Does whole house reverse osmosis make sense?

The short answer is “YES” but that doesn’t mean that it is for everyone.  We will consider the pros and cons of a whole-house RO system and you can decide if it is for you or not.

First of all, water quality varies greatly from well water to surface water to municipal water.  Well water may have things like iron, sulfur, manganese and tannin which almost always have to be removed, especially in the case of a whole-house RO system.  Those contaminants must always be removed before the reverse osmosis process.  Let’s not forget that reverse osmosis removes the largest spectrum of contaminants at the most economical cost of any water treatment process.  Essentially, a whole house reverse osmosis system will remove 98 to 99% of most contaminants including Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), sodium, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, arsenic and a plethora of other chemical and organic contaminants.

One of the key ingredients to a whole house reverse osmosis system is proper per-treatment, which includes removing the iron, sulfur, manganese, tannin and other nuisance elements.  So, ahead of an RO system, it is essential that filtration or oxidation of these contaminants are accomplished.  If the water is hard, then it needs to be softened or (what I prefer) use an anti-scalant to prevent hard water build-up on the membranes.  Anti-scalant systems are gaining popularity because no water is wasted and no salt is needed.

A whole house RO system consists of the aforementioned pre-treatment, the reverse osmosis system itself, an atmospheric storage tank, a re-pressurization pump, ultraviolet light, and sometimes a calcite filter to raise the pH or add some TDS back to the water.  Here is what a city water whole-house RO system might look like:


Who might need a whole house reverse osmosis system?  Lots of people.  It could be health related in that they may want to remove as many chemicals as possible from their water.  Many people have a sensitivity to such chemicals and therefore need a whole house RO system.  In other cases, it may be that there are contaminants in the water that create ascetic issues such as high chlorides, sodium, sulfates and others.

Sometimes we see water that has TDS levels in excess of 2,000 PPM (the USEPA recommends drinking water that is below 500 PPM).  I’ll grant you that the water you use to flush your toilet doesn’t have to be super clean, but the amount of water used for flushing toilets in very insignificant compared to most other uses for water in your home.  Washing dishes or clothes, bathing, shampooing, shaving and cleaning in clean reverse osmosis water is a pure joy.

Back in the day, people used to bathe in rainwater, which is generally absolutely soft.  When I was in Haiti a few years ago, we would wait for a heavy rainstorm and stand underneath a downspout plume just to enjoy a good shower.  With shorts on and a bar of soap, we enjoyed every second of that shower.

If taking a shower in the cleanest water on the planet, without chemicals, pesticides and hardness appeals to you, then maybe you are a candidate for a whole house reverse osmosis system.  If you want to be able to drink from any faucet in the home, then maybe a whole house RO system is for you.  Maybe you just want the best water possible.  If so, a home whole house reverse osmosis  system may just be what the doctor ordered!


14 Responses to “Does whole house reverse osmosis make sense?”

  1. Erin Berger says:

    Can you provide a cost estimate for the complete system profiled above? My friend is a very capable Hvac engineer who is going to do my install, mainly I am concerned with the cost of the equipment. Thanks for your article and assistance?

  2. Mark Timmons says:


    Here is the link to our systems:

    We have three sizes. How many in your home and how many bathrooms?

    They are easy to install and we are here 7 days a week for tech support.

  3. Kay Baird says:

    We have a well and need to filter out bacteria. We have an under the sink reverse osmosis system for drinking. What would you suggest and cost. Thank you

  4. Kay Baird says:

    2 people. 2 bathrooms

  5. Mark Timmons says:

    I would suggest a full water analysis before doing anything, but likely you will want to use ultraviolet disinfection, like this:

    Here is the water test I would recommend:

  6. John Lindstrom says:

    We have a RV and we will be living in the full-time and traveling all over the US. Not knowing what kind of water we will be getting into, what would you suggest. I’m leaning towards a whole house system with a water softener. Also, do have companies that would install a system or should it be portable as space matters a lot?

  7. Mark Timmons says:


    First of all, we have many people with RV’s come to our facility and have systems installed. We are in Indianapolis, but I have no idea where you are.

    We have a small, powerful softener made for RV’s:

    We usually use some pre-filters like this:

    Typically, we would install this ahead of the softener with these filters:

    #3: (city water) or (this for well water)

    Followed by:

    and this for just at the sink for drinking:

    Let me know if you have questions.

  8. Kathy Feyk says:

    I have a well that is causing blue staining in my sinks toilets etc and also corroding my fixtures. Do you have anyone in Houston, TX to help me? Need help ASAP. Please. Thanks.
    I discovered my email was wrong so resent.

  9. Mark Timmons says:

    No, we only sell direct, but if you get a detailed water analysis like this:

    we can probably help!

  10. Bern says:

    Hello, can hard water not sure whats all in it cause hair loss. My son’s hair has thinning spots in it and mines is thinning at well. I have brown reside on each shower head and on the facet on the sink. It looks nasty. Cause this cause hair loss?

    Thank you.

  11. John Sagert says:

    Hi Mark,

    How often do you have to change out a RO membrane? I know they are pricey items. Also, how do you get rid of the white (lime??) residue that corrodes every thing and anything that is in my home? That stuff has utterly destroyed 2 hot water heaters now in only 17 years, literally rusting them in 2. And God knows how many bathroom, kitchen and outdoor fixtures I have had to replace. It does not bode well for my fish tank(s) and related equipment either. Fortunately my house is plumbed with PEX, but this does not keep the fittings from falling apart and consequently leaking. Again, fortunately all of the fittings are exposed and easily repaired. Would a RO filter economically survive such an environment? I had a under the sink system for 13 years roughly and honestly, it seemed good except the pre and post filters needed replacement way to often and cost a pretty penny. The RO membrane cost so much it was actually cheaper to replace the whole system!

    My water supply is a community well that is tested multiple times a year with a 200 to 400 ppm TDS, and per the state and county exceeds minimum safe use and consumption standards. I have 2 full baths and 3 persons in my home.

    Any advice would be appreciated!

    Note – I am in the market but I research extensively before I do anything. And since I just finished replacing the hot water heater (again), I am attempting to locate a good economical way to clear up the water. I currently use a whole house sediment filter that runs at 1 micron. But again – this does not remove the “hardness”, just large amounts of them.

    John Sagert

  12. Mark Timmons says:


    The RO Membrane can last from 6 months to 6 years… or more, depending upon how well the water is pre-treated (i.e, softened, iron removed, etc.)

    You get rid of the lime with a softener or an anti-scalant.

    You can replace all the filters AND the membrane on our undersink RO system for $55.00 – usually once a year!

    A softener would be the best solution and if the water were softened, the membrane would last years, making the annual filter cost $34.95.

  13. Maureen says:

    I am on well water and have a terrible sulfur smell. We have been putting hydrogen peroxide down the well, which helps with the smell for a short time. we’re having to use it more and more often. We are researching what will be the best type of system for our problems. I really don’t like water softners because I don’t like the salt taste in my water. Can you please send me some information?


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