The Best Types of Water Filters for RVs

Deciding between reverse osmosis and UV filtration or preparing for your first RV water filter purchase? This guide will help you choose the best filter for your rig and lifestyle.

An RV water filter serves many purposes, mainly giving RVers peace of mind when they drink water from their rig’s taps. When you live in a sticks-and-bricks house, the city publishes water tests to stay accountable for clean water. And those with well water can have regular tests done on their water for impurities. But RVers can experience unknowns in their water supplies while on the road. Here’s what you need to know about RV water filters. 

Sources of Water in an RV

There are two ways to get water in your RV: You can hook up to the local city or well water, or you can fill your fresh water tank at home. And while you might think these are both safe options, some areas in the U.S. have dangerous water. When visiting a new city, you can look up reports for water quality, but it’s not common practice.

When camping in remote areas, the available water hookups usually source from well water, which has unknown factors—it’s tested less regularly, and you probably won’t find published water quality reports online. 

You also need to consider your fresh water tank’s quality and cleanliness; if it’s not clean and sanitized properly, your water may present health hazards. 

Important Factors When Purchasing a RV Water Filter

There are multiple types of RV water filters, and which type is best for you depends on several factors.

  1. Where do you need your water to be filtered? Do you want to filter all water coming into your rig, including to the sinks, toilet, and shower? Or do you just need to filter the water coming from the kitchen sink? 
  2. You also need to decide if you want to filter only the city and well water or if you also want to filter water from your fresh water tank.
  3. Another factor is how much water you’ll need. Some water filters require electricity to run, and the more water you filter, the more energy you use. Additionally, some types of filtration, like reverse osmosis, create water waste, which is harmful to the environment. If you boondock, you need to conserve both water and power, so efficiency is especially important. Plus, if you filter only the water that you need, you’ll save money on filtration costs.
RV getting fresh water at dump station.
Outlet Park RV Dump Station in Melvern, Kansas. | Photo by: WheelsUnhitched

Common Water Filter Terminology 

When you’re looking for your next RV water filter, you’ll come across some specific terminology. Understanding these definitions will help you make the right choice for your needs.

  • Microns: A micron is a unit of measure used for microscopic particles. It’s equal to one-millionth of a meter. For perspective, a strand of human hair is 70 microns in diameter. The smaller the micron rating, the smaller the particles your filter can remove.
  • Flow Rate: Flow rate tells you how quickly the water will flow through the filter. A higher flow rate means a steadier, stronger stream of water coming from your faucet.
  • NSF Certified Classes: The NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) has a certification standard that splits your water into NSF classes. It tells you the smallest size (in microns) of particles a system filters. Class I filters remove particles between 0.5 and 1 microns. Class VI filters block only particles greater than 50 microns.
  • Cartridges: Some water filters are single-use, and others you can reuse by simply replacing the cartridge. The cartridge captures particles from water. The water passes through, but the small particles do not. 

Types of RV Water Filters

Once you understand RV water filter terminology, start researching the different water filters available. Here are the most common types: 

RV carbon water filter on a picnic table.
An in-line carbon RV water filter from Camco.

Carbon Filters

Carbon filtration systems are efficient ways to get clean, great-tasting water. With the popularity of companies like Brita and Pur, you’re probably familiar with this filtration method. Here, a solid but porous carbon block filter directs the water flow through small channels where it comes in contact with a lot of carbon. This granular activated carbon binds impurities, essentially trapping them and releasing only clean water into the pitcher.

Carbon filters are great for removing chlorine’s smell and taste, which cities use as a disinfectant. They also effectively remove pesticides, bacteria, and dirt.

Sediment Filters

If your water is discolored or murky, you’ve got an issue with sediment. Dirt in your water is not just unappealing and unsafe but also bad for your RV’s plumbing. The small particles suspended in the water can build up and clog your pipes, which in turn damages your plumbing and fixtures and weakens your water pressure. It can also clog the rest of your water filter and render it ineffective.

This is exactly why some water filters utilize sediment pre-filters. Essentially a fancy screen, this filter physically blocks particles from getting through. It’s recommended that your RV has one as the first line of defense for your entire RV water system for all the reasons listed above. If you hook up exclusively to city water, it’s not imperative, but if you connect to a campground water supply, it can be essential.

Ultraviolet Light Filters 

The best feature of ultraviolet (UV) light filters is the level of filtration. They filter nearly 100 percent of bacteria, viruses, and cysts. They also provide water on demand and have a long lifespan. This means less work for you after the initial setup. The cons? UV light filters are one of the most expensive options for an RV water filter. They also require more installation work than an in-line or canister filter.

For the infrequent RV camper who only uses their plumbing a few times a year, a UV purification system can help clean dormant water sitting in your system for a while. If you live full-time in an RV, constant water turnover in your system helps keep it clean, though you should still sterilize your storage tank often. While UV filtration is excellent for cleaning water, it doesn’t help with the taste or smell. For this reason, the best RV water filters pair a UV system with a carbon filter.

Reverse Osmosis 

Like UV light, reverse osmosis is effective at filtering, and is often considered to be the most effective at filtering contaminants. The biggest downside is that reverse osmosis involves water waste. And you don’t want to waste water when camping, especially if you’re boondocking. Reverse osmosis also requires appropriate wastewater disposal, which isn’t as simple as dumping into the sewer system. So, using reverse osmosis in an RV can be challenging.

