What Is A Whole House Water Filtration System? (Do You Need One?)

If you are reading this article, you have probably decided that it would be a good idea to get a water filtration system. I can only agree with this decision as our tap water is everything but far away from being safe to drink.In this post, I will explain what a whole house water filtration system is and will advise whether you need one at all.

In summary whole house filter is the system that is installed at the point where water enters the house – usually the basement. These filters have a long lifespan and remove great number of contaminants. Generally, I recommend to get a whole house unit for people who are using well as the main source of water.

I know how hard it can be when it comes to the selection of the right system as the variety of options is so broad.

Can I Be Sure That Tap Water Is Safe?

Well, water is treated at the local plants, but I wouldn’t say it is enough. At the water treatment plants, well-known chlorination is used as the main treatment substance. You can read about chloramine in my other article.

In short, this chemical helps to cope with most of the harmful microorganisms, so the chances that you get some sort of infection are relatively low.

Unfortunately, the chloramine itself is harmful not only to bacteria but also for our health.

With chloramine, water still contains the number of heavy metals such as iron or arsenic. Although, heavy metals are more of the issue for people that are using a well as the supply of their water.

I love the organization called EWG for their database of tap water. Simply put your, and you will get all the information about the tap water in your region.

Sad news though is that the water in most regions has an excessive amount of contaminants that are way above the acceptable level.

What Is a Whole House Filter?

So you want to know all about whole house filters, right?

I am not going to leave the main point of this article at the very bottom and explain to you what is this system straight from the beginning.

First of all, you need to know that comparing to the other filtration systems:

  1. Whole house system is the system that mounts at the place where water enters the house. Usually this might be the basement of the house.
  2. The unit provides the clean water for whole household use and not only for drinking. This includes water for garden use, flushing the toilet, showering etc.
  3. Filters usually have three stages of filtration(number can be higher) and last longer than other filtration systems.

Okay, now you understand the difference between the whole house and other units. Yet, you can still be a bit afraid that you will waste your money. So, naturally, the question arises. What am I going to get when I spend so much money on it?

Let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this type of filtration system.

First and the most obvious advantage is that it provides clean water for whole house rather than one separate faucet. But it has much more to offer.

  • Little to no maintenance. You don’t have to worry about the system until you need to replace a cartridge.
  • Cost effective solution. Treated amount of water you get is high, and this gives you a great ratio between the price and efficiency.
  • Home plumbing protection. Whole house units remove heavy metals like iron that could eventually create a build up inside your plumbing or rust your appliances.

These are the benefits you get when you buy a whole house unit. I don’t want to be a guy who will tell you that this filtration system is perfect with no drawbacks.

This would be a lie as despite it’s wonderful advantages it still has some downs.

  • Price. Well, I am not even sure if this is a disadvantage, as obviously you are getting what you are paying for.
  • Professional installation required. Let’s face it, everyone has a different skill set. Not everyone can be handy to install the unit. So please, be honest with you and if you don’t know what you are doing, just call a plumber to do it for you. It will save your nervous system and possibly water supply troubles.
  • Various range and type of filtration. Although all filters look similar, they might have a different set of filtration. I will talk about it later in this post, but the main point is that you need to know what you want to filter out.

As you can see, there are some drawbacks, but no worries I will cover all the points in this article to ensure that you know what to look for.

Now, is the time to talk about the physical aspects of whole house filters. I mean apart from the features difference, these are also different from a real point such as size and types.

I would like to talk about the size. Obviously, whole house units are bigger than under the sink filters. The question is: How much bigger they are?

Whole house filters usually come with housing. This can be either a metal box or just a piece of metal that holds cartridges.

Either way, you need to ensure that you have a space on your basement wall at least of 30” height and 25” width. This ensures that you can easily fit the whole unit.

Standard cartridge dimensions usually are 4.5” x 20”.

When it comes to a type of filter, you have so many options.

There are standard filters that usually have three stages. I have written more about those in my ultimate guide of filters. I talk about those stages more in depth so if you are interested have a read.

Another types you can see

Sediment and rust filter

These are quite interesting, they seem like an economical and great way to treat your water. Reality is though that they only take care of visible impurities, completely ignoring those dangerous invisible ones.

This being said, you won’t be able to use water purified this way for drinking. Thus you will have to get additional filters to make it happen. Usually these filters have only one stage. That’s how you can tell.

Softeners with filters

You might come across whole house filters that include the softener system. Great example is Aquasana Rhino Series.

The case with Aquasana is that it is an actual filter with a softening stage. However, usually, you get a softener with some sort of a filtration. Again the level of filtration is not ideal comparing to the proper units that are designed to filter the water primarily.

However, if you have a hard water this is an excellent option, but note that additional stages may be required.

Wow, that was quite a long read, but bear with me as I am going to tell whether you need one or not. I have even prepared a small quiz that will help you out.

Do You Need Whole House Filter?

To answer this question, you need to understand the quality of water you have in your house and also what you want to achieve.

To help you understand this, I have prepared a small quiz that will help you out with the decision.

I know that it is quite a significant investment and I don’t want you to invest in the system and then regret it or realize that you don’t actually need one and another alternative is sufficient enough.

Discover whether the whole house filter will help you out or another alternative will be a better fit for your needs.

As you can see, there is no strict yes or no answer. You always need to understand what you want to achieve by the purchase. I mean this applies to everything, but it’s even more important when selecting a correct filter.

