A whole house water filter treats water at it point it enters your home and supplies clean water everywhere you need it. Whole house filtration systems come in many different forms, including water softeners, UV water purifiers, or carbon filters. John Woodard, our Master Water Specialist, explains why whole house filtration is worth it and how to choose the best whole house water filter.

What is a whole house water filtration system?

A whole house filtration system could be a lot of things depending upon what you're filtering. If you're on a well supply, for example, the filtration system could be very elaborate. It could have a mechanical sediment filter, followed by a water softener, followed by an ultraviolet system. A whole house filtration system like this would soften, take out debris, and disinfect the water as it comes into the house. Whole house filtration on a city water supply may just to get rid of sediment and chlorine or chloramine. But a whole house filter treats all the water entering the home so that all the water flowing into washing machines, dishwashers, coffee brewers, or shower heads is filtered.

What does a whole house water filtration system do?

The design of a particular whole house filter is made to filter out the contaminants you don't want in the household water supply. You may want to remove iron, hardness, or just chlorine. What whole house filtration system you need will be determined by what's in the water supply that needs filtering out. Your whole house water filter could include a water softener to remove iron, or it could be more elaborate and include a process called aeration or oxidation. The type of whole house filtration used is driven by what undesirable things are making water a problem for your home.

Are there different types of whole house water filtration systems?

Absolutely. The different types are determined by your water quality and the problems you're trying to eliminate with the whole house filtration system. If you're on city water, the variety of products is more limited. The main issue is to get rid of chlorine. That taste and odor that comes from the disinfectant that municipalities put in the water supply. It's good that they disinfect the water because it reduces deaths from typhoid, cholera, or diphtheria. But once chlorine gets to your home, it can be removed so that you can wash clothes and take showers without chlorinated water. And you certainly don't want to drink the chlorine.

For a well supply, there are a variety of whole house filtration options for different water problems, whether they involve chemicals, minerals, or gases like hydrogen sulfide that give a rotten egg smell. Getting rid of these contaminants may involve many steps and different technologies. The list of different whole house water filtration systems is long.

What's the difference between a whole house water filter and an under sink filter?

A whole house filter treats water at its point of entry (POE) into a household. It filters or treats the water that distributes throughout the house, including water for washing clothes, flushing toilets, taking showers, and brushing teeth with. A drinking water system is point-of-use (POU) when it's under the counter or on the countertop. Countertop or under sink water filters are designed specifically for the water you drink, cook with, or run to an ice machine in the refrigerator. So whole house is POE, for every drop of water throughout the house. Under sink filters are POU, used for drinking, mixing beverages, and cooking.

What does a whole house system remove from water?

There are many different methods and steps to whole house filtration, but a whole house filter can be designed to remove any troublesome contaminants.

How do you install a whole house system?

In order to filter and treat all of the water going through the house, equipment needs to be installed on the earliest point possible, right where the water line from the city comes into the house. On well water supply, the filtration system goes right after the pressure tank, so it can catch every drop of water going into the house. On city water, a filter can reduce chlorine, sediment, or even ultraviolet disinfection. If a city's disinfection process fails or equipment doesn't work properly or a catastrophic event like a flood occurs, a UV system in your home will provide protection. On well water supply, ultraviolet disinfection typically works best as the last thing in the system that includes a variety of filters.

When should you use whole house filtration?

What is causing problems in your water? If your water has a lot of hardness, then you need a whole house water softener. If you have other minerals coming from your well, like iron or manganese, then you'll need a whole house process to remove them. On a city supply, removing chlorine is a good idea. If you're getting tired stains in the toilet or scraping the hardness residue off the showers, then you may want to consider a whole house water system.

What are the advantages of a whole house water filtration system?

The advantages are enormous. The problem could be as simple as getting rid of chlorine taste and odor from city water or heavy hardness from a well supply. A lot of hardness is miserable in the home. If your water is hard, you know it. You'll have scale on the shower curtains, scale on the shower head, or discoloration in your dishwasher. A whole house water filtration system will reduce all of those problems. Many city water supplies have lots of mineral content depending upon the source, most commonly groundwater, so a whole house filter could be beneficial. The advantages are enormous if your water contains chemicals since chemicals are removed before people take showers or clothes are washed with it.

