Carbon Whole House Water Filters

Are you looking for a water filter that filters all the water in your house?  Perhaps you are currently using a filtered drinking water pitcher or filtered shower head and want to upgrade?  There are several different options for carbon whole house water filters with KDF filtration media for extra filtration quality.

Depending on your filtration needs, there are two different options, carbon and reverse osmosis.  In this article, we are going to look at carbon whole house filters.

How Do Carbon Whole House Water Filters Work?

Whole house water filters are point-of-entry filters.  This means the water is filtered when it first comes into your house before it is used to bathe, drink, or wash your clothes.

The great thing about carbon filters, when compared to reverse osmosis, is that most of them do not require electricity.  Carbon filters also do not have the water waste like reverse osmosis where every filtered gallon results in 2 or 3 “waste” gallons.  The negative trade off with carbon is that it does not remove as many contaminants from the water as reverse osmosis.

Carbon Whole House Water Filters

Click Image To Enlarge

The average carbon whole house water filter is going to look similar to the image above.

Here is how the filtration process works:

  1. Sediment Pre-Filter (Stage 1)
    1. This filter helps remove the big stuff from the water like dirt, silt, and rocks that can clog up the carbon filters.
    2. Because the pre-filter helps extend the life of the carbon & KDF filters, it will need to be replaced more frequently.
  2. KDF Filter (Stage 2)
    1.  The most common mixture is 55% Copper & 45% nickel (KDF-55) and it works like the catalytic converter in cars by creating a redox (oxidation-reduction) chemical reaction with water contaminants and turns them into a harmless molecule that cannot be easily absorbed by the human body.
    2. This is the filter that allows up to 99% chlorine removal and also greatly reduces the amount of heavy metals, mineral scale, and also prevents bacteria and algae growth.
  3. Activated Carbon Filter (Stage 3)
    1. Filter is most effective at removing VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), pesticides, herbicides, and also reduces amounts of benzene, chlorine, and other contaminants.
  4. Optional Filters (Stage 4)
    1. Sub-micron post-filter removes particles larger than .35 microns (the regular filter typically only remove contaminants larger than 5 microns)
    2. UV filter that disinfects water for various bacteria and viruses


Carbon whole house filters come in various sizes and have longer (or shorter) lifespans accordingly.  To maximize the system life, it is important that the sediment pre-filter is changed regularly.  Typically every 6 to 9 months.  If not, the additional filters can get clogged and will not be able to absorb as many contaminants.

There are two different grades of Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) media that address different filtration needs.  KDF-55 is composed of 55% copper and 45% zinc and will sufficiently handle most municipal and well water sources.  It is the most common KDF media because it is effective at removing chlorine.

KDF-85, composed of 85% copper and 15% zinc, is more potent and ideal if your water is heavy in iron and hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell), but not as effective at removing chlorine.  Chances are if you have high amounts of iron & hydrogen sulfide in your water, you are on a well and not using chlorine to disinfect it.

Both forms of KDF are highly effective at removing heavy metals such as lead, mercury, copper, and chromium.  You can also use KDF-85 with a Reverse Osmosis filter or water softener to help protect either of these systems as well.

Carbon Whole House Water FiltersAdditional Filters Available

Sub Micron Post-Filter

This filter further removes sediment and organic particles from the water that were not initially removed.  This filter is added at the end of the filtration process instead of the beginning, otherwise the filter would clog almost immediately or there would only be a trickling water flow.

UV Filter

The UV fluorescent filter requires electricity but is an effective way at providing peace of mind that your water has no bacteria, viruses, or chlorine-resistant cysts in the water.  If you buy a filter designed for a well, this filter is usually included but an additional purchase for filters intended for municipal water use.


If you have hard water, you can add a salt-free or salt-based water softener that can help improve the quality and lifespan of your filter.  Softeners will not remove any contaminants from the water.


If your water utility uses chloramines instead of chlorine to disinfect the water, you will need to look at purchasing a different filter.  The traditional carbon/KDF filter will not be as effective as a catalytic activated carbon media filter that is more durable.

How Much Do Whole House Carbon Filters Cost?

There are several different brands of carbon whole house filters available.  The base price for a carbon/KDF-55 combination is approximately $800 with an estimated lifespan of 600,000 gallons or 5 years (whichever comes first).  Systems intended for well water, that include a UV filter, can start at $1,200.

Once you reach that point when the filtration media needs to be replaced and costs anywhere from $200-$1000 depending on the brand and size of filter.

Additional Items To Consider In Your Research or Purchase

Gallons Per Minute

Remember to take into consideration the size of your house when purchasing a filter.  If the filter is too small, you will have a very low flow rate.  The target flow rate should be approximately 7 gallons per minute and the typical filtration system will be effective when the house is smaller than 3 bathrooms or 3500 square feet.


This may or may not be an issue for you.  Downflow filters need to be backwashed occasionally, like a salt-based water softener, to remove waste and extend the filter life.  Upflow systems, like Aquasana or Pelican, do not require backwash and you simply need to replace the tank or media when the time comes.  The upflow systems are more user-friendly & considered less trouble-prone.


Maybe you are torn between a reverse osmosis or carbon filtration system and the deciding factor is if the filter requires to function.  If this is the case, most carbon filters do not require electricity and I recommend this as the way to go.

If you are on a well, your pump requires electricity so this might not be an issue.


Installation & Maintenance Carbon Whole House Water Filters

The one big drawback to whole house filters, in addition to the large initial cost, is they more than likely require a plumber to install.  If you have the tools & know-how, carbon filters can be a DIY project.

Depending on the brand of filter, you either have to replace the entire tank or just the filtration media.  Often times, the replacements can be done by yourself.

Regarding annual maintenance, most systems are maintenance free.  Some filter brands require a routine backwash.  UV filters might also require additional maintenance.  Overall the filters are pretty easy to take care of after the initial installation.


There are several good filter brands out there.  Here are my two recommendations that I encourage you to consider:

Both of these filters are upflow, which means they do not require routine backwashing to remain effective.

Aquasana– These whole house filters are certified to remove up to 97% chlorine.  The filters are also decently priced and you are able to get a carbon/KDF combo for under $1000.  When replacement time comes, the entire carbon/KDF tank needs replaced which can cost between $600-$800 depending on the filter size.

Pelican– These filters are similar in price to Aquasana.  They cost a little more than Aquasana initially, but have the potential long term savings because you only replace the filtration media instead of the entire filtration tank.  The replacement carbon/KDF media is approximately $200 per 600,000 gallons.  That is is a replacement savings of approximately $400 when compared to Aquasana.

Depending on what is in your water, I encourage to research the system that best fits your needs.  I believe these are two brands that are affordably provide more pure water for your everyday life.

Thank You For Visiting.  Do you currently have a whole house system?  What other brands or system are you considering?



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