The Lowdown on Whole-House Water Filtration

If you have concerned customers who want to filter all of the tap water that enters their home, here’s a crash course on whole-house systems
The Lowdown on Whole-House Water Filtration

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Many homeowners are concerned about the quality of water coming into their homes. They hear horror stories like what happened in Flint, Michigan, and wonder about the safety of their own water.

This could be a business opportunity for you. Whether you want to install and service home water filtration systems, or you just want to be able to answer questions from your customers, here's what you’ll need to know about these systems.

POE versus POU

There are two broad categories in water filtration: point-of-entry systems and point-of-use systems. Point-of-entry (POE) systems, sometimes called whole-house systems, treat all of the water that comes into the house, and it is the type of system I will focus on here. Point-of-use (POU) systems treat a specific faucet, usually a kitchen faucet.

To your clients, the fact that POE systems treat all of the water they use is an important consideration and makes the systems more attractive than POU systems. It means the water they drink and use to cook, wash dishes and clothes, and bathe and shower will be contaminant free. The installation of POE systems is more detailed than POU systems, so homeowners are more likely to turn to a professional plumber for installation.

What's in the Water?

Water filtration systems are designed to remove specific contaminants from the water, so the first step in the selection process is to determine what needs to be removed. If your clients get their water from a municipal water system, consult the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), sometimes called the Water Quality Report. This annual report on local water quality is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA tracks about 90 contaminants, everything from metals like lead to microorganisms and organic compounds that are known to be harmful. The report will list the ones, if any, that are found in the water. It will show the level found and what the EPA considers to be a safe level.

The report also tracks what the EPA calls aesthetic water problems. These things are not harmful for most people but can affect the clarity, taste and smell of the water. For example, many water systems use chlorine to disinfect the water, and sometimes that treated water can have a strong chlorine smell when it comes out of the tap. The smell is a byproduct of the treatment, and many people find it objectionable. Oftentimes, it is these aesthetic problems that prompt homeowners to start thinking about installing a water filtration system.

Water utilities are required to send the report to their customers. Many municipalities provide a copy on their website. You may want to advise homeowners to supplement the report by having their water tested by a qualified laboratory.

If any of your clients rely on private wells for their water, the water will have to be tested. The EPA recommends annual testing of well water.

Choosing a System

Water filtration systems come in a number of configurations from single filters to systems with multiple components. Some systems contain an ultraviolet light chamber that disinfects the water passing through by killing bacteria and other microorganisms. In many cases, a filtration system includes a water softener as part of the setup.

Here are a few items to look for in a water filtration system:

  • Effectiveness. As mentioned, systems are designed to remove specific contaminants. So start the process by matching what needs to be removed from the water to how the system performs. Product literature will list the contaminants the product is effective against. There are a few organizations that provide third-party verification of product claims: NSF International, UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and the Water Quality Association.
  • Flow Rate. Whole-house systems are rated in the number of gallons of filtered water they can produce per minute. The calculations depend on a number of variables. The goal is to make sure the homeowners have enough water at peak demand times. Systems range from about 7 gpm up to 40 gpm. It may be a good idea to get input from the system dealer to properly advise your customer on a system’s capacity.
  • Maintenance Requirements. The filters used in whole-house systems will need to be changed periodically. The manufacturer's information will suggest a schedule, usually about every 100,000 gallons or once a year. Sometimes the filters in a multi-stage setup have different maintenance schedules. Advise homeowners to look for a significant pressure drop or a change in the way the water tastes as signs that it is time to change the filters.


POE filtration systems are installed on the cold-water line after the water meter or the pressure tank if water is drawn from a private well. It should be installed before other appliances, such as water heaters or water softeners if one is already present. Here are some other things to keep in mind during installation:

  • Most filters can be installed using compression or push fittings.
  • Pay attention to the "in" ports and "out" ports when locating the system.
  • It is helpful to include shut-off valves before and after the system.
  • Many people include bypass piping around the water filtration system. Some systems include a built-in bypass setting.
  • Systems include a mounting bracket and fittings.
  • When locating the system, be sure to leave enough room so the homeowner can easily change the filters.
  • Many casings for filters are made of heavy plastic. If the water piping serves as the electrical ground for the house, you will need to install a jumper wire to maintain the ground connection.

Your ability to educate your customers about the different types of systems available will provide a valuable service to them.

About the Author
Fran Donegan writes home- and garden-related content for numerous digital and print publications. He is the author of the books Pools and Spas and Paint Your Home. To learn more about whole-home water filtration systems, visit the Home Depot website.


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