THE 7 BEST WHOLE-HOUSE CARBON WATER FILTERS: REVIEWED AND RANKED (2023) 

By: Jake Gallagher | September 22, 2023

No matter if you’re on city water or a private well, a kickass whole-house carbon filter is your best bet to get rid of chlorine and its toxic by-products, like trihalomethanes. These advanced carbon filters can also take out other nasty stuff, like fertilizers, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hydrogen sulfide, and PFOA.

But finding the best one is no walk in the park. I’ve been on this quest for eight long months, researching and checking out all the popular carbon filters on the market. 

Here are my recommendations for the best filtration systems based on filtering power, long-term performance, cost-effectiveness, ease of maintenance, and certifications. 

1. SpringWell CF1 Whole House Filter: 9.80/10

  • Best whole house filter for carbon
  • Longest filter life makes this a virtually maintenance free product

SpringWell uses the highest-quality carbon media in its CF1 whole house filter, which is capable of filtering over 1,000,000 gallons of water and capturing pesky pollutants like chlorine by-products, VOCs, PFOA, pesticides, herbicides, haloacetic acids, and much more. This carbon filter takes the lead because of its long life, high filtration capacity, and huge warranty. 

Pros

The SpringWell CF1 uses a combination of catalytic carbon media, certified KDF media, and a sediment filter to remove a boatload of contaminants typically present in city water. 

This carbon filter stands out because of its Active Flow Technology, which increases the contact time between water and filter media. This feature significantly improves the efficiency of the carbon media in the SpringWell filtration system. 

Upon installing this system, I noticed a significant improvement in the taste, smell, and color of my water supply. Numerous customers have also reported positive changes in their hair texture and a reduction in skin dryness after filtering their water with SpringWell. 

You’ll enjoy this filter’s extended lifespan. In fact, SpringWell’s carbon media is designed to endure 1,000,000 gallons of water before requiring a refill. This eliminates the need for frequent maintenance and results in substantial long-term cost savings. The total expense for this comprehensive whole-house system adds up to merely $1,398.15 over a span of 10 years!

SpringWell’s whole-house carbon filter is equipped with a flow rate as high as 20 GPM, the highest among whole-house filters. Each of its three models has a different flow rate catering to the number of bathrooms in your house. You’ll never have to worry about turning on more than three taps in your house and experiencing a dip in water pressure. 

Another benefit you’ll get out of this system is it works in tandem with KDF media and sediment filter to produce the freshest water around your house. 

Lastly, you’ll get a limited lifetime warranty on this system and a six-month money-back guarantee. You can install the unit yourself using the detailed guideline and tutorials by SpringWell and it won’t void your warranty. 

Cons

Some folks might think this unit is a tad pricier than other whole-house filtration systems, but trust me, it’s totally worth it. But with the CF1 whole house filter, you get a lifetime warranty and a decent money-back guarantee. You won’t have to replace the media every year, and, if you DIY the installation, you’ll save a ton of cash. So, all in all, it’s a pretty sweet deal.

Overall

The SpringWell carbon whole-house filter is capable of filtering pollutants like chlorine, trihalomethanes, PFOS, VOCs, and much more. The best thing about its carbon media is it will last 10 years or 1,000,000 gallons of water before needing a refill. Despite its high initial cost, the system’s annual cost turns out to be much less than Crystal Quest and US Water Systems. 

To get rid of the annoying chlorine smell and taste in your city water, get yourself a SpringWell CF1 today

2. US Water System Big Blue Filter

  • Excellent filtration capabilities deliver crystal clean water every time
  • “Big Blue” design makes it easy to find replacement parts
  • Slightly more affordable than other options; good for those on a budget

US Water Systems Big Blue Triple Filtration System uses carbon block and radial flow carbon filters to effectively remove chlorine and its by-products. The filter is manufactured in the US and is tested under vigorous conditions, which speaks volumes about its durability. 

Pros

The US Water Systems Big Blue filter can be customized with either a carbon block filter or a carbon radial flow filter along with a robust sediment filter to capture chlorine and sediments in water. 

