Best Whole House Water Filtration and Softener System Combos of 2021

best whole house water filtration and softener system

There are currently 90 drinking water contaminants that are regulated by the EPA, including lead, copper, chloride, arsenic, iron, fluoride, zinc, microbial contaminants, and much more. It’s unsettling to know that our water contains even traces of these contaminants, but this is the reality for most public water customers in the US.

I don’t blame you if you’re looking for ways to remove these contaminants as quickly and effectively as possible – and I can help. With almost a decade of experience in the water filter industry, I’ve written for and contributed to key water industry publications, including Water Quality Products Magazine, HowStuffWorks, Water and Wastes Digest Magazine & Sawyer Products.

Here at WaterFilterGuru, I share reviews, guides and blog posts, featuring only the products I believe in. When I compiled this list of the best whole house filtration and softener combos, I included those that are the very best of the best in terms of performance, durability, contaminant removal capabilities, reliability, customer feedback, quality of construction, and much more.

There are so many whole home water filters on today’s market, but I’ve selected those that are constant customer favorites, offering the powerful, reliable long-term performance that we’re all looking for.

By the end of this guide, you will know:

  • The best water whole house water filter/softener combos worth investing in in 2021
  • The science behind combining a whole house filter and a whole house softener
  • Things you should consider when choosing the best water filter and softener combo

๐Ÿฅ‡ Best Whole House Water Filter and Softener Combo

  • Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo System OR SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
  • Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener OR Salt-Free Water Softener
  • SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
  • Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener OR Saltless Conditioner
SystemDetails 
Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo
Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo
Source Water: City
Filter Capacity: 1,000,000 Gallons
Water Softener: Salt-Based Ion Exchange
Grain Capacity: 48K or 80K
Flow rate: 11 - 20 GPM
Warranty: Lifetime

โ˜๏ธ Get 5% off - Use code GURU5

SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
Source Water: City
Filter Capacity: 1,000,000 Gallons
Water Softener: TAC
Max Hardness: 81 GPG
Flow rate: 9 โ€“ 20 GPM
Warranty: Lifetime

โ˜๏ธ Get 5% off - Use code GURU5
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener
Source Water: Well
Filter Type: AIO
Iron removed: Up to 7 PPM
Water Softener: Salt-Based Ion Exchange
Grain Capacity: 32K, 48K, or 80K
Flow rate: 11 - 20 GPM
Warranty: Lifetime

โ˜๏ธ Get 5% off - Use code GURU5
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener
Source Water: Well
Filter Type: AIO
Iron removed: Up to 7 PPM
Water Softener: TAC
Max Hardness: 81 GPG
Flow rate: 12 โ€“ 20 GPM
Warranty: Lifetime

โ˜๏ธ Get 5% off - Use code GURU5
SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
Source Water: Well
Filter Type: AIO
Iron removed: Up to 30 PPM
Water Softener: Salt-Based Ion Exchange
Grain Capacity: Up to 80K
Flow rate: 6 - 12 GPM
Warranty: Lifetime on tank and other parts
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener
Source Water: City
Filter Capacity: 1,500,000 Gallons
Water Softener: Salt-Based Ion Exchange
Grain Capacity: 48K
Flow rate: 9 - 11 GPM
Warranty: Lifetime
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner
Source Water: City
Filter Capacity: 1,500,000 Gallons
Water Softener: TAC
Max Hardness: 25 GPG
Flow rate: not specified
Warranty: Lifetime

โญ Reviews – Whole House Water Softener and Filtration System Combos

Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo System OR Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Springwell 2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener Combo System

2 in 1 Filter + Salt Softener

Filter Capacity1,000,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain Capacity48K or 80K
Flow Rate11 – 15 GPM
WarrantyLifetime
SpringWell Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Water Filter + Salt-Free Water Softener

Filter Capacity1,000,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerTAC
Max Hardness81 GPG
Flow Rate9 – 20 GPM
WarrantyLifetime

Best for city water, the Springwell 2 in 1 Water Filter and Salt Softener benefits from a space-saving design that isn’t quite as big or bulky as some of the combo filter/softener systems on this list.

