Updated: April 8, 2021 by Zac Harding
Whether you live on a well that distributes water with high iron content or you live in an area of a city with particularly hard water, a whole house water filter is essential.
It cleans up your entire water supply so it’s drinkable and doesn’t leave behind any residues when used in dishwashers, washing machines, or showers.
These units are incredibly important to the day-to-day running of a household, so keeping on top of maintenance is key. if you let performance slide, you’ll be using bottled water and showering at friend’s houses indefinitely.
The problem is that in many cases, whole house water filters can be fairly complex, intimidating systems.
Not to worry, though, because we’ve put in the legwork and compiled some top tips on how to maintain your whole house filter and keep you drinking and living clean!
Replacing the Filter
The most essential part of whole house water filter maintenance is checking on and replacing the filter itself.
These long, pleated, cylindrical devices go in squeaky clean and white, but if you check on them after a week, you’ll already notice a significant dark reddish-brown hue, and after a couple of months, it can look almost black. This is a good thing. It means it’s doing a great job, but there’s a level of filter saturation at which it stops working effectively and impurities find their way back into your water supply.
For most properties, switching the filter out every three to six months is fine. They cost around $14 each, so it won’t set you back a great deal.
For properties with heavily polluted water supplies, it may need a change every month, boosting the annual costs exponentially, but what you may not be aware of is that you can clean and reuse them.
How to Clean a Whole House Water Filter
Before extracting the old filter, there are a few important things you need to do.
- Shut down the water supply. This is usually done by turning a red lever situated on the pipe running from the system into the filter chamber.
- Isolate the filter chamber. Look for an identical red lever on the output pipe on the other side of the chamber and turn it.
- Depressurize the filter chamber. There should be a little red button on the top of the filter chamber. Take a cloth, cover the button, then press it. A little bit of water will dribble out and soak into the cloth, and that’s that.
- Loosen the chamber. Next, you’ll need a water filter housing wrench. Lift the wrench hole up from beneath the chamber until it fits securely around it, then turn. Remember, lefty loosey – righty tighty. Bear in mind you don’t want to remove the chamber just yet, only loosen it. If you need a water filter wrench, you can buy one here:
- Housing wrench for use with Pentek AS-301E under-sink water filtration system
- Reduces effort required to tighten and loosen filter housings
- Plastic construction for resistance to corrosion
- Grab a bucket. Before you remove the chamber from the thread, place a bucket beneath it to catch the inevitable spillage, and voila! You’ve got your filter.
Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of throwing it in the washing machine with a few dishcloths, nor will hot soapy water get the job done. To fully clean your filters, you’ll need a substance known as oxalic acid.
Oxalic acid comes in a crystalline formula reminiscent of white sugar. It’s toxic and corrosive so make sure you always cover your arms, wear gloves, and protect your eyes when handling it.
To make the cleaning solution, weigh out 62.5 grams of oxalic acid and mix it into a whole gallon of water, then follow these simple steps
- Rinse your filter. Before we let the acid work its magic, giving the filter a rinse with clean water dislodges some of the debris. Make sure you keep the O-ring separate and safe.
- Add your acid solution. Place the filter chamber in a sink, then place the dirty filter inside, making sure it’s standing upright, then fill it to the brim with your oxalic solution.
- Soak for 20 minutes.
- Pour acid into container – Remove the filter from the chamber and use a funnel to pour the acid into another container.
- Rinse and drip dry. Rinse your filter and chamber with clean hot water and leave them to drip dry.
- Neutralize acid. Before you dispose of the acid, it’s important to neutralize it first. This is done by pouring a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into the residual acid and shaking it up. Now it’s safe to go down the drain.
- Replace and restart your system. Now your filter’s ready to get back to work.
What Happens if You Don’t Replace Your Whole House Filter?
We’ve discussed how to change and clean your filter, but it’s also important to learn about the consequences of forgetting to clean or replace your filters.
Your water filter can only intercept so many impurities before its performance starts to suffer.
At this point, it’s likely some pollution will make it through the filtration system and out your faucets, shower, and into your appliances.
Reduced Water Pressure
There’s nothing worse than taking a shower when the system has low pressure, but that’s exactly what will happen if you forget to clean your filter for a long time.
The pores of the filter get so clogged with sediment that even the water molecules struggle to get through. Eventually, you won’t get much more than a trickle from your faucets.
General Water Filter Maintenance Tips
These top tips should help you form a maintenance routine and ensure your system runs smoothly.
- Stock up on filters so you’re never caught without one in an emergency.
- Store your filters in an appropriate environment away from heat, dust, and moisture.
- Ensure you’re buying filters that are compatible with your system.
- Keep a diary or calendar that marks out filter change dates.
- Don’t put off changing your filter.
- If you have a multi-stage filtration system, it’s likely that each filter will need to be changed at different intervals, so learning individual change times is essential.
How Do You Maintain a Whole House Water Filter System?
Whole house water filtration systems as a whole are a complicated network of specialist piping and mechanisms that can differ from property to property.
In light of this, it’s best to seek professional help when it comes to maintenance, but there are a few precautions you can take to ensure everything is and stays in working order.
All whole house water filter systems should come with an instruction manual. These won’t necessarily go into specifics on how to fix a broken system, but they can help you when it comes to troubleshooting and locating the problem.
It doesn’t hurt to give your system a close inspection perhaps once a week to ensure there are no loose bolts or fixtures and that there are no cracked or dented pipes or leaks.
You should also listen to your filtration system, as unusual noises can be a telltale sign something’s not quite right.
Whole house water filtration systems change lives. People depend on them to improve their living standards and maintain good health, so looking after them is a huge responsibility.
That being said, as long as you’re vigilant, remember what you’ve read here today, and contact a professional when necessary, you’ll never be without fresh, clean drinking water again.