Answered: Do You Need a Whole House Water Filter?

Author: Lisa Keller - Published: 2021/09/02 - Updated: 2021/09/15

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For most people in the US, water does not get a second thought. It flows freely at the flick of a finger, at a price that is next to nothing. Unfortunately, some households have fallen through the cracks and landed at the brink of contaminated water.

According to information shared by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 63 million Americans, from California to New York, were exposed to unsafe water in the past decade.

Thanks to six decades of industrial dumping, farming chemicals run-offs, deterioration of pipelines at the water system and lack of equipment, the water quality has dramatically suffered. If you are worried you might be at the risk of ingesting tainted water, whole house water filters are the perfect solution.

But these advanced filtration systems tend to cost a handsome amount of money upfront. This fact forces most people to consider whether their pros outweigh their cons or not. Stay with us if you want all your queries answered.

So, here is our guide on the question, do I need a whole house water filter?

What is a Whole House Water Filter?

First of all, what is a whole house water filter?

Whole house water filters are point-of-entry filters that treat water right when it enters your home. So, every single drop of water that goes through your pipelines and ends up in your faucets and appliances is safe and free of harmful pollutants.

This brings us to the question: which filtration system is the best fit for all water conditions? The simple answer is: none. All whole house water filtration systems have their set of limitations and strengths.

Just like the water condition in your household is unique, the best filtration system for your house will be somewhat or completely different from your friend’s house.

Here are the factors that will help you choose the ideal filtration technology for your household:

  • First, the water quality, i.e. the contaminants present in your water.
  • Do you use well water or city water?
  • The daily consumption of water across your house.
  • And lastly, your expectations from the unit.

Why Do I Need a Whole House Water Filter?

Do I Need a Whole House Water Filter Thumbnail

There are plenty of reasons why your house may need an advanced point-of-entry water filtration system. The most obvious being that there are numerous unwanted guests lurking around in your water. Some are visible, while others are just swimming away unnoticed.

Most people believe that the answer to unsuitable tap or well water is bottled mineral water. Sorry to burst the bubble; over one-quarter of all bottled water is just packaged tap water. Not to forget the plight that single-use plastics bring on to our already polluted planet.

Unfortunately, that lands you in a bit of a pickle, right? Whole house water filters certainly don’t wear a cape, but they do save the day. Here is how:

1. Contaminants

Whether naturally occurring or man-made, numerous contaminants are pretty much always lurking around our water supplies. Some are large enough to be seen like dirt or sand, whereas others are too tiny and microscopic to be visible.

For one, the water from shallow private wells along rivers and those built without proper sanitary seals are highly prone to bacterial contamination. On the other hand, public water is treated with chlorine and chloramines which, apart from causing bad taste and odor, can also form potentially harmful chemicals known as disinfection byproducts.[1]

One way to tell whether your water is probably safe is clarity. It should be clear with no odor or funny taste. The second and safest way is to test it.

Only a water test will help you determine the health of your water, the prevalent contaminants, and the percentage at which they exist.

Let’s now discuss the most dangerous elements in your water supply.

Water Disinfectants & DBPs

Adding chlorine and chloramines to municipal water are highly effective methods of disinfection used by water authorities. They deactivate the pathogens in drinking water and make it suitable for usage.

You may ask, how are they dangerous if added deliberately?

First, chlorine is the primary culprit behind funny-smelling water. An unpleasant smell is, in fact, the leading water problem for most people.

Secondly, chemical disinfectants like chlorine can react with organic substances and produce small amounts of DBPs (disinfection byproducts).

DBPs like trihalomethanes[2] could potentially cause liver damage and decreased nervous system activity when consumed in large amounts.

Most carbon-based whole house water filter systems are highly effective at reducing chlorine and said DBPs from your water supply. However, chloramines are more stable and difficult to remove and require catalytic carbon filter technology for effective reduction.

Pesticides and Other Chemicals

Pesticides and other chemicals often contaminate surface water and underground water through runoffs and rainfalls. Moreover, accidental spills and seepage of contaminated surface water also inject these into your supply systems.

Farming tractor spraying a field with pesticides

Pesticides can be removed using activated carbon filters. The same goes for most chemicals. Boiling your water does not affect these types of harmful impurities.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are natural elements of the Earth’s crust and cannot be destroyed. They can either be lurking around in dissolved or undissolved form. They are usually present in trace amounts but can be toxic even in low concentrations, especially for kids.

The following list of heavy metals in your water might take you back to your elementary school chemistry class! Sadly they are very common residents of water supplies.

