The use of water treatment systems is common across America, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, because well water and city water can contain a range of contaminants that are typically picked up from aged pipes and plumbing infrastructure. There are a number of water filter options to treat incoming water, including under-sink filters, faucet filters, and rainwater harvesting systems, but if you don’t like the idea of showering in potentially contaminated water, it may be better to use a whole-house water filtration system to filter the water as soon as it enters the home plumbing system.
The best whole-house water filter can come in 1-stage, 2-stage, or 3-stage options, with filtration capabilities increasing with each added stage. These systems can also incorporate water softeners to reduce the concentration of hard metals that may pass through some filters. When searching for the best whole-house water filter for your home, keep in mind the key considerations detailed in the following sections, and check out some of the top products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Express Water Heavy Metal Whole House Water Filter
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: General Electric GXWH04F Standard Flow
- BEST FILTER/SOFTENER COMBO: Aquasana EQ-1000-AST-UV-AMZN Whole House Filter
- BEST 1-STAGE FILTER: 3M Aqua-Pure Whole House Sanitary Quick Change
- BEST 2-STAGE FILTER: iFilters Whole House 2 Stage Sediment
- BEST 3-STAGE FILTER: iSpring WGB32BM 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration
- BEST FOR CITY WATER: iSpring WGB21B 2-Stage Whole House Water Filtration
- BEST 3/4-INCH INLET: Reverse Osmosis Revolution Whole House 3-Stage
- BEST 1-INCH INLET: Culligan WH-HD200-C Whole House Heavy Duty
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Whole-House Water Filter
Before choosing a filtration system, take time to consider some important factors that can help you make the best choice, including the type of contaminants, the type of filters, flow rate, and installation requirements. With an understanding of these features, it becomes easier to decide which option would be the best whole-house water filter for your home.
Types of Contaminants
A wide variety of contaminants can affect the incoming water supply, both from city water and well water. Common contaminants include disinfectants, sediment, microorganisms, heavy metals, and organic chemicals. Whole-house water filters come in 1-stage, 2-stage, or 3-stage options. Three-stage filtration systems will remove the most contaminants from the water, ensuring that it’s safe for use, but it’s a good idea to check the National Drinking Water Database created by the Environmental Working Group to determine what contaminants may be affecting your water. Below is a detailed list of possible contaminants.
Water Flow Rate
The water flow rate of a whole-house water filter determines the maximum amount of water that can pass through the filter in a given time period. This is typically measured in gallons per minute or GPM. A whole-house water filter needs to have a water flow rate high enough to adequately supply large appliances, like showers and dishwashers, which average a flow rate of about 5 GPM.
To help accommodate the needs of the entire home, most whole-house water filters have a high water flow rate, ranging from 10 to 25 GPM, though some systems have lower flow rates and others have higher ones.
There are a variety of different filter types, including 1-stage, 2-stage, or 3-stage cartridge-based filters, and reverse osmosis systems.
- Cartridge whole-house water filters use a replaceable filter cartridge to remove contaminants ranging from .04 to 500 microns. Cartridges can include sediment filters, heavy metal filters, organic chemical filters, and more. Depending on the needs of the home, the user can pick and choose the best cartridge to use in the filter, and once every 3 months to a year, the cartridge should be changed.
– 1-stage whole-house water filters have a single filtration tank that is typically equipped with a sediment filter cartridge. These are the most basic whole-house water filtration systems, though they can be used in conjunction with a water softener to also reduce heavy metals in the water.
– 2-stage whole-house water filters have two filtration tanks. The type of contaminants filtered from the water depends on the type of filter cartridge used in each tank, but usually these systems will be set up to filter sediment, chlorine, dirt, sand, and rust.
– 3-stage whole-house water filters need a lot of space to set up, but they have three filtration tanks that can each be equipped with a different type of filter to remove organic matter, pesticides, chlorine, unnatural tastes, odors, heavy metals, algae, microorganisms, iron, lead, dirt, sand, rust, and more. These are the most effective options for cartridge filters.
