Photograph of a clogged water filterHome Water Filter Guide
What is the best water filter for home use?

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Water filters for home use:

Tthis article describes different types water filters used for drinking water purification both as portable filters and where installed on building water supply systems, including both municipal water supplies and private well water systems. The filters described here are usually intended to improve aesthetic issues in home water supply such as removing debris particles, sediment or odors.

Guide to Water Filters Used for Drinking Water Treatment

Water filter component sketch (C) Daniel Friedman

[Click to enlarge any image]

Four Types of Water Filters for Home Use

  1. Countertop water filters connected to the sink faucet through a hose or tube
  2. Faucet-mounted water filters are mounted directly to the outlet or spout of a faucet and direct water through a small filter cartridge.
  3. Plumbed-in or "connected" water filters are installed below the sink at the point of use (a kitchenor bath). Water is directed through the filter and then to a separate "filtered" water tap provided on the sink top.
  4. Pour-through water filters typically use a filter that provides a filter through which water is poured and then dripped into the pitcher from which water is poured into a glass or container for consumption

Following the "best filter" introduction just below we describe each of the types of drinking water filters intended for in-home or in-building installation & use.

What is the "Best" Water Filter for Home Water Supply Systems?

Water filters remove contaminants through one of these principal means

The first two methods listed below are discussed in this article. The third method, RO, is discussed in a separate article.

  1. Filtration traps physical particles (such as sediment) on the filter surface or in its interior depending on the filter design. Some filters such as ceramic water filters are capable of removing extremely small particles and contaminants while others remove only larger particles such as sediment. Select the proper filter for the target contaminant to be removed.
  2. Absorption: some water contaminants such as metals or chemicals may be absorbed in the filter body (such as charcoal or similar media).
  3. Reverse osmosis: is a special type of filtration during which water pressure forces water molecules through a membrane leaving contaminants on the outside where they are flushed away as wastewater.

Vertex cartridge type water filter pair installed in San Miguel de Allende Mexico (C) Daniel Friedman There is not a single "best" water filter for home use if you consider that what makes sense is to choose a water filter based on what contaminants you want to remove from the water.

Separately at WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES we list water disinfection methods such as chlorination or UV treatment intended to address just biological contaminants. Water disinfection does not remove chemical nor particulate contaminants.

Our photo shows a pair of blue Model 12-SS Vertex-brand whole-house water filter canisters installed at a building in San Miguel de Allended, Guanajuato, Mexico. These are designed to contain nominally 4 5/8" x 20" filter cartridges (Full Flow and BB).

The first filter (towards left in the photograph) is a Flow-Pro melt-blown filter cartridge # FPMB-BB20-20 sediment filter. These filter cartridges are nominally 20" x 4 1/2" in size.

The second filter in this series is a Watts® activated carbon block filter cartridge # WCBFF20. This is a 100% coconut shell carbon filter rated at 5microns and intended to remove odors and tastes from drinking water including high levels of chlorine. Instructions for using this charcoal filter include:

Prior to use, place in filter housing and flush 1-2 minutes to remove carbon fines. Do not use with water that is microbiologically unsafe or of unknown water quality without adquate disinfection before or after the system.

Take another look at our photo from the San Miguel de Allende water filter installation. Above this pair of water filters and "downstream" from them is a UV light disinfection system. The filters protect the light from blockage by sediment. Not shown is a water softener that is installed ahead of all of this treatment equipment.

Also see WATER QUALITY & QUANTITY San Miguel de Allende

Charcoal filters: activated charcoal filters are great at removing residual chlorine and odors in drinking water and can also remove sediment and even some pathogens. The U.S. NRDC points out that some activated charcoal filters complying with U.S. Standard-53-Water Filter Certification can remove heavy metals such as copper, lead, mercury, chlorine or other disinfectant byproducts, parasites like Giardia or Cryptosporidium, pesticides, radon, VOCs, and certain other chemicals such as dichlorobenzene and trichloroethylene (TCE).

The U.S. EPA notes that solid-block charcoal filters can remove a wide range of water contaminants including

Watch out: Charcoal can also serve as a pathogen growth media, and these filters can clog rapidly if the water supply is high in sediments. For this reason you'd place a charcoal filter, if needed, downstream from the sediment filter and downstream from a UV light or other disinfection system.

Watch out: if not properly selected, and if not changed or renewed on schedule any filter including charcoal filters can convert from being effective at reducing or removing water contaminants to harboring them and even dispensing them into the water supply.

