How much does a water softener cost?

If home improvement is on your New Year’s Resolutions list, installing a water softener could be a great way to start!

Water softeners remove metallic particles such as calcium and magnesium in “hard water,” leaving it purified as “soft water.”

Soft water is much better for your skin, but hard water is non-toxic, and there is no evidence of hard water contributing to any health concerns, but the same cannot be said for the health of your pipes.

Hard water will lead to build-up in your pipes, which will cost you money in maintenance, repairs, and replacement.

Is a water softener worth the investment for the difference it makes?

Table of Contents
1. How much does a water softener cost?
2. Is a water softener worth it?
3. How long does a water softener last for?
4. Which water softener is best?
5. How much does a water softener cost to rent?
6. Water softener cost per month?
7. How much should it cost to have a water softener installed?


What’s the price of a water softener?

The price of an average water softener installation can range from $1600 to $3500. That’s quite a wide range, and many variables dictate where your installation will land.

If you choose a smaller system that you can install on your own, your expenses will be much lower.

If you decided to have a water softening system professionally installed for you, the price of installation would vary by the size of your system, the type of system, and the contractor you hire.

The capacity of your water softener is a significant factor in its cost. The capacity of a water softener is measured in GPG, or grains per gallon.

The average amount of water used by one person for all purposes is 80 gallons, so multiply the number of people in your home by 80.

For example, a four-person household may use an average of 320 gallons. Multiply that number by 10—the average GPG in the United States—and you have determined the grain requirement for your family.

A family of four may have a 3,200-grain requirement, so they would need to install a water softener with 24,000 grains.

The highest water softener capacity is 80,000 grains for homes with 9,151 – 11,500-grain requirements.

The higher capacities can cost around $1600 before installation, while the lowest capacities can cost less than $800.

The hardness of your water will also affect the price of your system. Water with higher levels of metal ions will require more powerful water softening systems.

Your water department could provide you a report on the hardness of your water, but if you get your water from a well you can get a test kit for around $100.

You can also reach out to an independent laboratory. They won’t try to sell you on any water treatment products because they are a neutral party.

It is also essential to consider the iron level in your hard water. High iron levels should influence the decision you make on which water softener to get. For every 1 ppm of iron in your water, experts recommend adding 4 GPG to the total hardness level.

You may even want to add 4 GPG to the overall hardness level for every 1 ppm of manganese.

Keep in mind to watch out for iron levels, especially if you get your water from a private well.

Is a water softener worth it?

Soft water makes a big difference in extending the life of your appliances.

Soft water will reduce the scale build-up on your faucets and pipes, which will make them last longer with less maintenance.

It can save you money on replacing appliances like washing machines and dishwashers because soft water will extend their longevity.

Soft water is also much better for their performance as hard water can cause white clothes to grey, leave spots on clothing, and cause residual soap spots to form on dishes and cutlery.

Soft water will also improve your water heater’s performance as it will not have to use as much energy as it uses hard water.

Showering and bathing with soft water are much better for your skin, and it adheres to soap without leaving behind a sticky residue.

Soft water unclogs the pores on your skin and allows you natural oils to flow again, after being clogged by hard water minerals. Your skin will feel naturally smoother and silkier

These benefits add up to a big difference in your home’s efficiency, comfort, and convenience, and that’s what makes a water softener worth it.

How long does a water softener last for?

Water softeners will typically last between ten and fifteen years. Some of the more expensive options may last longer and thus save you more money in the long run.

The most contributing factor to the life of your water softener is how much soft water it produces.

Homes with lower water consumption will put less wear and tear on their systems so that they may last a little longer.

The length of the warranties offered on different systems may also be an indication of how long your system is expected to last.

Which water softener is best?

The best water softening system will be one that is customized to your water and household consumption.

Be sure to consider your options so that the system you decide on is a perfect fit for your home and your budget.

The first thing to consider is what hardness level of water you have, how much water you use, and then design a whole-house water softener system.

You’ll also want to consider whether you want to use an ion-exchange water softening system or a salt-free water conditioner.

Ion-exchange water softeners can use either sodium or potassium to remove hard water minerals and soften the water.

Sodium is much more affordable than potassium. A 40-pound bag of water softening potassium can cost as much as $27.00, while the same bag of sodium can cost as little as $6.25.

Potassium is better for septic tanks and for maintaining a low-sodium diet. Consult your physician.

Some local and state codes may restrict sodium water softeners where there are septic tanks, so be sure to check your area’s codes before making your decision.

Water softeners can be one of three types with varying prices between them:

  • ion exchangers
  • salt-free
  • magnetic

Ion-exchange softeners are the most common type of water softener. They’re also the most affordable. They’re most typically used with sodium, and they function by exchanging magnesium and calcium with salt.