The salt softener combo system and the water filter is an all-in-one design, so you won’t need to hook the softener and the filter up to your plumbing separately. As well as offering installation benefits, this also makes the Springwell combo system slightly cheaper than some of the other units on this list.

The Springwell filter and salt-free conditioner combo combines a 4-stage whole home water filter with a separate tank for salt-free softening – they do not yet have a 2-in-1 offering for this configuration.

The filter and salt softener combo system, on the other hand, uses a KDF and salt-based media in the same tank, to filter and soften water at the same time.

The filter and salt-free water conditioner can remove organic contaminants like VOCs, chlorine, chloramine, pesticides and herbicides. This system doesn’t actually remove hardness minerals – it uses template-assisted crystallization (TAC) to convert calcium and magnesium into crystals that can’t form scale.

The filter and salt softener combo system completely removes calcium and magnesium from water. It also removes chlorine and chloramine, VOCs, herbicides and pesticides.

Both systems come with a limited lifetime warranty.

2-in-1 System

๐Ÿ‘ What I Like

  • Space-saving – softening & filtration resin in one tank
  • Easier to install than two separate units

๐Ÿ‘Ž What I Don’t Like

  • Regular salt top-ups required
  • Not recommended for private wells

Filter + Conditioner System

๐Ÿ‘ What I Like

  • Long lifespan – 1,000,000 gallon capacity
  • Virtually no maintenance or upkeep required

๐Ÿ‘Ž What I Don’t Like

  • Installation kit costs extra
  • Doesn’t actually remove hardness minerals

Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener OR Salt-Free Water Softener

Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based Water Softener

Well Filter and Salt Based Water Softener

Filter TypeAIO
pH Range6.5 – 10
Iron Removal7 PPM
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain Capacity32K, 48K, or 80K
Flow Rate11 – 20 GPM
WarrantyLifetime
Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Well Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

Filter TypeAIO
pH Range6.5 – 10
Iron Removal7 PPM
Water SoftenerTAC
Max Hardness81 GPG
Flow Rate12 – 20 GPM
WarrantyLifetime

Best suited for well water, the Springwell Well Water Filter and Salt Based/Salt-Free Softener can soften hard water and remove common well water contaminants in one.

Both combo systems use Springwell’s air-injection well water filter. This single-tank system can remove sulfur, iron and manganese from well water. It uses an air pocket at the top of the tank to oxidize these contaminants, converting them into a form that can be easily filtered out of the water.

The filtering system uses an automatic electronic control valve that requires no maintenance or manual intervention. It backwashes when required to replenish the air pocket and wash the accumulated contaminants out of the resin bed.

Springwell’s template-assisted crystallization water conditioner is the salt-free softening system that can be purchased alongside the well water filter. This system enables the conversion of hardness minerals into calcite crystals, which are unable to stick to surfaces and form scale.

You can also opt for Springwell’s traditional salt-based softener alongside the well water filter. This softener uses a brine tank and a resin tank to perform ion exchange: a process in which magnesium and calcium are removed from water, and a small amount of sodium is introduced to replace these ions.

Both combo units have a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty against all defects.

Filter and Salt Based Water Softener

๐Ÿ‘ What I Like

  • Ideal choice for very hard water
  • More affordable option of the two

๐Ÿ‘Ž What I Don’t Like

  • Salt-based softener requires periodic maintenance

Filter and Salt-Free Water Softener

๐Ÿ‘ What I Like

  • No salt top-ups needed
  • Smaller and more compact, fewer components to install

๐Ÿ‘Ž What I Don’t Like

  • More expensive
  • Not as effective for high water hardness

SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System

SoftPro Elite Water Softener for Well Water + SoftPro Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System
Filter TypeAIO
pH Range6.5 – 10
Iron Removal30 PPM
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain CapacityUp to 80K
Flow Rate6 – 12 GPM
WarrantyLifetime

For softening and filtering well water with a high iron content, the SoftPro Elite Softener + Iron Master Water Filter is a filter combo to consider. The system softens water and provides up to 30 PPM of iron filtration, as well as up to 5 PPM of sulfur filtration.

