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How Much Does a Water Softener System Cost? (2024 Guide)

Typical Cost Range: $500 – $6,000

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Installing a whole-home water softener costs an average of $1,500 but could range between $500 and $6,000. Below, we’ll outline everything you need to know about water heater costs.

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods + 1 other Reviewer Icon Reviewed by Mark Howey Updated 05/07/2024

If your hair and skin always feel dry, you’re noticing soap scum build-up in the shower, or your pipes frequently clog, you may need a water softener system. Water softeners remove minerals from hard water, giving it a more pleasant feel right out of the tap. 

Installing a whole-home water softener costs $1,500 on average but could be as low as $500–$600 based on the system. We’ll break down the cost of a water softener system, types of water softeners, and money-saving tips below.

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Typical Price Range: $500 – $6000
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A water softener system can cost $500–$6,000, depending on the type of system.

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What Are Signs You Should Buy a Water Softener System?

Aside from actual testing, here are some signs that your home’s water is hard enough to require a water-softening system.

You notice soap scum left behind when you use bar soap
Soap, shampoo, and other cleaners don’t form enough lather
Your hair and skin feel dry after washing
Your pipes, faucets, or showerheads frequently clog
Your clothes don’t feel clean, and the colors seem to fade quickly
You notice water leaving stains on countertops and appliances

What Is The Cost of a Water Softener System?

The average price to professionally install a whole-home water softener is $1,500, including both materials and labor. Depending on the type of system you choose, the process could cost as little as $500 or as much as $6,000. You’ll also need to budget between $10 and $50 per month for system maintenance costs.

How Much Does a Water Softener System Cost by Type?

The most significant price factor is the type of water softener you choose. The most popular type is an ion exchange system, which can have one or two tanks and must be refilled with sodium or potassium salts periodically. 

Two salt-free water softeners can service homes, but they’re rarely installed. Reverse osmosis systems and distillers are typically only used to create drinking water, but proponents say they dramatically improve the taste of tap water.

Find price ranges for different units minus the installation cost below.

Type of SystemCost

Ion exchange (single tank)

$400–$1,700

Ion exchange (double tank)

$1,000–$2,500

Magnetic

$200–$600

Reverse osmosis (point-of-use)

$100–$500

Reverse osmosis (whole house)

$4,000–$11,000

Salt-free conditioner

$500–$3,000

Water distiller

$1,200–$4,000

How Much Does a Water Softener System Cost by Capacity?

The larger the system, the greater the volume of hard water it can soften and the higher the price. Capacity is measured in the number of grains of hard minerals the system can remove. The capacity you need depends on how many people live in your home, how much water they use, and the hardness of your water

The grain capacity of whole-home systems usually starts at 24,000 grains. Smaller units of about 16,000 grains are available, but they aren’t substantially cheaper. Note average price ranges by grain capacity in the table below.

Grain CapacityCost

Up to 24,000 grains

$300–$600

32,000 grains

$400–$1,000

48,000 grains

$500–$1,200

64,000 grains

$1,000–$1,500

80,000 grains

$1,200–$1,800

96,000+ grains

$1,500–$2,500


What Is a Water Softener System?

Water softeners work by removing or neutralizing these minerals from your home water. An ion exchange water softener uses a water filtration system with magnetically charged resin beads to attract minerals. Alternatively, some systems use conditioners, magnets, or reverse osmosis to create soft water.

Hardness or softness refers to the concentration of dissolved minerals—namely calcium and magnesium—found in water. Hard water has a high proportion of these minerals. Though they aren’t dangerous to your health, they leave behind a residue called scale. Scale can build up in pipes and leave a film on your hair and skin. Hard water can also make soaps and detergents less able to lather, leave sediment behind in your water heater, and dry out your skin.


What Are Common Types of Water Softener Systems?

There are various types of water softener systems that each address water hardness differently including ion exchange, salt-free, water distilling, magnetic and reverse osmosis systems. Nearly all commercially available water softeners fall into one of these five categories.

