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  • Take The SOFTENER FINDER Quiz

  • September 08, 2022 8 min read

    How Much Should You Spend On a Water Softener?

    spend on water softener

    Before working out on how much you should consider spending on your water softener, you should know why at all you need to have one install at your home. Do you really need a water softener at your home? As the report says almost 85% of the country suffers from hard water problems. It shows that most of the places affected by hard water. You can check your hair and utensils, if a grey layer spot presents there, most likely your home is running with hard water.

    Most of us live in a city or rural area with hard water, it's more common than uncommon. Over time, you will see the effects of the minerals present in your water, and it's not pretty. Dry hair and skin, and residue left on dishes are just two very common effects of hard water. Although hard water is not dangerous for your personal health but it reduces the life spans of your plumbing materials. So, spending money in the water softening system is quite wrathful.

    Simply put, hard water is water that includes minerals (most commonly magnesium and calcium). Because of the presence of these minerals, hard water makes cleaning difficult due to its tendency to adhere to soap and form a sticky residue.

    Hard water will cause a graying of white laundry and prevent proper cleaning of bathtubs and showers as well. Tea kettles and utensils used to boil water will also develop a scaly build-up and glassware will show white spots that cause a perpetually dirty appearance. Hard water passing through electric water heaters and other electrical fixtures also builds up quickly due to the charges in the minerals. This can lead to early failure of the fixture itself.

    So far, there are no known health risks associated with drinking hard water. In fact, hard water can supplement small amounts of additional calcium and magnesium in your diet. When talking with your doctor about any health issues you may have, be sure to mention if your home has a water softener. You may need to take dietary supplements to make up for any subsequent mineral deficiencies.

    Are water softeners worth the money?

    Water softeners generally cost anywhere from $300 to $4000, depending on the type and quality of the water softener as well as installation costs. Some water softeners, though, like those that rely on salt or potassium, have significant recurring costs that could add up over time. There are a wide range of water softeners with several price ranges to choose from. From as little as $400 to more than $10,000. You have a lot of choices. In the end, choose a water softening system that fits your needs and your budget and don't be swayed by information that does not fit your needs and your budget.

    In the end, though, how much you spend on a water softener depends on the severity of the hardness. Check out this map to see if your city is likely to have a severe hard water problem. 

    Let’s say you’re looking for the cheapest water softener you can find. Maybe you don’t own the place you’re staying and you just want to find a way to temporarily alleviate all of your hard water problems. You could look into renting a water softener system, or you could look into buying the cheapest water softener you can find, just so you can get rid of your dry skin problems.

    In that case, you’re probably going to stumble on a magnetic water softener that costs anywhere from $300-$600. Unfortunately, however, a magnetic water softener is unlikely to solve any of your hard water problems. There’s very little evidence that they’re effective, and when they are effective, the resulting limescale prevention is unfortunately pretty negligible. You could roll the dice and buy a magnetic water softener anyway, with the hope that it at least works a little bit, but you might be throwing your hard-earned money away.

    What to consider when buying a water softener

    This post is not of course a complete buying guide of a water softener. Here are a few important points to look for while selecting a water softener.

    Size of softener: What size of water softener do you need? Take into account how much water needs to be softened (based on the size of your family), how large your home is, and how hard the water is.

    The cost of a water softener depends on the size of the unit itself and quality of the model. Capacity is measured in grains-per-gallon (GPG). To determine the capacity of the water softener you need for your family, multiply the number of people in your home by 80 (the average number of gallons used per person for washing, drinking and cooking), then multiply that result by 10 (the average grains per gallon in the United States). This tells you the grain requirements of your family. As a handy guide, compare the chart below to see which grain capacity water softener is best for your family:

            Grain Requirements                           Water Softener Capacity

             0 – 3,500                                          24,000 Grains

           3,501 – 4,500                                    32,000 Grains

           4,501 – 6,850                                    48,000 Grains

           6,851 – 9,150                                    64,000 Grains

           9,151 – 11,500                                  80,000 Grains

    A high-end water softener of 75,000 grains per gallon can cost $1,800. This is for a salt-free version able to be installed indoors or outdoors, providing 99.6% effectiveness when preventing scale build-up.

    Lower-end models are significantly more affordable. A 33,000 grain softener can handle a 1-to- 5 person household and costs around $350

    These prices reflect the cost of the water softener alone. Installation will include: labor, materials and the removal/disposal of any existing system--which all-tolled can cost between $250 and $400. Some additional factors like remoteness of the job site, location of the softener within your home or further modifications may add to the cost as well

    Condition of Water

    Some water is harder than others. As you might expect, the harder your water, the higher your water softening cost will be. That’s because you’re going to require a more intense system to soften the water. 

    You can have a water analysis done to determine what is in your water, if you wish. However, the city where you live should also be able to provide this information. If your incoming water supply is quite hard, you will need a more effective softening process to achieve the desired results. Simply put, the harder the water, the higher the cost of softening it.