The SoftPro Elite is designed with efficiency in mind, and has a high-flow control valve that can be programmed according to your softening needs. This salt-based softening system uses ion exchange to eliminate hard water minerals from water.

When a higher-than-expected amount of water is used, to allow the system to regenerate at 2 am without disrupting water usage, the SoftPro uses a 15-minute “recharge”. This adds enough salt to the resin to last until regeneration.

The Iron Master AIO Water Filtration System uses a chemical-free air injection process to remove iron, sulfur and manganese in water. With a high-efficiency control valve, the system maintains high flow rates, allowing for optimum performance when combined with the SoftPro Elite.

There are three sizing choices for the Iron Master filter: 1.0 cubic foot, 1.5 cubic foot, and 2.0 cubic foot. The SoftPro Elite also comes in a number of sizes, measured in grain capacity, from 24,000 to 80,000.

๐Ÿ‘ What I Like

  • Iron Master removes up to 30 PPM of iron
  • SoftPro 15-minute recharge feature is very handy
  • Multiple sizing options for both units

๐Ÿ‘Ž What I Don’t Like

  • Filter combo is bulky – need plenty of room to install
  • Salt top-ups required

Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener OR Saltless Conditioner

Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Softener

Filter + Softener

Filter Capacity1,500,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerIon Exchange
Grain Capacity48K
Flow Rate9 – 11 GPM
WarrantyLifetime
Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter + Saltless Conditioner

Filter + Saltless Conditioner

Filter Capacity1,500,000 Gallons
Water SoftenerTAC
Max Hardness25 GPG
Flow Ratenot specified
WarrantyLifetime

The Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter uses 6 stages of filtration to remove heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceutical by-products, and chlorine/chloramine from water.

You can combine this filter with the Crystal Quest Softener or Saltless Conditioner.

Included in the Crystal Quest filter system are a sediment pre-filter, a solid carbon filter, and a SMART multimedia filter (featuring a standard and catalytic carbon filter and an ion exchange resin). Ceramic and Tourmaline balls are also used, which enhances water’s pH and alkalinity.

The Crystal Quest’s standard water softener uses ion exchange to remove magnesium and calcium ions. The salt-free alternative transforms hardness minerals into calcite crystals, which can’t stick to surfaces and form scale.

You can buy the Crystal Quest filter system in two sizes: 1.5 + cubic feet (for homes with up to 3 bathrooms) and 2.0 + cubic feet (for homes with 2-4 bathrooms). You can buy both the softener and the saltless conditioner in 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 gallon capacities.

Filter and Softener

๐Ÿ‘ What I Like

  • The more affordable option
  • Traditional softening option, guaranteed effective
  • Can be used with potassium chloride (healthier than sodium)

๐Ÿ‘Ž What I Don’t Like

  • Takes up a lot of room
  • Requires salt top-ups

Filter and Saltless Conditioner

๐Ÿ‘ What I Like

  • No salt top-upMore space-saving option
  • Doesn’t add salt to water
  • No backwashing required

๐Ÿ‘Ž What I Don’t Like

  • Nearly $1,000 more expensive
  • Won’t actually remove water hardness

๐Ÿงพ Buyer’s Guide – Whole House Water Filter + Softener Systems

Looking to learn more about whole house water filter and softener units before you buy? I’ve covered everything you need to know in this helpful buyer’s guide.

๐Ÿ’ญ Considerations When Choosing the Best Water Softener and Filter Combo

When deciding on the best whole house water filters and softeners for your family, make sure to consider the following factors:

Water Chemistry

Knowing exactly what your water contains is an essential first step.

You won’t be able to accurately choose the right system for you unless you know what you need to remove from your water.

I recommend getting your water professionally tested by a state-certified laboratory for the most detailed results, especially if you own a private well. Well owners are responsible for making sure their water is safe to drink – and that often means installing whole-house water filtration and softener units at the main water line.

