installation.

Some water filter systems, especially the more expensive ones, are equipped with a red button. This button is designed to release pressure from the unit easily. If you have one, depress the button and see if any water trapped in the immediate system is released. This may solve your problem.

If you’re still having difficulty opening the canister, reach for that strap wrench you set aside. You don’t want to risk breaking your water filter wrench by applying too much pressure.

Quick Tip

You can increase the leverage by extending the handle of your filter wrench. Many also find success by using a rubber mallet and lightly tapping the wrench to help loosen it.

Hard water can leave calcium deposits behind that make screwing and unscrewing the filter challenging. Carefully clean away the deposits during the filter change to prevent future problems.

6. Assess the Filter and Clean the Housing

Once the water filter is detached, get a good look at the housing and the inner filter. Dump any water currently in the housing into the bucket you’ve been using. Inspect that water for large pieces of debris or sediment.

After inspecting the water, turn to the filter. Hopefully, you’ve been maintaining your water filter properly and swapping out old filters for new ones.

Your filter works by pulling water from the outside, in. The bulk of your debris should be on the outside of the filter. Note any debris found inside the filtered water area as this can indicate problems within your home’s pipes.

While some sand and sediment are normal, larger chunks of debris aren’t, and may call for a visit from a professional.

Check Before You Change

Assessing your used filter will give you a good idea of how often you need to change your filter. If it’s exceptionally dirty or clogged, mark your calendar accordingly and don’t wait for six months till the next change.

7. Replace the O-Ring

Once you’ve finished with the old filter, it’s time to get to the O-ring. This is the rubber piece that’s found between the filter bracket and the canister. It should be food-grade rubber as you’re consuming the water that moves through it.

To remove, pry the O-ring open. Be careful during this step not to damage the housing. If, for some reason you’re making a correction or adjustment, take care not to stretch the O-ring out of shape. It may be challenging to get into place and not create the correct seal you’re looking for if that happens.

Before replacing the O-ring, make sure to clean out its track. A Q-tip can be an excellent choice for this job. Refrain from using a cleaner here as it might damage your new O-ring.

After the area is clean, you’re ready to install your new O-ring. Use some of the silicone grease, applying it directly to the O-ring with your fingertips. A little goes a long way here, and you can always add more, so start slowly.

Top Tip

Can’t find your O-ring? Don’t forget to check above in the mounted housing.

8. Install Replacement Filter

You’re now ready to install the replacement filter. We recommend soaking your new filter before installation. Insert the filter into clean water and allow it to fully absorb the water to get it ready for installation.

Once the filter has finished soaking, center it in the canister. Do the best you can here, and try to keep it level during moving and installing. With it in the center, you reduce the risk of damaging the top of the filter during the process.

9. Repressurize the System

If you’ve turned your water off at the curb, go ahead and turn that back on now. You’ve also turned off the individual valves to the water filter area, so you’ll have time to pressurize slowly once inside.

Inside, turn the water on slowly. If you can, enlist another person to turn the water on while you watch the water filter. Open each valve a quarter turn and listen to the pipes. This will give you a good idea of how your system is working.

How to Change a Refrigerator Water Filter

You’ll know you need to replace your refrigerator water filter if your ice maker or water dispenser is no longer flowing freely.

Different refrigerator models require different filters, so check your manual to order the appropriate part. There are two different kinds of refrigerator filters: twist-in or push-in.

1. Turn Off the Water

Locate the lever that controls water to the refrigerator. Ensure this is off before changing the filter. Because this filtration system is well contained, you won’t need to turn off the main water source.

2. Remove the Old Filter

If your filter is inside the refrigerator, simply depress the eject button to accomplish this step. For a twist-in unit, you’ll find the filter located in the grille at the bottom of the refrigerator. Turn the filter to the left to loosen and remove.

3. Insert Your New Filter

For a push-in model, align the arrows properly and push your new filter into place. Turn it slightly clockwise until you hear it snap into position. The button you pressed to eject the old unit will pop back out once it’s properly in place.

For in-grille units, insert the filter into position and twist it until it’s securely in place. Don’t forget to reset your filter light if your refrigerator is equipped with one.

Then, turn the water supply to your refrigerator back on. It’s now ready to be used again.

How to Change an Under-Sink Water Filter

An under-sink water filter is a great choice for filtering water you drink or use during food prep. There are many different models available, including sophisticated reverse osmosis systems.

1. Turn Off the Water

For this filter change, you need to turn off the cold water to your sink. You should find a valve directly under the sink on the cold water hose. You may also want to consider turning off the main valve to the house, especially if you’re inexperienced with plumbing.

Once the water has been turned off, open up the tap. This will depressurize the system so you can move forward with the next step.

2. Remove the Old Filter

Your under-sink model is likely held in place with a mounted bracket. Remove the filter from the bracket.

Have a self-contained unit? Go ahead and throw the whole housing and filter away. Some units have a replaceable inner filter. If that’s the case, open up the external housing, remove the inner filter, and dispose of it.

3. Install the New Filter

When you have a reusable filter housing, make sure to take the time to clean it fully. This will remove any sediment, build-up, and other impurities that can interfere with how your filter works. Use a different sink and some soapy water for this.

Each model will have slightly different installation directions. Self-contained filters generally screw back into the filter location. For an inner filter, they may snap into place at the base. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation to ensure it’s been correctly executed.

4. Complete Installation

Make sure to do this step slowly. This will allow the system to repressurize appropriately. It will also let you know if there are any leaks in your installation without risking a huge mess.

With your filter back in its bracket, reconnect the water hoses to the input and output of the unit. Once it’s securely in place, you’re ready to turn the water back on.

How to Change a Water Pitcher Filter

A small pitcher of water can be a great way to keep drinking water on hand. These filters are easy to replace and economical to buy. They’re also travel-friendly.

1. Prep Your New Filter

Before you get started, unpackage your new filter. Most pitcher filters are charcoal units, and you’ll need them to soak as directed before putting them to use. This will ensure your filter can process water properly.

2. Remove the Old Filter

Most pitchers have a top portion where new water is added in. A bottom segment collects the filtered water. The majority of these pitchers have a cylindrical filter that travels between the two, filtering the water as it makes its way through the system.

Open the pitcher lid and grasp the filter. Rotate it to help work it free, and pull it from the unit. An empty cylinder will be left behind.

These filters are generally self-contained and made for single use. Dispose of your filter properly, and move on to the next step.

3. Replace the Filter

Your filter should have been pre-soaking according to the manufacturer’s directions. Go ahead and place it in the empty cylinder. Once it’s in place, rotate it slightly to secure it.

Now you’re ready to filly your pitcher with fresh water. When it’s finished being filtered, it’s ready for consumption. Many pitchers can keep track of when your next filter change should be. Don’t forget to update this one you’ve completed your filter change.


Pencil-In Your Next Filter Change

For best results, change your water filter regularly. Mark your calendar so you know when it’s time for your next change. If you notice a decrease in quality, you may opt to change your unit before the anticipated date.

For an efficient water filter change, read through the related steps above before attempting the replacement. This will ensure an easy and swift process.

Have you successfully managed to change yours yet? Let us know how you got on, below!

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About the Author

Peter Gray

Peter has been a homeowner for 35+ years and has always done his own repair and improvement tasks. As a retired plumber, Peter now spends his time teaching others how they can fix leaks, replace faucets, and make home improvements on a budget.
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