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Water Softener Cost: System & Installation Prices 2019 – How Much?

    How much does a water softener cost?

    In a nutshell, you can spend anywhere from $350 to $3,500 USD and more. We know, the price range is huge.

    If you want to find out how much you have to invest for a good system without getting ripped off, check out the following guide!

    Contents:

    Home Water Softener System Cost

    Type, size, features and brand mainly account for how much a water softener system costs.

    • Type – There are salt-based and salt-free water softeners (the latter is also known as “water conditioners“). Usually, salt-based softeners are more expensive.
    • Size – The harder your water and the more of it you use on a daily basis, the larger your softener – salt-based or not – should be. Service flow rate also plays an important role here. After all, you want to be able to turn on your washing machine, shower and open the kitchen faucet all at the same time without losing pressure.
    • Features – Sure, some features that more expensive products may come with are unnecessary bells and whistles. What you should look out for, however, is a softener with a digital control head that allows for easy configuration and monitoring. You also want a metered system that regenerates based on previous water usage rather than timer-based. A unit with timed regeneration always uses the same amount of water and salt to recharge its resin bed no matter how saturated it actually is. The initial price tag might be a few hundred bucks lower, but it costs more to operate over the long run. Keeping water and salt use at a bare minimum is also better for the environment. By the way, this only applies to traditional salt softeners.
    • Brand – There are a couple of really expensive brands out there that charge outrageous prices for products and services that you either don’t want or need, or that are simply no better than what the competition has to offer. Other than that, we recommend you go with one of the popular brands that have proven themselves over the years – think Fleck by Pentair.

    Generally speaking, you should keep in mind that not all whole house water softeners and conditioners are created equal. A product with a lower price tag might wear out more quickly, thus having higher maintenance needs and requiring costly repairs (and vice versa).

    Of course, prices for the same model can also vary quite significantly from one retailer to the next.

    Softener TypePrice Range
    Standard ion exchanger$350 – $1,000 USD
    Dual tank ion exchanger$1,000+ USD
    Salt-free conditioner$300 – $700 USD
    Magnetic descaler$100 USD
    Portable unit$150 – $300 USD
    Commercial system$1,500+ USD
    Tank only (resin or brine)Less than $100 USD

    And lastly, remember that a solid system that functions properly will pay for itself down the road:

    • It prevents the accumulation of scale. This adds to the longevity of your home appliances such as your water heater as well as your plumbing system for reduced maintenance costs.
    • Heat exchangers will work more efficiently.
    • You can make savings in toiletries, detergents and other cleaning products thanks to improved lathering.

    Ion Exchange Water Softener Prices

    Prices for standard ion exchangers range from about $350 to $1,000 USD.

    $350 USD is what you pay for a 20,000 to 30,000-grain off-the-shelf unit from one of the Big Box stores. The softening capacity is sufficient for small to medium sized homes, but some components are probably low in quality and prone to leaking and other issues.

    water softener

    For $1,000 USD you can get yourself an 80,000-grain system that is top-notch and delivers enough soft water at any given time no matter how big your family or house.

    A dual tank setup that can provide soft water 24/7 costs $1,000+ USD.

    FYI: At the very high end of the price spectrum you will find models for $2,700 and more which you really shouldn’t waste your hard-earned money on. Simply put, over-the-top expensive does not equal best in quality.

    Speaking of quality, you can find detailed reviews of our favorite whole house water softeners + a list of top picks here.

    Water Conditioner Cost

    The cost for a salt-free water conditioner: $300 – $700 USD.

    Smaller magnetic or otherwise electronic devices are already available for around $100 USD.

    However, descaling is a controversial topic. Most products have received mixed customer feedback, so do your due diligence before you buy.

    Portable Units

    Portable units are priced at around $150 to $300 USD.

    Commercial Softeners

    Commercial water softeners can manage dozens up to hundreds of gallons of water per minute and are therefore larger. Prices start at $1,500 USD with the sky being the limit.

    Tank Prices

    Both brine and resin tanks can be purchased for less than $100 USD. Keep in mind though that the most expensive piece is the control valve which is the heart of every salt-based water softener.

    Average Installation Cost

    Any whole house water treatment device needs to be plumbed in. This also applies to water softeners (magnetic descalers are the exception that proves the rule).

    Some companies like Aquasana even require you to have a licensed plumber do the install. Otherwise, your product warranty voids.

    Usually, this adds between $200 and $500 USD to the initial cost.

    The fee covers basic labor, supplies, tools and equipment, worksite preparation, and disposal of packaging, project materials and workspace cleanup.

    Add another $70 USD on average for the removal of old appliances and debris disposal if needed.

    Tip: Consider purchasing your softener plus the installation service in a bundle to get a discount. You might also get free system delivery, setup and programming, and free removal of your old unit.

    Cost FactorDescription
    Basic laborInstallation site preparation (also protection of existing structures and components), installing connectors and shut-off valves, establishing drain connection, connecting to main water line and power source, verification of operation, setup, cleanup
    SuppliesCosts of materials and supplies including connectors, fittings and valves
    Equipment allowanceCosts of equipment used, including pipe cutter and slip joint pliers
    Optional: Removing old appliancesDetaching (replace), disposing legally
    Optional: Debris disposalDisposing old materials, installation waste and debris

    The price can increase for example for old houses that are not pre-plumbed. In this case the install will be more complicated and time consuming – estimates range from $750 to $3,500 USD depending on the complexity of the project.

