Heard about the APEC Big Blue water filter cartridges for whole home filtration? Wondering whether any of these filters or filter combinations are worth your money? We’ve shared everything you need to know to make that decision, including the filters’ performance, notable features, installation and maintenance requirements, and more.
Table of Contents
The APEC Big Blue filters are a variety of 20-inch whole house filter cartridges offered by APEC.
A few of the Big Blue filters are sold as standalone filters with their own filter housing. The most popular systems, however, combine two or three Big Blue filters to reduce select groups of contaminants.
There are currently multiple variations, with either 1, 2, or 3 filter stages.
The single stage systems are:
- The CB1-SED20-BB 30-micron sediment filter: 20 inches, washable and reusable, chlorine- and bacteria-resistant
- The CB1-CAB20-BB 25-micron carbon filter: 20 inches, made from granular activated carbon, 70,000-gallon (1 year) lifespan
The two stage variations are:
- The CB2-SED-CAB20-BB sediment and carbon filter combo: a combination of the 20-inch Big Blue sediment filter and carbon filter in a pre-assembled filter housing
The three stage variations are:
- The CB3-SED-KDF-CAB20-BB sediment, KDF and carbon filter combo: a combination of a 20-inch sediment, carbon, and KDF filter cartridge in a pre-assembled unit
- The CB3-SED-IRON-CAB20-BB sediment, iron, and carbon filter combo: a combination of a 20-inch sediment, carbon, and iron filter in a pre-assembled filter housing
- The CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB sediment, GAC carbon and carbon block filter combo: combines a 20-inch sediment filter and two types of carbon filters
📝 System Specifications
|Filter size||20 inches|
|Inlet and outlet ports||1-inch FPT|
|Internal port(s)||1.25 inches|
|Filter types||Sediment, carbon block, granular activated carbon, KDF, iron|
|Filter micron ratings||Down to 25|
|Filter housing included?||Yes|
|Bypass valve included?||No|
Numerous Filters to Choose From
You can choose to buy a sediment or carbon filter as a standalone whole home filter, or combine several of APEC’s heavy-duty water filters to target a broader range of contaminants at once.
Large, Fast-Flow Filters
Regardless of which Big Blue filter or filter set you choose, the filters are all 20 inches in size, with 1-inch inlet and outlet ports and 1.25-inch internal ports. That means no reduction in flow rate for you.
Various Micron Ratings Available
Different Big Blue filters have different micron ratings depending on the contaminants they’re designed to target. The maximum micron rating is 30, for the Big Blue sediment filter, which is designed to remove large particles of sand, silt, rust, and dust.
Most APEC filters are backed by a 1-year warranty that can be extended to 2 years if you register the system online.
We measure the performance of all filters we test by assessing three factors:
- The contaminants removed, or the effectiveness of filtration
- The filter flow rate, or the speed of filtration
- The filter lifespan, or the longevity of filtration
Let’s start by looking at contaminants removed. The different Big Blue filter options all target different sets of contaminants:
|CB1-SED20-BB 30-micron sediment filter||Sand, dirt, silt, rust, and scale down to 30 microns in size.|
|CB1-CAB20-BB 25-micron carbon filter||Chlorine, taste and odor, and some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) down to 25 microns in size.|
|CB2-SED-CAB20-BB sediment and carbon filter combo||Sediment, dirt, rust, chlorine, and some VOCs to 25-30 inches in size.|
|CB3-SED-KDF-CAB20-BB sediment, KDF and carbon filter combo||Sediment, dirt, rust, chlorine, and some VOCs, heavy metals and hydrogen sulfide.|
|CB3-SED-IRON-CAB20-BB sediment, iron, and carbon filter combo||Sediment, dirt, rust, chlorine, and some VOCs, rust, orange staining, and metallic taste and smell.|
|CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB sediment, GAC carbon and carbon block filter combo||More thorough chlorine and chemical reduction than the sediment and single carbon filter set.|
In all, we think that all these filter options serve a purpose. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the contaminants removed by any of the Big Blue filters, but if you just need a simple solution to improve your water’s taste or get rid of sediment, you have plenty of good options.
APEC mentions NSF certifications on its website, but there isn’t any clear information about performance certifications. It looks like some of the filters just use NSF-certified components, which is a start – but we’d prefer the reassurance of NSF-certified performance.
