Whole House Filtration Systems

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Whole House System Buyers Guide

If you're seeking a comprehensive water filtration solution for your entire home, a whole house water filtration system is the perfect choice. Strategically installed at the main water line entering your residence, these systems ensure that every faucet, shower, and appliance receives pristine, filtered water.

Whole house water filtration systems remain discreetly tucked away, often in basements or utility rooms, ensuring they don't intrude on your living spaces. Yet, their impact is felt throughout your home, providing clean, refreshing water for all your needs, from drinking and cooking to bathing and laundering.

Whether you rely on a municipal water supply or a private well, these systems are designed to address various contaminants and impurities that may be present in your water source. From sediment and chlorine to heavy metals and other harmful substances, a whole house water filtration system offers a comprehensive solution for optimizing the quality of your home's water supply.

If you're seeking a convenient, effective way to enjoy clean, pure water throughout your entire home, a whole house water filtration system is an investment worth considering.

reverse osmosis system installed under kitchen sink

What is a whole house water filtration system?

A whole house water filtration system is a comprehensive water treatment solution designed to filter and purify the entire water supply entering your home. These systems are typically installed at the main water line, ensuring that all water outlets, including showers, faucets, appliances, and plumbing fixtures, receive filtered water.

Whole house water filtration systems offer several benefits, including:

Improved water quality for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning.

Protection for household appliances and plumbing fixtures from sediment and mineral buildup.

Reduction of unpleasant tastes, odors, and discoloration caused by contaminants.

Convenience of having filtered water available throughout the entire home.

How Do Whole House Water Filter Systems Work?

  1. Main water line connection: The system is connected to the main water line that supplies water to your home. This allows it to filter all incoming water before it reaches any of the outlets or appliances.
  2. Multi-stage filtration process: Most whole house systems employ a multi-stage filtration process to remove a wide range of contaminants. The stages may include:
    a. Sediment filter: Removes larger particles like rust, sand, and dirt.
    b. Carbon filter: Reduces chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and improves taste and odor.
    c. Reverse osmosis (RO) or other specialized filters: Depending on the system, additional filters like RO membranes or ion exchange resins may be included to remove dissolved minerals, heavy metals, and other specific contaminants.
  3. Water flow: As water enters the system, it passes through each filtration stage sequentially, with impurities being trapped or reduced at each stage.
  4. Filtered water distribution: After the multi-stage filtration process, the purified water is then distributed throughout the entire plumbing system, supplying clean water to every outlet in your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of contaminants does a whole home water filter remove?

A whole home water filtration system is designed to remove a wide range of contaminants from your household's water supply. Common contaminants that whole home water filters can remove include:

  • Sediment, dirt, and rust particles
  • Chlorine and chloramine
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like pesticides, herbicides, and industrial solvents
  • Microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and cysts (with appropriate micron rating)
  • Heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium
  • Chemical contaminants like nitrates, nitrites, fluoride, and arsenic
  • Bad tastes and odors

The specific contaminants removed depend on the type of filtration media used in the system. Common filter media include sediment filters, activated carbon, reverse osmosis membranes, KDF media, and specialty media designed to target certain contaminants.

Higher quality whole home systems utilize multi-stage filtration with several different media types to comprehensively filter out a wider array of contaminants from your water. Always refer to the manufacturer's specifications on contaminant removal performance.

How effective are whole home water filters at removing contaminants?

The effectiveness of whole home water filters at removing contaminants can vary significantly depending on factors such as:

Filter Media Type - Different filter media targets different contaminants. For example, activated carbon excels at removing chlorine, VOCs, and improving taste/odor, while reverse osmosis membranes are very effective at removing dissolved inorganic contaminants.

Filter Quality/Rating - Higher quality filters with tighter micron ratings and specialty media will be more effective than basic sediment filters.

Water Chemistry - The levels and types of contaminants present as well as water chemistry factors like pH can impact filter performance.

Filter Capacity/Size - Filters need to be properly sized for the home's water usage to allow for sufficient contact time.

Maintenance - Filters need to be changed per the manufacturer's recommendations to maintain effectiveness.

