6 Types of Whole House Water Filters in 2023 | Ultimate Guide

Whole-house water filtration systems got their name from how they work and are connected. It services the whole house and is connected to the main line. Such a system typically does a lot of work filtering all the water entering your home, so it is unsurprisingly cost intensive.

Buyers pay more attention when purchasing cost-intensive items like a whole-house water system. This is why you should take your time with the purchase. Allow us to guide you in selecting the best method for your needs before you commit your resources.

Learning about the different types of whole-house water filters, how they work, what they remove, and more will help you make the correct buying decision.

Our guide contains all the above information with extra dozes to ensure you get the best filtration system that will last for as long as possible. Let’s start with the general classification of whole-house water filters without further ado.

Whole House Water Filter Classification

Whole House Water Filter Classification

I know you were promised the type of whole-house water filter, but this basic information makes it easier to understand the classes. Whole-house water filters are generally classified into tank-based and cartridge-based units based on their filter type. Let’s see what each of these entails.

1. Tank-Based Units

In tank-based whole-house filter systems, the filter media is contained in a large tank where all the purification occurs. Maintenance for these filters is minimal, lasting about three to five years. Tank-Based systems are oversized and will require considerable space to keep them.

While tank-based filters can remove a wide range of contaminants, they are expensive to set up. The system also tends to waste water through backwashing.

2. Cartridge-Based Units

Here the filtration media is contained in a cartridge placed in the housing. There is typically more than one cartridge in the housing for improved filtration capacity. Unlike tank-based, cartridge-based systems are more water conservative.

The compact filter can fit into smaller spaces, while its ability to house various cartridges means using more effective filtration systems to remove the contaminants. Due to its size, this system’s major drawback is its regular maintenance and replacement needs. Cartridge-Based filters can also cause a drop in the water pressure and reduce the flow rate.

Types of Whole-House Water Filters

Types of Whole-House Water Filters

Now to the essence of this piece: the type of whole-house filters. As mentioned earlier, many types of whole-house filters have varying uses and setups. Let’s see some of them below.

1. Sediment Filter

It feels right to start with a sediment filter, which is usually the first in a multi-filtration system. It is often set up as a pre-filter stage for whole-house filters. Sediment filters remove larger particles like sediments and sand, preventing them from passing through their media. The filter media in sediment filters is typically made from ceramic, polyester, or spun polypropylene.

While sediment filters can be used in a multi-stage system, they can also be used as a standalone filter. Houses sourcing water from private wells and others with direct contact with the ground will need a sediment filter.

Spin-down and cartridge filters are the two sediment filters with spin-down filters featuring a transparent housing that gives visual access to the system. On the other hand, cartridge filters use a filter media to trap contaminants depending on their pore size.

  • Extremely affordable
  • It can be used in a multi-stage and single-stage system
  • It is easy to install
  • Protects plumbing from damage as it removes the particles before it reaches your fixtures
  • It cannot remove smaller particles
  • Sports a short lifespan

2. Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis(RO) systems are of high standards as they can filter out a wide range of pollutants in the water. Initially installed as a point-of-use filter but has seen its application as a point-of-entry system increase drastically. The advanced system uses a semipermeable membrane with an incredible filtration capacity to block out impurities.

RO whole-house filters are a multiple-stage system with purifiers like sediment filters, carbon filters, etc. Water passes through a series of filter media of decreasing pore sizes at high pressure. The impurities are blocked in the chamber and flushed out later using wastewater.

Water may be wasted in this whole-house filter, but it offers an excellent way to remove volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, bacteria, and other pollutants. RO filters are typically easy-to-use with other units for complete purification.

  • The advanced filtration system that uses a semipermeable membrane
  • Long lifespan of up to two years
  • Targets a wide range of impurities
  • Replacement is expensive as there are lots of filters to change
  • It wastes water to flush the contaminants

3. Activated Carbon

Activated carbon is one of the most popular whole-house filters and removes a similar list of pollutants as the carbon filter, albeit with better efficiency. The increased effectiveness of the activated carbon is due to the structure of the filter. The filter media (carbon) is in granules or blocks and sports a larger surface area.

All carbon-based filters remove chlorine and chloramine substrates, pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals affecting water taste and odor. Activated carbon uses adsorption processes to trap these chemicals and prevent them from passing through. These pollutants stick to the media surfaces while the water passes.