Details are at

Watch out: the sediment filter and charcoal filter canisters described above will not remove certain inorganic contaminants that might be found in the water supply, including municipal water supply from some communities such as in San Miguel de Allende where there may be seasonal spikes of levels of arsenic or fluorides in the water supply. Additional treatment such as by reverse osmosis or other arsenic/fluoride removal systems

See WATER QUALITY & QUANTITY San Miguel de Allende for more information.

Reverse osmosis: is a type of water filtration using a permeable membrane that can remove a very large range of contaminants, though these systems also waste water in the process. Typically we'd precede an R.O. system with a sediment filter to first remove large particulates and/or a charcoal filter to remove odors & residual chlorine.


Sediment filters: visible particles in the water supply are not only unpleasant but as we warned above, they can interfere with removal of pathogens from the water supply. For this reason it makes sense to place a sediment filter ahead of any other water treatment equipment in the building. The size of a whole house sediment filter that you require depends on the water usage rate and the level of sediment in the supply.


Pros/Cons: Advantages and Problems with Various Types of Water Treatment Equipment for Bacterial or Bacteriological Contamination

Clogged water filter © D Friedman at

Sketch of water filter parts

Technical note: the same clay, silt, or other debris that clogs a water filter can clog up the pressure sensing opening in the bottom of a pump pressure control switch, as we discussed just above.

So if you are looking for a clogged filter, if changing the water filter does not correct a problem with the water pump cycling operation, also consider a possibly-clogged pump pressure switch.

The sketch at left shows the basic parts and functions of a typical cartridge-type water filter.

Detailed descriptions of other water system parts and controls, valves, switches, pumps, piping, etc. are provided in the various sections of this article and are listed just below. [click the image at left to see an enlarged schematic of the water filter and its parts.]

Types of Drinking Water Filters

Cartridge Type Water Filters

Water filter schematic (C) InspectAPedia

Water is passed through a filter cartridge that is usually contained in a plastic or metal canister. Both portable and permanently-installed water filters are widely available and form the most common water filter system found in residential installations where sediment, odors, or chlorine residue are a concern.

The sketch at left illustrates the water filter element and the path of water passing through it.

Sanitary water may be found in closed containers (C) Daniel Friedman

Watch out: most conventional cartridge-type water "filters" such as the filter cartridges shown at left are not water purifiers. Only a filter that is certified to remove adequate levels of bacterial contamination are permitted to be sold as water "purifiers". Typically a filter that functions as a water purifier will be a ceramic device.

Ceramic water filter-purifiers, including hand-held portable units capable of removing bacteria, cysts, cryptosporidium, sediment, and other water contaminants are discussed in detail at CERAMIC FILTERS & Water Purification. We recommend that you review independent water filter performance or water purifier performance test reports before relying on a water filter/purifier for the production of safe drinking water.

Watch out: the functions performed by any cartridge type water filter depend on the material from which the cartridge is made. And many home water filter canisters will accept a variety of filter cartridge types intended for varying purposes.

Be sure to read the properties of the filter cartridge you are buying and select a filter cartridge type that performs the functions required. For example a water filter designed to reduce sediment may work well for that purpose but may be ineffective at removing odors.

And unless it is protected by a pre-filter or other means, a charcoal based water filter, good at removing odors, may become quickly clogged if it is used on a water supply high in sediment, or it may become contaminated if it is used on a water supply high in harmful bacteria. For these reasons you may find a cascade of types of water filters on some home water supply systems. Typically water will be treated to kill or remove bacteria, filtered for sediment, and finally, filtered for odors or taste.

Hooking Up a Cartridge Type Home Water Filter - typical plumbing connections

Water filter plumbing details

As the water filter parts sketch at left shows, a cartridge type water filter is installed in-line in the main water supply pipe after the water pressure tank and before the cold water line branches off to hot water or other destinations. Shown in the schematic is a standard-sized whole house water filter from Aqua Pure (3M) type AP11T. [2]

You might want to install the water filter downstream of your piping that feeds outside faucets used to water the lawn or wash cars, as you probably don't need to filter that water stream.

The sketch shown at left is the simplest installation, showing a single shutoff ball-valve on the inlet side of the water filter.

Notice that most water filters are installed with the cartridge/canister pointing "down". The filter would work in other positions but only in this down-position can you unscrew and remove the filter base to change the cartridge while avoiding spilling an unnecessary dose of dirty water on your floor.

