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Home » Water Softeners » Water Softener Cost Breakdown

Water Softener Cost Breakdown

By: David Trinh
Last Updated:
water softeners

We all want to get rid of hard water, but water softening units come with an expense.

Depending on the water softening system you select and its installation costs, the pricing could range between $350 and $4,000. Yes, there’s a significant gap between the prices of different water softeners.

The price range will also depend on the type of softener you want. If you are looking for a standard ion exchange unit it will run you around $1000. If you just want a portable unit it may only cost $300.

In this guide, we’re discussing the different factors contributing to those costs, including the installation cost and if it’s worth getting a high-end model or not. That way, you can make the most optimal decision and invest in the ideal system for your family and home’s needs.

Home Water Softener System Cost

Below are the factors that determine a home water softener’s cost:

  • Brand: As you research water softener prices, you’ll notice that some name brands charge higher amounts compared to others. Some have services you don’t need, while others have features you might not like or want. Look for brands that stand out above the competition with a proven track record.
  • Type: There are a wide variety of water softener types, including standard ion exchangers and magnetic descalers. Keep in mind that it’s going to be more expensive if you choose salt-based water softeners instead of salt-free conditioners.
  • Size: Depending on how hard your home’s water is, you should size it appropriately. For example, if your water has a high hardness level, you’re going to use more, which requires a larger softener. Here is also where you’re going to look at the unit’s flow rate. Having a reasonable flow rate means you’re not losing pressure when using multiple water sources at once.
  • Features: Ideally, the highlights for water softeners should help you conserve water and save money. For example, look for water softeners featuring digital controls that are easy to manage. Instead of looking at timer-based water softeners, opt for metered systems that operate based on previous water usage.
Softener TypePrice Range
Commercial system$1,000 or higher
Dual-tank ion exchange unit$950 to $2,000
Portable unit$150 to $400
Magnetic descalerApproximately $200
Salt-free conditioner$150 to $1,700
Standard ion exchanger$350 to $1,800

Even though higher priced models are more expensive initially, keep in mind that they are more cost-effective in the long run. The main reason is that you’ll encounter fewer repair costs. So, if you choose a lower-priced water softener, that may resolve your hard water issues. However, it might also not last as long.

A high-quality water softener is going to pay for itself in the long run. Let’s look at why:

  • Water softeners keep your plumbing systems free of scale.
  • Your appliances and water heater are going to last longer and run more efficiently.
  • You’ll save time and money purchasing detergents and other household toiletries because lathering improves.

Standard Salt-Based System Cost

Water Softeners

Pricing for a standard salt-based system, also referred to as ion exchange or reverse osmosis unit, starts at around $350 and can range up to $1,800. The $350 ion exchange model is for 20,000 or more grains per gallon. Choosing a higher-priced whole house ion exchange system means it may have a 30,000 grain per gallon high-efficiency capacity. That capacity is great for filtering hard water elements. Those elements for filters include calcium and magnesium.

If you own a small to medium-sized home, this is sufficient water softening capacity. Keep in mind that a lower-priced system often features low-quality materials and a lack of durability. Prices vary according to the softeners water capacity, the brand, high-tech features, and if the system includes additional features.

As you shop around for systems, keep in mind that high-priced systems don’t always equal the best water softener. Some brands feature high prices that don’t measure up to the quality of the unit. Make sure you read customer reviews to see which models are worth the money.

Salt-Free Conditioner Cost

springwell future soft

Salt-free water conditioner pricing starts at $150 and ranges up to $1,700. Choosing a higher-priced whole house softener system means you’ll find a higher flow rate between three and six bathrooms. These salt-free water softeners are an ideal system for hard water treatment levels below 25 grains per gallon.

This type of water softener system treats the hard water in your water supply without salt. Even though there are costs associated with the cartridges you must replace, this softener water system uses less water. That means it doesn’t cost as much to operate compared to other hard water treatment systems.

These types of systems aren’t softening the water, but instead keeping it conditioned. Because it doesn’t capture any minerals, you don’t have to dispose of wastewater. The hard water in your home doesn’t leave your home, but the treatment it received prevents it from binding to any surfaces.

Magnetic Descaler Cost

Eddy descaler

You can find a magnetic descaler system for as low as $200, but the average costs range between $160 and $600. Pricing for whole-house house systems varies depending on the brand, size, and any related installation costs. These salt-free water softeners are easy to install and don’t require a drain.

This water softener system comes with magnets that wrap around your existing pipes. Then, when in use, they prevent scale build-up within your pipes by restructuring the hard mineral ions. These systems are sodium free and don’t require a brine tank or regeneration beads.

Even though this water softening system is affordable and doesn’t require maintenance, its effectiveness is controversial. For example, a descaler can successfully prevent scale from building up. However, these systems don’t remove minerals from your hard water supply.

