Image from Unsplash

Whole-house water filters need maintenance to prevent bacteria build-up and keep your appliances’ life as long as possible. One of the main things to focus on is changing your filter cartridges. For beginners, knowing how to change a whole house water filter is one of the most vital things to maintaining quality water. You may also be asking yourself “How long does a water filter last”? Even the best whole-house filters to remove fluoride and Chlorine can last longer, but that doesn’t mean maximizing the time before maintenance.

It will depend on what whole-house filter brand you buy, which can be confusing. But I’ve prepared a guide to help you keep the water filter maintenance and purifying process to the best quality.

Replacing a whole house water filter: DIY vs. Professional

Image from Unsplash

While a plumber’s assistance is handy, it’s best to know the basics of replacing a whole-house water filter, especially if it’s in cartridges. There are different pros and cons to Do It Yourself and having a professional do your occasional filter maintenance.


Hiring a professional plumber or asking your water filter manufacturer is great for warranty perks. Hiring them may be better for more challenging tasks like installing a filter or changing a tank-model system. Tank-based models are heavier, which will have you call for assistance.


Prior knowledge in replacing filters can be handy during emergencies and save extra costs. Cartridge filter systems are often simpler to replace; new models now use an easy-twist technology so you can quickly check and change your filters. 

Learning how to change a whole house water filter still varies on its type of filter system, so one process will not fit all. But for this article, I’ll guide you through replacing cartridge filter systems as it’s more doable for homeowners and has fewer safety risks.

Types of whole house filtration systems

image from Unsplash

Two types of whole-house filters differ in filter-changing processes: tank and cartridge filtration.

  • Tank-based filter – Tank-based filters are known as “back-wash” and “self-cleaners” by pumping water backward through the filter bed to reuse filter media. It helps remove contaminants and washes itself off by flushing the dirt out of the system.
  • Cartridge filter – Systems with cartridge filters are easier to replace and often do not call for a draining connection. They don’t need much space but require more frequent filter-changing.

How to change a whole house water filter system: a step-by-step guide

Image from Unsplash

Changing the cartridge filters from your whole house water system doesn’t require you to be an expert. Though some models differ, there is still a general guide to changing filters.

Tools needed

  • Replacement water filter cartridge
  • Universal housing wrench
  • Safety goggles
  • Empty bucket for 5 gallons
  • A bucket filled with clean and soapy water
  • Household bleach (optional)
  • food-grade plumber’s silicone grease (not for eating or cooking)
  • Rags or towels

Turn off the water

Wear your safety goggles and look for your house’s main shutoff valve to prevent water from flowing into the filtration system while you change the filters. You should often hear the water stop from flowing in the pipes.

If you don’t have a shutoff valve, turn off the breaker for your water pump to cut the water source flow.

Open your faucets

Head to your kitchen and open all the faucets to drain any remaining water in the pipes to depressurize your water system. You’re good to go once the water leaking slows downs and finally stops.

Find the shutoff valve

Look for your water shutoff valve, which can be found by following your filter head’s water supply line. Slowly close it once you’ve found it to prevent any lingering water in pipes from draining back into your filter’s housing unit.

Ensure your feet and basement are dry when switching the shutoff valve to prevent accidents.

Use the pressure release button

Find the red pressure-relief button located on your housing unit. Press and hold to see if there is overpressure in your filter. If nothing happens, you can proceed to the next step.

The button is often red and helps make filter-changing easier by relieving underlying pressure in your housing unit.

Unscrew the housing unit

Look for your filter housing. It’s often a rectangular or cylindrical container where the cartridges are.

Grab your universal housing wrench and unscrew your housing unit by turning it to the left. Prepare an empty bucket to catch spilling water to avoid making a mess that can cause an accident.

Remove the housing unit

Firmly hold the housing unit and gently remove the housing unit; expect excess water dripping on the sides so have your bucket ready. 

