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How Much Does a Reverse Osmosis System Cost? + Whole House RO Prices

    How much does a point-of-use RO system cost? How much does a whole house reverse osmosis system cost? What is the price for installation? And how much are maintenance and operating expenses?

    You will find answers to these and other questions in the article below.

    Contents:

    Where to Buy a Home Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System

    If you ask us, by far the best place to buy an RO filter system is online. The Amazon marketplace for instance lists a large selection of products at good prices. And there are many other stores that you can check out.

    Popular sites have the advantage that you can browse through customer reviews to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of individual products.

    Speaking of reviews, you can find our under sink reverse osmosis water filter system reviews here.

    Reverse Osmosis System Cost Factors

    How much does a reverse osmosis system cost? In order to properly answer this question, we need to  take these factors into account:

    • Size – RO systems vary in price depending on their size and complexity. For a few hundred dollars, you can get yourself an under sink or countertop unit that connects to a single faucet only (usually the kitchen tap). For up to several thousand dollars, you can buy a whole house system that filters all the water coming into your home.
    • Filtration process – Some systems provide a sophisticated 5-step filtration process, even using UV light to kill waterborne pathogens. Others come with no more than 3 different filter stages. Your purification needs, therefore, also dictate how much you will have to pay.
    • Brand – Some brands are simply more expensive than others – nothing new really.
    • Additional features – Such features include a pump to boost pressure which increases water production capacity, efficiency and flow rate, while reducing the amount of wastewater that goes down the drain. Other popular addons are remineralization stages to balance water pH and increase alkalinity, and a modular design for convenient filter/membrane replacements. The latter also helps to prevent germs from accumulating inside the system.

    That being said, a standard under sink RO system costs anywhere between $150 to $500 USD.

    Some countertop units are already available for less than $100 USD.

    Generally speaking, many lower priced products purify water just as well as higher priced items. However, some parts might wear out quicker. Also, if you are willing to pay more you get additional features (see above). Some sellers even provide a lifetime guarantee on their systems.

    Whole House Reverse Osmosis System Cost

    For a small whole house or light commercial system you have to invest at least $500 USD. If you add an atmospheric tank + delivery pump or a bladder tank $1,500 is the minimum. Bigger systems may cost $5,000 or $10,000 USD and upwards, primarily depending on the amount of water that needs to be purified on a daily basis and how sophisticated the purification process.

    FYI: You don’t find residential whole house reverse osmosis systems very often. This is because, in addition to the filter unit itself, a complete setup involves pre and post-treatment (e.g. backwashing carbon filter, water softener, calcite filter) and components for storing and distributing the purified water.

    commercial RO system

    Last but not least, you should be careful when buying a supposedly high-end product. Some come with useless bells and whistles that have no benefit at all. Others compromise on important features just to maintain their form and style. In other words, make sure that when you pay for a premium RO system it actually delivers on function and performance.

    RO System TypeCost Range
    Standard under sink$150 – $500 USD
    Countertop$60 – $450 USD
    Whole house$500+ USD

    Installation Cost

    Except for countertop units that attach within seconds and require no permanent installation, under counter and whole house reverse osmosis water purifier systems need to be plumbed in.

    The latter in particular may call for a professional plumber or contractor as the entire setup is more complicated.

    But first things first. Let’s start with the standard POU under sink unit. A DIY installation can be completed in about 2 hours, and there is no need to be an expert as long as you are somewhat handy with tools. This is great if you are on a tight budget or simply want to save a few extra bucks. How many?

    Online estimates range from $150 to $400 USD if there is enough room to accommodate the system and no major problems occur. In this case, a skilled plumber should be able to do the install in less than one hour.

    Labor costs include:

    Cost FactorDescription
    Basic laborMounting RO faucet (may require drilling hole in sink or countertop), drain saddle installation, mounting RO module, connecting system to existing water source, installing filters + reverse osmosis membrane, system startup, checking for smooth operation, cleanup
    Required suppliesConnectors, adapters, fittings
    EquipmentDrill bit, screwdriver, tubing cutter, utility knife, adjustable wrench

    Modification, relocation or repair of certain components as well as water testing and inspection fees are not included.

    You can learn everything you need to know about how to hook up a point-of-use reverse osmosis system here.

