Whole House Vs. Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration Systems

It’s understandable if you’re looking for the best water filtration system for your home these days, since it’s pretty much common knowledge that our tap water isn’t really as safe as people once thought. Unfortunately, many of the terms used in the water filtration industry aren’t as easy to understand. When you do your research on your home water filtration options, you may come across terms such as “whole house” systems and “reverse osmosis” filters. 

So exactly what are these options, and how are they different? Which one is better for your needs? Let’s take a closer look at the two so you can get a better idea:

Whole House Water Filter System

Basically, this is a water filter installed in the main water supply line that goes to your home and to all your individual faucets, showerheads, and toilets. It’s an all-in-one option which saves you the trouble of installing individual filters for every faucet and shower head in your house. 

In most cases, the filtering capability of this system is limited to just dealing with the chlorine or chloramine in the water. In some cases, you can have it act as a water softener, if you live in an area with “hard water” (water with high mineral content). Hard water can lead to scale buildup, and this can affect your pipes and your washing appliances. 

A whole house system can be rather expensive, since the filter is meant to deal with every drop of water that goes to your home. The installation may also have to be done by an expert. Still, this can last for at least 5 years and some go on to last for 10 or even 15 years. You don’t even have to do much for maintenance. 

With this, you get much cleaner water and that kind of water is available from every faucet or even shower head. If you’re worried about your kids drinking the water from the shower, this is the kind of system that can give you peace of mind. 

  • You only have a single system to buy, install, and monitor
  • Kids can drink clean water even in the bathroom
  • Your system can make sure the water can be used for washing your car and for your washing machine and dishwasher
  • This can last for more than a decade
  • A bit expensive
  • Can only filter out a limited range of contaminants

Reverse Osmosis

Let’s set aside the scientific jargon of how reverse osmosis works, and focus on its most important aspect—this is an effective way to produce clean drinking water from your tap water. In fact, the bottled water you may buy is probably the result of reverse osmosis. 

In general, a reverse osmosis system uses an initial sediment filter to take put larger particles like sand and rust. Then there is a carbon block filter, absorbing the chlorine, organic pollutants, and volatile organic compounds VOCs). Finally, there’s the reverse osmosis membrane. This is a thin film that takes out the additional impurities, hardness (minerals), and salts. 

In some cases, an RO system can include additional filter layers to really clean the water. It can include a deionization purifier to remove mineral salts, a UV lamp to kill bacteria in the water, and a post-carbon filter to take out any remaining bad taste and smell in the water.

The RO filter can’t be used for the main water line to the house, as it can easily be overwhelmed by the volume of water. Instead, it’s designed as a point of use system unlike the point of entry whole house system. In other words, it’s designed to filter the water coming out of a specific faucet. This means you can install it only at the faucets where your family members routinely get their drinking water. 

This means the RO system is a lot more affordable, though of course each one is good only for a particular faucet. If you want to filter the water coming out of each faucet or shower head, you will need a bunch of these. You will then have top monitor each one so you can replace them when they’ve reached their water limit.

  • Cheaper
  • Can filter out more types of contaminants
  • Can be installed where you get your drinking water only
  • This can be overkill for shower heads and for your outdoor faucets
  • The more of these you have, the more maintenance you have to do for your water filtration system


So which one is better? This is actually a rather divisive subject in the industry, since each option does have their own set of devoted fans. 

Those who favor reverse osmosis systems like the fact that this type of water filter can take out a wider range of contaminants. Ultimately, you get much safer water to drink to safeguard the health of your whole family. 

You can also specifically install these filters in kitchen faucets and specific water spouts from where you usually get your drinking water. You won’t have to install reverse osmosis systems on everything, since you don’t really need to use premium-grade drinking water to wash your car or flush your toilet. 

On the other hand, the whole house system eliminates a lot of fuss. It’s a one-time deal with minimum maintenance, and you can expect it to last for years at a time. It may be expensive at first, but then in the long run it doesn’t cost you a lot of money. 

Besides, in many areas you don’t really need a lot of filtering capacity for the tap water. Being able to reduce the chlorine should make the water a lot more drinkable. You can also put in a water softener capacity in the water filter to make sure your shower and bath water doesn’t irritate your skin. 

The choice is really up to you. You have your own budget to consider, plus of course you have your own preferences. If you do have a large budget for your home water filter system, just get both. Put in a whole house water filter, and then install an RO water filter for your kitchen sink so you can make sure you get really clean drinking water!

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