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How to Choose the Best RV Water Filter System

Filtering your RV water is an important step for every RVer to take, but choosing a filter might seem overwhelming. There are so many choices and use cases for different filters, and it’s important to choose the right one. Lets take a look at why, when and how to choose the right filter for your RVing needs.

Understanding Water Filters and Their Importance

Before diving into selection criteria, it’s crucial to understand why a water filter is vital for your RV. Water sources vary significantly as you travel. Municipal sources are generally safe but still may be contaminated at the point of use by other campers. Well-water systems are a crapshoot and may contain sediments, bacteria, chlorine, and other contaminants that can affect water taste, smell, and safety. A quality water filter system can remove these impurities, protecting your health and enhancing your travel experience.

Our Off Grid Water Supply System For RV Summer Camp

Types of RV Water Filters

There are several types of RV water filters available, each designed for specific filtration needs:

  1. Sediment Filters – These filters remove dirt, sand, and rust particles from water. These filters are usually the first type used to remove the largest particles but do nothing for dissolved materials. These are considered mechanical filters as their pore size is what stops particles from passing them.
  2. Carbon Filters – carbon filters are a bit different and don’t trap particles in small pores but actually work in two different ways. First of all carbon filters act like a sponge absorbing certain materials. Secondly, carbon filters react with some chemicals dissolved in water, like chlorine, to neutralize it. It does this by reacting with the most molecules and breaking them down into simpler forms. In the example of chlorine, it breaks it down into chloride. They eliminate odors and improve taste by reducing chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other chemicals.
  3. Ceramic Filters – Ceramic filters or another mechanical filter with a much smaller pore size. These filters generally have much smaller pores but tend to clog more quickly. Ceramic filters can usually be cleaned to some extent to extend their lifespan. These are effective in removing bacteria and protozoa from water.
  4. Disposable Mechanical Filters – One of the most common filter types is the disposable mechanical filter. This filter is typically made from a paper-like material and functions like a sediment or ceramic filter because its pore size is small enough to block particulates. These filters generally range from .2 microns to 5 µm(micron) in size. These filters can take out additional contaminates, including bacteria, if the pore size is small enough.
  5. Reverse Osmosis Systems – Reverse osmosis or RO water filters tend to be the most complex systems available. These systems, however, create the purest water and can reduce total dissolved solids to buy a significant margin. RO systems use a semi-permeable membrane and pressure to force pure water across it. The trick with this is that the membrane will clog very quickly and needs to be rinsed constantly. This requires that the system rinse the filter and increase water use. These systems can remove a wide range of contaminants, including dissolved solids.
  6. UV Water Purifiers – ultraviolet water purifiers work by shining UVC light into the water. This UVC light is similar to what is found in direct sunshine that causes damage to DNA. These filters sanitize water by killing living bacteria or protozoa that come in contact with the light . These filters are generally used as the last defense against bacteria and viruses.
  7. Water Softeners – Water softeners are not filters in the traditional sense because they do not trap or remove contaminants from water like sediment, bacteria, or chemicals. Instead, they alter the chemical composition of the water by exchanging ions, explicitly targeting the minerals that cause hardness. As hard water passes through the tank, the resin beads act like a magnet, attracting and holding onto the calcium and magnesium ions, effectively removing them.

Now that you know the filter types lets take a look at how they intgrate into filter systems.

Types of RV Water Filter Systems

In-Line

This in-line RV water filter is one of the simplest ways to filter your water. All you have to do is attach it to your external hose, and it filters your water. This filter improves taste while also filtering out bacteria 20 microns in size or larger and chlorine. 

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Canister Systems 

A canister system is a slightly more involved way to filter all the water coming into the RV but provides some additional advantages compared to the typical in-line filter.

This two-canister system improves taste, filters out sediment, as well as some lead and chemicals, including chlorine, and reduces or eliminates bacteria. It is also simple to install because all you need to do is hook it up to your external hose. Compared to the in-line filter system that filters down to 20 microns, these systems can filter down to much finer sizes.

RV canister filter system
This is a two stage canister system. These are typically the same type of filter used in basic home filtration and include sediment and carbon filters.

Internal

Internal water filtration systems can be built into the RV to filter all water or provide you with filtered water for a specific area, such as only the kitchen sink. These filters do not need to be connected each time.

Under-Sink with a Special Faucet

There are many options for under-the-sink water filters. You will have to install a special faucet to go with the filter. If you only want to filter your drinking water though, this is a great option for RVs. The major benefit is that they save space by having the filtration system under the sink rather than taking up precious counter or fridge space. 