Laboratory testing costs around $100-$250, depending on the type of test you choose, and the laboratory you work with. Many laboratories offer packages for well water or city water, testing for the most common contaminants. You may also pay extra to test for specific contaminants that are a concern in your local area.

You can choose the right type of media combination for your whole house filter system/softener combo based on the contaminants indicated in your water test.

If you don’t have the extra budget for a laboratory test and you get your water from a municipal supply, an alternative is to take a look at your water quality report. Public water treatment facilities are obliged to release an annual water quality report, which features a list of trace contaminants detected in the water, and to what level these contaminants are present.

A water quality report will give you a detailed overview of what your water contains, though it doesn’t account for daily fluctuations in contaminant levels, and nor can it show you which contaminants may enter your water on its journey from the treatment facility to your home.

Use the EPA’s Consumer Confidence Reports tool to identify the report for your area. Alternatively you can use an online resource like this one from the EWG to get a basic idea of what might be in the water in your area.

You may want to buy an at-home water testing kit if you’re concerned about lead and chlorine levels in your water. These kits cost less than $10 online. While DIY tests won’t give you the most accurate indication of your water’s chemistry, you will have an understanding of approximately how much of a problem specific contaminants are posing in your water supply.

understanding water chemistry

Whole House Water Filter Type

Not all whole house water filters are the same. Now you know the contaminants you want to remove from your water, you can choose the most suitable filter type for your requirements.

Sediment Filter

Whole-house sediment filters can be standalone filters, or they may be included as part of a larger whole-house water filtration system.

The most common standalone sediment filter types are spin-down filters and cartridge filters.

Spin-down sediment filters

A particularly common option for well water that contains large grains of sediment or sand. These filters are usually installed before a larger well water filter system, such as an oxidation system.

A spin-down filter looks like a large pipette. It gets its name from its water treatment process: water enters the top of the filter and spins in a centrifugal motion from top to bottom. This circulates the water through the filter, effectively removing the sediment.

Some spin-down filters come with a flush valve, and you will need to flush them periodically to remove the sediment. Others provide automatic flushing for convenience. Spin-down filters typically have longer lifespans than sediment cartridge filters because of their flushing capabilities.

Cartridge sediment filters

Most commonly included as first-stage filters in whole-house water filters or reverse osmosis filters. These filters may have a spun-cartridge or pleated cartridge design.

Spun-cartridge filters, which send water through multiple layers of spun, melted polypropylene, are cylindrical in shape and tend to offer the most thorough filtration. The outer layers of the filter have the highest micron level, and this micron level decreases with each layer towards the center of the filter. This means that the largest sediment is removed on the outside, while the smallest particles are removed when water reaches the inside of the filter.

Pleated filters have a folded or pleated design, and the same micron rating is used across the whole filter. Pleated filters tend to be used to trap large sand and sediment particles, and, because they only remove particles of a certain size, aren’t quite as effective as spun-cartridge filters.

Carbon Media

Carbon filtration media is most commonly available in two filter types: granular activated carbon (GAC) and solid carbon block media.

Granular activated carbon water filters

Typically made from a naturally absorptive media, such as coconut shell or coal. These filters have a large surface area consisting of hundreds of tiny micro-pores, which trap contaminants in a process known as adsorption.

GAC filters are best for removing aesthetic contaminants (those that affect water’s taste and smell) from municipal water, such as chlorine. They can also be used to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and certain heavy metals, like lead.

Solid carbon block filters

This media is made from compressed carbon, rather than loose granules. They have an even larger surface area, allowing a long contact time between the filter and your drinking water.

When water flows through a solid carbon block filter, it must navigate a maze of pore sizes, which results in the broadest range of contaminants being removed.

Carbon block filters are better than GAC filters for removing heavy metals like lead, and some can even remove microbiological contaminants, as well as mercury, arsenic, radon and asbestos – depending on filter pore size.

coconut shell carbon

Oxidation Media

Oxidation media, otherwise known as air injection media, is typically used to target common well water contaminants, such as iron, manganese, and sulfur.

