Having a water softener system installed in your home can bring so many benefits. But how much does a water softener cost? And are the benefits worth that cost? That's exactly what we're covering here, so read on. How Much Does A Water Softener Cost? Generally, the average water softener system cost can range from around $300 to $4000. That range includes the cost of the unit and the cost to install a water softener. For the water softener system unit, the price ranges from $600 to $2000. For installation costs, $800 to $2500 is the average range you can expect. You might be wondering why the range is as wide as it is. That's because a lot of factors can affect the overall water softener system cost. A whole house water softener system costs a lot more than a water softener system meant for a studio apartment for example. Water Softener Benefits Before we get into the important factors that affect water softener system cost, let's first find out the benefits of getting a unit installed. Here's an overview of those benefits: \tNourished skin \tSmooth and silky hair \tNo need for bottled water \tLonger life of clothes \tAppliances work better and last longer \tSavings on energy bills \tHelps avoid scale buildup \tEnvironmental safety \tFine flow in fixtures \tLong-lasting sewer system \tEfficient water heaters \tHealthy pets \tEvergreen plants \tKitchen utensils look new For the full discussion on the benefits of water softeners, check this post. 7 Important Factors To Consider When Calculating Water Softener System Cost To arrive at a relevant estimate for your specific needs, you'll need to consider seven important factors. These factors have the biggest impact when calculating the cost of water softener systems. As you add up all the costs and arrive at a realistic number, that's when you can weigh whether the benefits are worth the cost. Water Softener System Type And Capacity We'll be covering the six types of water softener systems, the cost of each, and their capacity. From there, you can compare your options and zero in on the best water softener system for your needs. As a general guide, take note of this range: Salt-based (Ion Exchange) Water Softener A salt-based water softener uses three main components that work together to soften water: (1) a mineral tank or water softener tank; (2) a brine tank; and, (3) a control valve. The mineral tank or water softener tank is where water softening happens. This tank contains the resin beads whose sodium ions exchange with the calcium and magnesium ions to produce soft water. This is why this system is also called an ion-exchange water softener system or ion-exchange system. The brine tank is a smaller tank connected to the softener tank. This tank is responsible for regenerating the exhausted sodium ions in the resin or mineral tank. Meanwhile, the control valve is responsible for initiating the regeneration process. Dual Tank Water Softener Dual tank water softeners (aka twin tank softeners) are systems that use two mineral tanks, as opposed to the single tank of a regular ion-exchange water softener. Though the additional tank means you'll need a bigger space for this softener, it does provide high efficiency for less water and salt waste, as well as more even water quality. Cost and Capacity Salt-based water softeners cost can range from $600 to $3,200 installed (cost to install: $200 to $500; unit: $400 to $2,700) for single tank water softeners. A dual tank system can cost $1,400 to $3,500 installed. Water softeners that use salt (or potassium as an alternative) have an additional cost to them. While an ion exchange water softener system can be left alone for years, you'll need to top up the salt in the brine tank after 6 to 8 weeks. How much salt is needed will depend on the tank type (single vs dual tank) and tank capacity. Using potassium will cost more per year than using salt. The regeneration cycles this type of system uses will also add a little to your electricity bill. While the water waste produced by regeneration will add to your water bill. Salt-free Water Softener Salt-free water softeners are called such because this system makes use of potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride to regenerate the resin in the mineral tank. In truth, this system doesn\u2019t do any water softening. Instead, it conditions or descales water by crystallizing the calcium and magnesium build-up. This is why this system is also called a salt-free water conditioner. Salt-free conditioners are useful as they keep mineral build-up from clinging to your laundry, appliances, plumbing systems, and other surfaces. However, this also means the water you receive\u2014in your drinking water and the kitchen sink\u2014is still hard water. People who are cautious with the amount of sodium in their diet often prefer having a salt-free water softener installed. Cost and Capacity Salt-free conditioners are increasingly becoming popular due to having low-maintenance costs and a no-waste operation. These systems can cost $400 to $4,000 for materials and installation. Investing in higher quality conditioners specifically will cost around $1,000 to $2,800, which can benefit you in the long run. Compared to ion exchange systems, a salt-free water conditioner has almost no additional cost. You can leave the system for up to 9 years until some parts will need replacing. You'll need to save a small amount of money for a replacement pre-sediment filter, which costs around $10 to $70, depending on the brand and quality you'll choose. This filter will need replacing every 6 months to a year. Reverse Osmosis Water Softener Reverse osmosis systems are not usually classified as water softeners. But they are good systems for softening and filtering your water at the same time. This system makes use of several filtration systems, including