The Best Water Systems for Whole House Filtration

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Do you notice an odd odor from your tap water?  Do your house guests secretly bring bottled water in their handbags when visiting?  Have you been purchasing bottled water because you have concerns about the safety your drinking water?

If you answered yes to these questions, filtered water should be in your future.

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Contents

Water is essential for life.  In fact, 60% of our body weight comprises water.  We need water to transport nutrients throughout our body and to move toxins out of our system.  

How Much Water Should You Drink?  

The Institute of Medicine recommends between 11 and 15 cups per day for the average adult.  The quantity of water you need will depend on your personal level of activity, your body weight, and other factors.

It’s clear that drinking water plays a huge role in our lives.  As such, it’s important to find a source that is clean, pleasant, and affordable.  Below, we will give you the tools to determine the quality of your local water and what you can do to once again grab a cool, clean glass of drinking water from your home tap.

How Safe is Your Water?

Drinking water safety was a huge topic for 2016.  The unfortunate contamination incidents in Flint, Michigan and elsewhere have put clean drinking water on the minds of our public health officials, and ourselves as community members and parents.  

If you live in an urban area, you most likely have drinking water serving your home from a local water utility.  Municipal drinking water undergoes rigorous treatment processes but can contain small amounts of impurities and undesirable constituents, such as chlorine and fluoride.  

New research is emerging about the presence of pharmaceuticals and hormones in our drinking water.  Treatment plants often do not have the technology required to remove these contaminants from our water.

If you live in a rural area, your tap water is most likely sourced from a well. Well water is pumped from groundwater beneath your property.  Well water quality can vary greatly by region.  However, in many areas it can be high in minerals, which can leave a build-up on sinks and dishware.  High mineral content can also create an undesirable flavors or odors in your water.  Well water may also contain harmful impurities, depending on your local land use and geology.

What About Bottled Water?

Let’s clear this up right away.  Bottled water is not the answer.  At least as a long-term solution.  Are you running errands around town and need a quick drink?  Sure, grab a bottle of water.  But bottled water as a primary drinking source in your home will cost you.  

Bottled water is hard on your pocketbook.  The average family of four spends $400 annually if relying on bottled water for a primary drinking water source.

Bottled water is not safer than tap water.  Unfortunately, testing standards for bottled water can be lower than those required for tap water.  So, you can actually be paying more of your hard-earned money on water of a lower quality.  And, it’s been determined that one quarter of bottled water is actually just tap water with no additional treatment.

Bottled water is terrible for our planet.  Last year, Americans consumed approximately 50 billion water bottles.  Only about 23 percent of plastic is recycled in the country, leaving us with 38 billion water bottles in the landfill.  

What About Testing Your Water?

The only way to truly guarantee the safety of your water is to collect a sample and deliver it to a laboratory for analysis.  Local laboratories can provide you with bottles and instructions for taking a representative and accurate sample from your drinking water source.  You can also purchase testing devices to use at home for a small number of contaminants.

Basic laboratory testing is relatively cheap, while more extensive testing can raise the price tag.  Testing your water will give you the peace of mind to know which contaminants may be present in your home water and in which concentrations.   

Once you receive your test results, you can narrow down which impurities you would like to remove with a water filter.

What is a water filter?

A water filter, put simply, is a device that removes contaminants from water.  They can come in a variety of sizes and configurations–from a small countertop jug, to a large municipal treatment system for a city.

Impurities vary by region and water source. Some areas have naturally higher levels of metals or other contaminants in soil.  In addition, well water can contain high levels of minerals (aka “hard water”), which can affect taste and odor.  Wells located in agricultural areas can contain higher levels of nitrates and bacteria, while drinking water sourced from rivers downstream of wastewater treatment discharges may contain low levels of pharmaceuticals and hormones (external link to emerging pollutants).

