RV camping is a popular hobby in both the United States and Canada, with over 15 million campers taking a trip in 2022. While going off the grid can be enjoyable, an unclean water supply can hinder the camping experience and cause hazards to your health or the RV’s plumbing. A proper water filter ensures that the water in your RV’s water tank is safe and pure, granting you peace of mind during your adventures. In this guide, you can find information on what an RV water filter is, the types of RV water filters, and which type of filter is best for your camping experience.
What is an RV water filter?
An RV water filter is designed to significantly reduce contaminants from various water supplies that an RV or camper may connect to. It can be installed somewhere inside your RV, or it can be in-line, connecting directly to a water source between your RV and the spigot. Some RV water filters can be connected to all your RV’s plumbing, while others are connected only to a single faucet, such as the kitchen sink. Water filters that service the whole vehicle are installed in the wet bay next to the city water connection and water pump, while point-of-use filters are located near the fixture they output to. The type of RV water filtration you choose should be based on the contents of the water you plan on connecting to. For example, some campgrounds use their own private wells that are more at risk of contamination than city-treated water. If you plan on connecting to campground sources that utilize well water, you will want to install more robust filtration in your RV than someone who only connects to city water.
Do I need an RV water filter?
While a water filter may not always be essential in an RV, it is never a bad idea to install one. Municipal water is regulated to be safe to drink, so if you plan on connecting exclusively to city water lines, a filter is not required. However, a water filter can protect from potential damage to your RV’s plumbing, even if you are connected to city water. If you connect to a source with hard water, for example, you may wish to run the water through a system that softens water before it reaches your RV’s pipes to reduce scaling caused by water-hardening minerals. Likewise, sediment-contaminated water can clog your pipes, which can be prevented by a sediment filter. If you connect your RV to a source that could potentially contain microorganisms, you should run the water through a disinfection system, such as a UV purifier.
Where are RV water filters located?
RV water filters are typically installed in one of a few locations:
- Under the kitchen sink. These filters typically only service one faucet, so the rest of the water in the RV must be filtered in some other way, such as an inline filter.
- In a kitchen cabinet. If the filter is not installed under the sink, it may also be installed in a nearby kitchen cabinet.
- Between the spigot and RV. These filters are known as inline filters because they connect a hose from the RV to the spigot of a water supply.
- In the wet bay. This is also the location of the RV water pump, water tank, and city water connection.
Not all filter locations are suitable for all filtration types. For example, an inline filter typically utilizes a KDF filter media, reducing sediment, dirt, and chlorine in your RV water.
Learn more: How to find and fix RV water pressure problems
Types of RV water filters and what they remove
The type of RV water filter you use determines the contaminants that it can remove. The most common forms of water treatment and filtration for RVs include sediment filters, carbon filters, reverse osmosis systems, and UV water disinfection systems.
Sediment filters clear water of dirt, sediment, and other debris. These filters protect your RV’s plumbing, appliances, and other filtration systems from clogs and damage. Sediment filters are necessary for use with other water purification systems, such as reverse osmosis systems, water softeners, UV purifiers, and carbon filters, as sediment and other fine debris can render them less effective. Sediment filters are necessary if you plan on connecting to any water source other than a municipal water supply, but they are a good idea to install on any water source.
Learn more: What is a sediment filter?
Carbon filters improve the taste and odor of water by removing chlorine and chloramines. City-treated water is safe to drink because of the chlorine and chloramines added to kill microbiological contaminants, but these chemicals give water an acidic, foul odor and taste. Consequently, carbon filters are commonly used in places that are connected to city water lines. If you plan on exclusively connecting to municipal water supplies, a carbon filter is a good choice for you. If you plan on connecting to other water sources, you should use a carbon filter in conjunction with other systems.
Learn more: How do carbon filters work?
UV water disinfection systems
UV water disinfection systems deactivate microorganisms in water, making it microbiologically safe to drink. UV purifiers are not a filter, as the water does not pass through a filtration media. Rather, the water passes through a chamber, where it is subjected to a germicidal wavelength of UV light that prevents microorganisms from reproducing. Once water passes through a UV system, it is safe to drink. To allow UV systems to operate efficiently, a sediment filter is essential. If dirt, sediment, and grime are present in the water flowing through the system, living organisms could sneak through shadowed by the particulate. If you connect your RV to a water source that is not city-treated, a UV water purifier is essential for keeping your water safe to drink.
Learn more: What is a UV water purifier?
KDF filters are often used in inline RV water filters because they reduce levels of chlorine, sediment, iron, heavy metals, and hydrogen sulfide in water. Many inline filters utilize a KDF filter media due to its effectiveness in reducing sediment and foul tastes and odors. The Neo-Pure KW1 RV water filter, for example, utilizes both a KDF filter media and coconut shell carbon fiber, allowing it to reduce levels of sediment, chlorine, iron, and some water-hardening minerals in water.
What type of RV water filter do I need?
You should choose a water filter for your RV based on the water supplies you plan on connecting to.
- If you connect to city water only, use a KDF or activated carbon filter. You can use an external inline filter or a filter housed in the wet bay.
- If you plan on connecting to a campground well water supply, use a KDF or sediment filter, followed by a UV water purifier.
Learn more: 5 of the best RV water filters
How often should an RV water filter be replaced?
You should replace your RV water filter about once every six months if you use your RV once a month or more. If you only use your RV a couple times throughout the year, you may want to have new, fresh filters before each trip. Some filters may need to be replaced every three months, while some may last longer than six months. Always consult your filter’s manual to ensure you are replacing your filter at suitable intervals. You should always keep a replacement water filter or a backup drinking water supply on hand in case of emergency.
How do I know when my RV water filter needs to be changed?
The signs of an exhausted RV water filter include low water pressure, dirty water, and water that contains a foul taste and odor. When an RV water filter becomes clogged with contaminants, it can limit the flow rate of water passing through. As a result, all water pressure in the RV will suffer. If the carbon in an activated carbon filter becomes used up, water will fail to be purified properly. The best way to maintain your RV water filter is to change it at the appropriate intervals. For filters that last 3 months, ensure you change the filter at 3 months and do not push the limits of the filter’s capabilities.
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