Whole House Water Filter Cartridge Types & Sizes: Our Guide


Having clean and safe water is essential for maintaining a healthy home environment. A whole house water filter system is a valuable addition that ensures your water is free from contaminants.

One of the key components of these systems is the filter cartridge. These cartridges come in various types and sizes, each serving a specific purpose in the filtration process. In this guide, we’ll explore the different whole house water filter cartridge types/sizes to help you make an informed decision for your home.

Whole house water filter cartridges play a crucial role in removing impurities and pollutants from your water supply. They are designed to fit into the filter cartridge housing of your system and trap unwanted particles before the water reaches your faucets.

Let’s delve into whole house water filter cartridge types/sizes. 

Sediment Filters

Sediment filters are essential components of whole house water filtration systems, serving as the initial barrier against larger particles and debris that can clog and damage downstream filters, pipes, and appliances.

These filters are designed to capture sediment, sand, dirt, rust, and other visible particles commonly found in water sources.

Spun-Cartridge Sediment/Depth Filter Cartridges

Spun-cartridge sediment filters, also known as depth filter cartridges, are designed with a unique construction that maximizes their dirt-holding capacity. These cartridges consist of layers of polypropylene fibers tightly spun around a core.

As water flows through the filter, it encounters multiple layers of the depth media. Larger particles are trapped in the outer layers, while smaller particles are progressively captured as water moves deeper into the cartridge.

The advantage of spun-cartridge filters lies in their ability to retain a larger volume of sediment without sacrificing water flow rate. This extended capacity makes them suitable for areas with higher sediment content in the water supply.

As the cartridge becomes saturated, it’s important to replace it to ensure optimal filtration efficiency.

Pleated Sediment/Surface Filter Cartridges 

Surface filter cartridges take a different approach to filtration. These cartridges are characterized by their accordion-like structure, which increases the surface area available for capturing particles.

Unlike depth filter cartridges, where particles are trapped within the layers, pleated filters capture contaminants on the outer surface.

The pleated design allows for a longer lifespan compared to spun-cartridge filters, as they can hold more debris before needing replacement cartridges. This design is particularly useful in areas where sediment levels are moderate and a balance between effective filtration and maintaining water flow rate is important.

Pleated sediment filter cartridges are also known for their ability to resist clogging. As particles accumulate on the outer surface, they create a barrier that can help prevent finer particles from penetrating the cartridge.

This self-protecting mechanism contributes to their longevity.

Carbon Filter Cartridges

Carbon filter cartridges are a popular choice for whole house water filter systems due to their ability to effectively remove a wide range of contaminants, including chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and unpleasant odors.

Granular Activated Carbon Cartridges

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) cartridges contain loose carbon particles with a large surface area. When water passes through the filter cartridge, contaminants are adsorbed onto the carbon surface. GAC cartridges are effective at improving the taste and odor of water by removing chlorine and organic compounds.

These cartridges are versatile and can be used for general water purification. However, their efficiency can diminish over time as the carbon becomes saturated with contaminants. Regular replacement is necessary to maintain effective filtration.

Carbon Block Filter Cartridges

Carbon block filters’ cartridges take the filtration capabilities of activated carbon a step further. They are composed of finely compressed carbon particles, resulting in a dense structure with a higher surface area compared to GAC cartridges.

This increased surface area allows for better contact between water and carbon, leading to more effective removal of contaminants.

Carbon block filters’ cartridges can target specific contaminants depending on the type of carbon used and any additional treatment additives. Some carbon block cartridges are designed to remove not only chlorine and organic compounds, but also heavy metals, lead, and more.

The compact design of carbon filter cartridges contributes to a longer filter cartridge filter lifespan and efficient filtration.

Catalytic Carbon Filter Cartridges

Catalytic carbon cartridges are a specialized type of activated carbon filter that focuses on addressing specific challenges such as chloramines and hydrogen sulfide. Chloramines, which are commonly used disinfectants in water treatment, can be challenging to remove with standard activated carbon.

Catalytic carbon filtration cartridges use a unique carbon formulation that enhances the removal of chloramines and other stubborn contaminants.

Hydrogen sulfide, often responsible for unpleasant “rotten egg” odors in water, can also be effectively targeted by catalytic carbon filtration. This type of filter cartridge can provide a more comprehensive solution for improving water taste, odor, and overall quality.

