Do I Need a Whole House Water Filter? (10 Signs You Might)

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Whole house water filters are a lot of money – so it’s worth figuring out whether you need one before you buy one.

In this guide, we’ve laid out all the obvious signs that you need a whole house water filter – and the signs that suggest you don’t need one.

πŸ€” Signs You Need a Whole House Water Filter

You could benefit from a whole house water filtration system if:

You have Staining or Scaling on your Pipes and Appliances

One of the most obvious signs of water quality issues is scaling or scaling on water-using appliances, pipes, and fixtures around your home.

If your faucets have white limescale, your sink or toilet is stained red with iron, or your plumbing has blue or green corrosion stains, you need a whole house water filter system.

Whole house systems remove the contaminants that lead to damage, limescale, and staining, preventing further damage to your home and easing your cleaning duties.

Staining and scaling from water contaminants in home

Your Water Tastes Bad

The second-most obvious sign of poor water quality is poor-tasting drinking water.

Contaminants like chlorine, iron, hardness minerals, and hydrogen sulfide contribute to unpleasant water tastes and smells. It doesn’t matter whether you get your tap water from a municipal supplier or a private well – it could still contain traces of contaminants that affect its taste.

Bad-tasting water is one of the reasons to consider a whole house filter – although if poor water taste is your only gripe, you might want to save money and buy a point of use water filter, like a countertop filter, instead.

Read Our Reviews: Best Home Water Filtration Systems Available in 2024

You Have the Budget for the Biggest Filtration System

Not all filters are as expensive as whole house water filters – but not all filters provide filtered water to your whole home.

Whole house filtration systems use a combination of filter media or cartridges, usually including a sediment filter, a carbon filter, and another specialist filter, to thoroughly treat your water. For most people, the vast improvement between filtered and unfiltered water makes the cost of these systems worthwhile.

If your budget is flexible and you’re keen to spend your money on the only water treatment solution that will protect all of your household pipes and appliances, you should consider a whole home water filter.

Faucet water flowing

Your Home was Built Earlier than 1986

1986 was the year that lead water pipes were banned, and all pipes constructed after this legally had to be lead-free.

This is great news if your home was built before 1986, but if your home was built before the no-lead legislation, there’s a good chance that your internal plumbing system contains lead.

Even the tiniest amount of lead is unsafe to drink, and the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level for lead is 0. The only way to protect against lead in your home, aside from replacing your entire plumbing system, is to install a whole house water filter.

Your Home was Built After 1986

Yes, you’re at a higher lead contaminant risk if your home was built before the lead legislation. But this legislation only prohibited the new construction of lead pipes.

What does that mean? If your home’s water is supplied by old water pipes containing lead, you’re still at risk of lead contamination. There are no legalities in place instructing old lead pipes to be replaced with lead-free alternatives.

Lead poisoning through ingestion

Test your water for lead if you’re concerned about this contaminant – and buy a whole house water filter system if your water’s lead content is anything higher than 0.

Water testing with tap score

You Have a Private Well Water Supply

If your tap water comes from a well, a whole house filter isn’t optional for you – it’s essential.

While city water is filtered to meet the EPA’s drinking water regulations, well water is not. The owner of the well – most likely you – is responsible for testing and treating their drinking water to ensure it’s safe to use.

Well water often contains high levels of naturally occurring minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and sulfur. It also contains sediment, and may be contaminated by bacteria.

A well water source may be exposed to acid rain, industrial waste, and storm water runoff, leaching dangerous chemicals and pollutants into the water. Whole house water filtration systems greatly reduce these contaminants to below harmful levels.

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You Live in a Poor Water Quality State

Washington, Georgia, and California are among the worst water quality states in the US. If you live in one of these states, there’s a good chance that your drinking water isn’t fit for consumption.

Don’t be so quick to believe that your local authority is following the EPA’s drinking water guidelines. Your surface water might be exposed to industrial and environmental pollution, and if this isn’t properly treated at the source, you’ll end up drinking a whole host of dangerous chemicals and contaminants.

The list of the 10 states with the worst water quality can be viewed here. If your state is on this list, we strongly recommend installing a whole house water system.

Your Skin and Hair Are Dry

Ever thought about how the water you shower in might affect your skin and hair health?

Hardness minerals dry out your skin and hair, creating a film over the surface of the skin and scalp and preventing moisture from getting through. If your skin feels sticky and your hair feels dry after you’ve showered, you’re most likely dealing with hard water.

