Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters Explained (Updated 2023)

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Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters And How They Work

The quality of your home’s water supply is an important factor to consider for the health and safety of your family. Whole house water filtration systems are a great way to ensure that all water entering your home is filtered, removing any impurities or contaminants from the source.

There are approximately 11 different types of whole house water filters available on the market today. Each technology provides its own unique benefits, but no one filter can remove all contaminants. That’s why it’s critical to know what is in your water to make an informed decision. This list breaks it down by providing:

  • Common types of whole house water filters
  • How the filter technology works
  • What contaminants they remove
  • The pros and cons of each

After reading this guide you will know the difference between each filter type to confidently decide which one best meets your needs.

Every Type Of Whole House Water Filter System

Choosing the right whole house water filter system will depend on the composition of your water, the plumbing setup in your home, the water pressure, and your budget.

Whole house water filtration systems range in size and complexity. Advanced home filtration options will combine multiple types of filtration media to effectively remove harmful contaminants. More simple options may consist of a single cartridge filter.

Activated Carbon Filters

These are one of the most popular options when it comes to whole house filtration system. Carbon filter systems are especially effective at removing chlorine, bad tastes and odors from tap water. There are two different types of carbon filters:

  • Activated Carbon Block (ACB)
  • Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)

Activated carbon block filters work by trapping contaminants in the pores of the carbon as water passes through. They are constructed by compressing carbon powder with a bonding agent to form a solid block. When the water reaches the carbon block, it is forced to pass through a layer of activated carbon which act as a sieve and absorb any impurities. This makes them highly effective at removing sediment, chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and other pollutants from the water supply.

Granular activated carbon filters work in much the same way as Activated Carbon Block filters, but they use a loose granular form of activated carbon rather than a solid block. Because of this, GAC filters allow for a higher flow rate but can suffer from channeling. Conversely, ACB filters have greater effectiveness and last longer, but are more restrictive on water pressure.


  • Highly effective in removing chlorine, bad tastes, and odors
  • No chemicals or additives required
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to some alternatives
  • Does not require electricity


  • GAC filters can channel leading to reduced effectiveness
  • May not remove fluoride and heavy metals
Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters_Activated Carbon And Carbon Block

Sediment Filters 

Sediment filters are the most common type of whole house water filter. They are designed to remove large and small particles from water, such as silt, sand, and sediment. These filters can also remove rust and other particles that may be in your water supply, resulting in better tasting and smelling water. Sediment filters should be changed regularly for optimal performance, but they are still much less expensive than other types of whole house water filters.

Two types of sediments filters include:

  • Spindown Sediment Filters
  • Cartridge Sediment Filters

When it comes to large particle removal, a spindown sediment filter is the way to go. These filters feature a mesh screen that collects the particles and traps them in its porous structure. The mesh screen can be changed periodically to ensure maximum filtration efficiency.

In addition to its large particle removal capabilities, these filters also reduce the amount of chlorine and other chemicals in your home’s water supply. Spindown filters are easier to maintain than other whole house water filters. They can also sometimes be reused with a washable mesh screen.

While not as durable as spindown filters, cartridge sediment filters are an effective way to remove smaller particles. These filters are made up of a series of layers that trap finer particles in between them known as a micron rating. This filtration process helps reduce the presence of bad tastes and odors in your water while also improving its clarity.


  • Able to remove large debris from well and city water sources
  • Helps protect other appliances in the home
  • Reduces bad tastes and odors in the water
  • Improves clarity of the water


Catalytic Activated Carbon 

Also known as CTO carbon block filters, are a popular type of whole house water filter due to their ability to effectively reduce impurities such as chlorine, chloramine, and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Since water utilities are using more chloramine, which is chlorine with added ammonia, catalytic carbon filters are increasingly popular. Unlike activated carbon, catalytic carbon is better able to catalyze chloramine and remove ammonia. These filters work by passing the water through an activated carbon block that traps contaminants on its surface.

The downside to this type of filter is that they need to be replaced frequently, as the carbon will eventually become saturated with impurities. Additionally, they can’t remove dissolved minerals or fluoride from the water. Nevertheless, these filters are an affordable choice for those looking to reduce the amount of contaminants in their water.


  • Removes chlorine, chloramine, and VOCs
  • Relatively innexpensive
  • Quicker chemical reaction that activated carbon
  • Improves the taste and smell of water


  • Needs to be replaced regularly
  • Not ideal to remove dissolved minerals or heavy metals from water
Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters_Cartridge Filters

KDF Filters 

KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) filters are one of the most popular types of whole house water filters. These filters use a chemical process known as redox (reduction-oxidation) to reduce chemicals, heavy metals, and other contaminants from your water supply. This type of filter utilizes a special blend of copper and zinc granules which cause an oxidation-reduction reaction with the water to remove contaminants.