  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Iron
  • Chromium

Several methods, including ion exchange and chemical precipitation, are used to reduce heavy metals in water.

Microorganisms

Many infectious organisms are found in the environment that can make their way to your water.

  • Bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella
  • Viruses
  • Protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium

Waste water discharges in fresh water reserves and sea waters are the major source of contamination.

2. Bad Water Taste/Smell

No one likes to use water that tastes or smells bad. It just kills the whole point of hydration. By far, poor tasting and smelling water is the first sign of tainted water.

There can be multiple reasons for weird tasting water. The most common reason is the presence of chlorine.

On the other hand, if your water smells like rotten eggs you are facing a considerably high amount of hydrogen sulfide.

3. Lead Plumbing

Most homes built before 1986 used lead material for plumbing. Many older homes still have the original lead pipes installed.

Around 18 million people in the USA are at risk of lead leaching in their water due to lead-containing pipelines. Prolonged exposure to lead can cause neurological problems in adults and delayed brain development in infants.

4. Well Water

People who use water from wells, whether public or private, often experience the following problems:

  • Dry skin
  • White residue and spots on dishwashers and dishes
  • Scale on faucets and sinks
  • Stained bathtubs
  • Dingy and rough clothes
  • Low water pressure due to clogged pipes

A whole house water filter addresses all these concerns.

5. Prolonged Service Life of Appliances

Water that is high in sediment not only is inedible but leads water-based appliances to premature failure. Moreover, the buildup of rust etc. on appliances also leads to clogging and reduces their performance and lifespan.

gas water heater

6. Dirty Laundry

High iron levels can be a real nuisance when it comes to laundry and cleaning. This happens because of a high level of iron or hardness minerals.

7. Testing

Unless you get a water test, you never really know what you are dealing with. Many at-home water test kits are readily available to test your water. Similarly, you could request a report from the municipal board.

You can also get your water tested from a laboratory to give you a complete picture. Once you have the report in your hand, you will know for sure whether you need a whole house water filter or not.

The Different Types of Whole House Water Filters

With so many types of whole house water filtration systems, it can be confusing to select which one you need. Each has its own pros and cons.

Since each technique has limitations, most whole house water filters employ multiple media types to achieve maximum purification.

Here, we discuss the most common types of filtration systems available in the market.

1. Sediment Filters

Sediment filters trap and remove sand, silt, rust, dust and debris from water. They are based on mechanical filtration and act as a sieve to remove these particles. They force water through thick walls of filter media that in some cases become tighter and tighter, filtering out smaller and smaller particles as water makes its way out.

However, sediment filters cannot remove trace elements like most heavy metals and dissolved contaminants.

Mostly used as a pre-filtration technique, sediment filters protect subsequent filters from premature fouling. They also save your plumbing from getting clogged. If sediment gets trapped in pipelines, you will experience a decrease in water pressure and flow.

If you are using well water, sediment filtration is indispensable for necessary purification. In the case of city water, sediment is not a major concern most of the time, since it is already filtered at the source.

2. Activated Carbon Whole House Water Filters

Activated carbon filters are the most common whole house water filters in the US. They are highly porous and have a large surface area that traps odors, tastes and chemicals. The more contact time water has with a carbon filter, the better level of filtration is achieved.

A carbon filter has millions of tiny pores that adsorb contaminants as water passes through.

Activated carbon filters are mostly available in two forms:

  1. Granular activated carbon (GAC)
  2. Activated carbon blocks

GAC filters contain loose granules of carbon that allow water to pass through relatively freely while contaminants get stuck to the charcoal bed. In contrast, carbon block filters contain tiny granules held together by a bonding agent.

Carbon filters are mostly used to remove chlorine and all sorts of chemicals from water. However, if you have to deal with chloramine, you will need catalytic carbon.

3. Iron Filters and Others

Heavy metal contamination is one of the most significant environmental concerns. Mercury and iron are two of the most commonly present heavy metals in our water supplies.

There’s also lead which can cause multiple health problems. The situation is more critical if there are kids in a household. Even a minute amount of the heavy metal can interfere with the brain and cognitive development in children.

Heavy metals are extremely diverse elements, and the removal techniques also vary notably. Therefore, specialized filters, like iron filters, are required and feature different technologies to deal with the respective contamination.

4. Ultraviolet Filters

Commonly used as post-filters, UV filters alter the DNA of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and cysts, rendering them harmless. The microorganisms are unable to reproduce or cause harm when destroyed by the UV light.[3]

A UV light filter uses ultraviolet light that only works on water free from large particles. Moreover, it does not remove any chemicals or heavy metals.

