If you spend weeks or even months at a time on your RV, you want to be able to cook, bathe, and drink potable water. That’s why you have your trusty RV water filter. You know that your water filtration system back at home doesn’t last forever, and nor does the water filter in your RV. How often should you replace your RV water filter?
Every three to four months is a good time replace your RV water filter. Depending on the type, some water filters can stretch to six months between replacements, but the average water filter should not last this long.
In today’s article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about RV water filtration systems, including the types of filters and whether you can clean versus replace the filter. We’ll even discuss the signs that your water filter is ready for replacement.
RV Water Filter Types
The water that flows from your RV’s water tank is rarely pretty stuff. You may end up with city water laced with chlorine if you source your water from a campground. Even outside of that, unfiltered water usually contains sediment and/or dirt, neither of which you want to drink or bathe with.
An RV water filter will purify your water before it ever reaches your lips. Depending on how much purification you need, you can select from a variety of RV water filters. Let’s talk about the different types now.
The most basic type of filter for RVs is a simple hose filter. You just connect this filter to a hose line running to your RV and it will begin cleaning the water, at least to a degree. Most sediment can remain with a hose filter, which is something to be wary of. Otherwise, your water should taste and smell clean.
In the same vein as a hose filter is an inline RV water filter. This has sediment removal and carbon filtration capabilities for even better water purification than what you get with a hose filter. That said, the lack of water flow combined with the short-term use you’ll get out of an inline filter means it’s not for everyone. If you’re on your RV for months at a time, you should skip both hose and inline water filters, as they’re insufficient for your needs.
Instead, you need a heavier-duty canister RV water filter with one or more cartridges. The single-cartridge system should include carbon filtration and sediment removal at least. For moderate use onboard your RV, a water filter of this nature is quite beneficial.
Once you get into dual-cartridge canister water filters, you have more purification. This includes odor and carbon taste removal as well as disposable sediment removal up to 1 micron.
The best and most expansive type of canister RV water filter is undoubtedly the triple-cartridge system. This has a cartridge for removing phosphate and sediment, another cartridge for water odors, and yet a third cartridge for improving water taste. If you live on your RV year-round or very close to it, you’ll need a powerful, cleansing water filter like this.
If you’re more concerned with sediment above other issues with water quality, then it’s a good idea to buy a sediment filter. Designed to capture all types of sediment, your RV water will be free of sand, soil, clay, silt, minerals, and other particles that can float around in your H2O.
Reverse Osmosis Filter
A reverse osmosis, or RO, water filter uses a specialized membrane. This membrane is permeable to a point. Pressure sends the flow of water towards the membrane. As the water flows through the semi-permeable membrane, the contaminants get stuck within the membrane, leaving only clean, healthy water to pass through to the other side. This is the water you drink.
Another type to consider is a ceramic filter. The porous surface within the filter is made of smooth, hard ceramic to clean bacteria from your water. You can install a ceramic water filter in all sorts of places around your RV, such as on your countertop or beneath your sink.
Your last option for RV water filtration is to use a carbon filter. This sizable filter absorbs particles, which then stick to the carbon filter and cannot dislodge themselves. Organic chemicals stand no chance against a carbon filter, nor do smaller particles and contaminants.
How Often Do you Need to Buy a Replacement?
As many options as you have for your RV water filter, even the triple-cartridge canister variety does not last forever. Like we discussed in the intro, you’ll get three to four months on average out of your water filter before you should replace it.
Some water filters can last as long as six months, such as an inline filter or a ceramic filter that attaches to the sink in your RV. The reason for the extended lifespan though is because this filter won’t purify as many contaminants as other water filter types. So while you can go longer between replacements, you’re not necessarily drinking and using the cleanest water.
How Do You Know When Your RV Water Filter Needs Replacing?
Let’s say you don’t remember the last time you got a new RV water filter, so you’re sort of flying by the seat of your pants regarding replacement. Are there any outward signals that will indicate you need to get rid of your current water filter?
Indeed, here are some signs to be on the lookout for.
Your Water Has Started to Stink
For a while, your water didn’t have an odor, so you didn’t mind using the water from your RV for cooking dinner, brushing your teeth, and hydrating yourself. The past few days though, each time you get some water, it has a distinct and frankly unappealing odor to it. The smell almost sort of wears off after a while, until you go to use water from your RV again. Then the odor assaults your nostrils once more.
As your water filter wears down from use, it works less efficiently. If you have odorous water, it’s because your filter is old.
Your Water Doesn’t Come Out Clear
You had appreciated how you could get crystal clear water from your filtered RV water tank, at least for a little while. Now the water has particles floating in it. Maybe you don’t see particles all the time, but often enough that it’s a cause for concern.
These particles are sediment, and they will only come through more and more if you continue to use your old water filter.
Your Water Tastes Funny
Besides the smell and the appearance of floating particles, your water has also become unpalatable. Each time you sip it, you taste sharp notes of something metallic or salty. This has you wondering if your water is truly potable. More than likely, it’s not, or it’s well on its way to becoming not potable.
If you didn’t realize it by now, this is yet another glaring sign that you need a new RV water filter, stat.
