Do You Really Need to Change the Water Filter in Your Refrigerator?

Updated on December 14, 2018
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Tom Lohr loves travel, photography, mid-century Americana, and all things weird.

Typical Filter
Typical Filter | Source

Why Do Manufacturers Recommend Changing Your Filter Every Six Months?

Does your refrigerator water filter need changed the on the manufacturer's recommended schedule? The short answer is: probably not.


Water filters are the real cash cow of the appliance industry. Like clockwork, the “change filter” light comes on every six months prompting you change your water filter. If you don't, according to most manufacturers, a giant asteroid will collide with the earth and we will all be killed. In reality, each time that light illuminates, the company that sold you your refrigerator hears a cash register.

Water filters are not cheap. If you stick with the recommended brand (of course supplied by the manufacturer), you will be shelling out somewhere between $20-50. I am not sure about you, but fifty bucks every six months hits my wallet pretty hard. It was the same in the auto industry for decades. Auto makers swore that you needed to change you oil every 3,000 miles or risk serious engine damage. As it turns out, under normal driving conditions, your oil last significantly longer than that.

It is the same with refrigerator water filters. They do not need to be changed twice a year. Once a year maybe. That fifty bucks you save could fill a shelf on your refrigerator with something you really need; say beer for instance.

The Guts of a Water Filter
The Guts of a Water Filter | Source

What is Inside Your Refrigerator Water Filter

I just changed my filter last week; after four years. I figured it was time. The area I live in has very hard water, and I imagined the inside of my filter being choked with hard water deposits. So I bit the bullet and bought an off brand (MUCH cheaper than the manufacturer's brand), and changed it out. The process is super simple. But now that I had that old filter in my hand, I had to know just how nasty it was on the inside. So, I cut it open to see.

After locking down the filter in a vise, I introduced it to my hacksaw. After 5 minutes of sawing, the mystery of the inside of refrigerator water filters was revealed. Franky, I was under impressed. Inside of that thick plastic shell is a round charcoal filter with a hole in it. There was no nastiness, no slime, no goo, and absolutely no hard water deposits. I even cut the charcoal element in half, and was even more underwhelmed.

After purging the air out of the line by dispensing 10 or so glasses of water, the flow was the same and the taste was the same. Personally, I think it could have gone another 4 years without changing

The Filtering Element
The Filtering Element | Source

Hit the Reset

According to manufacturer's manuals, the charcoal element will eventually stop filtering out the nasty creatures that live in the water. But think of what feeds your water filter: city tap water. The water supplied by your municipality is tested regularly and deemed safe to drink. THEN it runs through your refrigerator filter. If you have funky tasting water in your locale, then maybe it helps. But in most cases it isn't doing much.

If you begin to see black bits of charcoal in your dispensed water, or it begins to taste odd, or the flow is significantly reduced, then by all means spend the dough and get a new filter. Otherwise, consider saving a few bucks and hit the filter reset button

One of Two Filter End Pieces
One of Two Filter End Pieces | Source

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