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Types Of Whole House Water Filters 

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:
Types Of Whole House Water Filters

If you have decided that a whole house water filter is right for you, then I commend you on coming to that decision.

That’s because you have just made a choice that will enhance 100% of the water that comes into your home and make it safe for you and your family to drink and use.

The only problem that comes along with making this decision is that you will now have to choose which type of whole house water filter you want to install.

That’s not so easy because there are a wide variety of whole house filters available for you to choose from. It’s a decision that may even overwhelm you with all of the choices that you have.  

This is something that I can use my many years of water filtration experience to help you out with.

I am prepared to go over with you in more detail all of the different types of whole home filters that are available in the home marketplace.

Here I will also talk about some other aspects of purchasing one of these popular water filtration devices.

This includes whether you should purchase a system that uses several filter cartridges working in sequence with each other or a single tank media filter.

Types Of Whole House Water Filters

Here are the most popular types of whole house filters (also known as whole home, media, and point of entry water filters) that you have to choose from.

Some of which are designed to resolve very specific problems which relate to the overall quality of your incoming water supply.    



You may have a water supply coming into your home that has sand, clay, dirt, rust, or other larger particles in it. These are substances that you definitely don’t want going through your household water system.

Sediment filters (Also referred to as mechanical filters) are tasked with removing large-sized contaminants along with eliminating water turbidity. 

These usually have media inside of them that’s made up of tightly wound string-like materials or paper pleats.

These are especially important to have if the source of your water comes from a well. There are very few whole home water filter setups that do not include at least one type of sediment filter. 

Point of entry (POE) sediment filters are also used to help protect secondary water filtration devices such as countertop and under sink water filters.

They do this by keeping the media pours inside of these filters debris free so they continue working at peak efficiency.

Activated Carbon Filters

You would be hard-pressed to find a whole home water filter that did not contain at least some type of activated carbon filter media. There are three forms that activated carbon point of entry water filters generally come in. They are as follows:

1. Granular Activated Carbon Filter (GAC)


These are filters that are packed with very fine carbon powder. They are the most used type of filter in whole home systems and much of that has to do with their lower cost.

They work great when it comes to removing chlorine taste and odor from tap water. Something that takes on added importance because of all the city water supplies across the nation that provide homes with water that has been treated with chlorine.

GAC filters also allow very generous flow rates through them which is ideal for whole home water filters and they tend to last a long time.

The problem with them is they do not do much else other than improving the aesthetic effects of chlorine (taste, smell, looks) and they can harbor bacteria because of the way that water sometimes creates channels through them.

2. Activated Carbon Block Filters


These types of filters can best be described as filters that are made out of GAC but those fine powder activated carbon granules are held together and shaped by a bonding agent. 

This enables activated carbon filters to perform both mechanical filtration and absorb contaminants.

A third filtering process called electrokinetic adsorption also takes place in them where a special positively charged outer membrane attracts negatively charged water contaminants.

Activated carbon block filters offer a massive amount of surface area and are impactful when it comes to removing chlorine, some chloramines, metals such as lead, asbestos, arsenic, radon, and mercury, and harmful waterborne pathogens such as cysts.

They are cost-effective and do not clog easily either. The biggest drawbacks with them are they tend to lower flow rates when water passes through them and they usually have to be replaced more frequently than other types of activated carbon filter media.

3. Catalytic Activated Carbon

These are whole home filters that came about because of the widespread use of municipal water plants using chloramines to treat water. 

They did this because it costs less to treat water with chloramines (chlorine atoms bonded with nitrogen) than it does chlorine.

Chloramines have been proven to be much tougher to remove from water than regular chlorine and their associated disinfection byproducts (DBPs).

That created the need to come up with a carbon-based filter that could remove them and hence CAC was created. These are mesh-type filters that make use of highly absorptive activated coconut shell carbon.  

As a bonus, they also work very well when it comes to eliminating hydrogen sulfide which is the cause of the rotten egg smell in the water from wells. They are effective when it comes to removing lead and several other inorganic chemicals too.

The disadvantage of these is that they are the most expensive type of activated carbon filters and they are not as widely available.         

KDF Media (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion)


KDF filters use the process of oxidation and reduction (redox) to remove contaminants from your incoming household water.  Copper and zinc are the filter additives that enable the redox reaction in these to take place.

Although they are not a good stand-alone whole house filter media, they can enhance the performance of any POE filter system by removing or reducing chlorine, heavy metals such as lead & mercury, hydrogen sulfide, chromium. 

This goes along with them controlling the buildup of microorganisms such as bacteria and algae in a whole house water filtration system. 

