Whole-house or point-of-entry (POE) filters are the ultimate in-home water treatment. They give you complete confidence that all of the water entering your home, whether it’s for the shower, laundry machine, or kitchen tap, meets the safety and aesthetic standards you need.
As for what those standards are—it really all depends on your water source. Drawing your supply from a private well? Then you’ll probably want to consider a multi-stage filter that includes mechanisms for removing bacteria and protozoa. Concerns about water purity? Then a reverse osmosis POE system might be for you. Perhaps you’re on city water, and are simply interested in premium taste and water softness across your whole home?
Whatever you’re looking for from a POE filter, these systems provide the cutting edge in water treatment technology. Here are the best whole house water filters available to buy today.
What is a whole-house filter—how do they differ from kitchen filters?
Unlike a water filter found inside your kitchen, whole-house filters are designed to treat your supply before it ever hits your tap. Generally, these systems are installed at the earliest possible point in your plumbing, where the main line enters your home, or after the pressure tank if you source your water from a well.
As said above, a whole-house filter may make use of a range of filtering mechanisms. But they also might use the same filtering process as most kitchen filters—that is, activated charcoal that adsorbs organic compounds like chlorine and Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs).
But even if a POE filter is filtering water in the same way as a standard Brita filter, the POE cartridge is going to be a lot bigger, meaning that water spends far more time in contact with the filtering element. Plus, that carbon may also be structured in a highly dense carbon block and treated with materials such as zinc, which allows whole-house carbon filters to expand their filtering credentials.
Why invest in a whole-house filter?
Even in highly developed countries, not everybody can trust in their local water supply. The EPA estimates that a little over 90% of Americans have access to regularly monitored clean drinking water from public sources, with over fifteen million people on private wells. Amongst private well users, a significant proportion are responsible (willingly or not) for ensuring their own water safety.
Plus, as the lead pollution issues at Flint, Michigan, and other high profile cases have shown, there’s always a risk that public water treatment infrastructure may fail. For many people, this isn’t a chance they’re willing to take—and with the technology available to produce safe drinking water at home—more and more of us are making the decision to invest in a POE system.
For some homeowners, the need to install a whole-house filter is less of a choice than a necessity. For those private well users, getting the majority of their supply from groundwater significantly ups the probability of contamination, as pollutants seep into the earth from landfills, fuel runoff, farming, industry, and other urban causes.
For many people, installing a whole-house water filter provides a suitable opportunity to add a water softener into their plumbing. Hard water (water with high magnesium and calcium levels) can cause a number of niggling issues in daily life, such as refusing to create soap suds, leaving mineral stains on kitchenware, and making hair and skin feel coarse.
Worse, calcium deposits from hard water can build up in pipes and appliances over time, reducing efficieny—although mineral-rich water may be slightly better for your health than soft water, as McGill University discusses in this article.
Most water softeners function by attracting and replacing the magnesium and calcium in water with sodium chloride (salt). The system will wash the active component in saltwater before running the tap supply through, using a process called ion exchange to soften it. Here’s our blog on What exactly is ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ water? for more info.
Purification vs filtration
It’s worth pointing out that not every component of a whole-house system actually filters your water. While ‘filter’ is a reasonable catch-all term, components using processes such as ultraviolet radiation are actually purifying water rather than filtering out contaminants.
UV systems are intended for use on water containing microorganisms—protozoa, bacteria, and viruses not safe for consumption. By blasting them with UV rays, these products deactivate pathogens, disrupting their cellular structure, but they don’t remove them from the water supply. This is why you’ll almost always see a UV purifier paired with some other form of filtration in a whole-house system.