In the air injection process, a bubble of oxygen is injected into the top of the tank. When water travels into this tank and is exposed to the oxygen, contaminants like iron are oxidized into their insoluble forms.

Once these contaminants have been oxidized, they can be filtered out of the water. A resin made from manganese greensand or a similar material is typically used to trap contaminants as water flows through the system.

Eventually, the resin becomes saturated with contaminants, and the system will regenerate, flushing the media and replenishing the oxygen bubble.

While oxidation media is a good choice for well owners, it’s very rarely suited to people who get their water from a municipal supply, where issues with iron and manganese are far less common.

KDF Media

KDF, or kinetic degradation fluxion, is a type of filter media that produces a chemical reaction known as oxidation-reduction, or redox.

This zinc-copper alloy media can be found in a number of different granule forms, each of which targets a specific set of contaminants.

KDF-55 is a popular choice, and removes chlorine, making it a good option for municipal water users. KDF-85 is more suitable for well water, as it filters out iron and hydrogen sulfide.

KDF media can be found in whole-house water filters. It can also be used in point-of-use filters, such as showerhead filters and faucet filters.

Some types of KDF media are used in combination with carbon media (see below).

Combination Media

Occasionally, you may come across a filter system that combines several different types of media to provide a broader overall filtration result.

The most common filter media combination is KDF-F fine mesh and activated carbon. When these media are combined, they offer a more effective performance, removing a broader range of contaminants.

kdf media

Water Softener System Type

Ion Exchange vs Water Conditioner

There are two most popular types of water softener available today: ion or cation exchange water softeners and salt-free water conditioners.

While both units produce very similar results, their processes that lead to these results are very different.

Ion exchange water softeners

These systems use salt to soften water. Sodium ions in the system’s resin bed are released into hard water, in exchange for the magnesium and calcium minerals that cause hardness. This results in soft water that is completely free of hardness minerals.

Salt-based softeners need to regenerate when the resin bed is saturated with hardness ions. Regeneration usually takes place at around 2 or 3 am, when most people don’t need to use their water.

A standard salt-based water softener can cost between $800 and $1,600, depending on its size, the brand you buy from, and additional features.

Water conditioners

A salt-free alternative that don’t need to regenerate, meaning they’re more efficient and less wasteful.

These units use a scale-prevention process, such as template-assisted crystallization (TAC for short). This coats the outside of calcium and magnesium minerals with a hard, crystallized overlay that prevents the minerals from being able to stick to surfaces. Check out this study if you want to nerd out on the science of it ๐Ÿค“

Water conditioners don’t actually remove water hardness. Instead, they prevent limescale – the biggest problem associated with hard water.

You can buy a water conditioner for around the same price as a water softener, depending on the brand you opt for. The best water conditioners usually start at $1,000 and can cost up to $2,000.

springwell salt-based water softener system

System Capacity

It’s important to accurately determine the capacity you need for your whole house water filter and softener combo.

Most whole house water filters and softeners will come in a range of capacities. The larger the system’s capacity, the longer it will last before it needs to be replaced (in the case of filter media or resin) or it requires regeneration (in the case of a salt-based water softener). Capacity and water pressure usually go hand-in-hand; the larger the capacity, the higher the water pressure.

You’ll need to choose the right capacity for your daily water usage. If you purchase a system that’s too small for your needs, you may end up working the filters or softening media too hard. For salt-based water softeners, that means the system will need to regenerate too frequently, which will result in excess water waste.

Buying a system that’s too large for your home is also a bad idea, as the water pressure could damage your pipes. For units that require regeneration, having an oversized capacity may mean that they don’t regenerate as often as they need to in order to flush out the media and prevent bacterial growth.

If you want to know how to size a water softener, you can check out my guide here ๐Ÿ‘ˆ

Remember, the system’s manufacturer will be happy to help if you don’t know which capacity is most suitable for you. Usually, capacity will be linked to the number of bathrooms your home has, so you can simply choose the right system based on this factor.

Water Pressure & Flow Rate

Water pressure and flow rate are two more important considerations when purchasing a whole house water filtration system and softener combo.