US Water Systems’ carbon block filter cartridge is 10-micron rated and can remove up to 95% of chlorine. The filter can last 8000 gallons of water at the rate of 1 GPM and will cost only $10.95, which is a great price for such a powerful filter. 

The radial flow carbon filter cartridge from US Water System comprises a core of densely packed granular activated carbon (GAC) media encased in a poly-shell exterior. It is rated for 25 microns and cleans water at a fast rate of 15 GPM. This filter will clean 100,000 gallons of water before needing a replacement, which costs $69.95. 

The best thing about these carbon filters is that they come in standard size and can fit many other brands’ filtration systems. Plus, their affordable rates and long life gives them an edge over the rest of the carbon filters.

What makes US Water Systems’ Big Blue filter stand out is its build quality. Typical Big Blue filters are made of flimsy plastic and joints prone to leakage. But US Water Systems filter is made from the highest quality material and has leak-proof sealing and buttress thread design that prevents leakage. 

Cons

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any certifications that actually proved that these carbon filters remove 95% of chlorine from water. Bit of a bummer.

The filters don’t last as long as the SpringWell, and at a replacement cost of $69.99, you may cringe every time you need one. But the initial price of the system is gorgeous, so it evens out a bit.

Plus, the one-year satisfaction guarantee on the US Water Systems Big Blue filter is nowhere near as great as what SpringWell offers. 

Overall

US Water Systems Big Blue filters are a fantastic option for dealing with chlorine. And the best part? You get a decently long-lasting filter at a super reasonable price. So, if you’re cool with not having any certifications and an underwhelming warranty, you can snag one right here.

3. Crystal Quest SMART Whole House Water Filter

  • Provides the added benefit of improving your water’s pH, something not found with other options
  • Uses high-grade metals, giving it a sleek look and added durability
  • Considerably more expensive than comprable models that provide equal filtration performance

Crystal Quest’s SMART whole-house filter uses two granular catalytic carbon filters to remove a number of pollutants, including chlorine, chloramine, and trihalomethanes. What makes Crystal Quest stand out is its top-notch performance and durability. 

Pros

The Crystal Quest SMART whole-house filter is a six-stage filter that uses two types of GAC filters, a post-carbon filter, Eagle Alloy 6500 & 9500, ion exchange resin, and tourmaline balls. This whole-house filter leaves no impurities in city water and even improves the pH levels so you can enjoy healthy and fresh water. 

At $1,791, you get a complete package that removes chlorine, four types of dangerous chlorine by-products, and chemicals in the water, as well as capturing heavy metals and organic and inorganic toxins. 

I like that this filter does not require a lot of maintenance. You will only need to change its sediment filter and carbon block post-filter every 12–18 months. You can choose between two sizes with 1,000,000 gallons or 1,500,000 filtration capacity, depending on the size of your family. It offers decent flow rates ranging between 9 and 13, but these are still lower than what SpringWell offers. 

Lastly, you can choose between two types of tanks — stainless steel and fiberglass — depending on the temperature and humidity conditions in your region. 

Cons

While I can vouch for its cleaning efficiency, Crystal Quest’s carbon filters are not certified to NSF standards. I couldn’t find any information regarding this on the website. This is disappointing because NSF certification goes a long way to guarantee the quality of your system, its materials, and its replacement parts.

Another significant setback is the one-year warranty, which remains valid only if a licensed plumber is hired to install your unit. This is an added expense that not every homeowner will want to take on, especially the handy ones who know how to install a filtration system already.

Overall

Crystal Quest’s SMART whole-house filter does an excellent job of removing chlorine and its harmful by-products in city water along with VOCs, pesticides, and herbicides. 

Well, here’s the deal — it ain’t got any fancy certifications, and its warranty is nothing to write home about, either. But it does a pretty decent job cleaning up that municipal water supply. 

4. SoftPro Whole House Chlorine+ Filter

The SoftPro whole-house chlorine filter uses top-notch catalytic carbon media to capture 99% of chlorine and chloramines. What improves its cleaning efficiency is its Upflow technology that increases the contact time with water. 