Filter installed to protect a UV light water treatment system © D Friedman at

Most water filters including the water filter shown at left include a shutoff or bypass built into the filter head. The water filter shown at left was installed ahead of a UV light water treatment system. In that location the water filter helps keep the UV light bulb clean and improves the both the level of UV treatment (for bacteria) and reduces the frequency of the need to change-out or clean the UV bulb.

You can see the plastic water filter body wrench in our photo (yellow arrow). We hang this tool near the filter where it won't get lost.

With the filter "off" or on "bypass" you can unscrew the plastic filter base to change the filter cartridge without having to use other water shutoff valves. But we like to install the water filter with more options, as shown in our photo. Most plumbers will install two shutoff valves at the water filter:

Shutting Off the Whole House Water Filter - by Valves or the built-in Bypass/Off Control

Water filter off valve © D Friedman at

Closing both of these valves allows complete removal of the whole water filter assembly without spilling water from the building piping and water supply system should the filter assembly need to be changed out.

A third shutoff valve on a bypass loop that can, if this valve is opened, completely bypass the whole water filter installation. This plumbing bypass around the water filter is handy if the unit is damaged, leaky and needs complete replacement.

To make it easy to change the water filter cartridge most water filters include a built-in shutoff-valve in the plastic filter body top - the red arrow in our photo above and marked by the blue tape in our photo of a Sears whole house cartridge type water filter (photo at left).

This handle rotates to 90 degrees from the position shown in order to turn off water at the filter entry port. Now the cartridge base can be unscrewed, cleaned, and a new filter cartridge installed.

Watch out: Take care when installing the new water filter cartridge that you hold the canister and cartridge upright and that the cartridge is properly seated in the bottom of the canister and that it seats centered in the filter top to which the canister is screwed. If you let the filter flop over to one side during installation the assembly may not filter water and it may even leak.

We like to note the date that the filter cartridge was installed - in the photo we just stuck a piece of blue masking tape on the filter shutoff handle and wrote down the filter cartridge installation date. Then when your water pressure falls to nil and you go to change out the filter cartridge you can embarrass yourself by noting how ridiculously long you'd left the old filter cartridge in place.

Reader Question: how do I find a water filter that can withstand my house water pressure range?

Measuring static and dynamic water pressure (C) Daniel Friedman4/22/2014 walaa said:

I need to buy whole house water filter with max pressure 20-100 psi .
I do not know my home psi.
How can i know that filter will withstand my home pressure or not.
We had water pump applied in our mail home pipe system because water flow is weak.



It would be very unusual for a home water system pressure to exceed 70-80 psi and unusual for a home water filter to be unable to withstand that pressure range. As an example,
Perfect Water Technologies installation instructions for their systems may specify that there is a *minimum* water pressure of 40 psi for proper operation of some systems such as reverse osmosis, while looking at the company's simplest home water filter, their HMF 1C installation instructions, you will see these instructions:

Frankly you should never see home water pressure operating over 75 psi - as higher pressures make for leaks and risk other damage.

It is quite easy to measure your home water pressure both static (when no water is running) and dynamic (when water is turned on at one or more fixtures) by using a home-made or store-bought water pressure gauge. See WATER PRESSURE MEASUREMENT

Recommended Choices & Order of Water Filters for Water Supply High in Sediment

Water filters & UV disinfection installed in San Miguel de Allende (C) Daniel FriedmanReader Question: advice for pre-filtering sediment to catch the coarse particles

2015/11/09 Mark Plessinger said:

Hi. My girlfriends house has a well and an in line filtration system that uses a cleanable reusable filter. It clogs up about once every two months or so, sometime more frequent than that. I noticed that most of the sediment is sand and soil. What I would like to do is install a second filter that would be a coarse filter - sort of a pre-filter that would trap the sand/soil and leave the current filter in place

. I see that most filter units are of the 25 um type but I would like to have recommendations on a coarse filter type. I would like to keep using a reusable type filter cartridge. I look forward to your comments.



Certainly we often see a cascade of filters at a water supply system just for the reason you cite - efficiency and econonmy.

I would take a water sample (ahead of the filters) to a local testing lab to see what you are drinking. They can then give you better advice about just the right sort of filter; at the same time you can confirm the presence or absence of bacterial or other hazards. For example if there is a lot of iron in the water you might choose a different pre-filter.

