The Best Whole-house Water Filters for a Clean Water Supply

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Best Whole House Water Filters

The Spruce / Chloe Jeong

A clean, healthy water supply is the lifeline of every home. You use it for bathing, drinking, cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, and hydrating your lawn. 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. Whether your water tastes bad, smells weird, has a strange color, contains visible particles, looks suspiciously cloudy, or is staining your clothes or dishes, a whole-house water filter can take care of the problem.

These systems use various filtration methods, such as fine physical barriers, KDF (which stands for kinetic degradation fluxion), 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 it way through each pipe and into every faucet. When purchasing a whole-house water filter for your home, though, it's important to consider several factors, in addition to how the water is filtered. Flow rate, which is an indication of how quickly the water will pass through the system and to your desired location, is an important factor. You'll also want to look into maintenance requirements, like how often the system needs its filter replaced and whether you have to dismantle the entire unit when doing so.

In addition to checking the filtration media, flow rate, and maintenance requirements, you'll want to make sure the system is designed to filter the specific impurities lurking in your tap water. If you're not sure what's contaminating your supply, Richard Epstein, licensed master plumber and member of The Spruce Home Improvement Review Board says, "It is always best to have the water tested to determine the needs and filter requirements." You can have your water tested 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 results come back, you can look into the finest filtration systems for every concern, home size, and budget.

Here, the best whole-house water filters for every household.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Express Water 3 Stage Whole House Water Filtration System

4.3
3 Stage Whole House Water Filtration System
Courtesy of Amazon.
What We Like
  • Deodorizes water supply

  • Simple maintenance requirements

  • One-year warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't filter bacteria or viruses

  • Can be very leaky

Who else recommends it? Bob Vila also picked the Express Water Whole House Water Filtration System.


What do buyers say? 91% of 700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

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. Your water will pass through a sediment filter first, which takes care of small particles and organic matter. Next, the KDF filter removes 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 thing this whole-home filtration system doesn't remove is 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'll last for years to come. Replace the filter for each of the three stages every six months or so, but know it's easy to do without dismantling the system.

Number of Stages: 3 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 29 x 24 x 8.5 inches | Filtration Method: Activated carbon, sediment, and KDF

Best Budget: GE High Flow Whole House Water Filtration System

High Flow Whole House Water Filtration System
Courtesy of Amazon.
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Improves taste and smell

  • Easy to install

What We Don't Like
  • Filters must be replaced frequently

  • Doesn't remove heavy metals or bacteria

You don't have to spend thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars to remove impurities from your home's water supply. GE's single-stage High Flow Filtration System (model GXWH40L) is not only budget-friendly but also effective at eliminating sediment, chlorine, and rust.

It uses a GAC (granular activated carbon) 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. 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.

Number of Stages: 1 | Flow Rate: 10 GPM | Dimensions: 15.25 x 9.75 x 8 inches | Filtration Method: GAC, sediment

Best Splurge: Pentair Whole House Filtration System with NaturSoft Water Softener

Whole House Filtration System with NaturSoft Water Softener
Courtesy of Amazon.
What We Like
  • Improves taste and smell

  • Removes 99.9 percent of bacteria

  • Includes water softener

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Doesn't remove heavy metals

If you're working with a higher budget, you might consider this whole-house filter from Pentair (model PSE1800-P). The single-stage system boasts four filtration methods, including a physical sediment filter, GAC, coconut-shell carbon, sand, and ultraviolet light.

Not only does it get rid of particulate matter and improve the taste and smell of your water, but it also eliminates 99.9 percent of bacteria. What's more, the included water softener prevents scale build-up and gets rid of the distinct hard water smell without removing minerals that actually benefit your health, like calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

Number of Stages: 1 | Flow Rate: 7 GPM | Dimensions: 48 x 12 x 12 inches | Filtration Method: UV, sediment, GAC, coconut-shell carbon, sand

Best for Well Water: iSpring 3-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System

iSpring WGB32BM 3-Stage Big Blue Water Filter Triple-stage 15-GPM Mechanical Filtration Whole House Water Filtration System

 Home Depot

What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Filters most common contaminants

  • Improves taste and smell

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't filter lead

The best option for well water is the iSpring 3-Stage Filtration System (model WGB32BM). It uses robust carbon and sediment filters to eliminate organic particles often found in underground wells, like dirt, sand, and rust.

This whole-house water filter also tackles chlorine and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), along with hydrogen sulfide, to remove the icky sulfur smell. While it's not designed to get rid of lead, the iSpring targets other heavy metals like iron and manganese.