Another big benefit is that it cleans 600,000 gallons and lasts up to six years without needing replacement. At $847, I’d say it’s a pretty decent bargain. However, one downside is its low flow rate. You can choose between two sizes for your household, but its flow rate is nowhere near what SpringWell offers. 

Although the brand claims the filtered water will be as good as bottled water, devoid of heavy metals and fluoride, I couldn’t find any certifications proving this, which is disappointing. 

There’s one more minor drawback with this unit: the installation can be a bit tricky. Unless you’re a pro handyman, you’ll probably need professional help to set it up properly.

The good thing is it comes with a six-month money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied, no worries. You can simply return the unit without the fear of losing your hard-earned cash.

5. Waterdrop 2-Stage Whole House Water Filter

Waterdrop’s two-stage whole-house filtration system uses activated carbon sandwiched between polypropylene layers. If you’re on a low budget or live in a small apartment, this whole house filter is a nice option. It costs only $179.99 and requires filter replacement every three to six months. 

This filter also comes with a manganese sand filter that effectively removes 99% of iron and 96% of manganese. Considering its affordable price, it’s a steal. However, there’s a catch: you might notice leakages over time. This filter demands quite a bit of maintenance, so if you’re not up for giving it some TLC, it might not be the right fit for you.

Another big issue with this filter is that its filtration performance decreases with time. You can’t expect durability at this price point. It’s cheap, yes, but with some of the better filters on my list, you pay to not have to deal with poor performance and lack of durability. 

The brand claims that this filter is equipped with 15 GPM, but it gradually lowers as the filters near their expiration date. So if you have a big household, this filter is not a good choice. 

6. Express Water Whole-House Filtration System

Express Water’s filter is a three-stage whole-house water filtration system that features granular-activated carbon, an activated-carbon block, and a sediment filter. The filter effectively removes 95% of chlorine in the water. This unit comes with a transparent housing for its sediment filter, allowing you to monitor it in real time and replace the filter as needed.

Pressure gauges can also help monitor the filter life to some extent. Though some customers reported that it isn’t an effective way to judge the filter, plus it starts malfunctioning after some time. 

The installation is easy, but you might need extra Teflon tape to prevent leakage. 

The whole-house filter is priced at $449, and the replacement will cost you $109 after every 8–12 months, depending on the water quality. It’s not a brilliant prospect.

It is equipped with a decent flow rate of 0.28 gallons per second which is good for homes with one to three bathrooms. 

During testing, I discovered that its cleaning efficiency decreases as the filters approach their expiration. Hence, if you don’t replace the filters on time, you may end up consuming pollutants.

Lastly, I couldn’t find any certification proving it removes harmful by-products of chlorine. 

7. PRO+AQUA Elite Series Whole House Filtration System

Pro+Aqua’s 3-stage whole-house filter features three different filters, one of which is an activated carbon filter designed to capture chlorine, VOCs, pesticides, herbicides, and some organic chemicals. Besides a carbon filter, it is equipped with a proprietary media blend and a sediment filter to clear your water of dirt, dust, and heavy metals. 

The filter lasts 100,000 gallons or about seven months, depending on the water quality. Like Express Water, this filtration system loses cleaning efficiency as it approaches the end of the filter’s life. There’s no way to indicate the filter life, so you’ll have to monitor it using pressure gauges. 

The filter is priced at $449, and the replacements will cost you $139. Considering the subpar quality of the product, this price is a bit too high. You can get US Water Systems’ Big Blue filter at the same price with better features. 

The Bottom Line

After a solid eight months of digging deep and researching extensively, I can confidently say that the SpringWell CF1 is hands down the best carbon-based whole-house filtration system you’ll find on the market. And let me tell you why. 

First off, its long life is simply unbeatable — with a carbon media that lasts a whopping 1,000,000 gallons before needing a refill, you won’t find yourself constantly hassling with maintenance. 

On top of that, the Active Flow Technology ensures a top-notch flow rate, so no more worrying about water pressure drops. This technology also significantly enhances the contact time of water with the carbon media, resulting in a manifold improvement in its efficiency.

All in all, the SpringWell CF1 has won me over with its outstanding features, making it the ultimate choice for a top-performing carbon whole-house filter.