- Reverse osmosis whole-house water filters are more effective than cartridge systems and are capable of removing particles as small as 0.0001 microns. These systems remove all organic molecules, viruses, and most minerals, producing essentially pure water. However, reverse osmosis whole-house water filters are very expensive to install and maintain. Due to the high costs, these systems aren’t very popular and can be difficult to find without going directly to a supplier. One exception is single-faucet reverse-osmosis water filters, which are very popular and more affordable.
Installation and Maintenance
Installing a whole-house water filter isn’t as easy as putting in a faucet filter. The water needs to be shut off to the entire house, the lines need to be drained, and the user will typically need to cut the water pipe and install a set of fittings suitable for the filter. It’s advised to have a professional plumber or water filter installation company install the water filter unless you have experience with plumbing, including both cutting and soldering new plumbing fittings.
Once the filter is installed, the cartridge will last for between 3 months to 1 year on average, depending on water usage, water quality, and filter type. Changing the cartridge isn’t difficult with most whole-house water filters. Just turn the water off and drain the lines, then unscrew the filtration tank(s) and remove the old cartridge. Put a new cartridge in, screw in the filtration tank, and recharge the water system.
Look for certifications from NSF International, an independent organization devoted to developing public health standards for water filtration. It rates water filters and gives them an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certification if they meet certain minimum requirements. The Water Quality Association (WQA) is the leading accredited agency for testing and certifying water to NSF/ANSI standards. Typical NSF/ANSI certification standards include NSF/ANSI 42, 44, 53, 55, 58, 401, 244, and 231.
- NSF/ANSI 42 filters have the lowest NSF/ANSI certification available. These filters remove taste- and odor-affecting contaminants, like chlorine and large sedimentary particulates.
- NSF/ANSI 44 filters are designed and certified to reduce the presence of barium, radium 226/228, and hard metals like calcium and magnesium.
- NSF/ANSI 53 filters remove harmful contaminants like lead, cryptosporidium, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and chromium.
- NSF/ANSI 55 filters are made for UV filtration systems, so they are typically certified to kill or remove bacteria, viruses, fungi, and additional microorganisms that can be found in your water supply.
- NSF/ANSI 58 filters are made for reverse-osmosis systems. This certifies that the filtration system removes total dissolved solids (TDS), cysts, barium, copper, arsenic, lead, and more.
- NSF/ANSI 401 filters are certified to remove incidental contaminants and emerging compounds including prescription drugs, new types of herbicides, pesticides, flame retardants, and detergents.
- NSF/ANSI 244 and 231 filters are intended to remove microbiological contaminants. They are regularly used in areas where biological contamination is a common occurrence and in remote locations for people who are backpacking or camping.
While some whole-house water filters can use heavy metal cartridges to reduce the presence of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals, most products are equipped with sediment filter cartridges, or cartridges intended to filter biological or chemical contaminants. If you experience hard water in your home, then it’s advised to invest in a whole-house water filter and softener combo.
This ensures that the water is properly filtered, but that it’s also treated with salt molecules, which bind to hard metals and render them inert. Removing these minerals from hard water is integral to maintaining the durability of the pipes, faucets, and hot water tank. Users who don’t want to add salt to the system can get a salt-free softener that coats the hard metal particles to prevent them from sticking to the plumbing infrastructure.
Our Top Picks
These products are considered among the best whole-house water filters on the market. The top options were chosen based on the important product information and features discussed above, with significant attention given to product efficacy and overall value.
Three-stage whole-house water filters are the best type of cartridge filter available because they can be equipped with three different filter cartridges, allowing the water filter system to remove a wide range of contaminants. The Express Water whole-house water filter comes with three filter cartridges that last for 6 months to a year before needing to be replaced.
This filter has a 15 GPM flow rate and 1-inch connections, so users need to make sure their incoming pipes are 1 inch in diameter. The first stage of filtration removes sediment, sand, rust, and dirt down to a size of 5 microns. The second stage captures iron, lead, chloramine, algae, viruses, chlorine, and other heavy metals and microorganisms. The final stage captures chlorine, pesticides, pharmaceutical runoff, and other chemicals, improving the taste and drinkability of the water.