It’s important that, when combining a water softener and filter, both units can process water at a speed that can adequately supply your whole home, whenever needed. You should be able to use multiple water-based appliances at once, such as showering while using the washing machine, without noticing a drop in pressure.

If your whole house water filter and softener combo can’t keep up with your water needs, you may end up with a significant dip in pressure.

Equally, too much pressure can also be a problem, as the force of the water could damage your pipes or appliances.

The best whole-house water filters and softeners have a pressure rating of between 10 and 15 gallons per minute (GPM). You may need a system with a higher or lower flow rate, however, depending on the size of your home.

Initial & Ongoing Costs

It’s difficult to give an exact figure when it comes to the initial cost of purchasing a whole house water filtration system and softener. On average, you can expect to pay around $1,000 per system – but if you buy them together, the manufacturer may offer a deal that knocks $200-$500 off the overall price.

Aside from the purchase cost, another initial expense to consider is hiring a plumber or handyman for installation. Installing a whole-house water filter and softener combo is no easy feat.

If you’re a handy person who finds DIY pretty straightforward, you will probably be up for the challenge. But if you don’t trust yourself with the complex installation process, you’ll be better off paying a professional to do the job for you. Professional installation usually costs around $150-$300, depending on the competition in your local area.

For whole house water filters, there are various ongoing costs to consider. Most filter units consist of cartridges that need to be changed once every 2 years, 1 year, or 6 months. Failing to change these filters will affect the system’s ability to remove contaminants in your water.

You might purchase a whole house water filter system that uses a media. Typically, media lasts longer – usually between 6 and 10 years.

Water conditioners also contain a media, and remembering to replace it on time will ensure that the system can effectively carry out TAC throughout its lifespan.

Water softeners that use salt are the most expensive to maintain. They require salt top-ups every 3 weeks or so, and they also waste water during regeneration. While you can bulk-buy batches of salt for less online, it’s still worth being aware of these costs when deciding which system you can afford in the long run.

Physical Space Available

Even the best whole house water filter and softener combo will take up a lot of room in your home. Keep in mind that you’re installing two units together, which often means two lots of tanks and separate equipment.

Some of the filter/softener combos in this guide feature a single tank that does two jobs in one, but this is rare.

Ideally, you’ll have enough room in your dedicated installation spot for at least two large tanks. Most tanks need to be installed vertically, so you need more up-and-down room than side-to-side room.

You’ll also need plenty of room for maintenance, including filter changes and salt top-ups, if applicable.

I recommend carefully measuring your available room before looking for whole house filter and softener units. You should then read the specifications for the system you’re interested in and figure out how much room it’ll take up.

Remember, if you’re pushed for room, you can consider buying an all-in-one tank that uses softening and filtration media. But if you don’t want to limit your options, make sure you have plenty of room at your installation location.

smart water softener systems

Installation & Maintenance

No matter which whole house filter and softener combo you opt for, installation will always prove challenging.

You’ll be required to cut into your water line and install several tanks, valves, and additional tech. You’ll also need to install a bypass valve to divert water away from your system during maintenance or regeneration.

While installation is fairly complex, manufacturers are getting much better at offering in-depth, step-by-step installation guides that are designed to be followed by non-professionals.

Many manufacturers also provide online videos that show you the installation process. You can follow these videos if you’re a visual learner, or even watch them before buying a system to decide whether you can handle the installation job yourself.

If you’re concerned that you’ll make a costly error during installation, it’ll make more sense for you to pay a local plumber or handyman to install the system for you.

Once installation is out of the way, you shouldn’t forget about maintenance.

The exact maintenance your whole house water filter and softener combo requires depends on the type of system you own.

Filter units with an activated carbon filter, such as a coconut shell carbon cartridge, will need the most regular maintenance. Activated carbon filter cartridges usually have a lifespan of 6 months.

Filter systems with a media bed usually last much longer without maintenance. They may need to regenerate, but this can be programmed automatically, so it’s no work on your part.

Water conditioners offer the lowest-maintenance softening option. They don’t need to regenerate, and they don’t require salt top-ups. You’ll just need to change the TAC media every 8 years or so.

