A clean, healthy water supply is the lifeline of every home. However, depending on the source, your supply could contain various impurities—including heavy metals, sediment, bacteria, viruses, and high amounts of chemicals like chlorine and hydrogen sulfide. If your water tastes bad, smells odd, has a strange color, contains visible particles, looks suspiciously cloudy, or is staining your clothes or dishes, an effective whole-house water filter can take care of the problem. Water filter systems use various filtration methods, such as fine physical barriers, kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF), carbon, and UV light. After installing one, your home's water supply is treated in one place to remove the contaminants in question, before it makes its way through your home's pipes and faucets.
When purchasing a whole-house water filter for your home, it's important to consider several factors, including flow rate, which is an indication of how quickly the water will pass through the filtration system, and maintenance requirements, like how often the system needs its filter replaced and whether you have to dismantle the entire unit when doing so. It's also key to remember that a long-lasting whole-house water filter won't be cheap—it'll often cost upwards of $2,000 or more, according to Richard Epstein, licensed master plumber and member of The Spruce's Home Improvement Review Board.
You'll want to make sure the system is designed to filter the specific impurities lurking in your tap water, and it's essential to call a professional who can help you understand the contaminants in your water supply and your filtration options. Epstein says, "It's best to have the water tested by a certified lab or consultant, as well as a comprehensive review of appliances and fixtures, in determining what will work best. This will help determine your needs for whole-house filtering and point-of-use needs." He adds that "whole-house filtering doesn't necessarily mean drinking-grade water at every location, as this can get expensive."
You can test your water by providing a sample to a state-certified laboratory. It's best to contact your local health department or the laboratory to ensure you're capturing the samples properly and don't need assistance. After the results come back, you can decide which whole-house water filter will work best for your needs, alongside a professional who can also help you install it.
We researched some of the best whole-house filtration systems for every concern, home size, and budget, taking into account filtration method, flow rate, maintenance requirements, and effectiveness. As you browse, remember that you'll find the best option for your home and needs by consulting a professional first.
Express Water Heavy Metal Whole House Water Filter
Deodorizes water supply
Simple maintenance requirements
Doesn't filter bacteria or viruses
Can be very leaky
The best filter for your home ultimately depends on what's contaminating your supply. Having said that, the Express Water WH300SCKS 3-Stage Filtration System addresses a long list of contaminants—including lead and organic matter—making it an effective option for a variety of households. With this system, your water will pass through a sediment filter first, which takes care of small particles and organic matter. Next, the kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF) process media use a noxidation/reduction (redox) reaction to trace heavy metals, including lead, iron, mercury, and copper. Lastly, your supply is deodorized with the activated carbon filter to improve its taste and smell. The carbon also reduces chlorine levels and takes care of turbidity, which is the clarity of your water.
The only things this whole-home filtration system don't remove are bacteria and viruses. It can also be quite leaky, since some parts that connect to your plumbing are made of plastic and not as durable. However, this system otherwise has a sturdy, stainless steel construction that will last for years to come. Replace the filter for each of the three stages every six months or so, but it's easy to do without dismantling the system.
Price at time of publish: $485
Number of Stages: 3 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 29 x 24 x 8.5 inches | Filtration Method: Activated carbon, sediment, KDF
GE GXWH40L High Flow Whole House Water Filtration System
Improves taste and smell
Easy to install
Clear sump allows easy viewing of filter
Filters must be replaced frequently
Doesn't remove heavy metals or bacteria
GE's single-stage High Flow Filtration System (model GXWH40L) is about as budget-friendly as a whole-house water filter can get, but it's also effective at eliminating sediment, chlorine, and rust. It uses granular activated carbon (GAC) and a sediment filter to get rid of particles while improving the color, taste, and smell of your tap water.
We also like that it's easy to install. Plus, the clear sump allows you to easily glance at the filter to monitor whether it needs to be replaced. While this whole-house filtration system is much more affordable than others in its category, one thing to note is that you'll need to buy replacement filters every three months or so. Typically, budget-friendly systems aren't made to last either—so it may be worth it to splurge on a more expensive system for fewer worries (and water impurities) going forward.
Price at time of publish: $76
Number of Stages: 1 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 15.25 x 9.75 x 8 inches | Filtration Method: GAC, sediment
Aquasana Rhino EQ-1000-BASE 1,000,000 Gallons Water Filtration System
Unique tank design
Increased contact time to remove contaminants
Easy to switch the filter
Additional filtration comes with high cost
The Aquasana Rhino 1,000,000 Gallons is a worthy best splurge pick, thanks to its unique design and easy-to-install and easy-to-maintain design. It's good for up to ten years or 1,000,000 gallons (whichever comes first) and features a unique upflow dual tank, which helps to prevent clogging. The upflow design also increases contact time with contaminants, which is especially important, as our board member Richard Epstein points out. Plus, replacing a filter is as simple as switching out the tank.