When choosing between these carbon filter cartridge filter types, consider your water quality, specific contaminants you want to address, and the cartridge’s maintenance requirements. Regularly replacing the filter cartridge is essential to ensure optimal filtration performance.

KDF Filter Cartridges

KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) filter cartridges are designed to address specific water quality issues, such as chlorine, heavy metals, and bacteria. KDF cartridges contain a mixture of copper and zinc granules, creating a redox (reduction-oxidation) reaction when water passes through them.

This reaction helps to neutralize chlorine, chloramines, and certain heavy metals by converting them into less harmful substances.

KDF cartridges also have antibacterial properties that can help inhibit the growth of bacteria and algae in the water. Additionally, they can assist in reducing scale buildup by converting calcium and magnesium ions into forms that are less likely to precipitate and form deposits.

Ion Exchange Filter Cartridges

Ion exchange cartridges are commonly used for water softening purposes. These cartridges contain a resin that exchanges unwanted ions—usually calcium and magnesium ions responsible for water hardness—with sodium ions.

As water flows through the filter cartridge, the resin releases sodium ions into the water while capturing calcium and magnesium ions, effectively softening the water.

These cartridges are especially beneficial in areas with hard water, where mineral buildup can lead to scaling in pipes, appliances, and fixtures. Softened water not only helps prevent scale buildup but also improves soap lathering and reduces the wear and tear on water-using appliances.

Activated Alumina Filter Cartridges

Activated alumina cartridges are specifically designed to target contaminants like fluoride and arsenic in water. These cartridges contain a porous material made from aluminum oxide that has a high affinity for certain contaminants.

Fluoride, often added to municipal water supplies for dental health reasons, can be effectively removed by activated alumina cartridges. Similarly, activated alumina can also capture arsenic, a toxic element that can be naturally occurring in some water sources.

Ultrafiltration Cartridges

Ultrafiltration cartridges employ a fine membrane to physically block particles, microorganisms, and some larger molecules from passing through. These cartridges are capable of removing bacteria, viruses, colloids, and other suspended solids from the water supply.

The membrane used in ultrafiltration cartridges has pores that are much smaller than those in sediment filters, allowing for finer filtration. This technology is particularly useful when a higher level of water purification is desired, and it’s often used as a pre-treatment before other filtration methods like reverse osmosis.

Ultrafiltration cartridges are known for their ability to maintain water flow rates while providing thorough filtration, making them a valuable tool for improving water quality in various applications.

Reverse Osmosis Membranes

Reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are highly effective filtration components that can remove a wide range of contaminants, including dissolved minerals, heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, and more. These membranes use a semipermeable barrier that allows water molecules to pass through while blocking larger particles and ions.

As water is forced through the membrane under pressure, contaminants are left behind, resulting in purified water on one side and concentrated contaminants on the other. Reverse osmosis is particularly efficient at producing clean and great-tasting drinking water, making it a popular choice for under-sink systems and even whole house water filter systems.

It’s worth noting that reverse osmosis systems can generate a significant amount of wastewater as a byproduct of the filtration process. However, they offer a comprehensive solution for achieving high-quality drinking water.

On this note, have you ever wondered how does ultrafiltration compare to reverse osmosis?

What is Filter Micron Rating and What Should You Choose?

Filter micron rating refers to the size of particles that a filter can capture. The lower the micron rating, the finer the filtration. Common micron ratings for whole house filter cartridges range from 1 to 100 microns.

For a sediment filter, a higher micron rating (e.g., 30 to 100 microns) is suitable for capturing larger particles like sand and silt. Filters with lower micron ratings (e.g., 1 to 5 microns) are better at capturing finer particles like sediment and debris.

When selecting a filter micron rating, consider the level of sediment in your water source. If your water has high sediment content, a lower micron rating may be necessary to ensure effective filtration.

However, keep in mind that filters with lower micron ratings can clog more quickly, affecting water flow rate.

How Whole House Filter Cartridges Affect Flow Rate

Different filter cartridges can have varying impacts on water flow rate. Filter cartridges with smaller pores, designed to capture finer particles, may slow down the flow of water. This reduction in flow rate can be more noticeable when water demand is high, such as when multiple faucets are running simultaneously.

