Hard water is a groundwater characteristic that affects a lot of us. Hard water just means that the water has a high mineral content in it. While hard water is usually safe, it does leave a nasty-looking deposit on bathroom and kitchen surfaces. It also reduces the lifespan of your water heater and over time, can increase your water heating costs.

Water softeners are a practical way to tackle the problem of hard water. But how do you decide which water softener is best for your home? And what are the factors that influence the cost of these appliances? We’re going to answer these questions and more in this short article.

How much do water softeners cost?

Water softeners could cost as little as $500 or less, all the way up to $6,000. Here are some of the factors that affect the cost.

  1. Water hardness
  2. Size of the device
  3. Installation costs
  4. Features (some devices have bonus features like self-cleaning)
  5. Water softening method

Checking water hardness 

The amount of mineral content in your region’s water will affect the cost of buying a water softener, because not all water softeners can deal with extremely hard water.

For example, some metropolitan areas such as Tampa, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Phoenix are notorious for extremely high mineral counts in their water.

For these regions, it is best to invest in an ion exchange softener system, since these have a proven track record to remove mineral content and soften water. However, unless you’re sure, it is always advisable to check the mineral content levels before investing in a softener. You can do this by either buying a DIY test kit or contacting your local water supplier.

Hard water isn’t a problem faced only in urban areas. If you live in a remote or rural area and the area’s water hardness isn’t off the charts (above 3 grains per gallon), you could still buy a compact water softener and get it shipped to your address by the manufacturers for as little as $10 to $20 extra.

Types of water softeners based on budget

If your budget is limited to $500 or less, you can expect to be able to buy a basic ion exchange water softener that requires periodic manual cleaning to flush the sediment buildup.

Alternatively, you could also buy a magnetic water softener, but those wouldn’t serve the purpose if the water hardness level is high where you live, since they don’t really soften the water.

  1. For between $500 and $1,000, you will be able to afford a self-cleaning salt water softener system or a lower-end salt-free system. The good compact softeners that are ideal for smaller homes, as well as low-end dual tank systems, also fall within this price range.
  2. If you can afford upwards of $1,000 all the way to $6,000, here’s where all the high-end softeners are. You could choose a salt-free, dual tank, reverse osmosis softener. If your home is really large, you could buy a larger system that uses brine or salt. 

Among all of these, ion exchange models are the most popularly used ones. A lot of experts look down upon magnetic water softeners since they don’t remove the minerals from the water, but alter them instead.

Let’s break down water softener system costs by type, so you have another perspective to look at the same information.

  1. Ion exchange softeners will put you down between $300 and 1,000.
  2. Salt-free and dual tank systems are more expensive and could cost between $500 and $3,000.
  3. Reverse osmosis water softeners could cost as much as $1,800.
  4. Magnetic water softeners are the least expensive, costing between $100 and $400.

Factors that affect water softener installation cost

water softener


This one is self-explanatory. Obviously, the compact models that are manufactured for apartments, condos, small homes, and homes that have limited water usage are more affordable.

Full-sized softeners that are used for larger homes are more expensive.

Water softening method

Costs differ based on how the water softener works. Ion exchange models are the most commonly used and considered to be the most effective as well. They swap minerals with sodium, so your water is likely to taste a little salty. These cost between $300 and $1,000.

While units that use salt or brine are more effective, those that do not are more expensive and may cost upwards of $3,000. The difference in cost is because these units do not require as much maintenance. However, instead of removing all the minerals from the water, they harden the calcium and magnesium deposits to avoid scaling on your bathroom and kitchen sinks and fittings.

Grain capacity

Water is termed hard water when it exceeds 3 grains per gallon. Some places in Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico have water that exceeds 10 grains per gallon (GPG).

The grain capacity of a water softener refers to the amount of mineral content the machine can remove. If you live in an area with a high grain per gallon ratio, you will need a machine with a higher grain capacity, and that is bound to cost you more.

Maintenance and energy efficiency

Machines that require no maintenance and are more energy efficient will cost more than water softeners that require periodic maintenance.

Similarly, a lot of the more expensive models come with features like self-cleaning capabilities.

Installation costs

Between $50 and $200 an hour, based on where you live, is how much labor costs to install a water softener system. Expect the job to take at least a couple of hours. If the job involves adding new pipe connections to the water source, it could take longer. Pre-plumber installations are a lot faster.

This cost, however, can be avoided if you install the water softener yourself. 

Pro tips

  1. Unless your doctor has advised you to follow a low sodium diet, it is best to invest in an ion exchange system that uses salt or brine. These have been proven to be the most effective in removing mineral content from hard water, leaving behind safe drinking water.
  2. Unless you invest in self-cleaning salt-free water softeners, expect to spend between $100 and $250 a year on maintenance.

DIY water softener installation process

You don’t need to hire a professional to install your new water softener. Save on the labor costs by doing it yourself.

Your expenditure will be reduced to the actual cost of the system itself and around $25 for a few basic tools if you don’t already have them. The tools you will need are:

  1. Plumber’s tape
  2. Pliers
  3. Tube cutter.

Here’s a step-by-step description of the process.

  1. Turn off the water supply and drain out the excess water.
  2. Connect the water softener to your home water supply line.
  3. Read the instructions manual and fill the mineral tanks with the suggested amount of salt or brine (whichever is recommended).
  4. Turn on the water supply. Make sure there are no leaks.
  5. Once the water has run for a few minutes, test for hardness using strips.

Read more: Deal with calcium deposits in toilet

Factors influencing water softener installation cost was last modified: November 2nd, 2022 by Narayan Shrouthy
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These kinds of water tools are very important for remote locations. I had to find out about the hard waters in a very curel way, with certain problems that ended up killing my oldest dog.