Pros: Reduces sediment, dirt, rust, sand, and silt. Inexpensive filters.
Cons: Filters have to be replaced regularly.
Having read the other reviews appearing for these products, I realized that other reviewers are responding to the entire line of Culligan's water treatment products and are not writing about the products in question. The other reviews bear no relation to the products which are displayed here which are, in fact, whole house SEDIMENT water filters. Since I already own a Culligan whole house sediment water filter, I thought it would be helpful to clarify what these products really are.
The Culligan whole house sediment water filters which are displayed here are designed to reduce sand, silt, dirt, rust, and sediment in the water which flows throughout your whole house.
A whole house sediment water filter is typically installed on the main water line for the house, usually right after the water meter. I installed a Culligan whole house sediment water filter unit by myself (I used to be a plumber's helper). If you are handy, you can probably install it yourself so long as you follow the instructions. If you aren't, then get a plumber to install it for you.
In fact, several companies offer whole house sediment water filters. But since this review is about Culligan whole house sediment water filters, I will confine my comments to them.
The products which are displayed are the HF-150 and HF-160 whole house sediment water filters. Their filter housings are made of heavy duty plastic and are very durable. Their filter cartridges are easy to replace. The HF-150 costs about fifteen dollars and the HF-160 costs about twenty-five dollars. The HF-150 has an opaque filter housing. The HF-160 has a clear filter housing which is useful because it allows you to monitor the condition of the filter cartridge.
Both units accept standard filter cartridges (9-3/4" high and 2-5/8" in diameter) made by many manufacturers. Filter cartridges are widely available at plumbing supply houses and Sears, Home Depot, etc. Of course, they are also available for purchase on the Internet. They cost about two to ten dollars depending on their porosity (micron rating) and capacity (useful life). Naturally the better ones cost closer to ten dollars. But considering how useful they are and how well they work, I would say that they are pretty cheap.
Personally, I like the idea of filtering out the smallest particles possible so I use Culligan P-5 cartridges which filters down to 5 microns. They are supposed to last 8,000 gallons (in practice, roughly 2 months depending on water usage). Of course, the more water I use the more often I have to replace them. If you prefer to change your filter cartridge less often, you can get other filters which have a larger micron rating and last longer. Larger filter units which use larger filters and have larger capacity are also available (for which, see the Culligan HD-950 water filter or equivalent from other manufacturers).
I am very satisfied with the basic filtration performance of my Culligan whole house sediment water filter unit which is why I rate the product overall as "excellent." I have a HF-365 (cost = $40) which is very similar to the HF-150 and HF-160. In fact, it is virtually the same thing except that it has a shut-off valve in the head which is useful to avoid spilling any water on the floor during filter replacement. [Please see my review elswhere on epinions on the Culligan HF-365 whole house water filter.]
I should add that in order to change the filter cartridges the water going through the housing has to be momentarily interrupted. There are two ways of doing that. Both the HF-150 and the HF-160 require that shut-off valves be installed before and after the filter housings. The HF-365 doesn't require the installation of any additional shut-off valves since the shut-off valve is already in its head. However, because of inherent problems with the valve-in-head design, I would strongly recommend that you get a whole house water filter without a valve in its head and instead get additional shut-off valves installed before and after the filter housing since separate high quality shut-off valves are inherently more durable. (Useful tip: Full flow ball valves are better than gate valves because they allow for an easier flow of water through them.)
Once you get a whole house sediment water filter installed you will wonder how you got along without them because you will SEE how much sediment is in your water. I live in New York City which supposedly offers some of the highest quality drinking water in the country. And it is one of the best water supplies AT ITS SOURCE (the Catskill/Delaware/Croton watershed). But along the way to the tap it picks up and delivers, as all municipal water supplies do, a lot of sediment, sand, dirt, rust, and silt.
A recent NY Times article (March 10, 2002) explained the usefulness of a whole house water filter. The article entitled "Getting Pure Water at Home" interviewed experts on the subject. Since Epinions doesn't like plagiarism I will quote from it:
"Mr. Ginsberg...said the most common water-quality problem -sediment that clouds or colors the water - is also the easiest to resolve. 'Sediment is typically caused by silt from the bottom of a reservoir getting stirred up and mixed with the water supply,' he said, explaining that as water levels in reservoirs fall, silt that had been previously underwater and undisturbed becomes exposed. Then, even a small amount of rain will stir up the exposed silt. A similar thing happens, he said, when water levels in wells drop because of drought.