If the crud is simply coarse soil particles you'd choose a smaller simpler sediment filter than if the crud includes ultra-fine particles. The ultra-fiines clog up a filter pretty quickly so we install one that's physically larger.

Here's a first-class design that we read about at rainbrothers a company that sells filtration equipment: install filters in this order as water passes towards the water pressure tank from the well:

  1. A sediment "wye" filter. This is a plumbing pipe wye that includes a simple coarse screen that catches the big particles; the wye can be opened and the screen removed for washing on a frequency that you will discover by observation. I'd start by checking it no less than monthly. The screen is a stainless steel high-micron (100u) screen that is simply washed off and re-inserted into the wye.

    A Rainbird™ inline WYE filter with a 200 mesh screen is (shown below) sold online at prices between $20. and $30. U.S.D. I've put the WYE filter in the position you'd install it on a horizontal water line; be sure to respect the water flow direction (red arrow) - you'll see a directional arrow cast into the plastic body of the fitting. To clean the Wye filter you turn off water, drop system pressure, put on a bathing suit, and unscrew the cleanout cap - or have your girlfriend do this chore.

Rainbird Wye sediment filter for water supply system (C) InspectApedia & Rainbird

  1. A coarse 30u cartridge filter - these two first steps may be sufficient for your purposes but read my caveats above and below and have the water tested.
  2. An intermediate 5u filter, typically this is activated charcoal
  3. If needed, an ultra-fine 0.5u cartridge filter. This stage is needed for water systems sending up very fine sediment into the system.

Watch out: though they're very good filters, charcoal filters also are a happy breeding ground for bacteria. Change the filters regularly (again by objective data of watching water flow rates and inspection) and be sure that you are confident that the water supply has no bacterial contaminants. If necessary you can install a chlorinator (ahead of these filters or certainly ahead of the charcoal filter) to protect both the water supply and the life of the charcoal filter;

Adding kudos and a citation to rainbrothers who had particularly helpful advice on this topic:

Brands of Water Filters used for Drinking Water Treatment

Above at WATER FILTERS, HOME USE we discuss the installation and use of water filters on private water supply systems, a portion of our



Just below we provide the most comprehensive list of water filter and replacement water filter cartridge brands we have been able to find. CONTACT us to add to this list. These water filter products are available from building suppliers, plumbing suppliers, hardware stores, and on-line.

Watch out: when purchasing a water filter system for home use check to assure that it has been certified to comply with NSF / ANSI Standard 53 Reduction Claims for Drinking Water Treatment Systems. Keep in mind that most water filters are not intended to address biological hazards such as bacteria. Where combinations of hazards are present, such as bacteria, chemical contaminants, and sediment, a combination of filters and water disinfection or treatment may be required. Consult a professional before installing a water treatment, filtering, or purification system.

Purchases: With the exception of links to recommended books at who pays us a microscopic commission on book sales, we do not sell anything. Please do not call or write asking to buy something. 