a reverse osmosis filter that gives the system its name. The reverse osmosis system works by having a fine screen filter out smaller particles in the water, including those that contribute to water hardness. The screen only allows the smallest water particles to go through and the unnecessary materials are all flushed out. Cost and Capacity The effectiveness of reverse osmosis systems in softening and filtering makes this system quite expensive compared to other water softeners on our list. A below the counter system can cost from $150 to $900 to install. The price range shoots up dramatically for a whole house water softener system using reverse osmosis. You'll need to prepare an amount between $4,000 to $12,000 if you're looking to have a whole house system. Apart from these upfront costs, you'll also have additional costs for continued operations. Several filters need to be replaced every 6 months. The fine screen also needs to be replaced every 2 years or so. While this system doesn't need regeneration, it still makes use of water and electricity, which will contribute to your bills. Magnetic Water Softener Magnetic water softeners are also called electronic water softener systems. It is a system that actually descales or conditions water instead of softening. In this system, two strong magnets are placed on either side of a pipe. These magnets create a magnetic field that attracts the hard water minerals. This process is not enough to truly soften water but enough to reduce the negative effects of hard water on your pipes, appliances, and laundry. With that, scale build-up will no longer be a problem. Among all the water softening systems, magnetic softeners have the most doubt surrounding them in terms of efficacy. As of now, there isn\u2019t conclusive evidence to back up the claim of magnetic softeners or conditioners. Despite this, this system continues to rise in popularity with how easy it is to install. Cost and Capacity Opting for an electronic\/magnetic water softener will cost you anywhere from $75 to $600 for a unit. With how easy it is to install on your own, you won't need to set aside a budget for installation costs. Apart from the easy installation, another benefit that many people like about magnetic water softeners is that they require absolutely no maintenance. This means you won't need to spend any money after getting your magnetic water softener system. Portable Water Softener Portable water softeners are best for having soft water on demand wherever you go. Mostly used in RVs and travel trailers, portable water softeners make use of the ion exchange system without the need for electricity. These portable ion exchangers also need to be regenerated, but most units only need table salt, as opposed to salt blocks or pellets. Cost and Capacity These lightweight and easy-to-hook-up systems go for around $150 to $400 per unit. As these are specially made for RVs and travel trailers, you can't expect a portable water softener to provide soft water for a whole house. On the other hand, if your space is a small studio, portable ion exchangers could provide soft water for a part or the entirety of it. Showerhead Water Softener A whole-house system can be too big of an investment for a lot of people. With that, a showerhead water softener is perfect for those looking to provide soft water for just a small space in the house, i.e. the shower room or bathroom. This water softener makes use of a cartridge filter to condition water and removes unwanted materials. With relatively less money, you can enjoy the benefit of soft water for your hair and skin. You'll also have an easier time cleaning your shower\/bathroom walls and doors since less to no soap scum or scale buildup will form. Cost and Capacity A showerhead water softener costs quite less than most water softener systems. You can have one for your shower room for as low as 30$. For showerheads with more functionality than just water softening, prices can go upwards to 200$. It's also good to note that you won't be spending any money on installation costs. Showerhead water softeners are installed by simply unscrewing the old showerhead and screwing on the new one. The only future cost you'll need to prepare for is cartridge filter replacement every 2 months, which is usually available for less than $20. Size Of Your Home And Household As you can gather from our breakdown of the various types of water softener systems, the cost to install and the unit itself will vary depending on the size of your home and the number of people in your household. A studio apartment will require vastly different plumbing compared with a house with multiple bathrooms. Treating enough water for daily use will require you to estimate the capacity based on grains per gallon (GPG). Grain capacity is the amount of mineral content that can be removed by a water softener system. Take the following steps to arrive at the size of the system you need: \tTake note of the number of people in your household. \tMultiply the number above to the average number of gallons per person per day, which is 100 at most, according to the USGS. \tTake the product above and multiply by the hardness of your water. \tYou can find this data either from your local municipality or by using hardness test strips. \tIf the data is not readily available, you can multiply by 10 grains per day, which is the average though it can range from 0 to 17 (and even above 17 for extremely hard water). \tLastly, multiply the product above by 7, which is the optimal days between regeneration. Let's say you have a household size of 4. Multiply 4 by 100 and you get 400, which when multiplied by 10 results in 4,000 grains per gallon (GPG). Multiply 4,000 grains per gallon by 7 days, and you'll get 28,000 grains per week. Most households only need a 32,000-grain