Gravity-Fed

Another option for RV water filtration is to use a gravity filtration system like the Berkey Filter or a Brita filter. All you have to do is pour water in the top and gravity does the rest of the work. However, these filters should only be used on an already potable water source.

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Pro Tip: Before you drop a pretty penny, find out Are Berkey Water Filter Systems Worth It? We would say maybe not!

UV Light Treatment Systems

Most of the time UV light systems for RV’s are point of use for drinking water only. It is possible to get larger systems for the whole RV but they tend to be quite expensive and challenging to install. We have used Acuva point of use UV systems in all our RVs.

Acuva RV water filter system

Over the years, we have used all these filter types in RVs, and they all have their place. But when and why do you need a particular filter type?

Key Considerations When Choosing an RV Water Filter

1. Contaminant Removal

Assess the primary concerns you have about water quality. Are you looking to simply clear out sediment, or do you need to ensure that bacteria and viruses are also addressed? Check the specifications of each filter system to see what types of contaminants they can remove.

2. Flow Rate

Consider how much water pressure you want in your RV. Filter systems can restrict water flow, so look for one that balances effective filtration with an adequate flow rate. While RO systems will create the best water quality, they are very, very slow and cannot filter water on demand for all use cases.

3. Filter Longevity

How often are you willing to change your filters? Some systems require more frequent changes, which can be inconvenient and costly over time. Weigh the filter’s lifespan against your travel habits and budget.

4. Ease of Installation and Maintenance

The best RV water filter system should be easy to install and maintain. Look for systems with clear instructions and simple filter replacement procedures. It’s an added bonus if the system has a modular design that allows for easy expansion or customization.

5. Size and Storage

Space is a premium in an RV. The size of the water filter system should be considered based on where you plan to install it. Additionally, think about how easily it can be stored when not in use.

6. Certification

Check for certifications from organizations like the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or the Water Quality Association (WQA). These certifications indicate that the filters have been independently tested for certain contaminants.

7. Cost

Price can vary widely in RV water filter systems. Set a budget, but remember that the cheapest option may not always be the best value. Consider the cost of replacement filters and potential water quality issues when evaluating the price.

8. Brand Reputation and Reviews

Research brands and read customer reviews. Experience from other RV enthusiasts can offer invaluable insights into the performance and reliability of water filter systems.

Disposable water filter
This is a disposable .2 micron water filter that we used in our RV

When To Use What Filter

Now let’s look at the filters we mentioned at the beginning and when you would need a particular filter.

When To Use Sediment Filters – we always recommend that a sediment filter is used as the first line of defense for RV water. Because we are hooking to so many different water sources, a sediment filter of at least 5 µm is a good choice to use on all water systems. Some of the most common filters you’ll find in RV parks are basic sediment filters that sit in line in the hose that connects to the RV.

When To Use Carbon Filters – If you don’t like drinking chlorinated water, carbon filters are your best option. Many times, carbon filters are the second in a multistage filtration system. We always use carbon filters in our RV water systems. However, we like to be able to disable the carbon filter occasionally. The reason for this is that filling the fresh water tank with chlorinated city water can be a good thing to help keep the water system sanitized. Alternatively, the tank can be sanitized through a traditional sanitization process.

When To Use Disposable Mechanical Filters – Disposable mechanical filters are generally the third in a three-stage filtration system. These filters should be a smaller pore size than the first sediment filter or carbon filter. These contract finer particulates, and if you use a size below .5 µm, it can even protect you from bacteria in the water. These filters are easy to use and easy to change, as well as being less expensive than other types.

When To Use Ceramic Filters – ceramic filters are a bit unique in that they can last a lot longer if they are maintained. These filters generally clog a bit quicker depending on their poor size. They can’t, however, be removed from the canister and scrubbed to remove the most contaminated layer of the filter. If you want a very small pour mechanical filter around .2 to .5 microns that can me maintained for longevity, these filters might be a good choice. We have use ceramic filters as drinking water filters in the past and had good success, however, after the first time they clogged, they required frequent removal and cleaning. The upfront cost on ceramic filters tends to be a lot higher than disposable mechanical filters as well.

