Review: APEC Big Blue Whole House Water Filter Systems

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APEC offers a variety of whole house water filters. In this review, we’ll cover APEC’s big blue whole house filter systems which use replaceable filter cartridges.

They come with 1, 2, or 3 filter stages, and you can choose from a large selection of filter elements. Some are for basic filtration needs only, namely to remove stuff like sediments and chlorine, and improve the overall taste and smell of water. Others can tackle lead, iron, scale – you name it!

APEC CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB Whole House Water Filter

APEC CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB Whole House Water Filter

Price: $
Filter Media: Sediment (30 Microns), Granular Activated Carbon, Carbon Block
Filter Life: Up to 100,000 Gallons
Flow Rate: 10 gpm
Annual Cost: ~$160-320

Overall Rating: 4.0/5.0 ⓘRating based on filtration performance, filter life, price and yearly cost, NSF testing/certification, customer support, product warranty, our testing/experience, user feedback, and other factors.

APEC Big Blue Whole House Water Filter Systems – All Specs

  • Model: CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB
  • Annual Maintenance Cost: ~$160-320
  • Filter Media/Process: Pleated Sediment (30 Microns), GAC, Carbon Block
  • Filter Stages: 3
  • Flow Rate: Up to 10 gpm
  • Filtering Capacity: Up to 100,000 gal
  • WxHxD: 23.5”x26″x9″
  • Weight: 32 lb.
  • Water Temperature: 40-100 °F
  • Water Pressure: Up to 90 psi
  • Water pH: >7.0
  • Fitting: ¾”, 1″, 1½” FPT
  • Warranty: 1 Year

APEC Big Blue – Key Features

APEC’s big blue whole house water filter systems are cartridge-based filters offered in either 1, 2, or 3 filter stages.

  • Single Stage – 4.5” x 10” or 20” big blue
  • Two Stage – 4.5” x 20” big blue
  • Three Stage – 4.5” x 20” big blue

Note that the single-stage systems comes in either 4.5” x 10” or 4.5” x 20” sized big blue filter housings, whereas the 2 and 3-stage systems only come in the 20” size.

All filter sizes are industry standard, which means you can replace any APEC filter cartridge with a filter from another manufacturer should you wish to cut down on costs or want to try something different.

That said, APEC manufactures a wide variety of filter cartridges, so you can easily tailor your system to the contaminants you need to tackle. For example:

  • Whole House Pleated Sediment Filter Cartridge: 30 microns – washable and reusable to extend lifespan – certified to NSF Standard 42 – up to 20 gallon per minute flow rate.
  • Radial Flow Granular Activated Carbon Filter Cartridge: 25 microns – removes chlorine taste/odor, VOCs – NSF Standard 42 Certified – 50,000 to 100,000-gallon capacity.
  • Activated Carbon Block Filter: 10 microns – removes chlorine taste/odor and organics – up to 100,000-gallon capacity.
  • KDF-55 and GAC mix: 10 microns – reduces heavy metals, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, inorganic and organic contaminants, and microbes – 30,000 to 60,000-gallon capacity.
  • KDF-85 media filter: Removes ferrous iron, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine, heavy metals, and microbes – 20,000 to 40,000-gallon capacity.

The list above only covers some of the more popular APEC filter cartridges. There are also additional ones for specialized use cases. As you can see, cartridge selection is one of these systems’ strengths, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to customize your filtration setup.

One popular, pre-configured setup is the APEC CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB. It’s a 3-stage model including a 30-micron reusable pleated sediment filter, a 2-in-1 granular activated carbon/sediment filter to remove chlorine, and a carbon block filter to further remove chlorine taste/odor and other organic chemicals. The system has a respectable 10-gallon per minute flow rate and a 100,000-gallon filter capacity before needing replacement. It comes preassembled and attached to a mounting bracket for easy installation.

By the way, most of APEC’s filters need replacement every 6 to 12 months, which is fairly typical for cartridge-based systems.

And finally, APEC offers a one-year warranty on their products.

APEC WHole House Water Filter Pros

The biggest advantage to APEC big blue whole house water filters is their versatility. As mentioned previously, there is a huge variety of APEC filter cartridges to choose from, and because the cartridges are standard-sized, you have the option of using any 3rd party cartridge should you wish.

APEC’s system and filter pricing is also competitive. If we take the above example of the CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB, annual filter costs are about $160-320 per year depending on how often you replace, while the system retails for much less than most of the competition.

What Contaminants Are Being Removed?

The exact contaminants removed will depend on the specific system. Let’s take a look at the 3-stage system referenced before.