KDF filters are effective in reducing chlorine, iron, lead, mercury, and other heavy metals from your water supply. The upside is KDF filter media does not require a lot of maintenance and can last for several years before needing replacement. These KDF whole house water filter systems come in two types:

  • KDF 55: Designed for removing water soluable metals and chlorine
  • KDF 85: Designed for iron and hydrogen sulfide removal

Because of its ability to manage algae and bacteria, KDF media is often combined with GAC, activated carbon block, or ion exchange filters.


  • Highly effective in reducing heavy metals from water
  • Can be used to treat iron and sulfur in well water
  • Long-lasting, often lasting several years before needing to be replaced
  • Controls scale, bacteria, and algae buildup


  • Not ideal to remove organic compounds
  • Can cause slight discoloration of the water if not maintained properly

Air Injection Oxidation

Air Injection Oxidation is a type of whole house water filter that uses oxidation to reduce soluble iron, manganese, and sulfur compounds from the home’s water supply. The process starts by injecting air into the water line at a pressure greater than 10 psi. The injected air causes the ferrous iron, manganese, and sulphur compounds to oxidize, converting them into harmless particles that are then filtered out by the system’s media filter. Many times an AIO system will use greensand filter media to remove these contaminants.

This type of filter is effective and is low maintenance, but does require regular backwashing to remove the oxidized particles from the filter bed. Air Injection Oxidation filters are best for homes with well water sources that might have water discoloration or a rotten egg smell . It is important to note that this type of filter will not remove other contaminants such as bacteria, so it should be used in addition to a standard sediment filter or carbon filter.


  • Effective at removing iron, manganese, and sulfur compounds
  • Ideal for well water sources
  • Can eliminate discoloration and rotten egg smell


  • Will not remove other contaminants such as well water bacteria
  • Requires regular backwashing to function properly
Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters_Iron Manganese Sulfur Filter

Ion Exchange Whole House Water Filters

Although commonly used in water softeners, ion exchange is one of the most popular types of water filtration technologies on the market. The ion exchange process removes impurities from your home’s drinking water, including calcium and magnesium, as well as other minerals like iron and sulfur.

Ion exchange whole house water filters are great for those who are looking for a comprehensive solution that can provide clean, filtered water for every tap in their home. With ion exchange, mineral ions from the drinking water are exchanged as it passes through a filter bed. The filter bed is made up of resin beads that are charged with either positively or negatively charged ions that attract impurities and hold them until they can be flushed out with regular backwashing.


  • Removes hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium
  • Reduces inorganic compounds
  • Can improve the taste and odor of your home’s drinking water
  • Low maintenance and easy setup


Activated Alumina

These filters can remove fluoride, arsenic, and selenium from your house water filtration system. This type of filter is usually used in conjunction with other types of filters to get maximum efficiency. It works by attracting certain pollutants and trapping them within its porous structure – keeping them away from your drinking water.

Although it’s a good option if you need to reduce certain contaminants, it has the downside of reducing water flow and removing beneficial minerals. It also needs to be changed more often than other types of filters, as its performance can start to decline quickly with use.


  • Removes fluoride, arsenic, and selenium from your water
  • Can be used in combination with other filters for maximum efficiency


  • Reduces water flow
  • Removes beneficial minerals
  • Needs to be changed more often than other types of filters due to reduced performance with use

Whole House RO Systems

RO systems are an efficient way to get fresh, clean water for your home. They are designed to remove nearly every type of impurities in your water supply. Reverse osmosis systems work by passing the tap water through a semi-permeable membrane that can trap contaminants such as heavy metals and cysts, while still allowing pure H2O molecules to pass through.

These house water filtration systems can be costly, but they are often the most effective way to filter large amounts of water for drinking and other household uses. They also require regular maintenance of the filters in order to ensure they are working properly.


  • Removes most pollutants and contaminants
  • Can remove bacteria and viruses from water
  • Does not alter the taste of water


  • Can be costly upfront
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Wastes a small amount of water

UV Filters 

These are a type of whole house water filter that uses ultraviolet light to purify the water. UV filtration systems can kill up to 99.9% of all microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, algae, and protozoa. By using ultraviolet light, this kind of filter prevents contaminants from entering your home’s drinking water supply and is considered effective at removing bacteria and other particles.

The downside is that these filters require regular maintenance which can be expensive, so it’s important to weigh the benefits and costs before investing in one. Additionally, UV filters are not effective at removing chemicals like herbicides or pesticides from your water supply, so they may not be suitable for those looking for a comprehensive filtration solution.


