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The 3 Best Carbon Water Filter Systems

We tried dozens of top water Carbon filtration systems to find the best one for your individual needs.

Published by: Paulo Baker

& Last updated:

Best Carbon Water Filter Systems

If you’re looking for a carbon water filter to get filtered drinking water at home, we recommend the Express Water Whole House Water Filter.

Using a carbon-based filtration system in your home is a great way to reduce all the contaminants like chlorine, chloramine, heavy metals, THM’s, and other harmful substances.

Our Pick

Express Water 3-Stage Whole House Water Filter

β€” Best Carbon whole house filter

This water filter uses coconut shell carbon filters with granular activated carbon in stages 2 and 3 to provide pure drinking water and long-lasting filters.

With over 250 5-star ratings, the Express Water 3-stage filter reduces over 52 different impurities from your water including chlorine, rust, copper, lead, and more!

This filter comes with a full filter set, including sediment, granular activated carbon, and activated carbon block filter. It is easy to install and works with no pressure loss β€” which means you can get a water supply at 0.25 gallons per second.

Also great

Aquasana Carbon & KDF Home Water Filter System

β€” Best long-lasting filter system

This Aquasana system comes with carbon and KDF filtration media which removes all contaminants while leaving healthy minerals in your water.

This Aquasana whole house water filter uses Carbon and KDF home water filtration that removes chlorine, chloramines, VOCs, heavy metals, lead, PFOA, and more.

With this filter system, you can get clean water for less than $0.01 per gallon β€” which is a lot less compared to other brands. Plus this filter provides long-lasting clean water throughout your entire home for up to 10 years or 1 million gallons.

Everything we recommend…

Editor’s choice

Express Water 3-Stage Whole House Water Filter

This water filter uses coconut shell carbon filters with granular activated carbon in stages 2 and 3 to provide pure drinking water and long-lasting filters.

Also Great

Aquasana Carbon & KDF Home Water Filtration System

This Aquasana system comes with carbon and KDF filtration media which removes all contaminants while leaving healthy minerals in your water.

Budget Pick

Frizzlife Under Sink Water Filtration System

This filter by Frizzlife uses a 2-stage high-precise filter that removes up to 99.99% contaminants like carbon, lead, chlorine, bad taste, and odor.

How we tested…

We have tested 30+ water filters to find out the best ones for you.

Manufacturer, Capacity, Dimensions, Purification method, Included components, and Certification.

All the water systems were bought from online stores with some standard filters like at least 1,000+ customer reviews, good tank capacity, certifications, and a high overall warranty by the manufacturer.

Express Water 3-Stage Whole House Water Filter

Our Pick

Express Water 3-Stage Whole House Water Filter

β€” Best Carbon whole house filter

This water filter uses coconut shell carbon filters with granular activated carbon in stages 2 and 3 to provide pure drinking water and long-lasting filters.

The Express Water model WH300SCGS is a three-stage system. Filter One is a 5 micron spun fiber sediment filter. This filter removes rust, sand, and other particulates.

Filter two is a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) which removes VOCs, chemicals, chlorine, and other impurities which impact water taste and clarity.

The third filter is an Activated Carbon Block (ACB) filter which further reduces chlorine and those other chemicals that impact water quality. A full set of high-capacity filters, capable of filtering up to 100,000 gallons of water, is included with the unit.

The Express Whole House system is a fairly large unit. It is a “point of entry” system designed to attach to the main water supply. The 1″ standard fittings make it easy to install. The stainless steel frame measures 30″ Tall, 24″ wide, and 8″ deep.

Each filter housing is constructed from sturdy ABS and PCE food-grade plastic. The housings screw into the stainless steel frame for easy filter replacement. Each housing has a pressure gauge that lets you know which filter is ready to be replaced. A pressure relief valve helps reduce spray and spillage when a filter is opened.

The system will provide up to 15 gallons of filtered water per minute at 45 to 80 psi input water pressure.

Quick facts

β†’ Manufacturer: Express Water

β†’ Capacity: 0.25 gallons per second

β†’ Dimensions: 23.5 x 8.5 x 30 inches

β†’ Purification method: Carbon Block, Granular Activated Carbon

β†’ Included components: 3-Stage Whole house system, various parts, 5-Micron SED GAC ACB filters, Manual

Pros: Large filter capacity, fine particle removal, chemical reduction, convenient assembly, and easily available replacement filters.

Cons: Fairly large assembly, and may require adapters if home plumbing is not 1″.

Aquasana Carbon & KDF Home Water Filtration System

Also great

Aquasana Carbon & KDF Home Water Filter System

β€” Best long-lasting filter system

This Aquasana system comes with carbon and KDF filtration media which removes all contaminants while leaving healthy minerals in your water.

The Aquasana model EQ-600 uses a unique Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) in combination with a carbon block filter. The KDF filter kills bacteria that other filters do not. It also does an exemplary job at capturing pesticides and other toxins.