Chlorine is another problem contaminant affecting skin and hair health. Chlorine strips the natural oils from your hair, leaving it prone to breakage and split ends. It does the same thing to skin, drying it out and causing itchiness and irritation.

Both of these contaminants can be treated with a whole house filter. A carbon filter system is the best solution to chlorine, while a water softener is ideal for tackling water hardness.

Dry hair and itchy skin

Your Clothes are Dull

You’ve tried every detergent going, and not a single one keeps your clothes soft and bright, as advertised. You’re beginning to think that a decent detergent doesn’t exist, and that you’re being sold a lie – but what if your water was the problem all along?

Different contaminants in water cause your clothes to become dry, scratchy, dull, and dingy. Iron in water gives laundry a rusty hue, while hardness minerals turn your whites into dull grays.

Only whole house systems will resolve your laundry issues. Sending softened or filtered water to your washing machine, whole house filters eliminate the contaminants that contribute to dirty-looking laundry.

Your Water Quality Issue Can Only Be Managed With a Whole House System

Certain water quality issues, like hardness minerals and iron problems, can only be effectively tackled with whole house water filters.

Under-sink water softeners or countertop iron filters don’t exist. Plus, these would be pretty pointless inventions, considering that the whole purpose of these systems is that they remove contaminants before they can damage your whole home water supply.

If you’re dealing with a water quality issue that can only be managed by a whole house system, you need a whole home water filter.

Limescale before after installing a whole house water filter

❌ When Don’t you Need a Whole House Water Filter?

Not everyone needs a whole house water filter. You probably don’t need this type of filter if:

You Just Want Clean Drinking Water

Not bothered about the quality of your shower water, or the water that runs through your plumbing system and appliances? Just looking to filter your drinking water?

In this case, you probably don’t need to buy a whole house filtration system. Instead, look at buying a point of use water filter, like under-sink water filters, faucet-mounted filters, or water pitcher filters.

You’ll get access to clean, filtered drinking water, but the water in your entire home won’t be filtered.

You Don’t Have the Budget

Whole house filtration systems are expensive to buy and maintain.

If your budget is on the lower end, you probably won’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for a system that costs hundreds of dollars in annual maintenance.

You don’t need to get a whole house water filter if your budget can’t stretch that far. Consider a more affordable solution, like a water filter pitcher or a bottled water filter.

You Live in a Rented Property

In this case, you have two choices: try and win your landlord around, or simply admit defeat. You don’t need a whole home filter if there are too many obstacles that get in the way of buying one.

Unfortunately, most landlords won’t let you install a whole house water filtration system in their property.

A point of use filter that doesn’t need to be installed at your water line, such as a pitcher filter, is a good option for people living in rented properties.

You Don’t Want the Fuss of Owning a Big System

Some people simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of owning a large, complex whole house water filtration system.

Not everyone enjoys the idea of owning a filtration system that provides clean water to the entire home. If you’d rather stick to a low-hassle option, that doesn’t require challenging installation or maintenance, you’re best looking at a point of use option.

You can still get the same filtration benefits – the only difference is that your whole home won’t be protected from poor-quality water.

Kitchen sink water filter

You’re Interested in Reverse Osmosis

A reverse osmosis system can be purchased as a whole-house water filter – but we wouldn’t recommend buying a POE reverse osmosis filter unless you know what you’re getting in for.

The RO process wastes water, and, because they supply water to the whole home, whole house filters using RO technology are highly wasteful.

You should only buy a whole house RO filter if you’re prepared for the water waste involved. Otherwise, we’d suggest ignoring whole house filter systems and looking at less wasteful alternatives, such as under-sink or countertop reverse osmosis units.

Compare whole home systems vs RO systems here.

  • Laura Shallcross
    Senior Editor

    Laura is a passionate residential water treatment journalist who holds an undergraduate degree in Print Journalism and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. Over a span of 5 years she's written on a range of topics including water softening, well water treatment, and purification processes.

2 thoughts on “Do I Need a Whole House Water Filter? (10 Signs You Might)”

  1. Avatar for Laura Shallcross
    steve hemstreet

    we have quick build up of black mold or mildew in our toilets & the end of our faucets & shower heads ,,,,,,,,,,,,,does that mean we need a whole home water filtering system ???

    1. Avatar for Laura Shallcross

      What you describe sounds like it could be manganese, rather than mold. Are you on well water? Have you had your water tested by a certified lab?

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