Generally speaking, the whole house system would be a good idea when you live in a house where water is supplied by the well.

Well, water usually has a higher amount of minerals, metals, and other sediment contaminants. It’s a no-brainer if you fall into this category.

Let me explain, the whole house system will remove significant amount of sediment contaminants and in combination with UV filter will provide an ultimate protection for your household.

On the other hand, you won’t have much of a use for whole house system if you live in a small apartment, and you just want your water to be safe for drinking.

I mean, city supplied water is relatively safe to use for showering, laundry, and other home use. However, it is not a good idea to use it for drinking.

In this case you might just get away with a countertop system that saves your precious space under the sink and does not involve a hard installation.

How To Select a Whole House Water Treatment System

Is More Expensive Better?

You’ve heard the advice a million times, but the price is not everything. In this case it does not mean that the more expensive system is, the better it is. So, please bear this in mind when you will be selecting a new unit.

Some systems are a bit overpriced and do not offer features you would expect to get for the price.

When the price seems higher, and the unit seems to look exactly the same as the other you have selected, make sure to check the type of cartridge that is used in both units.

Why do I say this?

Well, whole house units are using three types of cartridges CTO, GAC and KDF.

The CTO and GAC are quite similar to both are using a carbon as the primary filtering medium.

While KDF filter is using copper-zinc combination as a medium. This combination doesn’t create a breeding ground for bacteria inside the cartridge. For this reason it is more expensive but also last longer.

What Features Do I Need?

Think about this for a moment.

I will give you some ideas about the features that are quite important and I would look at when selecting such filtration.

First of all, I would look at the type of cartridges.

What about them?

Well, I would look out whether there is a specific type of cartridges or those are unified. This is because some manufacturers might make a filter with a particular kind of cartridges so you can replace them only with the same type.

You get the idea. Those are obviously overpriced, and you don’t have any other option than pay it.

As I have mentioned earlier the standard size of a cartridge for whole house unit is 4.5” x 20” so make sure it is on your checklist.

Let’s dive into a second thing I would watch out.

This thing is a flow rate.

In other words, the flow rate is the amount of water that passes through pipelines per a certain amount of time.

In the case of filters this flow rate is described as GPM – Gallons per Minute. In some cases you might see GPS – Gallons per Second.

Why is this important?

Well, do you want to wait for 2 minutes to get a cup of water? Me neither.

Obviously, the higher the flow rate is the less time you would wait for the cup to get full.

It is hard to tell your flow rate because this depends on the size of pipelines, but most whole house unit can handle up to 40 GPM rate, so you should be fine.

Check this information before you buy anything and see if your selected unit can handle it. For your own calm contact the manufacturer and ask for help if you are not sure.


The lifespan of filtration

You want the whole unit to last as long as possible before cartridges need to be replaced.

The good thing about this is that most of the systems have a similar lifespan between 100,000 – 150,000 gallons. However, some of the systems such as Aquasana Rhino Series might last up to 1,000,000 gallons depending on the type.

Last but not least

I would definitely watch out that the system has all the components BPA-Free. There is no point of doing all this if Bisphenol-A will slowly poison you.


All in all, it is not rocket science to select a filtration unit that will serve you and your house for years.

Just, follow my advice I have given you in this article.

Make sure to ask me questions whenever you want my advice about what system to select, and I will get back to you. Also I would love to hear which filter are you using and why you have decided to select it.

Don’t forget to share the post with your friends on a social media.

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6 thoughts on “What Is A Whole House Water Filtration System? (Do You Need One?)”

  1. Wow, I think I need to look into one of these as opposed to constantly buying more Brita water filters to keep in my fridge. They mostly handle filtering out the coppery taste in my water, but I had no idea the impact it could have elsewhere.

    Seems like there are a ton of benefits to a house wide system even if I’m not drinking every drop of water that flows through the house! Beyond the filters themselves are there any other constant maintenance items to attend to? I know my parents used to have a water softener when I was a kid and we CONSTANTLY had to lug 40 and 80 lb bags of salt up and down the stairs…

    1. Hey Craig,

      Whole house filters are very low maintenance to be fair, so doing the filter maintenance I would also have a look on the elbows as those can possibly leak and the connections.

      The thing with water softeners now is that these are quite efficient now so, you don’t to carry ridiculously heavy bags with salt. I actually have an article about softeners so you can check it out.


  2. Whole house water filtration system is needed to further purify an already chlorinated treated  water. Third world countries don’t even have regulations on chlorine uses. Some times you can even taste the chlorine in the water. To think the water isn’t that safe for drinking is Scarry.

    Talking about the filters, I’ve had a filter installed in my home that gives the flow rate in hours not in Gallons per minute. In my opinion I would prefer the Gallons per minute than the one i have installed. 

    Everyone needs house water filtration system even we want safe and healthy drinking water.

    1. Hi Edwin,

      Unfortunately, this is a case that causes so many troubles with health. Chlorine or any usage of chemicals should be strictly regulated.

      I see your point about gallons per minute, but because whole house units have a flow that should be able to cover usage for the whole house, it only makes sense to use the number in hours.


  3. Thanks for explaining that flow rate is something we should consider when choosing a water treatment system. My husband and I want to find a good water treatment system for our new home. Your article helped me know what to prioritize as we compare systems.

    1. Hello Daphne,

      Thanks for stopping by. I am so glad that the guide was useful and helped you with decision.

      Let me know if you need any more help.


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