  1. The first stage is a pleated 30-micron sediment filter. This filter will remove sand, silt, sediment, rust, and other large particles down to 30 microns in size. It’s worth mentioning this filter can be washed and reused multiple times before it needs replacement.
  2. The second stage is a combination of granular activated carbon and sediment filter. This will remove chlorine taste and odor as well as further reduce sediment. This stage will greatly improve the water’s taste, as well as result in smoother hair and skin from chlorine-free water.
  3. The third and final stage is a carbon filter block. This stage will further remove chlorine, unpleasant tastes/odors, certain organic contaminants, and help give the water a final ‘polish’ before it leaves the system.

APEC CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB Whole House Water Filter

The APEC CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB – learn more on


Installation is pretty straightforward. Still, remember that you will need to cut into the main water line which not everyone feels comfortable doing.

Before you start with the actual setup, close the main water valve and open the nearest outlets to drain any remaining water.

To connect the inlet/outlet port to the main line we recommend you use flex tubing and shark bite fittings.

In addition, consider installing a bypass so that when you maintain or troubleshooting your system you don’t have to shut off the water to your entire house.

Do we still think that a skilled do-it-yourselfer will be able to do the installation all by himself? Absolutely!

Please consider these instructions as a general guideline. Always make sure to check and follow your user manual before getting started.

Tools and materials needed for installation:

  • 2 x Adjustable wrenches
  • Pipe cutter or hacksaw
  • Metal file
  • Screwdriver
  • Plumber’s tape
  • Emery paper
  • Necessary plumbing fittings
  • 3 x shut-off valves
  • Tape measure
  • Grounding clamps and 6-gauge copper grounding wire (if grounding is needed)

Before installation, make sure your location has at least 4 inches below the unit for changing cartridges. The instructions assume you are installing the system on copper pipes, if another pipe material is used, the installation will differ slightly.

Step-by-step installation instructions:

  1. Locate the pipe threads on each adapter and apply 10 – 15 wraps of plumber’s tape.
  2. Thread an adapter to both the inlet and outlet ports on the unit’s cap. Hand tighten at first to ensure the threads catch correctly.
  3. Use a wrench to snug the fittings until tight. Be careful not to overtighten.
  4. Now, you’ll need to cut through the main water line.
    1. First, shut off the main water line and open a faucet downstream to drain any water left in the plumbing.
    2. Now, remove the nut and brass ferrule from both fittings. Measure the distance across the unit head. This will be the measurement for cutting the main water line.
    3. Mark the location for cutting and use pipe cutters or a hacksaw to cut through the main water line. Use a metal file to clean up the pipe ends and eliminate any burrs.
  5. Now, attach a compression nut to both the inlet and outlet on the main water line. Then, add the brass ferrule back to each pipe.
  6. Line up the unit with both pipe ends. Ensure the flow direction matches the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ on the unit.
  7. Use two wrenches to fasten the pipe ends to the unit.
  8. Add supports to the pipes on each side of the unit if needed.
  9. Now, we’ll install the grounding wire to connect the inlet and outlet ports and maintain electrical grounding. This is only necessary if your pipes are metal and used for electrical grounding, otherwise, you can skip this step.
    1. Clean each pipe where you plan to install the grounding clamps as well as the copper wire ends with emery paper.
    2. Attach the clamps to the pipe and fasten them loosely.
    3. Attach the copper wire to each clamp and tighten until snug.
  10. Now you will need to install the filter cartridges into their housings.
    1. Remove and discard the plastic wrapping from each cartridge. Place each cartridge into the housing ensuring the O-ring is inserted into its groove. Secure the housing by hand until hand-tight.
    2. Turn on the water flow slowly and examine the system for leaks.
    3. If you spot any leaks, turn the system off and tighten any loose fittings.
    4. Now, flush the system for 5 minutes, wait an hour, and then flush a second time for an additional 5 minutes.

The Package (Parts)

  • System module
  • Filter housing(s) + filter cartridge(s)
  • Housing wrench
  • Product literature


Like most cartridge-based whole house water filtration systems, the only regular maintenance required is periodically changing the filter cartridges. The exact interval will depend on the cartridge in question, your usage level, as well as your water quality.

That said, most cartridges should be changed every 6 to 12 months.

To change a filter cartridge:

  1. Shut off the main water supply or, if installed, use the shut-off valves installed before and after the system.
  2. Open a nearby faucet to drain any remaining water from your plumbing and release pressure.
  3. Rotate the filter housing until it comes loose. Then, toss the old cartridge and clean the housing interior with mild dish soap and lukewarm water.
  4. Examine the O-ring inside the filter housing. Apply silicone lubricant if needed and ensure it’s seated correctly in its groove. If you notice any damage, crimping, or stretching, toss the O-ring and replace it.
  5. Insert the housing back into its cap. Hand tighten or use a light ½ turn with a filter wrench. Be careful not to overtighten.
  6. Now, flush the system for 5 minutes, followed by a break for one hour, and another 5 minutes of flushing.