The activated carbon filter removes cysts, lead, PFOA, and PFOS. The EQ-600 removes up to 97% of chlorine. It also reduces other contaminants like lead, mercury, and VOCs. A 10″ pre-filter removes sediment and other particulates.

The KDF and Carbon filters are designed to clean up to 600,000 gallons. The pre-filter needs to be changed every 2-3 months to ensure the life of the main filter lifetime. The flow rate of the unit is specified at 7 gallons per minute.

The Aquasana brand has a variety of optional configurations and components available. This description will refer only to the EQ-600 model. Any options you may choose will change the final dimensions.

The main filtration component of any Aquasana system consists of a cylinder approximately 48″ tall and 10″ in diameter. This unit is referred to as The Rhino. It is constructed of two spun fiberglass chambers stacked one atop the other.

The EQ-600 model also includes a pre-filter which is installed between the water supply’s point of entry and the main filter. The pre-filter housing is made of high-quality PVC. The assembly is approximately 30″ wide. Only the main filter comes assembled. Any pre or post-filters must be assembled by the homeowner.

In the case of the EQ-600, a PVC fitting is used to connect the pre-filter to the main unit. The manufacturer also includes 3/4″ input and output fittings and brackets to complete the installation.

Quick facts

β†’ Manufacturer: Aquasana

β†’ Capacity: 1000000 Gallons

β†’ Maximum flow rate: 7 gallons per minute

β†’ Dimensions: 9 x 46 x 44 inches

β†’ Included components: Pro install kit, and filter tank

Pros: Long Life of 600,000 gallons / 6 years, KDF filter reduces bacteria, many optional components available, kit includes all hardware and fittings, and excellent filtration + chemical reduction.

Cons: High initial cost and pre-filter need to be replaced often.

Frizzlife Under Sink Water Filtration System

budget pick

Frizzlife Under Sink Water Filtration System

β€” Best budget carbon filter system

This filter by Frizzlife uses a 2-stage high-precise filter that removes up to 99.99% carbon, lead, chlorine, bad taste, and odor.

The Frizzlife model MK9 is an under-the-sink, point-of-use filtration system. The single-cartridge contains a two-stage filter.

First, water passes through a 5-micron particle filter. This filter reduces sand, silt, rust, and other fine particles. The 0.5-micron carbon block portion of the filter removes up to 99% of lead, chlorine, mercury, lead, chrome, VOCs, and finer particles.

The flow rate for the filter is 2.0 gallons per minute at 40 PSI of input pressure. Frizzlife states that the filter can last as long as 2 years, but suggests that poor water quality may require replacement sooner.

The MK99 consists of a single filter housing made of PVC. The unit is designed to hang in the under sink cabinet. Hook-up requires disconnecting the faucet supply line and replacing it with the filter supply lines.

A mounting bracket and connection lines are included. Ease of filter element replacement is one of Frizzlife’s selling points. Close the integral valves, unscrew the filter housing, replace the filter, reinstall, and turn the water on. The whole process takes only a few minutes.

Quick facts

β†’ Manufacturer: FRIZZLIFE

β†’ Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 13.5 inches

β†’ Maximum flow rate: 2 gallons per minute

β†’ Included components: Filter housing, hanging bracket, 2 in 1 compound filter cartridge, inlet and outlet brass water hose, 1/2″ to 3/8″ converter fittings

β†’ Certification: NSF/ANSI 53&42

Pros: High filtration rate (0.5 microns), simple installation, low initial investment, and easy filter element replacement.

Cons: Low flow rate, and potentially short filter life.

Who Should Use a Carbon Filter?

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and carbon block filters are the best carbon water filters available. They are effective at removing chemicals that cause offensive odors in drinking water.

In most cases, these odors are caused by hydrogen sulfide or chlorine. These chemicals are captured by activated carbon. Your level of sensitivity will determine if you need an under-sink Point Of Use system or a whole house system. Taste and concerns related to consuming the offending chemical may be a major concern.

In that case, an under-sink system may be adequate. If the smell of the chemicals is the issue, a whole house system may be required. This will provide a reduction in odors throughout the home.

Those who have home wells may consider using GAC and Carbon Block filtration on their water system. Contaminants from groundwater can make their way into well water.

Fuel, solvents, radon, PCBs, and other industrial chemicals from water. Anyone with a well near farmland or an industrialized area should consider installing a high-quality carbon-based filtration system.

They should also be very conscientious about changing filters on a timely basis. While no filter can remove every chemical, a high-quality carbon filter can significantly reduce the levels of harmful and offensive chemicals.

What To Look For When Purchasing a Reverse Osmosis System

Sometimes, the best carbon water filters are not carbon at all. Reverse Osmosis (RO) uses a membrane to remove more contaminants from water than carbon can. The membrane used in these systems filters water by molecular weight.