How do you know which filtration system whole house filtration system is best?

Again, that's going to be determined by what problems you're trying to correct. You certainly want to buy equipment that's reputable and designed to solve your problem, You also want to make sure it's not over the top and does things that you really don't need.

How much do whole house filtration systems cost and are they worth it?

If you're solving your water problems, then it's well worth the penny. Whole house filters can be as simple as a drop-in filter cartridge to solve sediment problems. This type of filter could hold a carbon block, for example, to remove chlorine. Carbon filters aren't nearly as expensive as backwashing or regenerating products like a water softener or a backwashing system for iron removal or odor removal. So, the cost of a whole house filtration system varies depending upon the type of equipment you need.


  • I’m really sorry you are going through the cancer treatment. If the system is still in good condition I would definitely have someone come and clean it out and disinfect with something like Lysol. Then rinse well and refill the large tank with the recommended level of pellets. Place new filters in all the filter holders. Run it according to directions. Actually once it’s up and running there’s not much to do except checking the pellet level. I would also have a new reverse osmosis system placed under your kitchen sink. It removes EVERYTHING including fluoride which definitely causes cancer. The big softening tank will remove minerals, iron lead etc. The RO system takes pretty much everything else out. The filters must be changed on a strict schedule according to the manufacturer. If your not able to change filters yourself then a plumber can do it. Or— you could have a professional company put in a system and maintain it for you. Good luck with your treatment!!

    Katie on

  • Hello Allison,

    There are whole house filtration systems that are rated for lead reduction. You can check the manufacturer’s spec sheets to see what contaminants individual whole house filters have been tested to remove.

    However, if there is lead in your water, you might also consider installing an under-sink system like reverse osmosis or the Neo-Pure TL3. Lead is a very nasty contaminant with serious health implications, so remain vigilant about testing your water to make sure the lead content is being removed. An under-sink system will further ensure that no traces of the metal are making its way into your drinking water.

    John Woodard, Master Water Specialist on

  • Hello – can these systems remove lead? There is an old service line to my house but the cost to change that versus the cost of a whole house filter is quite different.

    ALlison on

  • Hi Elizabeth,

    Without a water analysis of the well, it is difficult to provide any recommendations for best ways to improve the water’s quality. I am thinking what you describe is a water softener, a tall tank (should have a smaller tank close by that holds the large white pellets) Inside the tall tank is softening resin. Depending on how long it has been unused, it is possible that the resin is shot and will no longer function properly to remove hardness causing minerals. A local water treatment professional should be able to come check it out for you. Just flushing water through it may not help. A water softener when functioning properly, will only remove the hardness minerals. Things causing odor and stains might be something a softener cannot address and will need additional steps to obtain the quality of water you desire.

    I would recommend you have a water analysis done to understand the composition of the well water. It is possible that your landlord may have to have it analyzed periodically and can share the results with you. If not, here is a test kit that is a box of empty bottles that you fill up with the water you want to test and send it to the lab: In about two weeks you will get the results on 75 parameters which typically gives us all we need to know to make your water better. We would be happy to look over the report with you and provide our recommendations.

    I wish you well on your cancer fight and so glad to hear you are doing well. Let us know how we can help.

    John Woodard, Master Water Specialist on

  • I moved from a town that had good town water. I now live in a Duplex with well water. After several years I began to notice an offensive odor whenever I opened the freezer (the ice cube tray). I also noticed how often I need to cleand the toilet bowl now. 3 years back I developed breast cancer. I strictly started drinking only bottled water , even that you have to be well informed what brands. Now I have metastatic breast cancer. (I’m doing well) But now I need to drink distilled water, which is fine. BUT, guess what the former tenenants left behind hooked up to the plumbing in the basement?! A very tall whole house water filtration. They also left the manual and what looks like a bag of large white pellets. I do know the well water contains high levels of minerals , a nasty odor and leaves stains on any poreclain container. It hasn’t been used in years. Would I need a time period to run water through the filter first to flush the pipes before I actually start drinking?

    Any thoughts?

    Elizabeth Young on

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