Here is a link to the official manual:

NSF and Other Certifications

Some of APEC’s filter cartridges are NSF certified according to the manufacturer, but we couldn’t find any more information about this.

Earlier Product Versions

The APEC Big Blue has no earlier product versions as far as we are aware.


The only major drawback we can identify with the systems is a lack of documentation for the NSF certifications. This doesn’t mean the filters are ineffective, it simply means we haven’t been able to verify these claims.

A longer product warranty would have been nice (it’s 1 year). And a bypass valve would have made installation easier.

As far as user ratings go, most were highly positive, with only a few minor complaints. Several users had issues with the included filter wrench being the wrong size, and a small percentage had complaints about minor missing parts. Overall, these are easily remedied issues that can be solved with a quick trip to the hardware store.

APEC Big Blue Review: Our Verdict + Best for

With the 10 and 20” big blues, APEC offers a solid whole house water filter product line at a fair price. Replacement filters are not the cheapest, but also not the most expensive we’ve seen either.

There is not much that you can do wrong here really as long as you don’t expect miracles in terms of water purity and flow rates. A solid 4 stars.

APEC Big Blue systems are best for standard and cartridge-based whole house water filtration on a budget.

Our Rating in Detail:

  • Filtration Performance: 4.0/5.0
  • Filter Capacity (Life): 4.0/5.0
  • Purchase Price: 5.0/5.0
  • Annual Cost: 4.0/5.0
  • Overall: 4.0/5.0

Comparison to Other Whole House Water Filters

We are going to compare APEC whole house water filters against the SpringWell CF and the Kind Water Systems E-1000.

SpringWell CF Whole House Water Filter

SpringWell CF

Price: $$$
Filter Media: 5-Micron Sediment, Catalytic Carbon, KDF
Filter Life: 1,000,000 gal or 6 Years
Flow Rate: 9-20 gpm
Annual Cost: ~$40

Overall Rating: 5.0/5.0 ⓘRating based on filtration performance, filter life, price and yearly cost, NSF testing/certification, customer support, product warranty, our testing/experience, user feedback, and other factors.

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Kind Water Systems E-1000 2-Stage Whole House Water Filtration System

Kind E-1000

Price: $$
Filter Media: 5-Micron Sediment, Catalytic Carbon Block
Filter Life: 12 Months
Flow Rate: 15 gpm
Annual Cost: ~$145

Overall Rating: 4.5/5.0 ⓘRating based on filtration performance, filter life, price and yearly cost, NSF testing/certification, customer support, product warranty, our testing/experience, user feedback, and other factors.

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APEC CB3-SED-CAB-CBC20-BB Whole House Water Filter


Price: $
Filter Media: Sediment (30 Microns), Granular Activated Carbon, Carbon Block
Filter Life: Up to 100,000 gal
Flow Rate: 10 gpm
Annual Cost: ~$160-320

Overall Rating: 4.0/5.0 ⓘRating based on filtration performance, filter life, price and yearly cost, NSF testing/certification, customer support, product warranty, our testing/experience, user feedback, and other factors.

SpringWell’s CF whole house water filter system is tank-based and employs catalytic carbon and KDF. Both are highly potent filter media that can eliminate a wide range of water contaminants such as chlorine/chloramine, some water-soluble heavy metals, PFAS, disinfection byproducts, and other organic chemicals. In other words, the SpringWell CF is ideal for city water treatment. And because there is so much filter media, it’s also highly effective providing much healthier and much better-tasting water through your home. Capacity: 1,000,000 gallons. Flow rate: Up to 20 gpm (enough for 7 or more baths). Also 6-month satisfaction guarantee and limited lifetime warranty. The SpringWell may be more costly at purchase, but maintenance expenses are extremely low (around $40 a year) compared to APEC.

The E-1000 by Kind Water Systems is a 2-stage cartridge-based whole house filter. Stage 1 is a 5-micron sediment filter, followed by a catalytic caron block. The combo is ideal for municipal water filtration removing chlorine, chloramine, pesticides, VOCs – you name it. Filter capacity is 1 year. Flow rate: 15 gpm. There also is a 120-day money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty (limited). The Kind E-1000 costs more than APEC systems upfront, but it’s quite affordable to maintain at roughly $145 annually.

All in all, we prefer both SpringWell and Kind over APEC, mainly due to filtration effectiveness but also because there’s the money back guarantee and the much longer warranty.

This completes our review of APEC’s big blue whole house water filters. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald is one of the founders of BOS and currently head of content creation. She has 8+ years of experience as a water treatment specialist under her belt making her our senior scientist. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
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