"'Sediment can easily be removed with any sediment filter cartridge,' Mr. Ginsberg said. 'We would typically recommend a five-micron filter,' he said, explaining that such a filter will not permit particles larger than five microns to pass through. A micron is a thousandth of a millimeter, or about 1/25,000th of an inch.
...'You want to filter out the sediment before it can end up in your water heater,' he said, adding that while sediment can discolor water, it can also cause unpleasant odors."
Personally, I think everyone should get a high quality whole house sediment water filter because it will protect your water heater, your pipes (sediments can build up in them), your hot water boiler (if you have a steam or hot water heating system), your plumbing fixtures (like your shower head and toilet), your water using appliances (like your dishwasher and clothes washer). If those were not reasons enough to filter your household's water, consider that these filters clean the water you also drink and bathe with!
At this point, I must add a very important reminder: Whole house sediment water filters CAN NOT treat water which is chemically or microbiologically contaminated. Therefore do not use any of the products I have described (the Culligan HF-150, HF-160, or the HF-360) for water that is microbiologically or chemically unsafe. In such cases, you need a much more sophisticated water treatment system and the advice of a certified professional.
Before you invest in any expensive advanced water treatment system, you should get your water tested if you are unsure about its quality. If, like most Americans, your water is provided by a municipality, you should write to your water supplier and ask them what is in the water that they provide to you. In some places, water suppliers are required by law to provide you with that information.
Having said all that, even if there is nothing seriously wrong with your water (like mine), I would still get a whole house sediment water filter because it offers additional protection and peace of mind. Besides, once you see how much gunk a whole house sediment water filter gets out of your water, you will become sold on them just as I was. For all of these reasons, I strongly recommend that you get a high quality whole house sediment water filter.
First Update (11/21/02): Since I last wrote this review in September (thank you to everyone who rated it "very helpful"), I did additional research regarding whole house sediment water filters.
Everything I wrote above is correct, but I would like to add that two outstanding organizations test water treatment devices including whole house water filters (see under "point-of-entry" systems).
The Water Quality Association (www.wqa.org) validates filtration systems that are in accordance with the "Voluntary Industry Standard for Household and Commercial Water Filter Systems" (S-200). Their website has a list of filtration products which have received their Gold Seal of quality.
The National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org) certifies water treatment units according to their own strict standards for aesthetic and health effects. They also offer a list of NSF certified drinking water treatment units.
Both of these websites can get a little technical but are well worth consulting.
Second Update (11/23/02): It cannot be emphasized too much that whole house sediment water filter housings are offered by many manufacturers. [See my other review for the Culligan HF-365 unit elsewhere on epinions.]
There are also several very good standard size (10") filter cartridges that fit these housings. Among these which I have used with good results are: the aforementioned Culligan P-5, the GE FXUSC, the Kenmore (Sears) 38480, to name just a few. They are all pretty much the same in performance. However, one of the finest (and more expensive) filter cartridges is the Aqua-Pure (Cuno) AP110 which is highly regarded by many professionals.
Lastly, I have just been informed (comments page) by another member of epinions that the Water Quality Association is an "international trade association" and, as such, it may not be entirely unbiased.
Like everything else, epinion members have to do their homework. But since you are already here, that's what you are doing! Thanks again to everyone who has commented on this review.
Third Update (11/27/02): Since the valve-in-head of my Culligan HF-365 whole house sediment water filter failed, I put in an a larger 1' water service in my home so I elected to install a larger Aqua-Pure AP810 water filter at the same time. Nevertheless, I still believe that for a 3/4" water line either the HF-150 or HF-160 would be excellent which is why I still rate them as "excellent."
However, whichever whole house sediment water filter you decide to buy you should do so only after seeing and feeling it in the store yourself. That way you can feel more comfortable about its overall quality. Don't worry that you won't be a good judge, if you are an educated consumer (which you obviously are, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this!), you will know quality when you see and feel it.
Fourth Update (12/5/02): The latest issue of Consumer Reports (January 2003) has a report on water filters. Curiously, they only reviewed two whole house sediment water filter units, neither of them by Culligan.
I have found that CR is somewhat "lazy" quite often; they frequently fail to review products that are commonly available. Whatever the reason, at least epinions is available to fill in the blanks.