As for flow rate, APEC doesn’t specify a maximum flow rate for any Big Blue filters. What we do know is that the filters all have 1-inch inlet and outlet ports and 1.25-inch internal ports that prevent a significant pressure drop. APEC says you should experience less than a 1 GPM drop in water pressure after installing one of the Big Blue filters. So you shouldn’t notice any change to your water flow, even during peak demand.
Finally, filter lifespan. The Big Blue filters last around 70,000-80,000 gallons (or 1 year), which is pretty average for a whole house water filtration system. The sediment filter can be washed and reused, too, further extending its lifespan. Check the specific product details for the filter you’re interested in for its actual lifespan.
📌 In all, we think in terms of performance, the APEC Big Blue water filters are good, but not exceptional. We’ve seen better contaminant removal from other water filtration systems, but the flow rates and filter lifespans for the BB filters are good.
🔧 Installation & Maintenance
As with any whole-house water filtration system, the APEC BB filters will need to be installed at your main water line, upstream of your water heater. That means cutting into your plumbing, which not everyone is comfortable doing.
That said, we think you can easily install any of these filters yourself, as long as you follow the installation instructions in the user manual carefully.
Included with the filter system are:
- User manual
- Filter housing(s)
- Filter cartridge(s)
- Pressure relief valve
- Filter wrench
Make sure to shut off your water supply and drain the remaining water from your pipes by opening your faucets before you get started.
You’ll need to buy your own fittings and tubings to connect the filters to your plumbing. Flex tubing is best since it’s easiest to cut and manipulate to size.
We also recommend spending extra on a bypass valve, allowing you to divert water around the system during maintenance or troubleshooting.
Maintenance is easy, too – just replace the filters as advised in the user manual, or when your flow rate drops significantly. The sediment filter can be cleaned with normal tap water and reused.
📝 Filter Info
There are several different filters available in the Big Blue series:
- The 30-micron sediment filter: removes large sediment particles by trapping them in the filter media; best for well water
- The GAC carbon filter: uses adsorption to trap chlorine, some VOCs, and other chemicals; best for chlorinated municipal water
- The carbon block filter: compact carbon media provides more thorough adsorption and chlorine removal
- The KDF filter: reduces lead and hydrogen sulfide; good for city water and well water
- Iron filter: reduces rust, metallic taste and smell, and orange stains
Carbon, KDF, and sediment filtration are all popular filter choices for whole house systems with plenty of research to support their efficacy in long-term water treatment. We like that APEC also offers an iron filter cartridge, too, although this will only be good for ferric iron, not dissolved iron (which will need to be oxidized first).
🔔 Pros & Cons
👍 What We Like
- We love that you can mix and match different filters depending on the most prevalent contaminants in your water supply.
- The filter sets come pre-assembled in their own filter housings and are ready to install with the included wall mount, making for super convenient installation.
- No matter which Big Blue filter or filter combo you opt for, you won’t ever pay more than $500. That’s fantastic value.
- The plastic construction helps keep costs down, but the material is sturdy and built to last, with durable heavy-duty metal brackets for installation.
👎 What We Don’t Like
- Although these APEC filters target a lot of the most common contaminants in water, they only cover the basics. Don’t expect anything really special from these filters.
- There are no test results for us to look at, and the filters don’t appear to be NSF certified. That means we just have to trust APEC’s word that the filters remove what they’re advertised to remove.
- We think it’s a bit annoying that there isn’t a built-in bypass valve included with any of these water filtration systems, so you’ll need to buy your own.
❔ Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a Big Blue water filter last?
A Big Blue filter will last around 70,000-80,000 gallons (about 1 year) or longer, depending on the type of filter you buy, your water’s TDS level, and your daily water usage.
Who makes Big Blue water filter?
Big Blue water filters are made by APEC, a USA-based manufacturer with around 30 years of experience in the industry.
What does Big Blue filter remove?
Different Big Blue filters remove different contaminants. The carbon filters target chlorine and some VOCs, and the sediment filter reduces rust, sand, and other sediment particles. There are also iron and KDF filters for rust, lead, and hydrogen sulfide reduction.
How often should I change my Big Blue water filter?
Change your Big Blue filters about once a year, or when your flow rate slows significantly, indicating clogged filter media.
Does Big Blue filter remove chlorine?
Yes, the carbon Big Blue filters reduce chlorine. The Big Blue sediment, GAC carbon and carbon block filter set offers the most thorough chlorine reduction.
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