They are not used by themselves because they are not very effective at removing organic compounds.

KDF water filters come in two forms:

KDF-55 for city water use

KDF-85 for well water use

Ion Exchange Whole House Water Filters


According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), over 85% of Americans have some level of water hardness which can cause both major and nuisance problems around your home.

That’s why many whole home water filtration systems have a water softening component to them. Water softeners consist of two tanks.

One contains a brine solution (saltwater solution) that helps the ion exchange process take place in the system and the other is known as a resin tank. This is because the resin tank contains many resin coated beads inside of it.

These resin beads are coated with positively charged salt or potassium ions from the mixture in the brine tank.

When hard water minerals enter the resin tank, they are more strongly positively charged than the salt ions so they displace them and stick to the resin beads, and are removed for the water that passes through them.

The disadvantage of this process is there are many gallons of water when the system goes through a regeneration cycle (cleans itself) and this process removes beneficial calcium and magnesium too.  

Quality water softeners are also more of a water treatment device as opposed to a filter. 

Iron, Manganese, and Sulfur Filters

If you have well water, you may experience the effects of sulfur in it regularly. This includes the rotten egg smell that hydrogen sulfide gas causes. Iron and manganese are also problematic and hard to remove water impurities.

Specialty filters such as iron filters, manganese, and sulfur filters are designed to remove these contaminants and some others along with them.  

Acid Neutralizers

Sometimes that water that comes into your home may be to the acidic side. This is a problem because acidic water is not healthy to drink and it can also do such things as speed up the corrosion of pipes and it can ruin water softeners too.    

Acid neutralizers are used to correct this condition and help maintain more neutral water pH levels.     

Activated Alumina

As good as activated carbon, KDF, and other filters are at removing a wide variety of water impurities, there is one substance that they have a lot of problems removing. That’s fluoride.

This is not good because it’s added to the water supplies in many major cities and towns at the municipal water treatment plants. According to the CDC, 73% of Americans are on community water supplies and over 70% of that water is treated with fluoride.

Fluoride is thought to be the potential cause of several health issues. Whole house filters that feature active alumina are very effective at removing fluoride. They also do a good job removing arsenic and sulfides.

The biggest drawback to this filter type is it does not remove much else and they need to be cleaned more often than other types of filters.         

Reverse Osmosis

If you want to experience the highest level of purity in a POE water filter, then you would want to have a reverse osmosis system.

Reverse osmosis filters have a special membrane in them that filters a very small particle size. This is often 1 micron or less.

That gives them the ability to filter out everything from bacteria to arsenic. They will remove or reduce such impurities as heavy metals, nitrates, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals.

Big disadvantages of whole house reverse osmosis systems include producing wastewater and needing a pressure boost to push water through their small-sized pores so water pressure in the house is not lost. They have little impact on chlorine.         

UV filters

Here is another device that is best described as a water treatment system as opposed to a water filter. That’s because UV light disinfection devices do not filter anything out of the water.

Instead, they are very impactful when it comes to rendering harmful microorganisms ineffective. They do this because when bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms are exposed to ultraviolet light it alters their DNA and ability to reproduce.         


These are filters that are very similar to RO systems but usually don’t require a pressure boost such as reverse osmosis systems do.  

This makes them preferable for use on point of entry water filters as opposed to reverse osmosis systems.    

Water Filter Cartridges Vs Large Media Tanks

Springwell CF1 Whole House Filter

If you are shopping for whole house water filters, you will notice there are two types. Single tank media filters and    


systems that consist of several filter cartridges working in series with each other.

Which one is best for you? Media filters are very low maintenance but have a high initial cost and will produce some wastewater.

Whole house filter cartridge systems are less expensive to purchase but you will have to replace the filter elements inside of the cartridges at least once or twice a year.

Both can be very effective when it comes to improving home water quality.


As you can see, there is a wide variety of choices when it comes to point of entry water filters. It’s a purchase that you can never go wrong with making because of the many benefits they offer for you and your family.

Which one is best for your needs? The best way to determine that is to find out what contaminants are in your household water that should concern you enough for you to want to remove them.

Professional lab analysis is the preferred way of doing this. For that purpose, I recommend ordering a test kit online such as the one made by Tap Score.


These home test kits are simple to use because you just fill up the enclosed water sample containers once they arrive and send them back to the company for analysis.

 A few days later you will get a detailed list of the types of impurities that are found in your tap water.

Once you have determined what type of whole house filter is right for you, then you can refer to the pages on our website that give more details on that type of POE filter and some of the best whole house filter models.

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Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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