    Other cost factors are remoteness of the job site, accessibility of the softener in your home and regional labor costs.

    The setup of a commercial water softener can go as high as $10,000 USD.

    pipe wrench

    If you are handy with tools you could also DIY-install your new softener. The most important skills you need are cutting and joining (non-)metal pipes to connect the inlet and outlet port of the system to your main water line.

    Basic installation kits are available for $50-$100 USD so you can save quite a lot of money as long as you own the necessary tools (or you can borrow them from someone).

    How Much Does a Water Softener Cost Per Month

    Let’s say you have found a water softener that you like and that fits your budget. What are the monthly costs you should expect for running the system?

    Cost FactorMonthly Cost
    Salt (ion exchange softener only)$6 – $25 USD
    Citric acid (some conditioners only)$8 – $17 USD
    Siliphos (some conditioners only)$10 – $23 USD
    Water + sewerApprox. $16 USD
    ElectricityNegligible
    ServicingFree or $10 – $13 USD

    1. Salt

    For an ion exchange water softener there will be one main expense and that is salt, sodium chloride or potassium chloride to be more precise.

    The salt is needed to recharge the resin beads in the resin tank once they are saturated with hard water ions. This process is also referred to as “regeneration“. The salt is stored in the brine tank which is often separate from the main softening tank.

    How often and how much salt you have to refill depends first and foremost on your water hardness level and how much water you and your family consume.

    Other factors include:

    • Resin tank size – The bigger the tank, the more salt is required for a full regeneration. However, partial regeneration turns out to be more salt efficient. This requires a large enough tank though. (Psst, you can find our water softener sizing guide here.)
    • Individual settings – Running frequent regeneration cycles with a lower salt dosage will result in higher salt savings. At the same time water usage will increase.
    • Outdated system – An outdated system may require more salt if regeneration is not based on water usage but on a timed schedule.
    • Other water conditions – High TDS and iron content result in increased salt consumption.

    The industry standard is that a family of four uses one 40-pound salt bag per month. One bag costs anywhere between $6 and $25 USD, depending on what brand you choose and the purity grade. At Home Depot, a 40 lbs bag of salt pellets by Morton costs $6.56 USD – really not that much.

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    Other Softening Agents

    Magnetic descalers do not require additional supplies to function. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for all saltless conditioners.

    For example:

    A conditioner that relies on citric acid, a chelation agent to reduce the scaling effects of hard water, may require a new filter cartridge every 3 to 6 months. Price: $50 USD per cartridge.

    A system based on Siliphos also requires a new cartridge every 3 to 6 months at $60 to $70 USD each.

    2. Water + Sewer

    Salt-based water softeners produce wastewater when regenerating. While some waste no more than 20 gallons per cycle, others waste 50. This means your water and sewer bill will rise.

    By how much? It’s hard to give an estimate since there are so many factors that play a role. An average of $150 to $200 USD per year seems realistic – no liability assumed.

    Having said that, you will find that you will use less soft water than you would use if unsoftened. Will the positive effect balance out the negative? Again, we can’t say that with certainty.

    3. Electricity?

    All modern ion exchangers run on electricity to power their digital control head unit and to drive motors. However, the draw is so small that it’s negligible.

    power

    4. Servicing

    A whole house water softener that is up to standards needs very little servicing, if any. Most companies recommend having your system inspected by an expert once every 1 to 2 years to make sure that it’s working properly.

    However, we don’t consider this necessary if you know how to configure the control head yourself. This allows you to ensure that the valve functions as intended and adjust settings, such as how often you want your softener to regenerate and how much water to use, if need be.

    All this you can learn how to do by reading the product manual – for zero dollars.

    You might also want to test your water on a regular basis.

    What’s more, you should clean the brine and resin tank once a years to every five years under normal circumstances. Don’t worry, this is not overly complicated.

    Out of convenience, some people actually prefer to hire a company that charges a monthly fee to deliver salt and maintain their system. Rates for these services vary from $120 to $150 USD per year.

    Calculation Examples

    Example 1: Basic Ion Exchange Softener for Mid-Sized Home, DIY-Install, No Paid Servicing Agreement

    Cost FactorCost (First Year)
    System purchase$500 USD
    Installation kit$70 USD
    Salt (for 12 months)$96 USD
    Water + sewer (for 12 months)$150 USD
    MaintenanceFree
    Total$816 USD

    Example 2: Water Conditioner for Larger House with 3 Bathrooms, Professional Install, No Paid Servicing Agreement

    Cost FactorCost (First Year)
    System purchase$700 USD
    Installation$300 USD
    Chelation agent (for 12 months)$180 USD
    Water + sewer (for 12 months)$0 USD
    MaintenanceFree
    Total$1180 USD

    What Else to Consider

    Depending on the overall quality of your water, additional pre and/or post-treatment may be recommended. Naturally, this will add to the cost.

    An example for this would be an under sink water filter. Because softening can make your water unsuitable for drinking you may want to consider installing a reverse osmosis system that will remove any excess salt.

    Where to Buy

    In our opinion, by far the best place to buy a water softener is online. Amazon for instance offers a large selection of systems at attractive prices. And there are other marketplaces and online retailers that you can check out.

    If you prefer to buy local, contact a couple of suppliers to get different cost estimates and try to negotiate a lower price. Low season is in late fall to early winter when chances for discounts are higher.

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