Average Installation Costs

Keep in mind that if you choose a whole house water softener, that requires tapping into your water supply through your existing plumbing system. You can’t install these systems just anywhere, or else they won’t work correctly.

While this is a requirement for most water softeners, the exception is installing a magnetic descaler because it’s sodium-free, and water doesn’t need to flow through it for it to work. As a result, many don’t consider a magnetic descaler a “true” water softener.

We recommend that homeowners read over the fine print of the warranty for their water softener installation. For example, some warranties void if a professional licensed plumber doesn’t install the water softening system.

Suppose you require a plumber to install your system, factor in between $200 and $500 above the initial cost for the water softener. That fee covers basic labor services, equipment, installation supplies, and cleaning up the workspace after it’s installed. If you have an old system that the plumber is replacing, then you can opt to ask them to remove it for an additional fee.

Type of cost:Price:Description:
Removal of old appliances$70Detachment and legal disposal of an old system
Professional labor
$200 - $500
If the warranty requires a professional plumber
Plumbing installation
$750 - $3,500
If plumbing isn't available in older homes
Basic installation kit
$50 - $100
DIY installation kits when professional installations aren't required

Water Softener Monthly Costs to Run

After you find a water softener that fits your needs, your next question might be about how much you’re going to spend when it’s in use. These fees depend on if you choose to get a salt or salt free water softener. Let’s break down the necessary monthly costs you might encounter: 

Type of costMonthly fee
Monthly bag of salt$10 monthly
Monthly bag of potassium$25 monthly
Resin replacement$100-$110 (you only need to do this once every 10 years)
Carbon replacementUp to $150 annually (approximately $12.50 each month)
Water and sewerApproximately $6 monthly
ElectricityUp to $10 annually
Maintenance and other servicingFree or up to $37 (budget per month)

Monthly Bags of Salt

The biggest price consideration you have to make when choosing a sodium water softener is purchasing bags of salt. The only way to recharge the beads in your brine tank is with salt. The frequency at which you need to replace depends on your water’s hardness.

Water and Sewer

During the regeneration process, saltwater softeners produce wastewater. Some systems use up to 50 gallons when regenerating. However, it’s difficult precisely to measure how much water the system is going to use because it depends on your water’s hardness level.


One of the biggest myths about water softeners is that they use a considerable amount of electricity. If you choose a system that regenerates based on its water usage, that helps conserve energy. You’ll find that an efficient system uses around the same amount of energy as a clock radio annually.

Maintenance and Servicing

Some systems, like a magnetic descaler, don’t require any maintenance or servicing after installation. However, other water softening systems could need repairs with an average price of $422 in a given year. Choosing a higher-quality system means you’re paying less for serving, repair, and maintenance.

Example Calculations for Water Softener Cost

Example 1:

Basic salt-based softener for mid-sized home, DIY install, no servicing.

Expenditure:Pricing: (during the first year)
Water softener purchase$500
Cost to DIY install a water softener$23
Salt $30 (per month for 12 months)
Water $70 annually
Maintenance or serviceNo cost

Example 2:

Salt-Free Softener for a large home, professional install, no servicing.

Expenditure:Pricing: (during the first year)
Water softener purchase$1,000
Cost to professionally install a salt-free water softener$1,300
Water softening cartridges$125 (each for 12 months)
Water No additional water consumption
Maintenance or serviceNo cost
Total:$3,800 roughly

Depending on the water softening system you select, it might need pre or post-treatment. Those treatments are going to add to the overall price to run your unit.

Is it Worth the Cost?

Soft water makes a significant difference when you’re trying to extend your appliance’s lifespan and performance. Installing these systems help reduce the wear and tear on these household essentials. The main reason is that the system prevents scale from building up on your faucets and in your pipes. As a result, they last longer and work better.

That also means your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard. That saves you from purchasing a new water heater before the end of its lifespan. That also means that it’s going to run more efficiently. When water heaters run inefficiently, they use more water and power.

A water softener is worth the cost if you choose the best one for solving your hard water issues. Although the initial cost upfront may be high, it ends up costing less over time. Reverse osmosis, ion exchange softeners, or salt-free systems are an excellent way of solving your hard water issues.


I’m hoping we cleared up some confusion in regards to water softener costs.

No matter if you’re looking for a whole-house system, an ion-exchange model, or salt-free systems to solve your hard water problems, costs are a factor. A softener system might also require installation from a professional plumber.

When choosing a softener that’s ideal for your budget don’t hesitate to ask the manufacturer about the softening process, how much water the model uses, how hard it is to install, and more to determine the total costs.

For more product information, check out our water softener review page here.

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David Trinh
David is an expert in all things plumbing, heating, cooling, and water treatment. He got his start in the plumbing business working on fixing all types of home improvement issues including water leaks, broken toilets, appliance installation, and more. Over time, he learned a ton about installing and choosing the correct water treatment products for homeowners.

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