Reverse osmosis systems can take up quite a bit of space, and with its complexity, it filters at a much slower flow rate than any other water filtration system. However, if you choose to allot the necessary space and build secondary drainage, you’ll get amazing quality water no matter where you travel. Those who choose to install an RO system in their RV often only use it to supply their drinking and cooking water.

Water Softeners 

Water softeners are an optional addition to your RV water system, but they’re not the same as water filtration. Water softeners are useful if you experience hard water, which can leave spots on your dishes and glasses after washing. Hard water can also dry your skin and cause scale buildup. Adding a water softener can help, but it won’t remove particles or bacteria from your water.

In-Line Filters vs. Canisters 

Both in-line and canisters filter all of the water entering your RV when you attach them to your external water hose. The fundamental difference is the level of filtration. Canisters filter more than an in-line filter. You also have more options and versatility for a canister RV water filter. You can choose filters based on what you want them to remove, like bacteria, chemicals, and sediment.

The Best RV Water Filters: Filter Placement Options

Option 1: Canister Filters

Water filters

A canister RV water filter can be customized based on your needs. Canister filters allow you to drop in one, two, or three filters, depending on their size and your needs (so, for example, you could run the water through a sediment filter in the first canister, and a carbon filter in the second canister). This filtration process can occur under the sink or outside the RV before the water comes into your storage tank.

Reverse osmosis systems are only available as a canister system since they are too complex to fit into an RV inline water filter.

Clearsource RV Water Filter System

Clearsource RV water filters are one of our top choices and they’re often featured in RV industry and lifestyle publications. 

Clearsource offers the best canister filtration system. The extra-large canisters mean you’ll get up to 6.5 gallons per minute and the brand offers both a two-canister and three-canister design depending on your filtration needs.

Option 2: UV Light Treatment System

Ultraviolet light filters eliminate bacteria from unsafe drinking water by exposing it to lightwaves that kill harmful organisms and prevent future bacteria growth. If you’re traveling to an area with questionable water, a UV filter will help prevent you from getting a water-borne illness.

Acuva UV Water Purification

Acuva sells the best UV light treatment system on the market, with a system tailored specifically to RVs. 

The UV technology filters out 99.9999 percent of particles to keep your drinking water safe. This RV water filter delivers filtered water at 0.3 gallons per minute and uses a special faucet installed alongside your kitchen sink.

Option 3: Countertop Filters

Countertop water filters use gravity to pull the water through their filter. Featuring nozzles like water coolers, these are just for drinking and cooking water.

This filtration system is best if your camping spot has relatively clean water for brushing your teeth, showering, and washing dishes. However, if you want to make sure it is safe for all your water systems, you’d want to consider a filtration system that connects directly to your plumbing.

Berkey Water Filter

Berkey water filters are the best gravity-fed filtration system. It’s an excellent option for filtering your water with no electricity. 

Berkey water filter on counter.

Berkey water filters come in a range of sizes from 1.5 gallons to 6 gallons, making it easy to find the perfect size for any RV. It filters out 99.999 percent of bacteria and viruses, and you only have to change the filter cartridge every 6,000 gallons.

Option 4: Inline Filters

Water filters

One convenient design connects the RV water filtration system directly to your plumbing, and it’s understandably called an inline water filter. If you go this route, you can tuck the water filter next to your water supply tank or under the kitchen sink. You could also filter the water outside of your RV, connecting the inline filter to the water inlet source.

Camco TastePure In-Line Water Filter

Camco TastePure is the best option for an in-line water filter. It’s simple to use, just attach the filter to your hose, and it filters all of the water that comes into your RV. 

The Camco RV water filter offers an improved taste and filters particles as small as 20 microns.

How often should you change your RV water filter?

There’s a lot of variability in how often you should change your RV water filter. It depends on the type of filter you choose and how often you use it. You can expect to change an RV water filter every 3 to 6 months for most models, but some high-end options might last longer. Follow the recommendations that come with your specific filter for the best results.

Do RV water filters remove chlorine?

RV water filters remove some chlorine, but no water filter is 100 percent effective in filtering out chlorine. While some filters are more effective than others, most will filter out at least 90 percent of the water’s chlorine content.

Is RV water safe to drink?

RV water is only as safe as your water source. If you have clean drinking water at home and fill your tanks, your water is probably safe as long as your tanks are clean and the water hasn’t sat stagnant for a long time. If you use city water at a campground, your water is probably safe if it’s from a city water supply. If it comes from well water, again, it’s probably safe, but there are more unknowns. No matter your source, you should consider an RV water filter for your health and safety.

How do you clean an RV water filter?

Usually, you don’t clean an RV water filter but instead replace it or the filter cartridge. This depends on your system. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacing your filter cartridges or the entire filter.

We recommend everyone use a water filter in their RV to stay healthy and safe while traveling. Installation is typically straightforward, and with a little up-front work, your filter will work for months before you have to worry about it again. 

There are many RV water filters for removing bacteria, dirt, and chlorine tastes from any water source. With everything out there, you can surely find multiple products that strike a good balance between your water filtration needs and the size restrictions of your RV.

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