American Plumber Replacement Filters American Plumber Filters
AmeriFlow Replacement Filters AmeriFlow Water Filters
Ametek Replacement Filters Ametek Water Filters
Amtrol RO Tank Amtrol RO Tanks
Amway Replacement Filters Amway Water Filters
APEC Replacement Filters APEC Water Filters
AQA Total Replacement Filters AQA Total Filters
Aqua Cleer Good Water Machine Replacement Filters Aqua Cleer Water Filters
Aqua Flo Replacement Filters Aqua Flo Water Filters
Aqua Fresh Replacement Filters Aqua Fresh Water Filters
Aqua FX Replacement Filters Aqua FX Water Filters
Aqua Guard Replacement Filters Aqua Guard Water Filters
Aqua Pure water filter assembly & filters - 3M [2] AP11T, AP101T, AP14T, AP102T whole house water filter
AquaSoft Replacement Filters Aqua Soft Water Filters
Aqua Sun International Replacement Filters Aqua Sun Int'l Filters
AquaSystems Replacement Filters Aqua Systems Water Filters
Aquacheck Replacement Filters Aquacheck Water Filters
Aquafine UltraViolet Sterilizer Systems Aquafine UV Sterilizers
Aquagenic Replacement Filters Aquagenics Water Filters
Aquamaster Replacement Filters Aquamaster Water Filters
Aqua Pure Replacement Filters AquaPure Water Filters
Aquasana Replacement Filters Aquasana Water Filters
AquaSky RO Tank AquaSky RO Tanks
Aquatec RO Pumps Aquatec Pumps
Aquathin Replacement Filters Aquathin Water Filters
AquaWizard Replacement Filters AquaWizard Water Filters
Aries Replacement Filters Aries Water Filters
Arrowhead Replacement Filters Arrowhead Water Filters
Atlantic Filters Atlantic Filters
Avantapure Replacement Filters Avantapure Water Filters
Avian Replacement Filters Avian Water Filters
Barnstead Replacement Filters Barnstead Lab Filters
BestWater by Shaklee Replacement Filters BestWater by Shaklee
BioMaster Replacement Filters BioMaster Water Filters
Bosch Replacement Filters Bosch Water Filters
Brita Replacement Filters Brita Water Filters
Bruner Replacement Filters Bruner Water Filters
Bunn Replacement Filters Bunn Water Filters
Calgon Carbon GAC Calgon Carbon
Campbell Replacement Filters Campbell Water Filters
Challenger Replacement Filters Challenger Water Filters
Clack Replacement Filters Clack Water Filters
Clean World Waters (CWW) Replacement Filters Clean World Waters Filters
Coleman Replacement Filters Coleman Water Filters
Coralife Replacement Filters Coralife Filters
Cornelius Replacement Filters Cornelius Water Filters
Everpure Costguard Replacement Filters Costguard by Everpure
Crane Environmental Replacement Filters Crane Environmental Filters
Crystal Quest Replacement Filters Crystal Quest Water Filters
Culligan Replacement Filters Culligan Water Filters
CUNO Replacement Filters CUNO Water Filters
CUNO Food Service Replacement Filters CUNO Food Service
CUNO Water Factory Systems CUNO Water Factory
Everpure Replacement Filters Everpure Water Filters
Filterite Replacement Filters Filterite Water Filters
Flotec Replacement Filters Flotec Water Filters
Frigidaire Replacement Filters Frigidaire Water Filters
Fulflo Replacement Filters Fulflo Water Filters
GE Replacement Filters GE Water Filters
Honeywell Replacement Filters Honeywell Water Filters
Hytrex Replacement Filters Hytrex Water Filters
Innova Replacement Filters Innova Water Filters
InstaPure Replacement Filters Instapure Water Filters
JennAir Replacement Filters Jenn-Air Water Filters
Katadyn Replacement Filters Katadyn Water Filters
Kenmore Replacement Filters Kenmore Water Filters
Keystone Replacement Filters Keystone Water Filters
KitchenAid Replacement Filters KitchenAid Water Filters
KleenPlus Replacement Filters KleenPlus Water Filters
KX Matrix Replacement Filters KX Matrikx Water Filters
LG Replacement Filters LG Water Filters
Master Plumber Replacement Filters MasterPlumber Filters
Maytag Replacement Filters Maytag Water Filters
Omni Replacement Filters Omni Water Filters
Omnipure Replacement Filters Omnipure Water Filters
Parker Hannifin Replacement Filters Parker Hannifin Filters
Perfect Water Technologies, water filters, RO systems, etc.
Pentek Replacement Filters Pentek Water Filters
Plymouth Products Replacement Filters Plymouth Products Filters
Pollenex Replacement Filters Pollenex Water Filters
PUR Replacement Filters PUR Water Filters
Rainbrothers Co, 1137 W. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43222, Tel: 614.725.4363 Email:
Samsung Replacement Filters Samsung Water Filters
Sears Replacement Filters Sears Water Filters
Sta-Rite Replacement Filters Sta-Rite Water Filters
Teledyne Replacement Filters Teledyne Water Filters
Town and Country Replacement Filters Town and Country Filters
True Value Replacement Filters TrueValue Water Filters
US Filter Replacement Filters US Filter Water Filters
Waterpik Replacement Filters Waterpik Water Filters
Waterway Replacement Filters Waterway Water Filters
Whirlpool Replacement Filters Whirlpool Water Filters

Readers concerned with water purity or water potability should also see FILTERS for DRINKING WATER PURIFICATION for a discussion of portable and emergency water filters that are designed to purify drinking water, including portable ceramic water filters, silver ceramic filters, magnetic (bogus) water purifiers, paper and polypropylene water filters, etc.

See WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES for details on other water treatment options besides filters.


Continue reading at WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES - home, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



Or see DRINKING WATER EMERGENCY PURIFICATION a discussion of various methods used to purify emergency drinking water including portable & ceramic water filters.




Or see WATER QUALITY & QUANTITY San Miguel de Allende


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