When To Use Reverse Osmosis Systems – Reverse osmosis systems will always remove the most materials from your water, including total dissolved solids, and create the best-tasting water possible. These systems are great if you want consistently good drinking water on any water supply. RO systems, however, are very slow and require a lot of wastewater that will go down the drain. They work best when you are on full hookups. RO systems always require a water tank and frequently include a small one installed under the sink or behind a fridge at the point of use. RVs are unique, however, in that they have giant freshwater tanks and it is possible to slowly filter all of the water use by the RV and store it in the freshwater tank. You then use your water pump in your RV to provide all of your water needs and will always have RO water at all of your faucets. This will provide the best water quality possible, but at the highest cost, and the most waste.

When To Use UV Water Purifiers – UV water purifiers are a great choice for final sanitization is the last step in a multi-stage water filtration process. We always use UV sanitization on our drinking water line as the last step before it reaches our glass.

When To Use Water Softeners – water softeners are really a personal choice whether you like them or not. RV water softeners work the same way that household water softeners work but need to be recharged manually and more frequently. RV water softeners tend to process 500 to 1000 gallons of water before they need to be recharged. If you frequently RV in very hard water areas water softeners can improve the quality of water throughout the RV.

Over the years, we have tried all the different water filtration systems, and they all tend to have a good use case. The best water filtration system is going to depend on your needs and wants. At minimum, we recommend having an in-line sediment filter. We have seen some nasty things come through water systems that a simple sediment filter can prevent from reaching your water tank or faucet.

Our Current Water Filtration System

We are currently very happy with our filtration system and have used it all over North America, including Mexico. Our current preferred RV water filtration system is the Blu brand 3-stage .2 micron system. We currently are using the MR3 elite package from Mobile Must Have, which includes a water softener. The main filters are all disposable mechanical filters that do an excellent job at removing impurities. We also use an Acuva UV sanitation system for our final drinking water line.

We have been very happy with the system. It is relatively expensive, but because our RV is our full-time home we feel that it’s worth it because we never know exactly what our water quality we are getting is like.

Pro Tip: Learn all about How Does A RV Water System Work?

RV Water Filtration Is Important!

While there are many options for RV water filtration, they all have one thing in common: they keep you safer when you’re traveling. RV water filtration is a simple and cost-effective way to get cleaner, better-tasting water. The system you choose will depend on your travel habits and filtration needs. But any of the options above provide a great way to get cleaner water wherever the road may take you.

Pro Tip: Get the best water quality in your RV by discovering Should You Have a Reverse Osmosis System for Your RV?

RV Faucets and Filters That Will Effortlessly Save & Purify Water - RV Touch Faucet

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Mark

Tuesday 7th of November 2023

Have purchased and installed 2 Acuva UV water purification systems (prior RV and current rig). Love it!

If your rig has a built-in ice maker, install a T for it between your Acuva unit and the faucet to have treated water also go into your ice maker.

Also, for winterizing, take a foot and a half long piece of tubing and put two quick disconnects on it. That way you can remove the inline filter, replace with the temporary tubing (twisted in a pigtail), and then winterize away! Next spring after you unwinterize just use the quick connects to remove the temp tubing and install your new inline filter and flush it out. Enjoy!

Best, -Mark

Jeff

Tuesday 7th of November 2023

My son in law used to teach a survival course for the Marine Corps, he used to lead a 10-15 day back country course in both winter and summer. He said the one thing that gets guys is not following water filtration! They all think they’re up in the mountains with pure water. Inevitably someone comes down with stomach problems and the rest of the group has to carry that person load till they can get out! I think I’ll take your advice and add a UV filter after the tanks filter. Thanks both of you for your advice!

Mike

Tuesday 7th of November 2023

I use a Berkey in combination with an in-line camco filter. Tip: if you are using a pressure regulator (which you should) be sure to position it after any filters so you can monitor pressure going into the RV. On demand water heaters require a certain pressure to operate efficiently. This will also let you know when it is time to change filters.

John Fleming

Monday 7th of December 2020

Your water filter link ( "We use the RV Water Filter Store Ultra Pure Premium Under Sink drinking water system.") does not link to a specific filter identified. It links to a web page having several filter systems. Which one were you referring to ?

Mortons on the Move

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Great question, John! To be more specific, we use the "Essential System." Hope that helps clarify!

Not So Free

Monday 7th of December 2020

Interesting article. I'll save it. At the present time all of our trip are short. We carry ~10 gallons of water in portable jugs for drinking and cooking. That water comes from our well and is run through our Big Berkey.

Mortons on the Move

Monday 7th of December 2020

Thanks! For short trips, carrying water from home is definitely a cost-effective option. :)