A whole house water filter ensures that all the water in your home is purified to the same standard.
Residential water purifiers are a wonderful addition to any home, but most of them are limited. Sure, they clean and soften your drinking water, but it’s often only at a single source.
We show you how to shop for the best whole house water filter for you, along with six recommendations.
What Is a Whole House Water Filter?
Whole house filters, or “whole house filtration systems,” function the exact same way as any other water filter. Water is sent through a membrane, mesh or barrier that only certain molecules can pass through. As water travels through this filter, impurities — like debris, minerals, and some chemicals — are left behind.
The difference is in the installation and design. Other water filters, like pitchers or reverse osmosis machines, typically only apply to one source of water. In the case of pitchers, for example, the only purified water you get is what you add to it.
One thing that sets whole house systems apart from others is that they connect to your home’s main water line. All water that enters your house passes through it first. As a result, all dispensed water is purified, be it from your faucets, shower head, garden hose or even your toilet.
How Whole House Water Filters Work
They’re far more complex and comprehensive than other types of filter systems. Differing components are attached to different points of your water line. This combination forms a system that water flows through in your plumbing.
No two whole house filtration systems will be the same, but for the most part, this what you can expect:
1. Sediment Pre-Filter
These are used to filter out pollution like sludge, rust, and debris, which can find their way into your plumbing. It’s the first stop for your water as it passes through the filtration system.
Sediment contamination can lead to nitrate pollution, which is highly toxic — and potentially fatal — to infants (1).
2. Activated Carbon Filter
Activated carbon (charcoal) filters are the most common kind of water filters. They remove a wide range of contaminants from your water, with an emphasis on chemical pollution. Some activated carbon filters can even remove heavy metal toxins (2).
One of the reasons why these filters are so popular is because they improve the odor and taste of water.
3. Copper-Zinc Mineral Stone Filter (KDF)
This filter connects to the same point as your activated carbon filter does. Here, scale, chlorine, and heavy metals are filtered out. Copper-zinc filters also take care of pathogens by preventing bacterial growth in your pipes.
Copper-zinc filters are sometimes called KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) filters, so look out for either when shopping.
4. Water Softener
Not all home water filter systems include a water softener. Their purpose is to remove mineral content (calcium and magnesium) from your supply. While there are many advantages in doing so, some people prefer not to soften their water. The choice is yours!
Soft water is gentler on your skin, pipes and appliances. The biggest benefit is that it eliminates the risk of limescale build-up around your home.
5. Sub-Micron Post Filter
This is another optional component. It takes care of any sediment and natural pollutants that may have bypassed the first three barriers. It’s an extra precaution that you can include, but one that isn’t necessary.
6. UV Filter
Lastly, consider a UV filter. The final step in your whole home filtration system, it kills any remaining pathogens in the water before it reaches you. This is an extremely efficient means of disinfecting water.
An investigation on portable UV water filters concluded that they can destroy between 94 and 99 percent of bacteria (3).
Why Should You Buy a Whole House Filter?
Whole house water filters are impressive in their efficiency, but not everyone is willing to invest in one. If you’re on the fence, these perks may help you make your mind up.
1. Healthier Water
Of course, the most important benefit of any filtration system is that the water your drink is made healthier. Think of all the toxic impurities you unknowingly consume if you drink water straight from the faucet.
You might be thinking, “surely water is treated before it reaches my faucet?” Yes, it is, but not as well as you’d hope. In 2018, it was revealed that at least eight percent of municipality treated water was contaminated (4).
Eight percent doesn’t seem so terrible, but it means that up to 45 million people were drinking unsafe water. You could be one of them. Each municipality will treat its water differently, so it’s better to be safe and use a filter.
2. Unified Purification
Any water filter can remove contaminants from your supply, so why are we recommending a whole house system? Well, it’s because other filters, like pitchers or under-sink filters, only filter one source of water at a time.
