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A Step-By-Step Guide on When and How to Change Water Filters

Clean and tasty water coming into the home represents a great victory for modern society. To keep this miracle flowing can sometimes take a bit of maintenance.

Water filters help reduce pollutants and contaminants in water. However, the water filter only lasts so long before it needs to be changed out. The EPA presents guidelines on a plethora of treatment processes. While some are better for large-scale, the small-scale home options can still baffle.

Knowing both when and how to change water filters may seem like limited knowledge. Something that only plumbers and contractors need to know.

For those looking to make a go at the DIY route of home maintenance read on. We’ll explain both when and how to change out a water filter in an easy to follow step by step guide.

Signs a Filter Needs Changing

The biggest factor in determining how often you will need to change a water filter comes from the water condition itself.

Water which is recommended to be filtered before drinking will clearly require a faster turn around on filter changes. In areas where water comes into the house at an adequate quality and you filter for flavor or piece of mind, the filter may last much longer.

General Rules

Different types of filters will have different rates of wear. Consider that a single unit attached to a single faucet will need fewer changes than a whole house filter. The amount of flow through the two filters makes an obvious difference.

A whole house filter may need to be changed as often as every 3 months for an average family size of 4. Halve that number or double it and you will adjust the timetable accordingly.

Water Quality

As mentioned, water quality affects the timetable directly. Failing to change a filter in a timely manner will expose the household to some dangers.

Check recommendations with your local department of works to see their recommendations. If you live in an area with flooding or hurricanes a filter should be changed after any major event.

In general, water can come out of the tap with some bubbles which should dissipate quickly, depending on your distance to an aquifer. Cloudy water or discolored water indicates an issue with filters.

Set Reminders

Once you establish a timetable make certain reminders get set along with it. This will help you to keep filters up to date and avoid sediment leaking into the house supply.

Steps to Change Water Filters

Now that you know when to change a filter it is time to go over how to change a water filter.

Follow these steps and you’ll know how to change a whole house water filter. For smaller individual filters the process is much the same. Notably, step 3 and step 9 don’t apply to a single faucet filter.

1. Prepare

This single largest step helps makes every other step go smoothly. Going into a job unprepared leads to delays and complications. Never start a crucial home repair with some of the tools and some idea what you are doing that gets expensive.

Gather all the tools you will need. This includes a filter wrench and strap wrench to remove and tighten the housing an filter. Make certain you have the correct replacement filter.

You will also need some general plumbing supplies. Acquire food grade silicone grease for the O-ring. Use plumber’s tape for creating tight seals on pipes and threads.

Know how to find and shut off each of the water appliances in the house. Know where the main valve shut-offs are for the house.

Finally, have a bucket or two and some rags or towels for mopping up the work area as you go. Filling a bucket with water before step 2 gives you some better cleaning options as well.

2. Turn It Off

Turn off the water for the appliances before you turn off the water for the house main. This will prevent the water charged in the system from gushing out as you start to remove the filter.

To this end confirm that the main valve is off. Then open up a faucet or tap at the end of the line and wait for any excess to discharge.

3. Bypasses

Depending on the house set up you may have a bypass. If not, continue to step 4. This is the only optional step in how to replace a water filter.

If you do have a bypass it will allow you to keep the water on for the house while working on the filter.

Be careful to follow the correct order in dealing with the bypass. Start by turning off the handle going into the filter. Then the handle going into the house, to prevent backflow. Finally, you will open the bypass handle.

In-line handles mark on and perpendicular handles mark off.

4. Open Canister

Before you hit the housing canister with the filter wrench, check for pressure in the filter. Some filters have a release button that will discharge water pressure inside the housing. This makes loosening much easier.

If no such button exists, give the housing a few tries. If it is too tight, double check your water is off and the system has been discharged. If after a few tries the housing is still tight be careful and move on to the strap wrench for better leverage.

You don’t want to break the filter wrench nor do you want to pull so hard that you pull the pipes loose. The housing can be tricky to move and many people complain about the tightness. Proceed with caution to avoid causing damage to the filter bracket or the house.

Place your empty bucket under the housing and loosen. Even with the system discharged and the pressure release, some water will come out.

5. Remove and Clean

Dump any water in the filter housing into your handy bucket. Check the water for debris and sediment. Anything large in the water may be from a broken water line and should be checked or repaired. Take into account the local water quality unfiltered when making this assessment.

Next, you will remove the actual water filter. When you change a water filter inspect it for build-up and debris. The outside should be dirtier than the inside of the cylinder. Look for signs of rust, large sediment, and rocks and concrete.

Each of these could represent issues with the pipes coming into the house.

If you don’t see any issues proceed to clean out the housing in preparation for the new filter.

6. Inspect Seals

Now you want to pull out and inspect the O-ring. This creates a seal between the bracket and the housing canister to prevent leaks.

Water loss from small leaks creates big problems. The issue of water loss is common enough the USGS has a calculator for explaining the loss.

The O-ring should fit snuggly and have no cracks or missing pieces. If you see damage replace the O-ring. If you don’t detect any damage, gently clean the ring with warm water and a cloth.

Don’t stretch the ring or subject it to cleansers and detergents which will weaken it.

7. Repair Seals

Apply the silicone grease to the O-ring and replace it in the bracket or the top of the filter housing. Some set-ups have an O-ring in both places so do both.

Apply plumber’s tape to the threads of the housing so it will make a tight seal when reattached.

8. Filter In

Most filters can simply be put into the housing canister. Some, like charcoal filters, require a presoak or rinse to activate them and remove particles.

Follow the instructions for you filter type for best results. Strangely, changing the filter is the easiest step in changing a water filter.

Attach the filter canister back onto the bracket and tighten it by hand. A little tightening with the filter wrench can be done. Between the silicone grease and plumber’s tape, things should tighten quickly without much effort.

The system will become harder to loosen once the water is on and the pressure forces the seals firmly into place.

9. Pressure On

Turn the bypass off if you have one.

Slowly turn the water into the filter on. One quarter at the max. Let the water fill for a few minutes and watch for leaks. It is a lot easier to turn the water off from smaller pressure and fix problems than to go full blast and have a gusher.

If not problems occur open up the backflow pipe on the other side of the filter. Again, one quarter is plenty. Listen for and check the water coming out of the open tap at the end of the line. Check for sediment and debris to ensure the filter is doing its job.

If things look good pressure up to half and check everything again. Finally, turn the water back on to full and close the tap at the end of the line.

10. Clean Up

Wipe down the filter and the pipes to remove any remaining or leftover silicone grease and debris. Wash off and store any tools. Wash out the buckets and toss or clean your rags and towels as you normally do.

Take a moment and enjoy a job well done.

Don’t Filter Us Out!

Things taste better when they come as the end result of your own effort. Now that you can change water filters you may wonder what else needs maintenance.

Well, if you care to learn, we have guides for a variety of different home filtration units and how to keep your air, water, pool and more clean and efficient.

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