Tom Lohr is an avid home improvement enthusiast. He prefers to spend the money he saves on new tools and gardening supplies.
Why Do Manufacturers Recommend Changing Your Filter Every Six Months?
Water filters are the real cash cow of the appliance industry. Like clockwork, the "change filter" light comes on every six months, prompting you to change your water filter. According to most manufacturers, if you don't, 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 spending $50 every six months hits my wallet pretty hard.
The same could be said of the auto industry. For decades, automakers swore that you needed to change your oil every 3,000 miles or risk serious engine damage. As it turns out, under normal driving conditions, your oil lasts 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 50 bucks you save could fill a shelf on your refrigerator with something you really need—say, beer, for instance.
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, bought an off-brand filter (much cheaper than the manufacturer's brand), and changed it out. The process was 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 five minutes of sawing, the mystery of the inside of refrigerator water filters was revealed. Franky, I was underwhelmed.
Inside 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 four years without changing.
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Hit the Reset
According to the 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 your water is tasting funny and you begin to see black bits of charcoal in your dispensed water, or if 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: If I don't use my refrigerator ice maker or water do I just do reset when red light goes on?
Question: I have a model RF261 BEAESR Samsung refrigerator and I need to change the water filter. The manual says to turn off the water, but I cannot move the fridge to get to the water valve. Do I have to turn off the water before changing the filter?
Answer: On my Samsung, I did not have to shut off the water. Your model may be different. I recommend shutting off your main house water line if you cannot reach your desiccated refrigerator line. Better safe than sorry.
Ron on April 16, 2019:
It must be two years since I installed my first filter and I noticed the water improvement over the tap right away, very glad for that. And after all this time it still seems fine to me, I just keep resetting the light.
Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on March 17, 2019:
After six months Sears mailed me one and my card charged. The water taste fine to me and its been 7 months now. Haven't changed it yet.