If you live in an area with hard water, you may have noticed white calcium buildup around your drains and showerhead.
Hard water can also leave this build-up on your skin and hair, making it dry and rough.
Over time, without regular cleaning, hard water can damage your appliances and make them less efficient.
Water softeners are one way to neutralize hard water. These systems work to eliminate the minerals within the water.
These all have different costs depending on the way they remove minerals and the amount of water that they treat.
Water softeners usually cost around $1500, but they can cost anywhere between $500 and $6000.
We’ll cover more about water softeners and the factors that affect their cost in this article.
You’ll also learn why a water softener could be a worthwhile investment for your home.
Why You May Need A Water Softener
Before we get into the costs of water softeners, you should understand some of the reasons why you may need one in the first place.
If you live in a hard water location, you may see white buildup around the drains that can be difficult to remove.
Hard water can also make your white laundry look dull, dry out your skin and hair, and make your utility bills more expensive. We’ll cover some of these reasons in more detail below.
If you want to check how hard your water supply is, you can buy water testing kits online or from a hardware store.
Water hardness is measured in milligrams per liter of calcium carbonate. 60 mg/l and under is soft water, while 61 to 120 mg/l is reasonably hard.
121 to 180mg/l is hard water, while anything over 180mg/l is very hard.
If your water supply exceeds 121 mg/l, a water softener is a worthwhile investment to defend your pipes from mineral accumulation.
If water flows down a drain, it will leave behind small pools of water.
When the water is hard, these areas will evaporate to leave minerals behind. The minerals are very difficult to remove as the buildup can be as hard as stone.
Water softeners stop these minerals from leaking from the faucets so you won’t need to deal with the stains later.
Just like minerals can build up in your pipes, the same substances can build up on anything the water touches, including showerheads, glasses, and basins.
If the buildup starts accumulating inside important pipes and electrical appliances, they can eventually break down and need expensive repairs.
Expensive Utility Bills
A lot of people don’t realize that they have scale buildup until they notice a rise in their utility bills. When mineral buildup occurs inside pipes, water can struggle to flow through.
If you need hot water for appliances like boilers or heaters, they will struggle to run as efficiently and will work harder to heat the water.
This means that the appliances will use more energy, which equates to a rise in your utility bills.
Dry Hair And Skin
Hard water isn’t just bad for your plumbing. It’s also bad for your skin and hair. Mineral deposits can cause dryness and irritation on your body and scalp.
Over time, this can lead to brittle hair, scalp problems, and irritated skin.
Hard water can also stop the soap from fully dissolving, so you may end up with leftover soap on your body which can harbor bacteria.
Minerals and metals in hard water can stop laundry detergents from cleaning clothes as well as they should.
The same buildup that occurs in your pipes can accumulate on your clothes. As a result, you may find that your whites come out greyer than usual, and your colors fade faster.
Faulty Water Heaters
If minerals are allowed to accumulate on the inside of your pipes, the same metals will build up inside your water heater too.
Hard water can make your water heating system inefficient, so you could end up paying more money each month to keep warm.
Factors That Affect the Cost of A Water Softener
The cost will be one factor that affects what water softener you buy, but before you do so, consult a professional to ensure the system can handle your water supply and household size.
The following factors will affect how much your water softener costs.
Size And Type Of Water Softener
Two of the most significant factors that will affect the cost of your water softener are the type of system and its size. Larger homes will naturally use more water.
The water softener needed for a larger home will need to have higher efficiency, so they’ll usually be more expensive.
Smaller homes won’t use that much water, so they’ll use less water overall, and will only need a smaller water softener. These systems will be less expensive than larger models.
You should also be aware that a water softener’s capacity plays into its cost. This is how much water a softener can soften.
In most cases, a water softener’s capacity is measured in GPG, known as grains. The right GPG level for your home will depend on how hard or soft your water supply is.
The GPG level will also vary depending on the number of people in your home.
To be on the safe side, use a home testing kit to find out how hard your water supply is before buying a softener.
Water softeners generally have grain capacity levels ranging from 20,000 to 80,000.
Smaller homes with less than three people and three bathrooms should go for a medium-sized softener that has a 20,000-grain capacity.
Larger houses with up to six people may need a softener with a 32,000-grain capacity. The larger the household, the larger the required grain capacity.
Keep in mind that opting for softeners with a larger grain capacity will require you to purchase a bigger, more powerful softener.
Cost Of Installation
We’ve covered why less expensive magnetic water softeners aren’t a good idea, so now we can get into some other types of water softeners.
Some common types of water softeners used today are reverse osmosis systems and salt-based ion exchange systems.
A point to remember is that the price you pay for the water softener itself may not cost that much, but the installation price will be a lot more.
Some water softeners are relatively simple to install yourself, whereas other models will need professional installation.
The installation cost will vary depending on the type of system you want to install. Generally speaking, ion exchange salt-based systems will cost around $400, dual-tank models, $600, and higher-end dual tank models $1000.
You’ll need to plan for the cost of the actual system, and up to $1000 for the correct installation.
However, systems that don’t use salt tend to be simpler to install compared to other models.
No salt softeners can usually be installed by yourself, or you can hire a plumber to install them for you at a lower cost.
Various Maintenance Costs
It doesn’t matter whether you opt for an ion exchange system or a dual tank model, you’ll have to pay some maintenance costs to keep your softener running.