It’s important to strike  balance between effective filtration and maintaining adequate water pressure. Consider the flow rate of your water supply system, the number of occupants in your whole house, and your daily water usage patterns.

Manufacturers typically provide information about the flow rates associated with their filter cartridges, which can help you choose a filter cartridge that meets your needs.

Regular maintenance and timely replacement of cartridges are essential to prevent excessive flow rate reduction. A clogged or saturated filter cartridge can significantly impact water pressure and overall system performance.

Understanding how different filter cartridges influence flow rate will help you optimize your whole house water filtration system to provide both clean water and sufficient water pressure for your daily activities.

Non-Cartridge Filters

In addition to cartridge-based filtration, there are various non-cartridge filters and treatment methods that can be used in whole house water filtration systems to address specific water quality concerns.

Carbon Media

Carbon media filters use a bed of activated carbon granules to adsorb contaminants from the water. These filters are effective at removing chlorine, organic compounds, and certain taste and odor issues. Carbon media filters require occasional backwashing or replacement to maintain their filtration efficiency.

KDF Media

Similar to KDF filter cartridges, KDF media beds contain a mixture of copper and zinc granules that initiate a redox reaction to neutralize chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals. These media beds are often used in combination with other filter systems to enhance their performance.

UV Light

UV (ultraviolet) light systems use UV rays to disinfect water by inactivating microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. While UV light doesn’t physically remove particles or chemicals, it provides an effective method for ensuring microbial safety.

Water Softening Resin

Water softening resin consists of tiny beads that exchange calcium and magnesium ions for sodium ions, effectively softening the water. These resin beads are housed in a tank through which water passes, removing hardness minerals that cause scale buildup.

Iron Filters

Iron filters are specialized filter cartridges designed to remove iron and manganese from water, which can cause staining and taste issues. These filters use various media to trap and remove these metals, improving water aesthetics.

Spin-Down Sediment Filter

A Spin-down sediment filter is designed to capture large particles and debris before they reach other filtration stages. These sediment filters use a centrifugal motion to force particles to the outer edge of the filter, where they settle and can be periodically flushed out.

Each of these non-cartridge filtration methods addresses specific water quality concerns. Depending on your water source and the contaminants present, you can choose a combination of cartridge and non-cartridge filters to achieve the desired level of water purification.

When incorporating non-cartridge filters, it’s important to follow manufacturer recommendations for maintenance, backwashing, and replacement to ensure consistent and effective performance. Consulting with water treatment professionals can help you design a comprehensive filtration system tailored to your specific needs.

Final Verdict

Selecting the right whole house water filter cartridge types and sizes is a critical decision that directly impacts the quality of your water and the overall well-being of your whole house. To arrive at a well-informed verdict, consider the following steps:

Water Testing: Begin by understanding your water quality. Conduct a water test to identify the contaminants like chlorine present and their concentrations. This information will guide your filtration choices.

Filtration Goals: Define your filtration goals. Do you want to address specific contaminants, improve taste and odor, or ensure general water safety?

System Design: Depending on your filtration goals and water quality, design a filtration system that may include a combination of different cartridge types and non-cartridge methods.

Maintenance: Consider the maintenance requirements of each filter cartridge type. Cartridges will need periodic replacement, while non-cartridge methods might require backwashing or occasional servicing.

Professional Consultation: If you’re unsure about which filters to choose, consult with water treatment professionals who can analyze your water quality data and recommend the most suitable solutions.

Remember that no single filter cartridge type is a universal solution. A well-rounded approach that combines different filtration technologies can help you achieve comprehensive water purification. Prioritize regular maintenance to ensure the longevity and efficiency of your chosen filters.


How often should I replace my filter cartridge?

Cartridge replacement frequency depends on the type of filter and your water usage. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for optimal performance.

Can I install these cartridges myself?

Installation difficulty varies. Some cartridges are designed for easy DIY installation, while others might require professional assistance to ensure correct setup.

Are there cartridges that combine multiple filtration methods?

Yes, some advanced cartridges combine different filtration technologies to target a wider range of contaminants. These hybrid cartridges can be an efficient solution for comprehensive water treatment.

Leave a Comment