Filter Methods to Remove Impurities

Physical Barrier / Mechanical

Like a sieve, water passes through the physical barrier, leaving behind contaminants, like sediment and large molecules.  Reverse osmosis home filtration systems utilize a semipermeable membrane that prevents the passage of particles, bacteria, ions, and large molecules.  Many combination filter systems include a sediment filters to remove large particles prior to treatment by other media.

Chemical Process

Chemical processes remove/trap contaminants.  Example: activated carbon.

Biological process

Biological processes remove pollutants, many times through nutrient uptake and decomposition. This is less common in home drinking water systems.

Most Common Types of Home Filters

Granular activated carbon

Chemical adsorption through many tiny pores–captures chlorine, some pesticides and solvents, sediment, and some chemicals. This the most read readily available filter for a low price.  It can be found in the jug type filters.

Carbon block

Removes the same impurities as the granular activated carbon varieties, plus more.  Carbon block filters tend to last longer and also remove additional chemicals, pesticides, and some radioactive materials.

Reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis systems taking filtration a step further.  They force contaminated water through a semipermeable membrane, which traps sediment, some bacteria, ions (such as salt), and other contaminants with large molecular structures.  This type of filtration is often paired with a carbon filter to removal volatile organic compounds and pesticides, which are not removed by reverse osmosis systems.   

Ceramic filtration

Contains both ceramic and carbon components.  This type of filter can remove a good number of impurities, including sediment, bacteria, parasites, heavy metals, solvents, some radioactive materials, and more.  

Whole House Water Filters–Why Do I Need One of Those?

Whole house water filters provide treated water to all locations in your house.  This way, you have the security of knowing the water you drink from a sink other than in your kitchen will be every bit as safe.  These types of filtration systems provide clean, pure water not only to kitchen sinks, but also to showers, secondary sinks, and other sources of tap water in your home.

Pollutant Removal–If you live an area with naturally high impurities in your drinking water you can understand the need to install a filter.  This is needed to protect both you and your family.  In fact, if you plan to relocate in the future, a whole house water filter can raise the value of your home.

Chlorine is often used as a disinfectant and can be present in undesirable levels in your water.  Many people are bothered by the taste and odor associated with chlorine.  

Fluoride, introduced into many municipal water systems around the country, has been shown to cause health problems.

Pharmaceuticals and hormones are being detected in city water around the country.  When municipal water intakes are located downstream of wastewater treatment plant discharge pipes, trace amounts of drugs and hormones are introduced to our local drinking water systems.  Municipal drinking water treatment facilities do not always have the technology to remove these contaminants, so they are passed on to the end users.

Well water–Well water is typically drawn from an underground aquifer near your home–without treatment.  It’s very important to test your water regularly.  If test results indicate contamination levels higher than established drinking water standards, it’s important to install filters that will remove pollutants of concern.

Let’s Compare Water Filters

Here are our favorites: based on whole house water filter reviews:

3M Aqua-Pure Whole House Water Filtration System – Model AP904

  • Contaminants removed:  Reduces dirt, sediment, rust, taste, odor, and chlorine  
  • Features:  One-cartridge filter, easy to change filter, recommend changing filter annually. Highly recommended to install a sediment pre-filter to capture larger particles and extend the cartridge life.
  • System Capacity: 20 gallons per minute, 100,000 gallons capacity.  Use for both municipal and well water.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 30 day return policy

iSpring Three Stage 20-Inch Big Blue Whole House Water Filtration System with Fine Sediment and Carbon

  • Contaminants removed:  Up to 95% of rust, sediment, chlorine, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, taste, odor, and more.  
  • Features:  3 stages of filtration–the first is a sediment filter and the remaining two are carbon block filters; comes with filters rated to last one year for a family of four.
  • System capacity: Produces 500 gallons of treated water per day at 77 degrees F and 50/60 psi.  Use for both municipal and well water.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 30-day money back policy and 1 year limited warranty