Certifications

There are a number of certifications you should look for in a whole-house water filter and softener combo.

A third-party certification is a big selling point. It means that a water filter has been tested by an independent organization and deemed effective at what it does.

NSF/ANSI certifications are the most popular for whole-house water treatment units. For a system to be NSF certified, it must effectively perform the duty it is designed to perform (contaminant removal, usually). The filter must also pass tests relating to structural integrity, material safety and durability.

There are more than 15 NSF certifications, and each has its own set of standards that a system must adhere to in order to be certified.

The best whole house water filter units may have several certifications. Some of the most common whole house filtration certifications are:

  • NSF 42, for the reduction of aesthetic contaminants, like chlorine taste and odor.
  • NSF 53, for the reduction of contaminants with health effects (e.g. lead) – usually applies to a whole house filtration system with an activated carbon filter.
  • NSF 401, for treatment of emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals or currently unregulated chemicals.

The best whole-house water softeners should have a single NSF certification:

  • NSF 44, for the reduction of hardness (calcium and magnesium) minerals

Note that NSF 44 only applies to ion or cation exchange water softeners that use sodium or potassium chloride. There is currently no NSF certification for whole house water conditioners.

System Warranty

Regardless of the type of whole house water filter and softener combo you buy, a good warranty is essential.

I would recommend avoiding systems that don’t have any form of warranty. This means you wouldn’t be able to exchange or return the system if it arrived faulty, or if it didn’t live up to the manufacturer’s claims.

A whole house water filter or softener should have at least a 2-5-year warranty on its most important components (such as tanks and valves). Most units will offer a 10-year warranty on their tanks, and shorter warranties on other parts of the system.

The best whole-house water filters and softeners may have a limited lifetime warranty. This warranty covers various components throughout the system’s expected lifespan (which can usually be found in the user manual).

It’s important to read through the warranties carefully before purchasing a whole house water filter and softener combo (there will usually be a separate warranty for each system). Learn what the warranties cover, and what they don’t.

You should also be aware of any terms and conditions, or anything you need to do to be eligible for the warranty. For instance, some manufacturers require you to register your system online in order to take advantage of your warranty.

โœ”๏ธ Benefits of Using a Water Softener-Filter Combo

Alone, a whole house water filter system or water softener has its own specific set of benefits. Combining the benefits of these two systems means that you’ll get double the protection against drinking water contaminants in your home.

Some of the most notable benefits of using a whole house water filter-softener combo are as follows:

Protects Pipes & Appliances

The best whole house water filter and softener combo can protect your pipes and appliances in numerous ways, depending on the systems you opt for.

For example, a salt-based water softener or salt-free conditioner can prevent the formation of limescale, or scale. Scale is incredibly damaging to plumbing systems and can prevent appliances from working efficiently. Your hot water heater can be particularly affected by scale, which forms a coating on the inside of the tank and results in more energy being required to heat up the water.

Certain other contaminants, such as iron and manganese, can affect your home’s pipes and appliances. The best whole house water filter for private wells can eliminate these contaminants, meaning they’re unable to leave staining or deposits in your plumbing.

Improves Water Quality

Using a whole house filtration system and softener combination can greatly improve the quality of your water.

Water softeners and conditioners can improve quality by preventing scale. The best option for overall quality is water conditioners, which retain healthy calcium and magnesium minerals while preventing them from forming scale.

Whole house filtration systems can improve water quality by removing aesthetic contaminants, such as chlorine, manganese, iron, sediment, tannins, and other impurities that affect water’s appearance, taste and odor.

Makes Water Safe for Drinking

It’s common for tap water to contain traces of dangerous contaminants – whether you get your water supply from a public source or a private well.

The best whole house water filters can remove these problem impurities, providing a tap water supply that you’re happy for your family to drink from.

Some of the health-affecting contaminants that whole house filtration systems can remove include:

  • Lead & other heavy metals
  • Chlorine
  • Fluoride
  • Arsenic
  • Radium
  • Pesticides & herbicides
  • Uranium
  • Urban pollution

Not all whole-home filtration systems can remove every single one of these contaminants, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re buying if you’re dealing with a specific problem contaminant on this list.