  • Highly effective at killing harmful microorganisms like bacteria, algae, and protozoa
  • Prevents contaminants from entering your home’s drinking water supply
  • Relatively low maintenance


  • Not effective at removing chemicals like herbicides or pesticides
  • Water needs to be pre-treated to work effectively
Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters_UV Water Filter

Acid Neutralizers 

A common type of whole house filter for well water uses an acid neutralizer, known as a calcite filter. Calcite filters are able to remove iron and sulfur from your water while also correcting the pH balance by increasing its alkalinity. These systems can be effective at reducing bad tastes and odors as well as helping to protect your plumbing fixtures from corrosion.


  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Improves taste, odor, and pH balance of water
  • Long lasting filters


  • Will not completely remove chemicals such as chlorine or lead
  • Needs frequent maintenance to replace the calcite media when it is depleted


When talking about whole house water filters, ultrafiltration (UF) is a method that is often mentioned. This type of filter uses pressure to force water through a membrane consisting of tiny pores that capture contaminants like bacteria, pathogens, and turbidity. UF is capable of removing viruses as well as particles up to 0.01 microns in size.

It is more effective than other filtration methods, making it ideal for removing contaminants from well water and other sources that are highly contaminated. However, this type of filter requires regular maintenance in order to keep working properly. Additionally, UF can be expensive when compared to other types of filters since the membranes have to be replaced quite often.


  • Removes particles up to 0.01 microns in size
  • Ideal for highly contaminated water sources


  • Requires regular maintenance and membrane replacement
  • Can be expensive compared to other filtration methods.

Water Filter Cartridge Vs Tank Based Systems

When it comes to water filtration systems, there are two primary types, a large tank-based system or a cartridge-based system. Tank-based systems are larger and relatively maintenance-free. Conversely, cartridge-based systems take less floor space but require frequent filter changes. Before choosing which system is best for your needs, there are several advantages and disadvantages to consider for each.

Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters_Cartridge Filter Vs Tank Based Systems
Different Types Of Whole House Water Filters

What Is A Tank-Based System?

A tank-based system consists of a large tank that is filled with various types of filtration media. These systems are always installed at the main point of entry for your water supply. Depending on the specific type of system, it may require regeneration.

Advantages Of A Tank Based System

  • Low Maintenance: Once your tank-based system is installed, it is practically hands-off for 10 or more years.
  • Highly efficient filtration – Tank-based systems are able to filter large volumes of water quickly without restricting water flow.
  • Longer Filter Life: A tank-based water treatment system does not require filter changes every several months like a cartridge system.
  • Multiple Variations: You can get a specific filtration system type for your exact needs to effectively treat your home’s water.

Disadvantages Of A Tank Based System

  • Installation Complexity – Installing a tank-based system requires professional installation and is often more complex than a cartridge-based whole house water filter system.
  • Upfront Cost: Tank based systems typically cost more than a cartridge based system. The upside is that the filter media lasts for years, whereas a cartridge system requires frequent filter replacement costs.

What Is A Cartridge Filter System?

Cartridge filter systems consist of a filter cartridge that is seated within a filter housing, which can be standalone or part of a multi-stage system. These systems use small cylindrical cartridges to filter contaminants from the water. The cartridges are connected to a housing that contains the water to be filtered. Fortunately, cartridge filters can be easily replaced once they become clogged or need to be changed.

Advantages Of A Cartridge Based System

  • Quick And Easy Installation – Cartridge-based systems are simple to install and typically don’t require professional assistance.
  • Lower Upfront Cost – Cartridge filter systems typically cost less than tank-based systems, but require frequent filter replacements.
  • Easy maintenance – Replacing the cartridges is quick and easy and can be done without the help of a professional.
  • Takes Less Floor Space: Cartridge filters are more compact and take little if any floor space.

Disadvantages Of A Cartridge Based System

  • Frequent Filter Replacements – Cartridge filter systems have limited capacities and will need to be replaced more often for large volumes of water.
  • Prone To Clogs – Cartridge filter systems are more prone to clogging due to the smaller size of the cartridges, and may require more frequent maintenance in order to ensure optimal filtration.

Final Thoughts On Home Water Filter Types

In conclusion, a whole-house water filter is an important investment for any home. It can help ensure that the water running through your pipes is clean and safe to use for drinking, cooking, and bathing. But you need to choose the right one!

There are many different types of filters available on the market today, so it is critical to know which filter type works best for your needs. However, with the right whole-house water filter, you can rest assured that every drop of water flowing through your home is of the highest quality.

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