     

    Type of Water Softener

    There is a vast difference in the quality of the water softeners on the market. Some have cheaper components, and of course, will not last as long. Get the best you can afford for the best value.

    There are a few different types of water softeners, all coming in at different price points. The four types are:

    1. Ion-ExchangersSalt-FreeDual TankMagnetic

    Ion-exchangers are the most popular and affordable. Magnetic, while newer, are also not as expensive as salt-free or dual tank exchangers. Of course, the status of your water and size of your house could limit your water softener choices.

    What is the best water softener for the money?

    Brand – There are a couple of really expensive brands out there that charge outrageous prices for products and services that you either don’t want or need, or that are simply no better than what the competition has to offer. Other than that, we recommend you go with one of the popular brands that have proven themselves over the years – think Fleck.

    Generally speaking, you should keep in mind that not all whole house water softeners and conditioners are created equal. A product with a lower price tag might wear out more quickly, thus having higher maintenance needs and requiring costly repairs (and vice versa).

    Of course, prices for the same model can also vary quite significantly from one retailer to the next.

    Installation

    You can certainly install a water softener yourself, but you can never underestimate the value of having a professional installation. Factor this into the overall cost of your water softener.

    How much does it cost to install a water softener?

    Next, after exhausting the cheapest magnetic water softeners and finding out that the research doesn’t necessarily back up their effectiveness, let’s look into some other systems. One of the most popular types of water softeners on the market today is salt-based ion exchange systems and reverse osmosis systems.

    The water softener itself might not cost all that much, but a huge part of the overall cost is in installation. Some water softeners are going to require a professional installation by a specialist, while others are simple enough to do it yourself.

    If you are handy with tools and comfortable with written instructions, a water softener can be installed utilizing the do-it-yourself (DIY) method. Nevertheless, because of the nature of do-it-yourself projects, it’s best to have a professional install your softener due to the number of problems that can arise if additional plumbing issues occur.

    • DIY Cost – About $500 for a basic installation kit and unit. Skills necessary: cutting and joining copper or steel pipe. Your kit should include a list of materials that your particular softener installation will require, such as reaming brushes, solder, flux, etc.
    • Minimum professional installation cost – About $800 to $1,000 for a small home (1 – 2 bedrooms)
    • Average professional installation cost – About $1,000 to $2,500 for larger homes (3+ bedrooms)
    • Maximum professional installation cost - $3,000 + for a larger unit with multiple options: purifiers and wi-fi controls.

    Softener size

    Different homes require different water softeners. Just like HVAC costs, it costs more to soften the water of a larger home than a smaller, one-bedroom apartment. Therefore, more often than not, the larger the home, the more you’re going to pay to install a water softener.

    When it comes to size, some of the factors your local plumber will look at are:

    • How much water you useHardness of water
    • How many water fixtures you use
    • As the numbers go up, so too does your water softener price.

     

    Additional costs

    Maintenance and repairs are a part of all home features. Whether it’s staining your floors, patching your roof or cleaning your brine tank, maintenance and repairs cost money. Sadly, a water softener is not a set it and forget type of appliance.

    First off, unless you have a salt-free system, you’ll have to add more salt from time to time. The salt helps remove the hardness from the water. The more it uses, the faster you’re going to have to replace it. The biggest distinction between water softener types lies in the use of either sodium or potassium. Sodium-based water softeners cost about $5 for a 40 pound bag, while potassium softeners cost $27 per 40 pound bag. Sodium is noticeably cheaper than potassium, but if you require salt-free drinking water, you may have to incur the extra cost.

    Once a year, you should also consider replacing or clearing out the brine tank. Salt can build up and if you don’t clean it out, your water softener will not work and may require costly repairs.

    Speaking of repairs, most water softeners need more attention after a few years. Luckily, most come with a warranty and your water softener pro should be able to fix most issues. Like other water treatment repairs, the cost should not exceed $400.

    Conclusion

    There are a lot of hidden costs when it comes to buying a water softener. For one, if you’re looking for the cheapest option available, you’re probably going to want to go with a magnetic water softener. However, the problem with magnetic water treatment is the lack of scientific evidence proving its efficacy. There are probably some effective magnetic water softeners on the market, but it’s going to be difficult to separate the legitimate systems from the snake oil.

    When it comes to buying an ion exchange water softener, you’re going to be accumulating a lot of maintenance costs (as well as installation). Since the plumber will need to install a discharge line and find an electricity source, it’s going to be significantly more difficult and significantly more expensive. Unless you’re highly experienced with plumbing, it’s not a job you want to do on your own. Beyond that, you’re going to have to pay for monthly salt or potassium replacements, which can add up to anywhere from $120 to $300 a year.

    There are many options for water softeners on the market, but the question is, do they pay off? The answer is definitely YES since households using those systems have less or no plumbing and electrical appliances problems.