Using various filters won’t solve this problem. Smaller, single-purpose filters are effective, but they won’t filter out as much as a whole house system will. They may be inconsistent too, with some filtering out heavy metals but not bacteria, for example.
A whole house water filter means that every drop of water you drink or use is purified of the same pollutants. They’re the only filtration systems that are unified, outside of industrial or municipal water treatment.
3. Better for Your Skin
A common problem with smaller systems is that they only filter the water your drink. When you bathe, all those chemicals and impurities are absorbed by your skin.
Since whole house water filters purify all water entering your home, the water you wash with will be as clean as a whistle, too.
Yes, you can install a shower head filter, but what happens when you wash your face at the sink or brush your teeth? What about your laundry?
Grooming goes much further than simple bathing, and you may not realize the different ways that water comes into play. A whole house filter manages it all, so your body will benefit.
4. Save Money
It’s interesting because whole house filters have higher costs initially, but they’ll save you money over time. Smaller water filters accrue more regular maintenance costs. They’re also not as durable and will need replacing more often than a whole house system will.
Whole house water filters are built to last. You’ll have to clean out or replace sediment and sub-micron filters every six months or so, but the system itself can last decades. It’s a once-off cost that amounts to less than the constant maintenance of less comprehensive filters.
5. Less Maintenance
A whole house water filter can save you a lot of time too. In the case of smaller filters, management is determined by the manufacturers. It’s typical to replace activated carbon filters every three to six months, which not only costs money but also effort.
With the exception of the sediment filter, you barely have to think about a whole house system. Sub-micron filters are optional, so aren’t automatically a maintenance burden.
As for the rest of your whole house water filter, there’s almost no effort required in keeping it clean and functional.
6. They’re Convenient
With house filters, you don’t have to move anything around or add water to anything separately to benefit. All you have to do is open your faucets, and you’ll have purified water.
Other systems and filtration devices are specific and may need refilling every so often. On the other hand, this filtration system works seamlessly with no hassle, planning, preparation or work from you. There’s no switches, set-up or waiting necessary.
Considerations Before You Buy a Whole House Filter
Whole house water filters make a significant difference in residential purification. We’re crazy about them and strongly recommend that you give it a try. Still, they’re a big investment and aren’t as simple as smaller systems.
There are a few drawbacks to whole house water filters, but the advantages far outweigh them. Keep the following in mind just in case.
1. Professional Installation
We don’t recommend trying to install a whole house filtration system on your own, at least not at first. There’s a method to how each of the components connect to your main water line, and you don’t want to risk any mistakes.
Though the risk is small, there’s a chance that if you install it incorrectly, you could damage your plumbing. It’s better to call the professionals. Doing so will also ensure that your filter works the way it’s supposed to.
2. Higher Initial Cost
It’s tempting to settle for something more affordable, but remember that you won’t get the same effect. You get what you pay for, and whole house filters are worth the money. Regardless, they’re the most expensive of the residential filtration systems.
Don’t forget to account for installation costs and servicing. Yes, whole house filtration systems will ultimately save you money, but they’re not something you can buy on a whim.
3. Set Filtration
It’s almost funny how the greatest appeal of a whole house filter is also one of its drawbacks. These systems filter out everything, everywhere — even if it’s not necessary.
Think about it: your toilet water is filtered just as well as your faucet water is. This is not a dealbreaker at all, but to some, it feels unnecessary and extravagant.
It might impact other areas of your life too. For example, some plants prefer hard water, so if you install a softener in your system, you might ruin your garden (5). Soft water isn’t recommended for pools either, as it might compromise their structural integrity.
Tip: If you aren’t comfortable with some elements to whole house filtration, remember that some of the components are optional. So long as you have the sediment filter, carbon filter, and copper-zinc filter, the rest is up to you. You could always experiment to see which extras are necessary.