This well-priced General Electric whole-house water filter is made to be used with GE whole-home system filter cartridges, which have a range of filtration capabilities to remove dirt, silt, sand, rust, and other sediments from the incoming water supply. Each filter cartridge lasts for up to 3 months, improving the quality, odor, and taste of the home’s water.
This whole-house water filter has a maximum flow rate of 12 GPM, though it works best at a flow rate of 4 GPM. The inlet connections for this filter are 3/4-inch in diameter, and this water filter also comes with a mounting bracket to make installation easier. A reminder light on the water filter indicates when to change the filter cartridge, so users don’t need to estimate.
The Aquasana whole-house water filtration system features carbon and KDF filtration cartridges that last up to 3 months, capturing iron, lead, chloramine, chlorine, pharmaceuticals, and a variety of other contaminants. It also has a UV purifier that kills viruses, bacteria, and 99.9 percent of other microorganisms. After filtration and purification, the water passes through the salt-free softener, which coats any heavy metal minerals that passed through the filters, preventing them from sticking to the pipes, faucets, and hot water tank.
While there is a high cost associated with this whole home water filtration system, few products are more capable of removing contaminants from the entire home’s water supply, including 99.9 percent of microorganisms, 97 percent of chlorine, and a significant reduction in the mineral buildup. Though the water filter only has a maximum flow rate of 7 GPM, it can be adapted to either 3/4-inch or 1-inch pipes.
This 3M Aqua-Pure whole-house water filter is a 1-stage filter with a single filtration tank that’s equipped with a carbon filter cartridge. The whole-house water filter meets the minimum requirements to be NSF/ANSI 42 certified, ensuring that it removes chlorine, sand, dirt, rust, and other sediments from the water. It has a 1-inch inlet connection and a maximum flow rate of 20 GPM, though the filter performs best at 10 GPM.
The filter cartridge lasts for about 6 months to a year, depending on the average amount of daily water used in the home. When it’s time to change the filter, users don’t need to unscrew the filter; instead, they’ll just pull the locking latch upward, turn it a quarter-turn to the left, then pull down. Replace the filter cartridge, then reattach the filter and lock the latch to secure the filter with no leaks.
The iFilters whole-house water filter is a 2-stage filtration system that uses both a sediment filter and a carbon filter cartridge to remove harmful contaminants from the incoming water supply, including sand, dirt, rust, silt, and chlorine. This improves the taste, odor, and overall quality of the water, filtering out any particles larger than 5 microns in size.
Install the whole-house water filter on 3/4-inch pipes, or adapt existing plumbing to fit the 3/4-inch connections. Take advantage of the built-in pressure relief valves to quickly and efficiently remove the filter housing in order to replace the filter cartridge about once every 6 months. However, users should note that the typical flow rate for this 2-stage filter is just 3 GPM, though it does have a maximum flow rate of about 6 GPM. This means that the water pressure in the home may be reduced to certain plumbing fixtures, like the shower or dishwasher, with the installation of this filter.
This iSpring product is a good option for those who have significant concerns about the quality of the incoming water because it can remove a wide range of contaminants using the three individual filtration tanks and included filter cartridges. The water filter comes equipped with a sediment removal cartridge that traps sand, dust, silt, dirt, and rust. It also has a carbon block cartridge to remove chlorine, VOCs, harmful chemicals, and to improve the taste and odor of the water. The third cartridge is an iron- and manganese-reducing filter cartridge, ideal for homes with heavy metals.
The whole-house water filter is also available with a GAF and KDF filter cartridge that can remove lead, mercury, pesticides, herbicides, and hydrogen sulfide, which may be a better option for some users. This water filter has a high maximum flow rate of 15 GPM and has 1-inch connections. The filter cartridges should be replaced every 6 to 12 months, depending on the amount of water typically used in the home.
This whole home water filter is specifically made for use with city water and can filter up to 97 percent of chlorine out of the incoming water supply. It has 1-inch connections and a maximum flow rate of 15 GPM, ensuring that showers, washing machines, and dishwashers are not impacted by the installation of the filter.