    POE Systems

    As far as POE (point-of-entry) a.k.a. whole house RO water filtration systems are concerned, more time and additional material – think valves and tubing – are required for their setup adding to the cost.

    What’s more, only experienced do-it-yourselfers that have the necessary determination and experience should take on such a project. For everyone else we recommend to hire a professional who does the plumbing for you.

    At what cost? It’s really hard to estimate. Whole house systems aren’t standardized. A few hundred up to $500 USD is the bare minimum for most we would say. To find out more it’s probably best if you talk to local plumbers in your area.

    Operating Costs

    The initial price tag of an RO system is only one part of the equation. To this you have to add expenses for regular filter and membrane replacements and also factor in wastewater costs.

    Filter & Membrane Replacements

    Pre and post-filters need to be changed according to your water consumption and the condition of the feed water. High levels of chlorine and hardness minerals, for example, can lower the lifespan of filter elements significantly.

    Generally speaking, filters should be replaced every 6 to 12 months, depending on their quality. RO membranes can last as long as 3 (5) years.

    RO membrane

    Annual costs range from $60 all the way to $200 USD with $80 to $90 USD being the standard – for POU system, mind you. Obviously, the expenses are higher if a system comes with more filter stages. Also, it’s more costly to replace filters with a modular design since you dispose of the entire housing.

    Buying aftermarket components can help to save money. However, the quality often leaves a lot to be desired. So, if you are going to buy from another source make sure that the quality is up to standards to not put your health at risk.

    For whole house/commercial units, expect to pay anywhere between a couple of hundred up to thousands of dollars. By the way, there is no reason not to do the maintenance yourself. It’s not overly complicated. This also goes for single-faucet systems.

    Wastewater

    The added costs for wastewater only play a role in high-volume applications which will increase your water and sewer bill.

    How much water does reverse osmosis waste? Modern whole house systems achieve a bare minimum recovery rate of 33% (2:1), so 2 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of purified water.

    However, by using a pressurizing pump – something we highly recommend – and a recycle valve, recovery rates of up to 75% are realistic (only 1 gallon wasted per 3 gallons of purified water). Multi-membrane units can be even more efficient.

    RO vs. Bottled Water

    With regard to the costs, remember that a properly functioning RO system will pay for itself down the road.

    1 gallon of bottled water costs anywhere between $1.00 (not paying attention to quality + bought in bulk) and $10.00 USD. A full gallon of tap water comes at around $0.005 USD. Thus, even if your reverse osmosis system wastes 4 gallons for every gallon of filtered water, drinking purified tap water is way cheaper.

    Of course, how much you save and how long it takes to reach break-even depends on your consuming habits. The more you consume, the better – at least from a financial perspective.

    Calculation Example: 2-Person Household

    • Reverse osmosis system purchase price including installation kit: $300 USD, self-installed
    • Average annual filter/RO membrane replacement costs: $90 USD
    • Price per gallon of bottled water: $1.22 USD
    • Price per gallon of tap water: $0.005 USD

    If we assume that 2 people drink 1.3 gallons of water a day and the system has a recovery rate of 20% (wastewater to filtered water ratio of 4:1), the cost difference between RO purified tap water an bottled water is:

    • Bottled water: $1.22 USD/gallon x 1.3 gallons/day x 365 days = $578.89 USD per year
    • RO purified tap water: $0.005 USD/gallon x 1.3 gallons/day x 5 (wastewater factor) x 365 days = $11.86 USD per year
    • $578.89 USD – $11.86 USD = $567.03 USD per year

    By switching to RO purified tap water the 2-person household saves $567.03 USD every single year. When we subtract $300 USD for the initial purchase and installation and $90 USD for maintenance in the first year, the savings are $567.03 USD – $300 USD – $90 USD = $177.03 USD.

    For each subsequent year the savings are $567.03 USD – $90 USD = $477.03 USD.

    Industrial Applications

    Municipal wastewater treatment, seawater desalination, industrial wastewater recycling – it makes absolutely no sense to even try to give a price estimate for industrial reverse osmosis systems or plants. Applications are way too manifold and configurations differ for each.

    Again, the two main factors are the condition of the feed water and water volume.

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    If you have any questions about (whole house) reverse osmosis system prices please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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