This system also uses activated carbon to remove 97 percent of chlorine for clean, fresh drinking water that will also improve your experience while cooking, cleaning, and even showering at home. The Copper-Zinc KDF filter helps to prohibit bacteria and algae growth and extends the life of the system, as well. A sediment pre-filter also captures rust, sediment, and silt. If you're looking for even higher levels of filtration, you can add a salt-free water conditioner, UV filter, or a pro-grade install kit, although these do come at an even higher cost.
Price at time of publish: $1,724
Number of Stages: 2 | Flow Rate: 14.6 GPM | Dimensions: 46 x 9 x 9 inches | Filtration Method: Sediment pre-filter, KDF
Best for Lead
APEC Water Systems CB3-SED-KDF-CAB20-BB 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System
Filters additional contaminants like chlorine and iron
Improves taste and smell
Washable sediment filter
Doesn't remove bacteria
You can't taste, smell, or see lead in drinking water. But if this heavy metal has been detected in your supply, the APEC 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System (model CB3-SED-KDF-CAB20-BB) is a solid solution. After removing sediment, rust, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with an ultra-fine, pleated filter (which is washable for extended use), this model captures lead, iron, and other heavy metals with a KDF filter.
Finally, your water will pass through a carbon filter, which takes on hydrogen sulfide and chlorine to help leave you with crisp, clean water. This APEC system can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water before you need to change the cartridges. However, it doesn't filter out bacteria that may still be present in your water.
Price at time of publish: $472
Number of Stages: 3 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 20 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches | Filtration Method: Sediment, KDF, carbon
Best with Water Softener
AQUASURE AS-WHF64D Whole-House Filtration
Ideal for large households
May be too powerful for smaller households
The AQUASURE AS-WHF64D Whole-House Filtration system comes with a 64,000-grain water softener, reverse osmosis under-sink system, and a sediment-GAC pre-filter. A total of five filters make this system a convenient solution for treating a home's water supply. It can reduce chlorine by as much as 90 percent and also reduces copper, fluoride, and iron by 90 percent.
You can also feel good knowing that bacteria is filtered out through this system, and the water softener system eliminates minerals like iron and magnesium, which can cause build-up on your home's pipes and in appliances over time. We appreciate that this system is surprisingly affordable, and it's ideal for larger four- or five-bedroom homes. However, it does require multiple installation steps with the separate systems, and it may be too powerful for a smaller house. Nonetheless, we think this system is a great option for homes with hard water who want to improve their water quality.
Price at time of publish: $883
Number of Stages: 3 | Flow Rate: 20 GPM | Dimensions: 62 x 29 x 16 inches | Filtration Method: Carbon block, coconut-shell carbon, GAC, polypropylene, sediment, thin film composite membrane
Best for City Water
Pentair PUV-14 Whole House Water Treatment and Disinfection System
Kills 99.9 percent of germs
Doesn't remove heavy metals
Doesn't remove sediment
If your home uses municipal water, we recommend the Pentair PUV-14 Treatment and Disinfection System. According to the manufacturer, it uses powerful ultraviolet light to eliminate 99.9 percent of harmful micro-organisms, including viruses, fungi, waterborne pathogens, and bacteria, such as E. coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia.
The UV filter lasts an entire year, and the system itself uses about the same amount of energy as a low-watt light bulb. One thing to note is that the Pentair Disinfection System doesn't remove heavy metals or sediments.
Price at time of publish: $834
Number of Stages: 1 | Flow Rate: 14 GPM | Dimensions: 23.5 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches | Filtration Method: UV
Best for Chlorine
A.O. Smith AO-WH-FILTER Single-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System
Improves taste and smell
Doesn't filter sediment
Doesn't filter bacteria
For households dealing with the unpleasant smell and taste of chlorine, we suggest the A.O. Smith Single-Stage Water Filtration System (model AO-WH-FILTER). Thanks to its advanced granular activated carbon filter, it claims to remove 97 percent of the odor for a full six years.
This water filter also reduces mercury levels and lowers turbidity levels, leaving you with crystal-clear water. While it won't get rid of sediment particles or pathogens, it's compatible with various add-ons, including A.O. Smith's sediment filter, a UV sterilizer, and a whole-house descaler.
Price at time of publish: $319
Number of Stages: 1 | Flow Rate: 7 GPM | Dimensions: 26 x 8.5 x 8.5 inches | Filtration Method: GAC
Best for Well Water
iSpring WGB32BM 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System
Filters most common contaminants
Improves taste and smell
Doesn't filter lead
Our top pick for filtering well water is the iSpring WGB32BM 3-Stage Filtration System. It features a robust sediment filter to eliminate organic particles often found in underground wells, like dirt, sand, and rust. This whole-house water filter also tackles chlorine and VOCs, along with hydrogen sulfide, to remove the icky sulfur smell through a carbon block filter.