The activated carbon filter cartridge of this iSpring whole-house water filter can remove chlorine, VOCs, and harmful chemicals, improving the taste and odor of the water. The sediment filter removes dust, sand, silt, dirt, and rust, ensuring that no particles larger than 5 microns pass through the filtration system. These filter cartridges last for 6 months to a year, depending on the amount and condition of the water used by the household.
This 3-stage whole-house water filter comes equipped with 3/4-inch inlet and outlet valves that can be threaded to existing or new MPT (male pipe thread) fittings. It has a 5-micron sediment filter to remove dust, dirt, silt, sand, and rust particles, helping to extend the life of the plumbing system. This water filter also has a granular activated carbon filter to remove chlorine, radon, and VOCs, improving the taste and smell of the water. The third filter cartridge is a carbon block filter that removes insecticides, pesticides, and industrial solvents.
This whole-house water filter has a maximum flow rate of 10 GPM, and it includes two extra sets of filter cartridges to replace the current filter cartridges after about 4 to 6 months of regular use. The water filter also includes a wall-mounting bracket to make installation easier.
Connect this whole-house water filtration system to 1-inch piping with its 1-inch inlet and outlet connections. The large diameter of the water inlet and outlet helps prevent the reduction of water pressure in the home, though the specific water filter cartridge can impact the flow rate. This product comes equipped with a heavy-duty sediment filter to remove rust, sand, sediment, and other material from the water and has a maximum flow rate of 10 GPM.
The Culligan whole-house water filter can also be used with 12 different Culligan filter cartridges to remove a wide range of contaminants based on the water composition and quality of the home plumbing system. Choose any of the six standard filter cartridge options if a maximum flow rate of 4 GPM is acceptable, replacing the cartridges every 3 to 4 months. Or, go for any of the six heavy-duty filter cartridge options, which increase the flow rate to a maximum of 10 GPM and last for up to 6 months before they need to be replaced.
FAQs About Whole-House Water Filters
After deciding on a whole-house water filter, there may be some lingering questions about whether you really need this system or how to go about changing the filter. Keep reading for detailed answers to these questions and get additional information about the best whole-house water filter.
Q. Do I need a whole-house water filter?
Individuals with older homes with outdated plumbing, like lead pipes and fittings, or homes that use well water should consider using a whole-house water filter. These systems can remove dirt, rust, sediment, parasites, and depending on the system, they can also remove heavy metals and harmful chemicals. Even homes with new plumbing can benefit from a whole-house water filter.
Q. How do you change a whole-house water filter cartridge?
Changing a whole-house water filter cartridge isn’t difficult if you follow these simple steps.
- First, turn off the water to the house using the building control valve (BCV) or inlet valve.
- Close the outlet valve on the other side of the filter if applicable.
- If the system doesn’t have an outlet valve, open nearby taps to drain water from the pipes.
- Place a bucket under or near the filter to catch any remaining water.
- Unscrew the filter housing from the top of the filter.
- Water will spill out, so this is when to use the bucket and have a towel ready.
- Remove the old filter and put it into the bucket to dispose of when the job is done.
- Place a new filter into the housing and screw it back on.
- Turn the water back on slowly, allowing the water system to fully recharge.
- Open the outlet valve, if applicable, or close the taps that were opened to drain the system.
- Clean up the water, check for leaks, and dispose of the old filter.
Q. Can a whole-house water filter remove 100 percent of contaminants?
While whole-house water filters can remove a large number of contaminants, the water continues moving through the pipes to the taps, potentially picking up contaminants along the way, so these systems cannot guarantee 100 percent contamination removal.
Q. Can I drink water filtered with a whole-house water filtration system?
While some whole-house water filters can remove harmful contaminants like parasites, chemicals, and heavy metals, not all filters are made for this function. They are typically used for sediment, rust, and dirt. If there are concerns about the incoming water supply, it should be tested at a certified lab before drinking instead of taking chances with your health.
Q. How long does the whole-house water filter usually last?
Whole-house water filters can last from 3 months to a year before needing a new cartridge. The length of time depends on the specific product, water condition and the water usage in the home.