Keep in mind that the maintenance costs for ion exchange models tend to be more than other models.
Ion exchange water softeners need salt and potassium to run properly.
One bag of salt can cost between $7 and-12 a month. This may not seem like much, but replacing the salt each month can add up over time.
Added salt can increase the amount of sodium in your water, which may lead to health issues. If you’d like to avoid this, you can opt for potassium bags instead.
These can cost between $20 and 25 each month.
You’ll also have to replace the resin each time it expires, but the resin supply normally lasts up to five years, so this may not be too big of a problem.
If you do opt for a saltwater system, you’ll also need to check the brine tank every few months to avoid salt building up inside.
Every year, you can expect to pay between $100 and 300 to examine, flush, and refill the system.
If you opt for a template-assisted crystallization system, you’ll need to pay to change their filter. However, you’ll only need to do so every one to three years, depending on their usage.
Template-assisted crystallization systems don’t need as much maintenance as ion exchange ones.
These models don’t produce electricity or discharge, making them better for the environment and resulting in lower maintenance costs.
Another factor that affects your water softener’s cost is where you live.
Urban areas usually have a higher cost of living than rural locations. The cost of labor and materials will be higher in cities compared to pastoral places.
Different locations also have various water hardness levels.
Water tends to be harder in cities, though some can have a harder water supply than others, like Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Phoenix.
Do your research to choose a water softener that works best with your region’s water hardness level.
Water Supply Tests
As mentioned previously, you’ll need to know how hard your water supply is before choosing a water softener.
You can pay for a water treatment professional to conduct a test in your home, or contact your local district to see if they already have this information.
Take care if you live on a well, as you’ll need to ensure the test also measures pH level and iron content along with hardness. Test kits are priced around $10-$50.
Plumbing And Electricity
A water softener system for a household will require installation near a water main. If you can’t access this area easily or need a new plumbing line, the cost of installing a softener will increase.
These systems will also need electricity to run.
If you live in a rural location that doesn’t have a readily available power supply nearby, you’ll need to pay more for an electrician to install the necessary wiring.
Types Of Water Softener Systems
After you’ve worked out your water usage and how hard your supply is, you can decide on which water softener you want to use.
Some models are better for large households that use a lot of water, while others are better for septic tanks.
We’ll cover the cost of these in more detail below.
Ion Exchange Systems
Ion exchange systems are the most popular and are known as the most reliable type of water softeners.
These work by passing water through a mineral tank.
Inside this tank, magnesium, and calcium swap ions as they attach to beads made from resin or plastic.
These beads then flow into a brine tank which uses salt to clean the minerals away.
Ion exchange softeners can cost from $500 to $2000 for higher-end models.
This price will include the unit and installation cost, but remember that you will still have to pay for salt refills every few months.
Water Distiller Systems
Water distillers aren’t as common as ion exchange systems, but they’re usually less expensive as a whole.
These work by producing water vapor to split water from any minerals and heavy metals.
Water distillers don’t use mineral tanks or filters, so they aren’t as effective at clearing water from all of the chemicals.
These models don’t work as fast either, so they aren’t the best choice for a whole household’s water supply.
Despite this, water distillers are still a good option for softening drinking water.
Depending on the model you go for, installing a water distiller system can cost anywhere from $50 to $200.
Salt-free systems work like ion exchange ones, but they use potassium in place of salt.
Instead of removing metals from the water, salt-free systems use potassium to neutralize any minerals.
Potassium works gently on septic tanks and may be a better choice for those who are worried about their sodium intake.
Salt-free water softeners can cost from $800 to $4000 to install.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
Reverse osmosis systems can cost a lot, but these are the best option for clearing all chemicals, minerals, and metals from your water.
A reverse osmosis system can cost from $1000 to $2,800 for the unit and installation.
These will completely filter your water from unwanted substances, making your tap water much safer to drink.
Reverse osmosis systems can be installed under your kitchen sink and can work alongside any existing water softener elements you already own.
Magnetic Water Softeners
There are several reasons why some people may prefer to opt for cheaper water softeners.
Whatever your reasons are, if you want to save as much as you can on these systems, you could opt for renting a water softener, or simply purchasing the cheapest one available.
Magnetic water softeners are priced on the lower end and can cost anywhere from $300 to $600.
These are electrical devices that fix onto your present plumbing.
Magnets inside the device produce an energy field to reverse the mineral ions, stopping them from accumulating within.
Magnetic models may be cheap, but there isn’t much evidence that proves they work well. Even if they do work, you will still end up with a decent amount of limescale around your pipes.
You may be tempted to buy one due to the price, but they are inefficient, so you would be wasting your money.
If you’re looking for an affordable option, it’s best to look at other types of water softeners, as magnetic options aren’t worth it.
The Bottom Line
If you have hard water, then you should consider investing in a water softener system.
Various factors affect how much a water softener costs, but try to avoid going for the cheapest options available.
A water softener will be a long-term necessity, so it may be worthwhile paying more for a model that will work efficiently and has a longer lifespan.
The installation costs will also be a factor, but remember to ensure that the installer and any subcontractors are insured, licensed, and experienced.
It is important to make sure that the company you choose is reputable, and that they follow all safety regulations when carrying out repairs.