The Best Whole House Water Filter Reviews of 2020
We suspect that whole house water filters have tickled your fancy, so now it’s time to go shopping. We have seven recommendations for you, based on features, their effect, and customer feedback. Here are our picks of the best whole house water filters.
1. Express Water Heavy Metal Whole House Water Filter
Though this system emphasizes heavy metal filtration, it’s a comprehensive whole house filter. There’s a reason why it’s a customer favorite: it takes care of almost all your filtration needs.
Built to NSF and ANSI standards, this system is made of food-grade plastic. It comes with a free-standing stainless steel frame. Clear, first stage housing allows for easy observation, so you’ll know exactly when your filter needs changing.
The three stages of filtration are sediment, copper-zinc, and carbon. This system can filter out some heavy metals, chemicals, and pathogens. It also takes care of organic pollution and will remove odors and unpleasant tastes from your supply.
Why We Love It
We like that this whole house water filter is the complete package. It doesn’t come with the extras, but the included components filter out almost all of the important contaminants. Heavy metals, chemical toxins, pathogens, and organic pollution are all managed by this system.
It’s good to know that this whole house water filter meets the standards of NSF and ANSI. Though the regulation is independent, it’s a nice touch that not all systems can boast. The result is food-grade plastic for healthier, safer water.
The sediment pre-filter has a clear case so that you can tell when it’s time to change it. Monitoring how your filter is holding up is so easy. There won’t be any guesswork, so you’ll save time in maintenance.
Keep In Mind
KDF Filter Is Bothersome
A few customers note that there is a pressure drop in the system once stage two kicks in.
The design of the KDF filter is tricky to work around, and it’s unclear if the pressure inconsistency is a design flaw. Though users have mentioned that the KDF filter is frustrating, overall they’re pleased with its effect.
Installation Is a Hassle
Bear in mind that we recommended calling in professionals, so Express Water can’t take the blame for this one. Still, many customers say that installing this system is difficult and that the filters are tricky to place. This only matters if you’re attempting DIY installation.
|What does it filter?||Aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, mercury, nickel, lead, chlorine, chloramine, hydrogen sulfate, pesticides, herbicides, sediment, rust, fungi, pathogens|
|Filters included||Sediment filter, KDF filter, activated carbon filter|
|Special features||Clear casing on the sediment filter, free-standing stainless steel frame, pressure gauges|
|Water pressure||45–80 psi|
2. Express Water Standard Whole House Filter
Another by Express Water, this one makes a great first whole house water filter. We recommend it if you want similar perks to our first choice, without the emphasis on heavy metals. It’s a well-rounded product, and for a standard option, it goes a long way.
This system filters out a wide range of chemical and organic pollutants in your supply. Like the specialized system, it uses three-stage filtration, though the filters differ. You get a sediment filter, granular activated carbon filter, and a carbon block.
Included are a standing frame, pressure gauges, and a clear case for easy monitoring of your sediment filter.
Why We Love It
This is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a basic filter that removes chemical toxins from your supply. It takes care of a number of organic pollutants as well, so it’s a well-rounded product. We recommend it if chlorine (and other chemical waste)
is a concern of yours.
Two Carbon Filters
The reason why this system is so great at filtering out chemical contaminants is the second and third stages of filtration. Express Water doubled down on the activated carbon for extra safety and purification. Your drinking water will taste and smell better because of it, and more toxic substances will be filtered out.
It’s got the same extras as our top choice. Even though this is the standard option, you still get pressure gauges, a stainless steel frame, and a clear sediment filter case. Maintenance, storage, and monitoring are as easy as pie.
Keep In Mind
No KDF Filter
One thing this system lacks is a copper-zinc filter. If you’d like the complete package, you may have to spend extra on purchasing it separately. Note that an extra activated carbon filter has taken its place to compensate.
The two carbon filters do a good job of filtering out a variety of pollutants. It’s not a terrible drawback, as many systems follow the same pattern.