Turn the housing to the left (counterclockwise) while you place a hand under the housing. Expect a strong wave of water from the housing and the old filter.

Remove the cartridge

Remove the old cartridges from the housing and throw them in the empty bucket.

Inspect the old filter and clean out the filter housing.

Pour out any excess water still found in the actual unit of your filtration system. Also, clean the housing unit with the clean soapy water in the other bucket to ensure it is free of any lingering bacteria or dirt.

Cleaning your housing unit will save you from the risk of bacteria build-up that often grows inside it. You can also use bleach and a brush to scrub thoroughly, then rinse with plain water.

Lubricate the O-ring

O-rings are in between the screw to the housing unit. Using an o ring makes a waterproof seal to stabilize the housing when you screw it back in.

Coat the O-rings with the food-grade silicone grace and ensure it’s seated in place. Replace it if it looks worn out.

You can also find The O-ring where you would attach the housing. Reach up inside to locate it.

Install the replacement filter

Insert the new house water filter cartridge into the housing unit. Don’t forget to read your manual for specific instructions based on your brand’s model. The cartridges should fit perfectly into the housing.

Reattach the housing

Secure the cartridge and housing by screwing it back in, which is possible if the O-ring is seated correctly. Use the housing wrench to tighten the screw back into the system. Avoid over-tightening the screw, which can damage the housing unit.

Turn on the water supply

Reopen the water supply from the main water shutoff valve, then inspect if there are leaks in the housing filtration system. Turn off the water supply and carefully tighten the screws until the dripping stops. Do not be forceful or over-tighten the screw because it will damage the housing.

Flush the water filter system

Switch open multiple faucets in your home to clear and smoothen the water flow through the filtration system. Doing so helps flush away present carbon fines and air.

If the water flows without any bursting or low pressure, close the faucets, and you’re good to go!

What to do when you can’t remove the water filters

On rare occasions, you may struggle to remove your old water cartridges. But no need to fear as you can fix this sticky situation with a few quick steps.

  1. Use a filter wrench –  Use a filter wrench to add extra grip and power to remove stubborn filter housing units. Ensure it matches the shape and size of your filter housing. Rotate it counterclockwise to loosen the screws.
  2. Apply lubrication – Mineral and sediment residue over time. Apply a small amount of food-grade silicone or plumber’s grease to help loosen the filter housing. Apply just the right amount. Overlubricating can cause it to mix with the water and filters.
  3. Wear rubber gloves and a strap wrench – A strap wrench is an alternative to a filter wrench. Pair it with rubber gloves to add grip to twist the housing off more easily.
  4. Add heat: This technique is dangerous as you’ll need to be extra cautious not to damage or burn any other parts. You can use a heat gun on a low setting or a hair dryer to warm the housing to expand the metal so it gets easier to remove.
  5. Contact a professional – Seeking help from your local plumber or your water filter system manufacturer is one of the best options because they have the necessary tools and experience. You can contact them for a schedule to help replace your filters if you undergo any issues.

Maintaining water systems calls for both force and control. You’ll have to be extra careful in putting the right amount of strength. It’s best to read the manual for any underlying issues and contact a professional if you’re uncomfy with the process to prevent any accidents.

The consequences of not replacing a filter

Image from Unsplash

Replacing your water filter is one of the main factors for quality water. But forgetting this will lead to the following situations, according to ISO Purewater

  • Contaminant build-up – Using worn-out filters can cause bacteria to build up, making sludge that can mix and leak into your water supply. Failing to change your water filter on time can badly affect your water’s smell, taste, and color, leaving you vulnerable to infections and diseases.
  • Ineffective filtering – Old filters contain months’ worth of filtering impurities. It will no longer be able to properly purify your water once worn out, leaving chlorine, bacteria, sediment, and odors to freely go into your water despite going through the filter.
  • Low water pressure – Water will flow slower due to the contaminant build-up. Chores will take longer because of the low water pressure.

