Choosing An Affordable Whole House Water Filter

Recently I purchased a whole house water filter for my house. The product itself was less than $300 and could easily be installed by a homeowner knowledgeable about plumbing.

Know what your goals are

First, you need to know what your goals are. For me, it was to remove chlorine and its byproducts. Many people are under the misconception that tap water is perfectly safe to shower and bathe in. In reality, chlorine sanitation is a tradeoff that city water departments make concerning your health. If you want to learn more I've written an introductory article about the potential dangers of chlorine and its byproducts.

There are three major types of filters:

  1. Countertop / point of use filters – These include pitcher or refrigerator filters, as well as point-of-use reverse osmosis.
  2. Whole-house carbon – This includes large filters that last years, or compact filters that need to be replaced more often, the type I chose.
  3. Whole-house reverse osmosis – These filter a wide amount of contaminants and natural minerals but are significantly more expensive to purchase and maintain.

Finding a good plumber was a frustrating process. Some plumbers attempted to sell me a filter off amazon with a steep upcharge. Others wanted to charge me $4000 for a "custom" carbon filter. Knowing what I wanted, a simple whole house chlorine filter, helped me navigate this process and avoid being overcharged.

If you're on city water you probably don't need anything complicated. Check your local water department to see what issues might affect you. A simple carbon or activated carbon filter will do, with a countertop reverse-osmosis unit if you want that option in your kitchen.

However, If you're on well water you will need to get the water tested and get a custom solution depending on what's found in it.

What I picked

I ended up picking a simple compact whole-house water filter with two stages, one for sediment and one for carbon filtration. Sediment is usually low on city water but having this step in the process extends the life of the carbon filter which is doing the chlorine filtration.

Think of a compact carbon filter as an oversized refrigerator filter for your house. It's the same concept and they have to be replaced once a year or so to continue their effectiveness. A package deal is available with everything you need for $293 at the time of writing, or you can buy the parts individually below.

  • Filter housing – Two Pentek #20 Big Blue filter housings. 1" port size.
  • Sediment filter – 5-micron sediment filter. Construction work near your house, such as on the water line, can cause an increase in sediment in your water. It's probably not needed for city water but may extend the life of your carbon filter.
  • Carbon filter – MatriKX CTO carbon filter. Rated for 34,000 gallons of chlorine reduction. Part number 32-450-20-GREEN.
  • Filter housing bracket – Two brackets for 20" Pentek Big Blue filter housings.
  • Filter wrench – You'll need a wrench to unscrew the housing when replacing a filter. A cheaper plastic option is also available.

Testing your water

My local water department publishes reports each year about the chlorine content and I could see that my tap water was around 1 ppm. Therefore, I wanted to buy a test strip that was sensitive enough to measure below that level.

I've been happy with the Hach Free & Total Chlorine test strips which measure below 0.5 ppm. I tested the accuracy of these strips by shutting off my water filter (bypassing them) and when I tested the tap water it was exactly at 1 ppm as my local water quality reports stated. After I engaged the water filters the chlorine fell to zero.

Final thoughts

Overall I'm happy with the purchase I made. It's easy to overpay when buying a water filter, but the option above is very affordable, especially if you do your own plumbing. If I had a larger home I probably wouldn't go with a compact filter, and instead get a large self-contained unit.

I have verified through testing that chlorine is being removed from my water, and I continue to check my water every few months to know if my filters need to be replaced or not.