The Filter Cartridge Is Dirty
If your water seems okay but you’re still not sure if it’s time for a new water filter, then check out the filter itself. It will look dingy and may give off an odor of chlorine and other water contaminants. You shouldn’t keep using this filter.
It’s Been About Three Months
Before it ever gets to the point where you’re drinking water of questionable quality, you can always go by the rule of thumb that every three months, no matter what, you change out the water filter. It’s always better to replace your filter earlier than later to avoid a steep drop in water quality.
Do You Always Need to Replace Your RV Water Filter or Can You Clean It?
Okay, so you took a look at your RV water filter and well, it’s pretty gross. We’ll talk in the next section about some water filter brands to consider, but they’re not exactly super-duper cheap. Do you really have to throw your money away every three months or can you clean your water filter instead of replacing it?
You could possibly clean the filter, yes, but the keyword there is possibly. You’d need to use a very, very gentle flow of water, as even some sinks running on full blast have enough pressure to damage the delicate parts of your water filter. Similarly, scrubbing hard with an abrasive sponge will almost certainly rip apart the filter.
The problem though is that you can’t necessarily tell whether your filter was damaged by your cleaning. Tears on a microscopic level are still tears, and they will impact how your filter works, but they’ll be invisible to the naked eye.
It’s only be once your water tastes and smells funky that you’ll wonder if you did a good job cleaning the filter. This could inspire you to try cleaning it again, this time scrubbing even more vigorously and causing more damage.
You can also err too much on the side of caution, going super-delicate to the point where your water filter isn’t clean. Since it’s still holding onto sediment and other chemicals, once you plunk your dirty water filter back in, it won’t work. Before you know it, your water will smell and taste bad, and you may see particles in the water for your efforts.
If it wasn’t clear, cleaning your RV water filter is an incredibly fragile balancing act. If you go too light, you won’t clean the filter and it’ll continue to work poorly. Yet go too hard and the filter is damaged and again doesn’t work well.
It’s no wonder then that so many RV owners simply opt to throw the filter away and put a new one in. Yes, this costs more money, but with that expense comes greater peace of mind, so it’s worthwhile.
5 RV Water Filters to Consider
If this will be your first time buying an RV water filter, you may wonder which are the best ones out there. Here are 5 filters to get you started.
Culligan RV-800 Exterior Pre-Tank Recreational Vehicle Water Filter with Hose
Our first pick is an Amazon’s Choice product and quite a renowned one among RVers, the Culligan RV-800. This exterior carbon filter is granular-activated to remove bacteriostatic, sediment, chlorine, and poor odor and taste.
The filter works at 2,000 gallons max. It comes with a connector hoses that’s 12 inches as well as a bacteriostatic filter media. You can use the Culligan filter for all sorts of vehicles besides RVs, including boats, motorhomes, trailers, and campers. You get a five-year warranty with your purchase.
Cleansource Premium RV Water Filter System
The Cleansource Premium RV Water Filter System also earns a lot of acclaim, and rightfully so. It’s taken home awards, including from TrailerLife Magazine in 2018, where this water filter was declared as Essential Equipment for RV Camping.
With the Cleansource Ultra system, your water is filtered up to three different ways before you drink or use it. All filter elements meet approval of NSF International, which certifies water filters. The carbon-block technology with coconut shell and dual-stage filtering will remove contaminants like giardia, cysts, volatile organic compounds, chlorine, and more.
Camco 40043 TastePure RV/Marine Water Filter with Flexible Hose Protector
Another good RV water filter to consider is the Camco TastePure. This complete water filter system comes with a hose protector to prevent kinking and to limit the strain on your filter connections. The KDF filter with low-lead certification can even stop bacteria from growing in your filter during the offseason.
Camco’s granular activated carbon filter removes sediment that’s 20 microns or bigger. You only have to attach the TastePure to a water or gardening hose to get started. According to Camco, their water filter lasts for three months on average.
Neo-Pure WaterPur KW1 Replacement RV Water Filter
As yet a second Amazon’s Choice product, you also want to keep the Neo-Pure WaterPur on your radar. This filter can operate at temperatures between 40- and 165-degrees Fahrenheit with a flow rate of 2.5 GPM and a total capacity of 10,000 gallons.
The coconut shell carbon block filter is made with a thicker, heavier wall to remove more VOCs and other chemicals. Two sets of O-rings even send bypass right out of the filter.
Alexapure Pro Stainless Steel Water Filtration System
Our last recommended water filter is the Alexapure Pro Stainless Steel Water Filtration System. It can hold raw water at a capacity of 8.5 liters or 2.25 gallons, filtering the water in the same quantities. Using gravity-fed filtration, the Alexapure never needs electricity.
All you have to do is dump your water in and the filters in the Alexapure, especially the gravity-block core filter and its hybrid ceramic shell, will get right to work. Your water will be free of E. coli, TCP, fluoride, chlorine, cysts, viruses, bacteria, lead, and more than 200 other water impurities.
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Living off the land may sound rustic, but you cannot go without a water filtration system on your RV. Unfortunately, campground water isn’t as clean and pure as we all hope for. Even when washing dishes, you want to be sure the water you are using is filtered
The average lifespan of your water filter is three to four months. You could try cleaning your filter, but since this can cause more harm than good, you’re better off replacing your filter early and consistently to maintain water quality. Best of luck!