In general, high-quality whole home systems utilizing multi-stage filtration with carbon, sediment, and reverse osmosis or specialty media can remove 90-99% of most common contaminants when properly maintained.

Independent certification to NSF standards provides verification of a filter's contaminant removal claims. But even certified systems may not remove 100% of all contaminants perfectly.

What is the difference between a whole home water filter and a point-of-use filter?

The main difference between a whole home water filter and a point-of-use (POU) filter is the point at which they are installed and the amount of water they treat.

Whole Home Water Filter:

  • Installed where the main water line enters the home
  • Treats all the water entering the household plumbing
  • Filters water for every faucet, appliance, and outlet in the home
  • Larger capacity systems designed to handle high water flow rates
  • More expensive initial installation cost
  • Filters need less frequent replacement than POU units

Point-of-Use (POU) Filter:

  • Installed at a single faucet or plumbing connection
  • Only treats the water used at that one specific point, like the kitchen sink
  • Does not filter water for the entire home
  • Usually smaller capacity, limited flow rate
  • Lower initial installation cost at one location
  • Filter cartridges may need more frequent replacement

In summary, a whole home filter treats all the water throughout your home at the point where the supply line enters. A POU only filters water at one single tap or outlet. Whole home provides treated water to every fixture, while POU is localized.

Whole home is more comprehensive but costs more upfront. POU is less expensive but only filters water at that one location.

Do whole home water filters require professional installation?

For most, yes. Most whole home water filtration systems require professional installation by a licensed plumber or water treatment specialist for several important reasons:

  • Plumbing Integration - These systems need to be properly integrated into the main water supply line feeding the entire home. This involves cutting into existing plumbing lines and ensuring correct fittings, shut-off valves, and drain lines are installed.
  • Proper Sizing - The filtration system must be sized correctly based on the home's plumbing infrastructure, water pressure, flow rates, and overall demand. Improper sizing can lead to low water pressure issues.
  • Code Compliance - Many municipalities require permits and inspections for installing equipment that taps into the main water line. Professionals ensure code requirements are met.
  • Leak Testing - After installation, the entire system needs careful pressure testing to certify there are no leaks before putting it into service.
  • Complex Equipment - Whole home filters often use multi-stage configurations, drain pumps, pre-filters, and large filter tanks that the average homeowner may not have the skills or tools to properly install.

While some very basic single-stage systems could potentially be a DIY project for an experienced homeowner, professional installation is highly recommended for whole home water filters. Improper installation risks leaks, water damage, and an ultimately wasted investment in the equipment. Hiring a professional ensures proper setup and integration.

How often do the filters need to be replaced, and what is the typical cost of replacement filters?

The frequency for replacing filters in a whole home water filtration system and the costs involved can vary based on several factors:

Filter Replacement Frequency:

  • Sediment pre-filters: Every 6 months typically
  • Carbon filters: Every 6-12 months

Other specialty media filters: Annually or per manufacturer recommendations

The replacement schedules depend on the water quality, usage levels, and filter capacities in your specific system. Systems with higher water demand will require more frequent filter changes.

Typical Filter Replacement Costs:

Sediment filters: $30 each

Carbon filter cartridges: $40 - $50+ each

Filter media for larger tanks: $50 - $300+ to refill

Higher-end whole home systems with multi-stage filtration will have higher filter replacement expenses.

Some filters like sediment types just get rinsed while others are replaceable cartridges or media.

How much maintenance is required for a whole home water filtration system?

Whole home water filtration systems generally require regular maintenance to operate effectively and extend their lifespan. The amount of maintenance involved can vary based on the specific system type and configuration, but typically includes:

Filter Changes

  • This is the primary maintenance task - changing the sediment pre-filters, carbon cartridges, reverse osmosis membranes, and refilling media tanks per the manufacturer's recommended intervals (e.g. every 6-12 months)

System Flushing/Cleaning

  • Periodically flushing and cleaning the system components helps remove accumulated debris/scale
  • May involve soaking components in cleaning solutions

Control Valve Service

  • For systems with automatic backwashing controls, the valve requires basic service annually

Tank Air Recharge

  • For systems with air-charged holding tanks, checking and recharging air pressure yearly

General Inspections

  • Inspecting for leaks, checking water pressure, ensuring proper drain flow
  • Cleaning exterior of any quipped salt/media tanks

The manufacturer's guidelines should be followed, but in general basic systems may just need filter swaps every 6-12 months. More complex multi-stage systems with specialty media will have increased maintenance requirements.