Doesn’t Filter Pathogens
Though it does an excellent job of filtering chemical and natural toxins, it won’t do much for bacteria. Depending on your municipality, this might not be a big deal. If you’re worried, as with the KDF filter, you can always purchase a sub-micron or UV filter to add to it.
|What does it filter?||Chlorine, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sediment, rust|
|Filters included||Sediment filter, granular carbon, carbon block|
|Special features||Pressure gauges, stainless steel stand, clear sediment filter case|
|Water pressure||45–80 psi|
3. iSpring Commercial Grade Reverse Osmosis System
Perhaps you’re interested in a whole house system for your business or a larger property. If that’s the case, this commercial-grade water filter system will do the trick. It’s intended for high-traffic use, so you know it’ll meet your demand.
The filters in this system stand at 20 inches each, which is double the size of the industry standard. This is a reverse osmosis model, so your water will be purified and softened all at once.
You get three, high-efficiency reverse osmosis membrane filters, a booster pump, and a pressure gauge. It filters heavy metals, chlorine, and impurities.
Why We Love It
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty filter, this may be the one for you. It’s recommended for restaurants, salons, and labs, so it’ll do well in any business.
Consider this product if you have a larger home as well. It’s higher capacity is intended for busy demand, so it’ll hold up.
Reverse osmosis machines have gained a lot of popularity in recent times. Rather than using activated carbon, an RO membrane is what filters out contaminants from your supply. There’s no need for added chemicals, and the taste of your water won’t be affected.
Another perk to reverse osmosis machines is that they soften your supply. This system won’t interfere with the alkalinity of your water, but it will replace hardness through ion exchange. You’ll have gentler water as a result.
Keep In Mind
Only RO Membranes
One flaw is that this system doesn’t have the usual filters you’d expect in a whole house system. Instead of a sediment filter, KDF, and carbon filter, it utilizes three reverse osmosis membranes. They’re effective, but don’t meet traditional whole house filter specs.
Takes Up More Room
We don’t recommend this product to those of you in smaller homes. It’s sophisticated and heavy-duty, but the high capacity comes with a price. If you have no need for commercial-grade filtration, you’ll be better off with a smaller system.
|What does it filter?||Chlorine, heavy metals, hardness, impurities|
|Filters included||Three reverse osmosis membranes|
|Special features||Free-standing frame, booster pump, pressure gauge|
|Water pressure||22–95 psi|
4. iSpring 3-Stage Whole House Filtration System
Here’s a system that comes with very little fuss. It’s a fantastic example of a standard whole house water filter. Your water flow won’t be affected by this one, as it’s designed to have little impact on water pressure.
It meets NSF and ANSI standards, so quality and safety are guaranteed.
Included are a sediment filter and two activated carbon blocks. This means the system focuses on filtering sediment and chemical impurities.
If you’re a fan of hard water, this product will retain the mineral content in your supply.
Included are a metal bracket, all filter cases, and a wrench.
Why We Love It
Customers are pleased with how little fuss this system requires. The filters are easy to connect and dismantle, so maintenance won’t be any trouble. For those of you interested in the DIY route, the instructions for this system are clear and simple to understand.
iSpring emphasizes that this system won’t affect your water’s hardness. All of the mineral content will be retained, so you’ll have cleaner, healthier water. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you could always install a softener to get the best of both worlds.
This is a mid-range model so you could save a few bucks by going for this as an option.
It’s a good quality system that’s more affordable than other, more advanced models. What’s great is that it lacks the bells and whistles, so you won’t pay for potentially unnecessary extras.
Keep In Mind
Two Carbon Filters
It’s missing a KDF filter, but an extra carbon one has taken its place. Your water will be purified well with this system, but if you’re looking for a complete package, you’ll have to buy the KDF filter separately.
Filter Cases Are Fragile
A few customers say that the cases aren’t made of the strongest plastic. Some mention that they’re prone to cracks, which lead to frustrating leaks.