5. Whole House Reverse Osmosis Systems

Reverse osmosis systems, RO systems in short, cost a fortune ($3000+), but that’s because they offer water purification unlike any other technology. Water is forced through a semipermeable membrane that rejects over a thousand different contaminants giving you bottled water quality.

While the filtration capacity is unrivaled, RO systems are not always advised for whole house water filtration.

That’s because, depending on your water quality, RO systems require pre-treatment like water softeners and post-treatment like UV light filters. Mostly your water will also need a pH neutralizing system to bring the pH level back to 7. A whole house RO system, along with all other pre and post-filters, can be cost-prohibitive.

Not to forget, RO systems use up a lot of water to create filtered water. Thus, you can expect an increase in your water bills.

6. Water Softening Systems

water softeners and whole house water filters

Water softeners remove hardness-causing minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium, from your water supply. Since these minerals are not exactly pollutants, water softeners are not classified as whole house water filters. Instead, they are purifiers.

As water passes through a softener, it replaces hard mineral ions with sodium ions. The resulting water requires less soap for the same cleaning effort and does not cause limescale buildup.

Since almost 85% of the USA has hard water, i.e., chock full of minerals, water softeners are commonly used to reduce hard water’s adverse effects.

Remember that hard water does not present any health problems; instead, the major concern is the formation of limescale on kettles, shower heads, water heaters, and plumbings.

Whole House Water Filter System Pros

Here are a few advantages of whole house water filtration systems.

Better Sleep

Pure water is the key to a wholesome life. Whole house water filters promise you pure water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, showering, or washing your clothes and dishes.

It is, perhaps, the most significant benefit of whole house water filters.

Clean Water Everywhere

Drinking water only makes up 1% of your daily consumption. When you set up a whole house water filter, you treat every single drop of water. So there is no comparison of these systems’ performance and capacity with point-of-use water filters.

Plumbing Protection

Did you know iron, sediment and hardness minerals in your water can clog your plumbing and decrease water pressure around the house?

Over time, the minerals and sediment build a hard cake-like layer in your pipelines, leaving no option but replacement. Whole house filters treat water before it can damage your pipelines and water-based appliances.

Healthy Water

The absence of unwanted contaminants makes your water safe and clean. Healthy water is essential for better health and overall well-being.

Improved Taste and Smell

Have you noticed that sometimes your water has a slimy texture and gives out a metallic taste? With a whole house water filter, your water is devoid of tastes and smells.

Young woman in the kitchen drinking water

Of course, when your water tastes better, you will be tempted to have more of it. It also means your coffee, juices, sauces, soups and stews all taste way better.

Saving Money

When installing a whole house water filter, you can wave goodbye to the hassle and cost of buying bottled water.

These filters pay for themselves in the long run by saving money spent on packaged water.

Whole House Water Filter System Cons

Whole house water filters have tons of benefits, but there are a few problems associated with them as well.

Costs

Compared to point-of-use filters, whole house water filters are relatively expensive. Most systems can range between $500-$5000, which is not always in everyone’s budget.

Moreover, these units often require professional installation, which adds up the initial cost.

Changes to Plumbing

You need to make permanent changes to your plumbing to set up a whole house filtration unit. Not to mention, they are not exactly compact and require dedicated space for easy access.

Therefore, many people who are living in rental facilities or who simply don’t have the space will find it difficult to install a whole house water filter.

Limitations

Each filtration system comes with its own set of limitations. No unit removes all contaminants and so there will always be unwanted guests lurking in your water.

With that said, many modern whole house water filters feature more than one technique to achieve meticulous filtration and minimum wastage.

Conclusion

A whole house water filter filters all water at the point where it enters your home.

You need one of these systems if your water quality isn’t up to standards and contains harmful contaminants or tastes and smells a little off.

Moreover, a whole house water filter protects every single component of your home’s water system and protects it from dirt.

Sediment, activated carbon, iron, UV and reverse osmosis are different types of whole house filtration systems.

Their advantages are manifold. Most importantly, they provide clean and healthy water for consumption.

The main disadvantage is high upfront costs.

Further Reading

Resources

Meet Lisa Keller

Lisa Keller Lisa has joined the Water Masterz team as a contributing writer. She combines two decades of digital marketing experience with a passion for healthy living.

Lisa’s favorite leisure activities are meeting new people, learning new stuff, and yoga.

Get in Touch with Lisa

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