Money-Saving Solution

There are many money-saving perks of owning a whole house water filter-softener combo. If you prefer the taste and quality of bottled water, using a whole-house water filter system should produce a very similar product. This means you won’t need to pay for bottled water, which can cost hundreds of dollars per year.

Because water filters and softeners can prevent damage to your pipes and appliances, they should cost less to run, as they’ll be able to operate more efficiently. You’ll also be able to own your appliances for longer without the extra cost of repairing or replacing them.

๐Ÿ’ก How Whole House Water Filters & Softeners Work Together

Whole house softening and filtration systems may work independently, one after the other, or they may be combined in one system.

Independent Softening-Filtration Combos

These consist of two separate systems. Usually, the water filter system will be set up first, allowing water to pass through this system before reaching the softener unit. A sediment pre-filter may be hooked up before the water filter system.

These systems work as standalone units: first, water is filtered in the filter system, which removes a specific set of contaminants. Water will then move into the softener or conditioner, where hard water mineral ions will be treated or removed.

Merged Combo Systems

These units typically use a single tank that uses a softening and filtration media. In these systems, water flows through the tank, where it is filtered and softener simultaneously. There may also be a sediment pre-filter installed before the system.

โ” Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a water softener if you have a water filtration system?

Do you have a hard water issue? Then yes. While filtration systems can remove a broad range of tap water contaminants, including heavy metals, chlorine, chloramine and sediment, they can’t remove hardness minerals. Only a water softener or conditioner can put a stop to your limescale problem.

Do you need a water filter if you have a water softener?

Again, this depends on whether you’re dealing with a contamination issue alongside a hard water problem.

Water softeners can only remove magnesium, calcium, and small amounts of iron. If you’re dealing with chlorine, chloramine, heavy metals, high iron and manganese levels, sulfur, sediment, pesticides, or any other contamination problems, you should consider buying a whole-home tap water filter.

Does a whole house filter go before or after water softener?

Usually, whole house water filtration systems should be installed before whole-house water softeners. The filter acts as a pre-filter, protecting the softener from damage and helping to extend its lifespan.

What is the difference between a water filter system and a water softener?

A water softener softens water (i.e. removes magnesium or calcium minerals, or prevents them from forming scale). A water filter removes specific contaminants that can affect the taste, odor or quality of water. I’ve written a full guide on the difference between water filters and water softeners if you’re looking for more information.

Are there any add-ons worth considering for a water softener-filter combo?

Potentially, yes. For instance, if you get your water from a private well, you may want to install a UV light purification system to protect against microorganisms like bacteria and viruses.

A UV disinfection system is usually installed after a whole-house filtration system. It produces powerful ultraviolet rays that alter the makeup of microbiological contaminants, killing them and preventing them from duplicating. Look for a UV light that is NSF certified to standard 55, which means it is third-party approved for microbiological removal.

Will whole home softeners and water filtration systems affect my home’s flow rate?

No – not if you buy the right sized system for your water usage. Check my section on system capacity and water pressure/ flow rate for more information.

I can’t afford a whole house filter and softener combo, but I still want their benefits. What can I do?

One more affordable option is to purchase a whole-home water softener or conditioner, and a separate point-of-use water filter. Certain types of POU filters are much more affordable than point-of-entry systems. For instance, water pitcher filters cost less than $30. They typically use a charcoal or coconut shell carbon filter to remove some of the most common contaminants from a city water supply, including heavy metals, fluoride, and chlorine and chloramine taste and odor.

If you’re mainly looking to improve the taste and quality of your drinking water, you might be better off buying a point-of-use reverse osmosis system instead, which will remove up to 99.9% of TDS. This type of system consists of a carbon filter (such as activated carbon or coconut shell carbon), an RO membrane, a pre-filter and a post-filter. Reverse osmosis filters don’t tend to be best for water with high hardness, however, as the minerals could damage the semi-permeable membrane.