Handle them with care and take extra time for maintenance to avoid premature replacements.
|What does it filter?||Sediment, rust, chlorine, solvents, herbicides, pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs)|
|Filters included||Sediment filter, two carbon blocks|
|Special features||Metal bracket, three filter cartridges, 4.5-inch wrench|
|Water pressure||Not specified|
5. Reverse Osmosis Revolution 3-Stage Filter
You don’t have to sell your limbs to afford a whole house water filter. Reverse Osmosis Revolution’s 3-Stage filtration system is an affordable alternative to more advanced makes.
Don’t be confused by the name though; this is not a reverse osmosis machine. The three stages of filtration are a sediment filter, granular activated carbon, and a carbon block. It clears a variety of chemical pollutants from your supply, as well as rust, dirt, and other natural impurities.
It’s simple and effective. A nice touch is the extra set of filters you receive upon purchase.
Why We Love It
We like what we see, and it comes at a fraction of the usual price. You’ll get excellent filtration on a budget. The extra set of filters is a nice courtesy that also saves you money on your first round of maintenance.
Great Water Quality
Satisfied customers say that this filtration system visibly improved their water’s quality, especially in taste and odor.
This filter might also improve the appearance of your water, making it clearer.
It’s Super Effective
Buyer’s praise this system, and many customers say that they regret not buying it sooner. It may not have features as advanced as other models, but its efficiency speaks for itself. Give it a try if you’re looking for a noticeable difference.
Keep In Mind
Missing KDF filter
Like others on our list, this system is basic and does not include a KDF filter. Instead, it uses two carbon filters; one granular and the other a carbon block. This isn’t too much of a drawback, given the wonderful feedback on this system’s effectiveness.
Some users say that the drop in water pressure is significant. It’s worth the advantages of this system, but it may be frustrating if you use large amounts of water.
|What does it filter?||Sediment, rust, chlorine, radon, volatile organic compounds (VOCs)|
|Filters included||Sediment filter, granular activated carbon, carbon block|
|Special features||Set of extra filters|
|Water pressure||20–100 psi|
6. APEC Two-Stage Whole House Filter
Here’s a system for you if you don’t have much room, or aren’t interested in heavy-duty filtration options. It’s simpler than others, but it still gets the job done. Though it’s not as popular, it has plenty of potential.
The two stages incorporated into this system are a sediment filter and a carbon filter. It purifies debris, rust, and other dirt as well as chlorine and VOCs.
It’s pre-assembled and ready to go right out of the packaging.
We like it for its simplicity. It’s an excellent choice for smaller homes.
Why We Love It
The problem with more advanced systems is that they need more room. If you live in a smaller home, this two-stage system is more accommodating. You won’t compromise efficiency if you choose this model.
We like that there’s no assembly required for this system. Each of the components are ready to be installed as-is. This will save you time and confusion when you’re setting it up.
Note that even though APEC has done the work for you, it still recommends hiring a professional for installation. Still, your plumber will appreciate how easy the filter is to install.
Happy customers say that they did not experience drops in water pressure while using this system.
Also, the improvement in water quality is noticeable, and it tastes and smells much better after running through the filters.
Keep In Mind
More Info Needed
Since this system isn’t as popular as others, more feedback is desired. So far, so good, as all customers are extremely satisfied with this system. We feel that it needs more time on the market to build a reputation.
This is an efficient water filter system, but it doesn’t have as high a capacity as others. While competing models use three-stage filtration, this one only uses two. You still get a sediment filter and a carbon filter, so it’s not a deal-breaker.
|What does it filter?||Sediment, rust, chlorine, VOCs|
|Filters included||Sediment filter, carbon filter|
|Water pressure||Max. 150 psi|
7. APEC WH-Solution-Max-10
Last, but not least, is this advanced model by APEC. This is a heavy-duty whole house system that’s designed for luxury water in your home. It has some fancy features that our other picks lack.
