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How to Choose a Whole House Water Filtration System

A woman splashing water on her face

Whole house water filtration systems offer improved water quality throughout an entire house by connecting to a main water line. A whole home system could be just what you need—but it’s a good idea to make sure it’s the right option for you and your home before making a purchase.

What Is a Whole Home Water Filtration System?

As stated above, a whole home water filtration system connects to your main water line, somewhere between your water meter and water heater. Installation on the main line means the filter treats all the water you use, whether it’s for cooking, bathing, drinking or cleaning.

Because whole home systems treat every drop of water that travels through your house, the systems are sometimes referred to as “point-of-entry” systems. In contrast, a “point-of-use” or under sink system will only provide filtration to one specific faucet.

Why You Would Choose a Whole Home Water Filtration System Over an Undersink Water Filter

Now it’s time to decide which system is right for your home. First, you need to determine what you’re trying to filter out of your water. There are several common contaminants both large and small that can range from aesthetically annoying to potentially harmful to your health.

Gain a better understanding of your area’s water quality with the Environmental Working Group’s tap water database. 

If you already know what’s in your water, but you don’t know which system to install, here are the main differences:

Under sink systems:

  • Only filter water for one faucet
  • Reduce chlorine smell and taste
  • Reduce small, harmful contaminants including lead and chemicals
  • Can potentially treat water contaminated with PFAS

Whole home systems: 

  • Treats your entire home’s water
  • Reduce particles such as sediment, sand and iron
  • Can potentially reduce chlorine smell and taste (depending on filter selection)

While under sink systems offer a more thorough filtration solution, whole home filtration systems are best suited for homes that have sediment in the water that could damage plumbing and water-using appliances. It is common to layer up by installing both a whole home and under sink system if you’re worried about more harmful, undetectable contaminants that make it past your whole home system.

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Understanding Filter Media Types—and Your Needs

Whole home filtration systems can feature filters of all different types of media (the material used to filter contaminants). The most common found in whole home systems include:

  • String wound
  • Pleated
  • Melt blown
  • Activated carbon
  • Carbon blocks
  • Flow and Capture Technology (FACT)

There are different advantages and costs to each of these media, so it’s important to pick one that eliminates the contaminant that’s causing issues within your home. Discover the differences between these types of media in EcoPureHome’s Ultimate Water Filtration Media Guide.

Understanding Micron Ratings

At the most basic level, a water filter captures contaminants from the water while letting the rest of the water through. A micron rating is typically given to filters that reduce sediment and helps to describe what size particles the filter is able to capture. The smaller the micron rating, the more sediment captured by the filter. However, that doesn’t mean smaller is always better. If your home has high levels of sediment (dirt, rust, or sand) a higher micron rating might be a better option as you won’t need to replace your filters quite as often.

Drop-in Cartridges and the Difference They Make

Depending on your area’s water quality, most whole home replacement filters should last 3-6 months. The lifespan of your filter will depend entirely on the condition of your water quality, the amount of water you use in your home and the micron rating for your desired filter. Replacing the filters is a fast, easy process with these systems.

You’ll know it’s time to replace your filters when the water pressure in your home decreases significantly. That means the filter has captured enough particles to not allow water to pass through as easily. If you use a whole home system at a vacation home or a place that isn’t used as frequently, it’s still good practice to replace filters at the recommended intervals to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to clean and replace the filter:

  • Shut off the water and relieve pressure to the system
  • Twist the housing to separate it from the head
  • Remove the old filter cartridge
  • Wash and rinse out the housing
  • Add the new filter
  • Replace the housing
  • Turn the water back on

Yes, it’s easy to maintain a whole home system, but even better than its convenience is the level of customization it can provide. If a certain filter media or micron rating isn’t meeting your expectations, there are many cartridge options available to help find that perfect filtering solution for your home.

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A Maintenance-Free Option

If the maintenance of the system described above isn’t ideal for you, there’s another way to filter your home’s water. Central water filtration systems offer a convenient option that requires virtually no maintenance. Like the other whole home filtration systems, it connects on your main water line. This system works by automatically cleaning its media bed every 14 days so you don’t have to.

Central water filtration systems make a perfect choice for homes with municipal water supplies as they reduce chlorine taste and odor as well as sediment—common issues for city water.


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Find more information on water filtration systems

The good news about whole home filtration systems is that there are so many different options of replacement filters to choose from. If your first or second picks aren’t what you need, be persistent and try out different media types. And if the filters aren’t lasting as long as you’d like, know that moving up in micron rating will help extend the lifespan.

You can also discover a wealth of information within the Home Water Resource Center. Find more information about water filtering and softening solutions so you can equip your home with all the necessary tools to improve your water.