While this model is not designed to get rid of lead, the iSpring targets other heavy metals like iron and manganese. If you live in a municipal area that has traces of lead in household water, we recommend checking out the WGB32B-PB model from iSpring, as it has a lead removal filter. The WGB32BM also comes with a one-year limited warranty and lifetime technical support.
Price at time of publish: $536
Number of Stages: 3 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 24.25 x 7.75 x 27.75 inches | Filtration Method: Coconut-shell carbon, sediment
Our best overall pick for a whole-house water filter is the Express Water 3-Stage Water Filtration System. This comprehensive solution calls on activated carbon, KDF, and a sediment filter to eliminate chlorine, particulate matter, cloudiness, and multiple heavy metals, including lead. A more expensive option for your home is the Aquasana Rhino 1,000,000 Gallons, which helps eliminate up to 97 percent of chlorine and uses a dual-tank system for extended contact with filtration media.
What to Look for in a Whole-House Water Filter
As Richard Epstein, licensed master plumber and member of The Spruce Home Improvement Review Board, notes, it's best to have your water tested before purchasing a whole-house water filter, as filtration systems vary in terms of what contaminants they eliminate. Some of the most common impurities include chlorine and hydrogen sulfide, which can affect the taste and smell of water.
Some substances can pose a health risk, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other waterborne pathogens, along with heavy metals like lead, iron, mercury, and copper. Lastly, most (but not all) water filtration systems capture particulate matter, like sediment, sand, dirt, and rust. Our best for city water pick, the Pentair PUV-14 Whole House Water Treatment and Disinfection System, disinfects water with a UV light to kill bacteria, viruses, and other harsh chemicals that may be present.
Flow rates for water filtration systems are measured by gallons per minute (GPM). Generally speaking, slower flow rates allow more contact time with the screening media, thus removing more impurities. The right flow rate for filtering your water supply can also be determined by the size of your household. For instance, if there are two people living in a home with one bathroom, a flow rate of up to 7 GPM is ideal. However, households with five or more people and three or more bathrooms will likely require a faster flow rate of around 15 GPM.
Our best splurge pick, the Aquasana EQ-1000-BASE Rhino 1,000,000 Gallons Water Filter System, has a peak flow rate of 14.6 GPM, making it perfect for larger family homes.
After initial installation, most whole-house water filtration systems are relatively easy to maintain. The most important thing is that you change water filters regularly. Be sure to check the manual, as some need to be replaced as often as every three months, whereas others can last an entire year.
Since every model is unique, you may want to look for an option that doesn't require dismantling every time you replace the filters. And just like your other HVAC systems, you're wise to have your water filter serviced by a professional at least once a year.
Are whole-house water filters worth it?
While many models are in the $500 range, Epstein notes, "A good whole-house water filter can cost you $2,000 or more, depending on the degree of filtering." For many homes, water filters are well worth the investment.
To determine whether it's a worthwhile purchase, Epstein says to consider your immediate needs. "Are you drinking or consuming high levels of tap water? Is the water discolored? Does the water smell? Are there high particle levels?" Answering these questions can illuminate the urgency and need for a filtration system in your home.
Do whole-house water filters remove lead?
Some whole-house water filters remove lead and other heavy metals like mercury, iron, copper, manganese, chromium, and arsenic. However, not all systems are designed to eliminate lead, even if they can filter other heavy metals, so be sure to closely check the product description before purchasing one.
If there is lead in your water supply, Epstein recommends installing a reverse osmosis system that meets NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certification standards. Whole-home water filters with KDF process media can also be effective in removing lead.
Where are whole-house water filters installed?
"They are usually installed where the water service enters the dwelling in order to filter all the domestic water," explains Epstein. Your main water shut-off valve is likely somewhere on the perimeter of your house, such as in your garage, basement, utility room, or potentially the basement. Additionally, Epstein says that power is typically required, and "drainage may be required for automatic washdown of the filter."
How long do whole-house water filters last?
While it depends on the capacity and the size of your home, the tanks of most whole-house water filtration systems last anywhere from three to 10 years. Some high-end models can last as long as 20 years.
The filters, however, don't last very long and need to be replaced regularly. Sediment and carbon filters usually need to be switched out every three to six months, and UV water filters typically last about a year. KDF media can last for much longer, often upwards of six years.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Theresa Holland, a copyeditor and commerce writer specializing in home improvement and lifestyle. She has contributed to The Spruce since 2019 by writing full product reviews and covering HVAC, cleaning essentials, appliances, and kitchenware.
For this guide, Holland interviewed Richard Epstein, licensed master plumber and member of The Spruce Home Improvement Review Board, for insight into contaminants, safety concerns, and types of filters. Before landing on her final selections, she researched the potential health risks of impure water and treatment certification standards, considering dozens of models from various manufacturers and retailers. Emma Phelps, an updates writer for The Spruce, added fresh products to this roundup to reflect the latest, most advanced available models on the market.