First off, this is a maintenance-free model with self-cleaning properties to save you time. The automated backwash feature improves this system’s performance, too. It neutralizes hard water and comes with an electronic control valve.
This is a two-stage filtration system that features a granular activated carbon filter and a salt-free water conditioner. It filters chlorine and chloramine and improves the taste, appearance, and odor of your supply.
Why We Love It
This system stands out because it doesn’t only purify your water, it conditions it, too. You’ll get softer water that’s gentler on your skin, without increasing sodium levels. It also protects your home and appliances from limescale.
What a nifty feature, and it’s not common in whole house water filters. The electronic control makes system management so much easier than with manual gauges. It’ll save you an immense amount of frustration, not to mention it looks cool.
Self-cleaning whole house systems are practically unheard of. Think of all the time and effort you’ll save yourself by investing in this one. The automated backwash feature means you never have to worry about cleaning your system.
It also introduces higher performance and protects your plumbing from build-up and scale. You save money too, as you won’t have to spend as much on replacements.
Keep In Mind
This is a truly spectacular system, but it’s not at all a budget option. All of its special features mean that the initial cost is much higher than it is with competing products. Remember that this is a luxury system, and its price is justified by what it can do for you.
Needs More Time
Like our other choice of APEC systems, this one isn’t mainstream yet. More time is needed to garner feedback. When you look at its features, it’s safe to assume that this one will do well on the market once it takes off.
|What does it filter?||Chlorine, chloramine, THMs, VOCs, hardness|
|Filters included||Granular activated carbon filter, salt-free water conditioner|
|Special features||Self-cleaning, automated backwash, electronic control valve|
|Water pressure||40–80 psi|
|Product||Best For||What does it filter?||Filters included||Water softening?||Special features||Water pressure|
|Express Water Heavy Metal||Heavy Metal Purification||Aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, mercury, nickel, lead, chlorine, chloramine, hydrogen sulfate, pesticides, herbicides, sediment, rust, fungi, pathogens||Sediment filter, KDF filter, activated carbon filter||No||Clear casing on the sediment filter, free-standing stainless steel frame, pressure gauges||45–80 psi|
|Express Water Standard||Starter System||Chlorine, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, volatile organic comlbs (VOCs), sediment, rust||Sediment filter, granular carbon, carbon block||No||Pressure gauges, stainless steel stand, clear sediment filter case||45–80 psi|
|iSpring Reverse Osmosis System||Highest Capacity||Chlorine, heavy metals, hardness, impurities||Three reverse osmosis membranes||Yes||Free-standing frame, booster pump, pressure gauge||22–95 psi|
|iSpring 3-Stage System||Easy Installation||Sediment, rust, chlorine, solvents, herbicides, pesticides, volatile organic comlbs (VOCs)||Sediment filter, two carbon blocks||No||Metal bracket, three filter cartridges, 4.5-inch wrench||Not specified|
|Reverse Osmosis Revolution 3-Stage||Budget Friendly||Sediment, rust, chlorine, radon, volatile organic comlbs (VOCs)||Sediment filter, granular activated carbon, carbon block||No||Set of extra filters||20–100 psi|
|APEC Two-Stage||Rising Star||Sediment, rust, chlorine, VOCs||Sediment filter, carbon filter||No||Pre-assembled||Max. 150 psi|
|APEC WH-Solution-Max-10||Most Sophisticated||Chlorine, chloramine, THMs, VOCs, hardness||Granular activated carbon filter, salt-free water conditioner||Yes||Self-cleaning, automated backwash, electronic control valve||40–80 psi|
The Whole Shebang
Whole house filtration systems are a complete package that can take care of all your filtration needs. They’re the most effective and comprehensive of all the residential water filters. Though initial costs are higher, they’re a wise long-term investment that could save you money in the future.
Do you like our picks of the best whole house water filters? As you can see, there’s something for everyone, from heavy metal filtering to luxurious conditioning.
Let us know which one you like the most. Leave a comment in the section below!