Failing to replace your filter will affect your water, especially when using a whole house filter that will affect your entire water line. Always set a reminder so you won’t forget to replace your filters! 

General steps to installing a whole house water filters

There are different types of whole-house water filters. Installing one is the job of a professional, but it’s good to know about installing a whole-house filter when needed. Here is a general step-by-step guide to help you:

  1. Find a location: Choose a spacious area near the main water line inside or outside your home. Ensure it has enough space to move in and out or access the filter. The filter should be somewhere the water has not yet entered the house; only purified water should enter.
  2. Turn off the shutoff valve: Stop the water flow by turning off the main water shutoff valve. It is beside the water meter where the water line enters your house. Open a few faucets in your home to drain any remaining water and relieve pressure.
  3. Prepare your plumbing materials: Choose a section of the main water line where you’ll install your water filter. Measure and mark the correct pipe size for a perfect fit to the filter then cut out the section using a hacksaw or pipe cutter. 
  4. Install your water filter housing: Read your owner’s manual for specific instructions and assemble the filter housing based on it. It often is attaching mounting brackets to the wall and securing the filter housing against it. Secure the housing tightly to prevent leaks.
  5. Install the bypass valve (optional): The bypass valve allows you to divert the water around the filter during maintenance. Some whole-house filters offer or include a bypass valve, install it according to the instructions in the manual.
  6. Connect inlet and outlet valves: Follow your manufacturer’s guide for specific and proper connections. Use the appropriate connectors, like soldered joints and compression fittings, to connect the outlet and inlet valve of the filter to the main water line.
  7. Install the additional parts: This will depend on your filtration system’s model. You may have added components like carbon filters, a whole house sediment filter, or UV disinfection. Check the manual for additional parts installation guides.
  8. Inspect for leaks: Ensure the connectors are tightly secured, then slowly turn back on the main water line supply and check any leakage. Continue to tighten the connectors or use appropriate sealants to fix them if there are any leaks.
  9. Flush: Once you’ve confirmed everything is secure and has no leakage, turn on several faucets in your house to let the water run. It ensures the water system is flushed and purified water will begin flowing in.

Installing a whole-house filter is extremely difficult and healthy. Be cautious and have assistance if you decide to DIY your whole house installation and have guidance from the manufacturer. 


Image from Unsplash

Maintaining a whole-house filter feels overwhelming and requires a lot for the job. But now that you have this guide, some of your questions have been answered!

How often should you change a house water filter?

Replace your filters in 6 to 9 months. The First American Home Warranty notes that the average whole-house water filtration system needs filter changing every 3 to 6 months. 

Don’t wait for the maximum number of months to replace your filter. It will leave you vulnerable to contaminant build-up and cause low water pressure. 

Can I change the water filter myself?

You definitely can! Changing a water filter is much easier than installing the system. But having professional assistance can also help with maintenance and warranty. If you have knowledge and experience in plumbing, it will be no problem.

What happens if you don’t change your whole house water filter?

Failing to change your whole-house water filter will leave you vulnerable to ineffective filtering, contaminant build-up, and low water pressure due to the sediment build-up that blocks your filters. Buying a whole-house water filter will be in vain when the filtration system is ineffective.

A whole house filter offers purified cleaning and drinking water for your entire home, making it the source of clean water. Your home will be at risk of slow water flow and infected water full of impurities and bacteria.


Learning how to change a whole-house water filter is easier said and done. But once you read the manual and get the hang of the process according to your filtration system, your whole-house filter system will turn out clean as new.

Replacing your whole-house water filters keeps your water system working smoothly in purifying contaminants and lessens the chances of low water pressure in your home. Unlike an over-the-counter or under-the-sink water filter, your entire house will be affected by the water quality your whole-house filter system provides.

Changing your water filter on time will allow you to keep purified water flowing freely into your home and maintain the quality of your whole-house filtration system. Have your reminder ready and invest in whole-house water maintenance to keep your water quality at its highest.