The RO membrane can remove inorganic chemicals, dissolved solids, radionuclides, synthetic organic chemicals, and salts. Due to the nature of RO filtration, there are some considerations the homeowner must take into account.

1. Water Pressure

The pressure required for a home RO system to function efficiently is 60 – 80 PSI.

Many well and municipal water systems do not provide pressure adequate for a RO membrane to function properly. A pressure booster pump may be required to operate the RO system in such cases.

reverse osmosis filtration system

When investigating reverse osmosis systems, find the recommended input pressure for the system. Then, find out if your domestic water supply meets that requirement. If your water pressure is not sufficient, you will need to add a pressure booster pump to your system.

Most RO suppliers can provide an appropriate pump. There are low-pressure RO systems available. They are not nearly as effective or efficient as high-pressure systems.

2. Waste Water

A typical RO membrane only passes approximately 15% of the supplied water to the treated water tank. The other 85% is considered wastewater and sent to the drain. The “Treated” to “Waste” ratio is dependent on the membrane used and the system pressure.

If you are on a limited water supply, you may want to know the amount of waste before you purchase a RO system. RO may not be an appropriate treatment system if a home has a limited water supply.

3. Space Requirements

The operation of an RO membrane is a slow process. The flow rate of the membrane is not sufficient for direct use. Most home RO systems require a pressurized storage tank to hold treated water. The membrane will pass water to the tank when the system is not being used.

In most cases, a RO water dispenser is added to the sink where the treated water will be used. The tank for a typical home system is usually 3 to 5 gallons in volume. There are two options for the placement of the storage tank.

Inline water filter installation

Tanks are most often placed in a cabinet near the sink. Another option is for the tank to be placed remotely and plumbed to the sink. The alternative is a large membrane that would provide a high volume of water. This option is economically prohibitive for most homeowners.

How Carbon Filters Work

Activated Carbon, whether in the particle or block form, acts like a sponge. The carbon used in filters is produced from a variety of organic charcoal.

The charcoal is then “activated” through thermal or chemical treatments. Activation opens the pores of the charcoal. The result of activation is a huge increase in surface area, which captures the target substances.

Carbon filter working process

The pores of the carbon physically trap some impurities. Chemical impurities are often removed or neutralized by reactions with carbon.

What Carbon Filters Can Remove

Carbon filters are known to remove over 80 chemicals and can reduce over 50 more. When purchasing carbon filters, look for NSF certifications to ensure they are of high quality.

They Can Remove:

  • 12 identified herbicides
  • 14 identified pesticides
  • 32 organic compounds
  • Chlorine

They Can Reduce:

  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Mercury
  • Radon

What Carbon Filters Can Not Remove

While carbon filters are effective at removing many chemicals and chemical compounds, they are not effective at removing dissolved solids.

Often, homeowners who have purchased filtration systems post poor reviews of the product because they use a TDS meter to test their water. A carbon filter will not reduce TDS values. Carbon filters will also not remove microbial contaminants.

Carbon Filter Will NOT Remove:

  • Salts
  • Hard water minerals
  • Dissolved organic compounds
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria

Final Thoughts

The best carbon water filter system will be the one that fits your individual needs perfectly, but each of our top picks is a great option that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Compare them based on your needs, and choose the best one suited to your situation. You’ll enjoy the outstanding filtration each of these systems provides, and soon you’ll be enjoying healthier water with less chlorine, limescale, etc.

Our final recommendation is the Express Water 3-stage filtration system because it has a large filter capacity, comes with a very easy-to-install assembly, and replacement filters are also easily available.

Our Pick

Express Water 3-Stage Whole House Water Filter

β€” Best Carbon whole house filter

This water filter uses coconut shell carbon filters with granular activated carbon in stages 2 and 3 to provide pure drinking water and long-lasting filters.

FAQs

What are some common problems with water filtration systems?

There are 3 common issues experienced with home water filtration systems: short life due to excessive contaminants, mold in components, and clogs due build-up in water lines.

Do Carbon Filters soften water?

No. Filters do remove many contaminants, but not dissolved solids that cause hardness. A water softener will remove hardness. A RO unit may remove the contaminants that cause hard water.

Do Carbon Filters remove viruses and bacteria?

No. Chlorination will kill viruses and bacteria. A UV light will also kill viruses without needing chlorine. A 0.5-micron fiber filter will remove most bacteria.

Do I need a plumber to install a whole house filter system?

If you have some DIY skills, installing a system will not be very difficult. If you are unsure, invest the money to have a handyman or plumber do the installation. It should only take a professional an hour or two to install a typical system.

Photo of author

Article by:

Paulo Baker

Paulo is a senior writer at Dash Appliances, where he research, writes, and reviews home and commercial water filters. Paulo is covering home-related things like water filters, vacuum cleaners, and more since 2019. When he's not researching and testing, he's traveling and playing golf.

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