Keeping up with recommended maintenance helps the system work optimally, prevents problems, and extends its effective lifespan. Many homeowners opt for an annual service contract with a water treatment professional for added convenience.

What is the expected lifespan of a whole home water filtration system?

The expected lifespan of a whole home water filtration system can vary significantly depending on several key factors:

Quality of System Components

  • Higher quality systems from reputable brands using durable tanks, housings, and parts will last longer than basic, lower-cost systems.
  • Lifespan ranges from 5-10 years on the low end up to 10-20+ years for premium systems.

Water Quality

  • Systems dealing with high sediment, hard water, or excessive contaminant levels will experience more wear and tear, reducing lifespan.
  • Better incoming water quality promotes longer component life.

Maintenance Consistency

  • Following manufacturer maintenance schedules precisely is critical.
  • Systems with neglected maintenance will degrade much faster.

Usage Levels

  • Higher household water demand puts more strain on components over time.
  • Lower usage extends lifetimes.

Environmental Conditions

  • Temperature fluctuations, humidity, water pressure can impact component durability.

Key components like tanks, control valves and RO membranes may need replacement during this time, but a well-maintained system should provide a decade or more of service life.

High quality installation, consistent monitoring, and environment also factor into maximizing a whole home filter's longevity.

Will a whole home water filter affect water pressure or flow rate?

Yes, a whole home water filtration system can potentially affect your home's water pressure and flow rate to some degree. Here are a few key points about how these systems impact water pressure and flow:

Water Pressure Drop

  • All water filters create some pressure drop as water passes through the filtration media
  • The more filters/stages, the more pressure drop that occurs
  • Typical pressure drops 5 PSI for most whole home systems
  • Very large systems or those with sediment filters can drop pressure more

Flow Rate Reduction

  • Water filters also restrict the maximum flow rate capable
  • As filters load up with contaminants over time, the flow rate decreases
  • Most quality whole home units maintain adequate flow for typical household use
  • But very high demand (running multiple fixtures) may overwhelm the filter's flow

Proper System Sizing

  • Having the system properly sized for your home's plumbing and demand is critical
  • Undersized filters will exhibit excessive pressure drop and low flow issues
  • Oversized may waste money but ensures sufficient pressure/flow

Most homeowners typically notice a slight water pressure decrease after installing a whole home filter, which is normal. However, excessively low pressure or flow likely indicates:

  • The system is undersized
  • Filters need replacement
  • There may be plumbing constrictions

Well-designed and sized whole home systems can provide adequate pressure and flow for all but the highest water demand situations in most homes. But some reduction should be expected compared to untreated water.

Are there any specific plumbing requirements for installing a whole home water filter?

Yes, there are several important plumbing requirements and considerations when installing a whole home water filtration system:

  1. Installation Location - The system needs to be installed where the main water line enters the home, before it branches off to other plumbing lines. An area with sufficient clearance space is required.
  2. Pipe Compatibility - The existing pipes need to be compatible with the filter system connections. Most residential uses CPVC, PEX, copper, or galvanized pipes.
  3. Shut-Off Valves - Isolation valves need to be fitted before and after the system to allow turning off water for maintenance.
  4. Electrical - Some systems require an electrical connection or outlet nearby to power control valves and pumps.
  5. Water Heater Loop - A bypass loop may be needed around the filter to supply untreated hot water for energy efficiency.
  6. Expansion Tank - A thermal expansion tank may be necessary if there is a closed-loop plumbing system.
  7. Permitting - Many municipalities require permits for installing whole home treatment equipment on the main supply.
  8. Water Testing - Testing the water quality helps properly specify the needed filtration stages and component sizing.
  9. Water Pressure - Sufficient home water pressure (typically 20-80 PSI) is required for proper filter operation.

An experienced plumber can ensure all plumbing codes are followed and the system integrates seamlessly into the home's existing water pipes and infrastructure.