Installing a Whole-House Water Filter Is a Clear Choice

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Reviewed by Joseph Wood
Updated April 14, 2022
Young girl washing hands in kitchen sink
Photo: Stock Rocket / Shutterstock

Do you really need this expensive and tricky-to-install water filtration system in your home, or are there more budget-friendly alternatives?

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A whole-house water filter system, also known as a point-of-entry (POE) filter, filters the water from the primary entry point into your home. This system doesn't just ensure you have cleaner, softer, better smelling water available for drinking, so you don’t have to fret over dirt, rust, or sediment. It also supplies filtered water to your appliances, showerheads, and every other household water outlet, which helps protect your fixture’s lifespan. But before you click “add to cart,” is a whole-house water filter the best fit for your home, or are there other alternatives that’d work better? Learn more about the POE’s pros and cons, and how they compare to other water filtering systems.

Pros of a Whole-House Water Filter System

  • Useful if you use well water or your water has a strong odor

  • Softens hard water. Pipes are less likely to clog and you could extend the lifespan of your appliances. You may even notice an improvement in your skin and hair, and your glassware and clothes may be cleaner. 

  • Can provide peace of mind if you or a family member is susceptible to medical problems caused by exposure to chemicals in the water supply

Cons of a Whole-House Water Filter System

  • Whole-house systems are significantly more expensive than point-of-use (POU) filters

  • Compared to POU systems, POEs are more complicated and costly to install and maintain

  • You need a licensed plumbing professional near you to fit this type of system

  • Because the water needs to run through the filter quickly, it can cause a drop in water pressure, particularly if you’re using water at multiple appliances or faucets at once

Types of Whole-House Water Filter Systems

Whole-house water filtration systems can vary dramatically in cost, the types of contaminants they remove, and the amount of maintenance they need. The most common types are carbon-based and reverse-osmosis configurations.

Media Filters

These filters act as your primary blocker to capture debris and other solid matter. It’s a woven filter akin to a standard air filter in your furnance. Similiar to the way a window screen prevents leaves from blowing into your home, a media filter is your first line of defense against dirty water.

Carbon-Based Filters

Whole-house systems with carbon filters are the most economical option, and they also require the least maintenance. These filters generally don’t need to be replaced for at least three years, and they remove one of the most common contaminants: chlorine, which reduces the chance of poor-tasting water.

Depending on the filter quality and the contaminants you want to avoid, you may still need an extra POE water filter to remove other particles.

Reverse-Osmosis Filters

RO filters are best used to purify drinking water from your tap, not the whole house. These systems block a wider variety of contaminants such as VOCs and lead, but are more expensive, need more maintenance, and produce more wastewater. They may even strip beneficial minerals from your water.

How Much Does a Whole-House Water Filtration System Cost?

Whole-house water filtration systems can vary dramatically in price. They can average anything from around $1,000 for a standard carbon filter system to over $4,000 for a more advanced reverse-osmosis filter system.

You also have to factor in the costs of installation too. Depending on the system you choose and any potential modifications needed to accommodate it, the price can vary from around $300 to more than $3,000.

What Are the Alternatives?

Young girl getting water from sink
Photo: Igor Pushkarev / Shutterstock

If you don’t want the expense and hassle of having a whole-house water filter system installed, but you still want cleaner drinking water, it’s much easier and less expensive to use a point-of-use filter system. Below are a few popular options, but it’s also possible to get under-the-sink, countertop, and refrigerator water filter systems.

Water Pitcher Filters

This is the least expensive option and requires no installation. These filters are built-in to a pitcher, so all you have to do is fill ‘er up before drinking tap water. The filter pore size varies, so check the type before you buy. Also, be aware that the filters need regular replacement.

Faucet-Mounted Filters

These systems attach to most types of faucets. It’s possible to switch the filter on and off, depending on if you’re pouring drinking water or just need to water your houseplants. They’re one of the cheapest POU systems and are easy to use, but the filters need regular replacement.

Faucet-Integrated Filters

Here, the filter is integrated within the faucet rather than mounted onto it. It’s another type where you can easily switch between filtered and unfiltered water. But they’re more expensive, and you have to factor in the cost and hassle of having them installed.

Still Not Sure Whether You Need a Whole-House Water Filter System?

No filter system eliminates all contaminants, so you need to understand what is in your water, your budget, and what you want your filter to achieve. Whichever filter you opt for, ideally, it should be NSF certified.

If you just want cleaner drinking water, then a whole-house system is likely not the best investment, and you should focus on a POU filtration option. However, if you use well water or a certified water test shows high levels of contaminants, you may want the peace of mind a whole-house water filter system can bring.

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