Number of Stages: 3 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 24.25 x 7.75 x 27.75 inches | Filtration Method: Coconut-shell carbon, sediment

Best for City Water: Pelican Water Whole House Water Treatment and Disinfection System

Whole House Water Treatment and Disinfection System

Home Depot

What We Like
  • Kills 99.9 percent of germs

  • Long-lasting filter

  • 10-year warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't remove heavy metals

  • Doesn't remove sediment

If your home uses municipal water, we recommend the Pelican Treatment and Disinfection System (model PUV-14). It uses powerful ultraviolet light to eliminate 99.9 percent of harmful microorganisms. This includes viruses, fungi, waterborne pathogens, and bacteria, such as E. coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia.

Not only that, but 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 Pelican Disinfection System doesn't get rid of heavy metals or sediments.

Number of Stages: 1 | Flow Rate: 14 GPM | Dimensions: 23.5 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches | Filtration Method: UV

Best for Lead: APEC Water Systems 3-Stage 15-GPM Whole House Water Filtration System

3-Stage 15-GPM Whole House Water Filtration System

Amazon

What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Filters lead and iron

  • Improves taste and smell

What We Don't Like
  • 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 VOCs with an ultra-fine pleated barrier, it 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. It can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water before needing to change the cartridges.

Number of Stages: 3 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 20 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches | Filtration Method: Sediment, KDF, carbon

Best for Chlorine: A.O. Smith Single-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System

Single-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System

Lowe's

What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Improves taste and smell

  • Six-year warranty

What We Don't Like
  • 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 eliminates turbidity, leaving you with crystal-clear H2O. While it won't get rid of 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.

Number of Stages: 1 | Flow Rate: 7 GPM | Dimensions: 26 x 8.5 x 8.5 inches | Filtration Method: GAC

Best with Water Softener: Pelican Water Triple-Stage Whole House Water Filtration with NaturSoft Water Softener

Triple-Stage Whole House Water Filtration with NaturSoft Water Softener

Home Depot

What We Like
  • Includes water softener

  • Improves taste, smell, and color

  • Five-year warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Doesn't remove heavy metals

Hard water at home? Your best bet is this water filter-softener combo from Pelican (model PRC-5). The triple-stage filtration system first captures sediment and particulates, then eliminates chlorine and chloramines with activated carbon.

While it doesn't specifically kill bacteria, the bacteriostatic media stops microorganisms from growing. More to the point, the included NaturSoft feature softens your water supply while treating scale build-up in your plumbing, faucets, and appliances without adding any harsh chemicals.

Number of Stages: 5 | Flow Rate: 15 GPM | Dimensions: 59.5 x 19 x 19 inches | Filtration Method: Sediment, GAC, bacteriostatic

Final Verdict

The best whole-house water filter is the Express Water 3 Stage Water Filtration System (view at Amazon). This comprehensive solution calls on activated carbon, KDF, and a sediment filter to eliminate chlorine, particulate matter, cloudiness, and multiple heavy metals, including lead. However, if you're looking for something more wallet-friendly, you can't go wrong with the GE High Flow Filtration System (view at Amazon), which effectively removes chlorine, sediment, and rust from your water supply.

What to Look for in a Whole-House Water Filter

Contaminants Filtered

As Epstein 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.

Then there are substances that 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.

Flow Rate

Flow rates for water filtration systems are measured by gallons per minute (GPM). Generally speaking, slower flow rates are better, as they 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 GMP is ideal. However, households with five or more people and three or more bathrooms will likely require a faster flow rate, around 15 GPM.

Required Maintenance

After initial installation, most whole-house water filtration systems are relatively easy to maintain. The most important thing is that you change the 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.

FAQ
  • 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 higher, 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 give you an idea of how urgent a filtration system is and whether it can meet your needs.

  • 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 check the product description before purchasing one.

    If there is lead in your water supply, Epstein recommends getting a reverse osmosis system that meets NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certification standards. Whole-home water filters with kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF) 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 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 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?

Theresa Holland is a copyeditor and commerce writer specializing in home improvement and lifestyle. For this article, she interviewed The Spruce Home Improvement Review Board member Richard Epstein, a licensed master plumber and water filtration expert 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. Theresa has been contributing to The Spruce since 2019, where she writes full product reviews and covers HVAC, cleaning essentials, appliances, and kitchenware.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Determining the Prevalence of Contaminants in Treated and Untreated Drinking Water, US EPA.

  2. Protect Your Home's Water. US EPA.

  3. The Best Whole-House Water Filters of 2022. Bob Vila. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/best-whole-house-water-filter/

  4. Understanding Your Home Water Treatment Systems. University of Missouri.

  5. Olivares M, Uauy R. Essential Nutrients in Drinking Water. Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile.

  6. Lead in Drinking Water. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).