water softener system. Part Of Your Home To Be Served Considering whether you want a system for your entire home or just for certain parts will help you calculate the cost of a water softener system. The types of systems we've listed show how important this consideration is. If you're mostly concerned about the softening water in the kitchen, opting for a reverse osmosis system under the kitchen sink will be the best option. If softening water for showering is your main concern, a showerhead water softener will benefit you most. If you travel a lot on an RV or travel trailer, portable ion exchange systems will be the better choice. If you'll want the water softener system to serve your entire house or a large part of your house, you can choose among ion-exchange softeners, salt-free softeners, or magnetic\/electronic softeners. Salt-free is best for those who are watching their daily sodium intake. Ion-exchangers are the classic choice and the most easily accessible for most people. Magnetic\/electronic softeners are the budget choice but do take note that like salt-free softeners, this will only condition the water and not produce soft water. Location Of Your Home Ultimately, where you live will affect the overall cost of water softener systems. Water hardness will vary depending on your location. And the harder the water, the bigger the capacity system you'll need to install. Another factor affected by the location of your home is material costs. Some locations will have higher costs for materials needed to install a water softener. The average labor cost will also vary depending on your location. Installation And Labor Regardless of the water softener system type and capacity you choose, here is a guide to the general range for the cost to install water softeners. \tThe budget part of the range ($600 to $1,000) is enough for small to medium-sized homes but with lower quality components. \tThe average part of the range ($1,000 to $2,200) can provide for almost all homes using higher quality components. \tThe premium part of the range ($2,200 to $3,500+) can provide for all homes, especially larger ones, using top brands and many additional features (WiFi control, metered regeneration, filtration, purification, etc.). Opting for a water softener system that can easily be installed DIY-style will cut installation costs and labor costs dramatically. These easy-to-install systems include a magnetic water softener, a portable ion exchange system, and a showerhead water softener system. Pricier units should be reserved for professional installation. Leaving the water softener installation to the professionals for pricier units will benefit you by ensuring your pricey unit will be installed correctly. Skimping on installation costs might result in a damaged water softener system. Electrical and Plumbing For more complicated water softener installation, electrical and plumbing must be considered. Some plumbing systems can be too complicated to DIY installation. If the water softener system you've chosen needs electricity to function, you'll need to consider calling in an electrician for some cases. Such cases include having no space for the water softener unit that is close to a power supply. Pushing for a DIY when you're in way over your head may result in costly repairs. General Contractor Most water softeners won't require you to hire a general contractor. You'll only need to consider getting a general contractor on board when the water softener installation will require structural work done on your home. Permits and Inspections If you're planning to install a water softener to the entirety of a large house, there's a chance you'll need to arrange for permits and inspections. You'll need to check with water softener installers regarding this matter. Maintenance Maintenance costs will vary depending on the system you've chosen. Here's an overview of the maintenance needed by each system. Salt-based Water Softener This water softener system can be left alone for years, excluding the salt top-up for the brine tank every 6 to 8 weeks. Using potassium rather than salt will cost more per year. The regeneration process done by this system will contribute to water and electricity bills. Salt-free Water Softener This water softener system can be left alone for up to 9 years. The pre-sediment filter needs to be changed every 6 months to a year ($10 to $70 per filter). Reverse Osmosis Softener Opting for this water softener system will require you to replace several filters every 6 months. The fine screen needs to be replaced every 2 years or so. This system will contribute to water and electricity bills. Magnetic Water Softener This system requires absolutely no maintenance. Portable Water Softener Regeneration of mineral ions in portable ion-exchange systems does not need electricity. Most units only need table salt for regeneration. Showerhead Water Softener This water softener system will require cartridge filter replacement every 2 months, which costs less than $20 per filter. Water Tests The last important factor you'll need to consider is paying for water tests. Hardness test strips are easily accessible via your local hardware store or online stores. Usually, these water test kits are enough to point you in the right direction for what water softener system you need. For major projects or for places with very questionable water supply, investing in professional lab tests will be worth it. Conclusion Considering the seven important factors when calculating water softener system costs can help you decide on the perfect unit for your needs. This will provide you with all the benefits soft water can give for the lowest cost possible. Be sure to explore more of our great posts about water softeners to arrive at the best decision possible for your water softener investment.