Research Methodology 

If you’re curious about how I compiled the list of the best carbon whole-house filters, the following section will walk you through each step of my eight-month-long research process.

Step 1: A big list of whole-house water filtration systems

To start my research, I began by creating an extensive list of all whole-house water filters that utilized carbon filtration. I scoured popular online platforms like Amazon, Walmart, and Lowes to explore various options available in the market. 

I reached out to my friends and family and even sought advice from local plumbers to gather their valuable suggestions and recommendations. At the end of the day, my efforts resulted in an impressive compilation of 20 different water filters with carbon filtration technology.

Step 2: Online reviews

Next, I took a deep dive into each filter on the list. No, not literally. This isn’t the Magic School Bus. But I did spend hours reading tons of online reviews left by actual users who’ve used these filters. 

I checked out websites like Trustpilot, Consumer Reports, and Amazon reviews to see how well these babies were doing in the real world. After sifting through all that feedback, I kicked out the ones with the crappiest ratings, leaving me with the top-notch contenders.

Step 3: Product analysis

Before diving into the rankings, I figured I should brush up on my knowledge about carbon filtration and how it actually works. Google came to the rescue, and I found out that carbon filters come in two types: granular activated and carbon block. 

The main difference between granular activated carbon (GAC) and carbon block filters lies in their structure and effectiveness. 

Granular activated carbon filters consist of loose, granular carbon particles that trap impurities as water flows through them. They are highly effective in removing larger contaminants and improving taste and odor. 

On the other hand, carbon block filters are made by compressing finely ground carbon particles into a solid block. This design allows for better filtration. As water is forced through a denser carbon medium, it effectively removes smaller particles and contaminants. 

During my research, I also discovered that the efficiency of a carbon filter can be significantly enhanced by increasing the contact time of water with the filter. 

Step 4: Interviews with real customers

Moving on to the next step, I decided to reach out to customers and gather insights from their experiences with the filters. 

While some folks were over the moon with their systems, others expressed concerns about poor filtration efficiency and unsatisfactory customer service. One guy even reported delayed shipment and a broken package. I have included that in my ranking. 

Step 5: Interviews with companies

At this stage, I felt the need to directly engage with the companies to seek clarifications on certain aspects, such as the authenticity of their certifications and their refund policies. By reaching out to them, I aimed to gain a better understanding of their commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. 

I also forwarded some of the complaints from their customers just to see how they dealt with the heat and handled the criticism. It was like playing detective to get the full picture of what these companies were really about.

Step 6: Test drives

In this phase of my research, it was time for some exciting hands-on action — good ol’ test drives! I got my hands on the remaining filters, some I bought and others I rented, and set up a testing rig right in my friend’s yard, like my own water filter lab. I put the filters to the test, checking out their filtration efficiency and flow rate. 

But that’s not all — I even used an at-home testing kit to see if they were really walking the walk and removing those pesky pollutants from the water. 

It gave me some super valuable data and insights, making the evaluation process way more legit and complete.

Step 7: Ratings

In the final step, I gathered all the nitty-gritty and plugged everything into a spreadsheet. It was time for some serious scoring. I rated each unit against key characteristics like:

  • Flow rate 
  • Efficiency 
  • Filter life 
  • Durability
  • Cost
  • Warranty
  • Ease of installation and maintenance
  • Customer reviews

And after crunching all the numbers, I had it — a complete list ranked from #1 all the way down to #7. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re on city water, a carbon filter is an absolute must, and SpringWell is hands down the best choice with its long life, high quality, and cutting-edge Active Flow technology.

Here are a few characteristics that make it stand out:

  • A filtration capacity of 1,000,000 gallons 
  • Certified components 
  • Easy maintenance 
  • Hassle-free installation 
  • Lifetime warranty 
  • Six-month money-back guarantee 

To eliminate the chlorine smell from your drinking water and showers, and get drinking water you can trust, then SpringWell’s carbon filter is the way to go.

Interested in delving into the advantages of a whole-house water filter? Here are some additional sources you can look into to acquire in-depth insights: