Installing a water softener system costs between $200 and $6,000
A water softener costs $1,500 on average, though it ranges between $200 and $6,000 depending on your home’s size, the system’s type and capacity, and whether you DIY installation or hire a pro. Installing a water softener system in your home helps reduce your water’s mineral content, or “hard water.” Although it’s safe, hard water can reduce the life of your water heater and increase water heating costs. It also tends to leave a nasty mineral buildup on surfaces in your home. Installing a water softener can solve these issues.
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Water Softener Cost Breakdown
Your home’s size plays a significant role in how much you’ll pay for a water softener, but factors like home size and where you live will also affect the cost.
In certain regions of the U.S., water hardness is notoriously high. So it’s important to know which type and size of water softeners you should consider when shopping around. Each type of water softener takes a different approach to removing minerals or contaminants from your water, leading to softer hands and happier sweaters. Water softeners can cost between $200 and $4,000 or up to $6,000 for the largest, most complex models.
While simple ion exchangers use sodium to soften your water, more complex water softeners use potassium, reverse osmosis, or magnetic methods to pull it off—just to name a few. You can also choose between a single and dual-tank water softener. We'll break down the details and cost of each type of water softener below.
In order to determine the right size of water softener for you, take a look at your daily water usage. Do you have a big family or a few family members who love to bask in long showers? How about frequent weekend guests?
Multiply the number of people commonly in your home by 90—the average number of gallons used by each person in a day. For example, a four-person home multiplied by 90 is 360.
Multiple that number by the number of grains per gallon (GPG) for your water's hardness. To get this number, test the hardness of your water by either using a home kit or sending the water away to a lab. The hardness number will likely fall between 0 and 17 but can go much higher. Lastly, multiply this final number by 10 again.
The equation above will help you determine the correct water softener capacity for your home. Water softeners note their GPG capacities to show how much hard water they can filter per household. If you choose a model that is too small, it may not be able to properly soften the water you use each day.
Let's look at our original sample equation:
Four people in the home X 90 gallons of water a day X 10 GPG X 10 = 36,000 GPG
Once you have this number, you can choose the appropriate capacity. Here's what water softeners cost at each capacity level. Not that these prices are for materials only.
If you live in an area prone to hard water—Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Tampa, for example—you will end up paying for a higher water softener capacity than elsewhere in the country. The local cost of living will also affect the price of materials and labor when installing a water softener. Expect a fee for travel if you live in a remote area far away from your local water softener installer.
In addition to the cost of the water softener, installation costs range from $150 to $1,000 depending on the type of unit, where you live, and the complexity of the installation. A dual-tank water softener in a hard-to-reach area like a crawl space, for example, could cost more to install than a simple under-the-sink model.
The cost of building and inspection permits will widely range depending on your local city, county, and state laws. Be sure to contact your local township office or speak with your contractor about what to expect from these fees.
Pricing for Different Types of Water Softeners
You can classify different water softener system types by the method they use to lower mineral count in groundwater:
The most common type of water softener on the market is the ion exchanger, which costs between $500 and $3,000, depending on its capacity. The system "swaps" hard minerals in a resin bed by flushing the water past sodium ions. While they can be less expensive to install, ion exchangers rely on you to change the salt and other additives regularly.
For between $800 and $4,000, salt-free water softeners use potassium to perform the same method of removing minerals as the ion exchanger. Some homeowners prefer potassium systems over salt alternatives if they are on a low-sodium diet or if they have a septic system more prone to sodium corrosion. Potassium will also cost more than water softener salt, adding to long-term costs as well.
Often only recommended for homes with lower hard-water numbers, magnetic water softeners cost between $200 and $600. The system uses magnets spaced throughout the pipes to separate and neutralize the water ions. However, since this is a newer system, it is not always as effective as the other methods and can cause the residue to leave a stain on the inside of your pipes.
If you are concerned about high mineral buildup in your drinking water, reverse osmosis softeners work as a more complex filtration system than others on this list. The water softener costs between $1,500 and $1,800 and often includes separate filters below each sink for extra filtration.
Water distillers cost between $1,200 and $4,000 and are another way to receive highly filtered water in your home. Due to the complex process used by a distiller, it is often too slow for homes with large water capacities. The softener transforms the water into vapor to remove minerals and other contaminants.
A dual-tank system is ideal for large homes that need round-the-clock softened water. Single-tank water softeners need time to regenerate overnight to remove the minerals collected during the day. Dual-tank systems will actually add two or three extra tanks to the process to ensure that they can function without interruption. The size and convenience add to the price. Dual-tank systems can cost between $1,000 and $5,000 upfront.
Additional Costs to Consider
Water softeners require ongoing care and will add a small amount to your utility bill no matter the style you choose.
Grain capacity refers to how much mineral content your machine can remove. Areas with higher water hardness levels require devices with higher grain capacity.
Water is considered hard when it meets or exceeds three grains per gallon (GPG). In states like Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico, water hardness frequently registers at 10 GPG or more.
Each type of water softener requires a different amount of electricity, and many require either salt or potassium refills every couple of months. Distillers that heat water to a high temperature, for example, use more energy than ion exchangers. However, salt and potassium-based water softeners require more frequent top-ups of these materials.
Water softener systems require ongoing maintenance, and you'll occasionally need to call in the water softener repair team. The cost of water softener repairs ranges from $150 to $900 on average but can get up to $2,000 if you need to replace the main elements of the system.
Water Softener Salt Prices
You’ll need to replenish the minerals in your tank every few months. A bag of salt for your water softener will cost between $5 and $10 for a 40-pound bag, whereas the same-size bag of potassium will cost between $50 and $70. If your system has a resin bed, you'll pay between $90 and $130 for a bag.
Water Softener Rental
Homeowners can also rent a water softener for $25 to $50 a month if they don't want to worry about constant upkeep and small repairs. Renting is also a good option if you only plan to spend a short period of time in your home each year.
Electrical or Plumbing Upgrades
Installing a new water softener in your home may require new pipes, wiring, and other structural changes to your home. You may also need to install new framing in your home to support the weight of the softener. Here are some costs to expect:
New pipe installation costs: $0.50 to $8 per linear foot
New wiring installation costs: $2 to $4 per square foot
Additional support framing costs: $3,800 on average
Some devices come with additional features, such as self-cleaning. This feature makes it so the homeowner doesn’t have to manually remove sediment buildup from the unit. However, this is standard on newer models, so you still might pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000.
What Will It Cost to Install My Own Water Softener?
If you’re a confident DIYer, you can cut out installation costs. You can expect to pay the price of your water softener system, which as noted above, varies, plus the cost of a few handy tools. To do a DIY installation, you’ll need:
A new water softener
If pipe installation is required, you may need to purchase new pipes or hire a local plumber to do the job before installing your softener system.
Cost to DIY vs. Hiring a Pro to Install a New Water Softening System
While you can save between $150 and $1,000 on labor costs by installing a water softener yourself, it's not always the best bet. Check with local building laws to ensure you are allowed to make the necessary home alterations without a professional license. And if you are in doubt about the capacity of the system, adding plumbing, or altering local wiring, calling a local water softener installation team is a good idea.
How to Save on Water Softener Installation Costs
The best way to ensure you save money on a water softener is to choose the correct capacity for your home. Too small a unit will require constant maintenance, while too large a unit requires unnecessary upfront costs. You can also cut installation costs by:
Choosing an ion-exchanger water softener with a meter-control valve that only rejuvenates when necessary and is not on a set timer.
Shopping around for at least three different suppliers and installation teams to compare quotes, reviews, and ongoing maintenance estimates.
Wait for water softeners to go on sale around major holiday appliance discount events.
Rent a water softener to cut down on maintenance and small repair costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Installing a water softener is worth it because it can help you cut costs in other areas over time. For example, keep linens, dishes, and clothing cleaner with soft water and save money on soap, laundry, and deep cleaning costs over time. Water softeners can even lengthen the lifespan of your pipes and plumbing system by discouraging mineral buildup. And what's best, soft water is gentler on your skin, hair, and palette.
When properly installed and functioning, it is safe to drink water from water softeners. The Minnesota Department of Health notes that homeowners should have their water-softening systems regularly inspected and maintained. They also note that users on a low-sodium diet should speak with their doctor before installing a sodium ion exchanger.
You can install a water softener system by turning off the water supply, draining the water, and then connecting your device to the waterline. Next, you’ll fill your tank with the recommended amount of salt or brine (whichever your unit calls for; be sure to read the instructions). Turn the water supply on and check for leaks. You can opt to let your water run for a few minutes, then test it using strips.
The process of inspecting your water softener system is similar.
Water softeners can last up to 25 years with proper maintenance and repair. The lifespan depends on the type and quality of water softener you buy. For instance, a single-tank electric water softener may only last about 12 years. Water softeners typically require repairs every 10 to 20 years.
Water softeners installed at the entrance of the main line into your home will treat the whole house. Smaller units that fit on the sink will cost less money to buy and install, but will only treat that faucet or appliance.
Ion exchangers use salt or brine to remove minerals from hard water. The result is clean drinking water with a small amount of sodium in it but less overall water hardness.
This method has been proven most effective by scientists for reducing water hardness. However, if your doctor has prescribed a low-sodium diet, you may want to consider alternative methods.