3M Aqua-Pure Whole House Water Filtration System – Model AP903

  • Contaminants removed:  Reduces dirt, sediment, rust, taste, odor, and chlorine.  
  • Features:  One-cartridge filter, easy to change filter, recommend changing filter annually.  Highly recommended to install a sediment prefilter to capture larger particles and extend the cartridge life.
  • System Capacity: 20 gallons per minute, 100,000 gallons capacity.  Use for both municipal and well water.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 30 day return policy

Home Master Whole House 2-Stage Water Filter with Multi Gradient Sediment and Catalytic Carbon

  • Contaminants removed:  Up to 95% of sediment, chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, and more.  
  • Features:  2 stages of filtration.  First stage is sediments filter, for both coarse and fine sediment.  Second stage is a catalytic carbon filter.  Large sized filters extend treatment life.  Recommend changing filters every 6-12 months, depending on sediment load.
  • System Capacity: 10 gallons per minute.  95,000 gallon capacity; typically lasts one year for a family of four.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 2 year limited warranty against manufacturer defects.

Whole House 3-Stage Water Filtration System, by Reverse Osmosis Revolution

  • Contaminants removed:  Up to 95% of sediment, rust, chlorine, chloramines, volatile organic compounds, insecticides, pesticides, industrial solvents, taste, odor, and more.  
  • Features:  3 stages of filtration.  First stage is a 5 micron sediment filter. Second stage is a granular activated carbon filter.  Third stage is a carbon block filter.  Comes with an extra set of filters.  Recommend changing filters every 3 months.
  • System Capacity: 10 gallons per minute.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 15 day money back guarantee.  1 year warranty for parts.

Aquasana 10-Year, 1,000,000 Gallon Whole House Water Filter with Professional Installation Kit

  • Contaminants removed:  Up to 97% of chlorine. Also reduces herbicides, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, taste, odor, and more.  
  • Features:  Includes pre-filter for sediment and activated carbon filter, plus installation kit.  Carbon filter replacement after 1,000,000 gallons of water treated; sediment filter changed more frequently.  Designed for municipal water; manufacturer suggested that additional filter be installed for well water.
  • System Capacity: 7 gallons per minute flow rate.  1,000,000 gallon capacity.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 10 year warranty.

Home Master Whole House 3-Stage Water Filter with Fine Sediment, Iron, and Carbon

  • Contaminants removed:  Up to 95% of sediment, iron, manganese, heavy metals, hydrogen sulfide, chemicals, and more.  
  • Features:  3 stages of filtration.  First stage is sediments filter, for both coarse and fine sediment.  Second stage is an iron reduction filter.  Third stage is an activated carbon filter.  Recommend changing filters annually, depending on sediment load. This system is for non-chlorinated well water ONLY.
  • System Capacity: Up to 15 gallons per minute.  100,000 gallon capacity; typically lasts one year for a family of four.
  • Warranty and Return Information: 2 year limited warranty against manufacturer defects.

The Bottom Line

There are a number of great whole house water filters on the market today.  To find the best one for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Which contaminants you need to remove?  Make sure the filters in your system will remove both contaminants and undesirable properties (i.e taste and odors) in your tap water.

Which flow rate is required to accommodate all of the people in your home? Make sure the system can handle high flow rates if you them.  Many times, if you need higher flow rate to accommodate a system, a pump may be purchased separately; this is especially important with reverse osmosis systems.

What is your preferred price point?  Be sure to take into account the frequency of filter changes and compare that with the overall price of the system.  A more expensive system upfront may save you money in the long run if the filters last longer.  

Which is our favorite system?  Each of the systems above has received high reviews for filter performance.  You can’t go wrong with any of them.

For excellent flow and treatment potential we lean towards the iSpring Three Stage 20-Inch Big Blue Whole House Water Filtration System.  This system also offers high-level filtration at a reasonable price tag.  With an excellent flow rate and pollutant removal, this system is hard to beat.  A 30-day money back guarantee and 1-year warranty from this reputable water filter company can give you the security to give this system a try.

After you’ve installed your unit, pour yourself a clean, clear glass of water.  Enjoy!

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