There are two types of activated carbon whole-house filters: granular activated carbon (GAC) and activated carbon block filter. GAC filters are widely used since they do not slow the water pressure as much as the other type.

  • It can improve the smell and taste of water
  • It works using adsorption and so does not require electricity, nor does it use chemicals.
  • Sports high-efficiency rate for a select group of contaminants
  • Cannot remove heavy metals
  • Requires frequent maintenance

4. Ultraviolet Filter

A whole-house ultraviolet purification system uses UV light to remove a select group of contaminants in your water. The powerful ultraviolet light will either kill or incapacitate pathogens like bacteria, algae, protozoa, among others, in the water. These filters are typically used in a multi-stage system and utilized towards the end of the circle after removing most particulates.

UV purification is not required where the water has already been treated with chlorine; this covers most public town water sources as they are treated with chlorine before sending to homes. It is best suited to private well water sources.

UV purification systems use much energy as electricity is connected around the clock to the filter. The water flowing through the sleeve is purified before it reaches the water heater. The purification is done by the UV rays that damage the DNA of the pathogens in the water.

  • The simple system that requires minimal maintenance
  • Suitable for a private well water source
  • Environmentally-friendly purification style
  • It uses a lot of energy as electricity is required to run the system
  • Unnecessary for public water sources in towns as they have been treated with chlorine

5. Water Softeners

Water softeners are whole-house filters designed to remove the materials responsible for water hardness. Hard water wastes soap, causes dry skin, stains surfaces, and causes corrosion. A water softener is installed in homes, getting their water from rainwater and sometimes well water.

Calcium and magnesium in water are the leading cause of hard water, with water softeners using ion exchange to remove the chemicals. This technology removes the minerals causing hardness and replaces them with potassium and sodium ions.

You can prevent the build-up of scales in your plumbings and water heater by installing a water heater as a whole-house system. Water softeners are standalone installed along the main water line. A high concentration of calcium and magnesium means the softener should be installed before other filters.

  • Minimal maintenance is required to run the filter
  • It improves the lifespan of appliances like water heaters and electric kettles
  • It softens the water entering your house, thereby preventing the myriad of challenges hard water brings
  • It can also remove low iron levels in the water
  • Sweetens the tenacity of your hair and skin
  • The ion exchange system requires frequent salt top-ups
  • Expensive installation cost, although it can be an intelligent investment over a long period, but people under a strict budget will struggle to afford the upfront cost

6. Ultrafiltration

Ultrafiltration (UF) is prevalent as under-sink units but can also be connected as whole-house filters. They sport a system similar to reverse osmosis, as their membrane can block impurities down to 0.01 microns.

This system passes water through a hollow membrane with tiny pores at high speed. Particles that are more diminutive than the pores can easily pass through. With a tiny media pore, ultrafiltration removes most impurities from the water.

UF systems can remove bacteria, some viruses and minerals, and organic suspended solids from the water. The unit’s deep filtration process makes it an excellent filter for removing smaller particles in water. The filter has an impressive capacity because most impurities are more significant than 0.01 microns.

  • Hollow fiber membrane with tiny pores that ensures high filtration levels
  • Doesn't water water
  • No chemical is required
  • Needs a pre-filter
  • More popular as an under-sink filter


Do you have a lingering question about the different types of whole-house filters you would like answered? This section provides answers to some of those questions.

What is the most popular whole-house filter?

Activated carbon is the most popular whole-house filter with its efficient filtration process of adsorbing the contaminants to the carbon materials as the water flows through.

What is the most effective type of whole-house water filter?

Unsurprisingly, reverse osmosis is the most effective type, considering it involves a series of filter media. Its semipermeable membrane blocks many impurities, making it the most reliable filter.

How do you know the best whole-house water filter to choose?

Consider the type and level of impurities in the water before checking the most effective filter to remove such contaminants.


Choosing the correct whole-house filter to install from the wide range of available systems is challenging. However, the process improves when you understand each type, how it works, what it removes, and its pros and cons.

This guide concisely details the different filters to connect to the main water pipe. We sincerely hope that this article readthrough was informative for you. We wish you all the very best and good luck.