You may have heard of a new thing called a whole house water filter. You may also have heard that it’s better than having individual water filters, and which you might have already.

But what is a whole house water filter? When was it ‘invented’, and why aren’t they more common? How do they work, and how can you have them installed? Well, let’s find out!

whole house water filter

Image courtesy of Storyblocks.

What is a whole house water filter?

A whole house water filter, you’ll be pleased to know, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a water filter that directly filters water before it reaches the pipes that supply water around your home. If you already have your air purified, or put through an AC, the idea is pretty similar!

It’s connected directly to the water supply, and all of the water you use passes through it. If you have one, all of the water you will use is pure. That includes drinking water, the water you use to wash your clothes, the water you use to shower or bathe, even to brush your teeth.

It’s basically a larger version of a smaller filter, which you can install either on your tap or on the spout of a jug. It’s also a smaller version of what water treatment plants use to filter dirty water from residential and industrial areas, before it’s passed back into the water supply. Whole house water filters come in all shapes and sizes. That’s a reflection of cost, space available, and the kind of filter you’re buying. Some whole house water filters work differently to others, too, as we’ll find out soon enough.

How does a whole house water filter work?

A whole house water filter works in the same way as any other water filter. There are two main kinds of filter that you can buy: physical filters, which are basically sieves, and chemical filters which remove impurities through absorption by a chemical or series of chemicals. There is no one kind of chemical used to completely purify water. So, to make up for that, a number are used together.

One example is activated carbon, which is used to absorb chlorine and chlorine derivatives. Chlorine is, of course, quite common in water; it’s also difficult to get out of water, if you don’t like the stuff. But it can be removed using activated carbon, which can be made from coconut shells. Other natural methods of filtering water use sand, charcoal (i.e. activated carbon) and gravel- in that order- to purify water. In fact, that’s the basis of the very oldest water filters, and the general idea hasn’t changed much until today.

Where is the whole house water filter installed?

A whole house water filter is installed where the rising main comes into your property, or in other words, where the mains water actually reaches your domestic plumbing system. This is why you may have heard the term ‘point of entry system’- the filter is attached literally at the point where water enters your property. That’s how it filters the water you use for everything around the home. The point of entry may be either inside or outside your property. It may also be difficult to actually fit a whole house water filter at the point of entry, depending on the amount of space you have available. Make sure you can actually fit one before you’d like to get one installed!

What are the benefits of a whole house water filter system?

Water filters have one central benefit: they remove potentially harmful impurities from the water. These impurities require a range of measures to remove them- take for example distillation. Distillation removes impurities by boiling water, and then collecting the condensation that forms on a surface used to collect it. The idea is that some impurities are heavier than water, so they get left behind when the water condenses. But others aren’t light enough to get left behind.Chlorine, found in bleach and used to clean swimming pools, can be difficult to remove from water. That’s when another method, like filtering water through charcoal/activated carbon, becomes necessary. The good news is that whole house water systems remove impurities through a variety of methods, so nothing (or very little) is left behind.

Whole house water filters also have the added bonus that they filter all of the water you use. If, for instance, you have a water filter jug, you might find yourself running out of purified water fairly often. You can always buy another jug, or a bigger jug; but what about if you’re boiling pasta and need something to drink? Maybe you have one installed on your tap, but then you can only get purified water in one place. Whole house water filters take care of that problem by providing the entire house with filtered water, all the time.

Are there any drawbacks to having a whole house water filter?

There are actually some drawbacks, yes. Depending on the model and the size of your filter, you may experience a drop in water pressure. This will be particularly noticeable when you’re using a lot of water- obviously- like when you’re washing clothes, and your partner is taking a shower. You may have to try and conserve water if you don’t already. Some models are designed to keep water pressure fairly high, but again, these models are generally bigger so you may not be able to get one where you live.

Another drawback is that like any water filter, they will incur a repeated cost. Generally, you should have your filter replaced every year, so it’s a part of general maintenance like having your furnace checked. If you don’t, and you’re free not to, your filter won’t work at maximum efficiency- but there’s no way of making them last longer than they already do. And if it’s not working… What’s the point of having one?

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