Salt-free water conditioners are another “softening” option for those who live in areas that restrict sodium or potassium-based water softeners, those on low-sodium diets, or those who prefer a near maintenance-free system.

Salt-free conditioners don’t remove the magnesium or calcium. Instead, they crystallize the particles and prevent them from binding to anything as they flow through your plumbing.

Salt-free water softeners require no monthly salt or potassium additions and therefor are easier to maintain. They do require replacement of the filter media every year or two, depending on tests.

Magnetic or electric water softeners are the newest option.

The magnetic water softener attaches to your existing pipes like a “plug-in” and uses a magnetic field to reverse the charge of the ions, causing them to resist the pipes and each other.

These softeners can cost as little as $200, but they are controversial.

While many users claim to be satisfied with the magnetic water softener’s performance, some water-testing associations have conducted studies that say the magnetic softeners don’t work.

Additionally, the heavy minerals are still within the water and will settle in your water heater and appliances, reducing efficiencies and lifespans.

Ion-exchanging resin water softeners are the most common choice overall.

These ion-exchangers include a bed of resin. The resin will hold a negative charge, whereas metal ions will maintain a positive charge.

The water passes through the resin bed as it enters the plumbing and draws the metal ions out.

Eventually, your water softener will regenerate, a process by which the control valve will activate to clean the system of all the heavy minerals they’ve absorbed, and then recharge it with fresh sodium or potassium ions.

The process of regeneration starts with a backwash flush to remove the heavy minerals. Then water runs through a smaller tank, which contains sodium or potassium salt to create a brine wash that flows into the taller ion exchange tank to coat the beads with fresh sodium and potassium ions.

With ion-exchanging resin water softeners, there are three ways the system can regenerate:

  • by meter
  • by a timer
  • manually

Manual regeneration softeners are no longer manufactured but do still exist in some homes.

By meter, regeneration will operate based on how much water the home uses.

These will only produce as much soft water as your house needs, so there is never any waste.

By timer, regeneration is the most common. It involves a timed system in which a set amount of soft water is produced at the same time every day.

How often does a water softener need to regenerate?

That can depend on the unique qualities of your system. The capacity, model level, age, and type of system will all determine how often it needs to be regenerated, so be sure to carefully educate yourself on your system’s needs when you purchase it.

How much does a water softener cost to rent?

Renting a water softener can cost about the same as financing one to own.

Some companies will offer monthly rates ranging from $30 to $60 for a salt-based system, but a rent-to-own rate would be much higher.

Renting will allow you to return your system if you decide you don’t care for it or if your coding restrictions change—which is unlikely.

Rent-to-own agreements give you a chance to try your system out before you decide to purchase it, and a rented system may include repair costs, but you still may be paying for the installation.

Renting may cost you more money in the long run.

If you’re paying the rate of $40 a month for a system that would have costed $3,000, you’ll be paying more than the cost of an outright purchase in just six years.

If it were to enjoy a full lifespan of fifteen years, you would make 180 payments of $40+, which will come out to around $7,200. That’s over $3,000 more than having purchased the system outright, and you wouldn’t even own it.

Rented systems also offer a minimal amount of choices, and most of the time, the equipment is used.

Water softener cost per month?

Other than occasional maintenance costs, the only monthly expenses you can expect for a water softener that you bought outright is the price of sodium or potassium softening bags—just over $5 for the former and just under $27 for the latter.

You should only have to refill your water softener salt tank once a month.

If you chose to finance your system, your monthly rate would vary by the price of your system and the financing plan that you chose.

It usually comes out to be about the same as renting, which can be as low as $40 a month.

If you chose to rent your system, you could pay $40 or more depending on your water softener’s value.

As far as the difference in electricity bills, water softeners on average use about an extra dollar’s worth of electricity a month, but even that is sometimes negated by the energy saved by your water heater since it is easier for it to heat soft water.

The better question is how much money you’ll be saving with a water softener. Because soft water adheres better to soap without leaving spots or a sticky residue on dishes, you can use less soap to clean.

This is especially true if you feel as though your laundry has not been getting clean.

Soft water will save you the expense of running your clothes through more than one wash or using extra soap.

You will no longer have to replace clothing that has been faded or spotted by hard water.

Your facets, pipes, wash machines, and dishwashers will last longer and run more efficiently, saving you tons of money on maintenance and replacements.

How much should it cost to have a water softener installed?

The price of the installation only can be anywhere between $850 and $1650 (parts and labor but not the softener).

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Owner - Operator at RT Olson Plumbing
Bob Olson has over 18 years experience in all aspects of residential and commercial plumbing. He's a 4th generation plumber. With over 500 five-star customer reviews, he runs one of the best-rated plumbing companies in Corona, CA.
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