Ion exchange systems, also called salt-based water softeners, are the most popular. They require sodium or potassium pellets and may have one or two tanks, depending on the system’s capacity. Dual-tank systems can handle a greater volume of water but are more expensive than systems with a single tank. In ion exchange systems, water flows into a mineral tank full of negatively charged resin beads. These beads attract calcium and magnesium and trap them, softening the water.
A control valve determines when the resin beads in the first tank are fully saturated with minerals. When this happens, the first tank is backflushed of debris. Next, the salty water from the second tank, called the brine tank, is released and recharges the resin. The brine tank must be stocked with sodium or potassium, which coats the resin beads and restores their negative charge. In a single-tank water softener, both of these tanks are housed in one cabinet.
Ion exchange systems have some drawbacks. First, they need monthly refills to keep their charge. Secondly, this type of system adds trace amounts of salt to your drinking water, which can be a problem for people on low-sodium diets. Potassium is recommended for ion exchange water softener systems, but it’s also somewhat expensive. It’s typical to use one or two refill bags per month, which cost $5 to $10 for sodium and $35 to $45 for potassium.
The term “salt-free water softener” usually refers to a type of treatment that doesn’t actually remove calcium and magnesium from water. Instead, these systems use water conditioners to chemically treat the minerals so that they don’t stick to things and form scale.
Distillation heats water to a high temperature near boiling point to create steam. Minerals and other contaminants can’t vaporize along with the steam, which is then cooled and condensed back into clean liquid water. Due to the lengthy wait for heating and cooling, water distillers are only useful for small-volume tasks like creating drinking water.
Magnetic water softeners use electromagnets clamped around water pipes to prevent the minerals in the water from forming scale. Similar to salt-free systems, they don’t remove minerals from water but purport to treat them instead. Unlike chemical water conditioners, there’s limited evidence that they actually work.
Reverse osmosis systems are the most effective, the most complex, and the most expensive. As it travels, water passes through several prefilters to remove contaminants like chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and sediment. Then, these systems force water at high pressure through a very tight water filter called a semi-permeable membrane. 
Just like distillation, reverse osmosis doesn’t happen at the speed of a faucet. Small volumes of water must be prefiltered, so reverse osmosis systems are usually only used as a single-point system for creating drinking water. You would only need a whole-home system if your water was severely contaminated. Additionally, the process creates a great deal of wastewater that isn’t useful for most household tasks.

What Factors Affect Water Softener Systems Cost?

Your home size, region, and selected brand can also impact water softener pricing. When evaluating these factors, it’s important to know that water hardness is measured in either parts per million (PPM), milligrams per liter (mg/L), or grains per gallon (GPG) of calcium and magnesium. The GPG figure is a number between 0 and 20, and anything at seven or above is considered hard water. PPM and mg/L are two ways of saying the same thing, and one GPG equals about 17.1 PPM or mg/L.

Does Home Size Affect the Cost of a Water Softener System?

Your home’s square footage affects price less than the number of people who live there and the amount of water they use. The average adult uses about 90 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing, cleaning, and more. Review your home’s water bill if you want a more specific estimate. Most four-person households need a water softener system with about a 24,000-grain capacity, but this can depend on where you live. See the section below to calculate your home’s water-softening needs.

Are There Regional Costs to Installing a Water Softener System?

Hardness LevelMilligrams per LiterParts per MillionGrains per Gallon

Soft

0–60

0–60

0–3.5

Moderately hard

61–120

61–120

3.5–7

Hard

121–180

121–180

7–10.5

Very hard

180+

180+

10.5+

The hardness of your home’s water supply is regional, as water in different areas contains different trace minerals. Water hardness varies between states and even counties. The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a map of water hardness across the U.S., but you can get more specific information about your area by contacting your city’s water department. If your home uses well water, you can purchase a test kit for $10–$20 and test its hardness yourself.

Courtesy – Usgs.gov

Note that if your household uses a lot of water at the same time—for example, if all four members of the family shower in the morning—you may want a system with a higher capacity to be sure it can keep up with surges of heavy use. Here’s a rough estimate of pricing for a four-person household with average water usage based on local water hardness.

Does Water Hardness Affect the Cost of a Water Softener System?

Water HardnessNecessary CapacityApproximate Water Softener Cost

6–9 GPG

24,000 grains

$300–$600

10–12 GPG

32,000 grains

$400–$1,000

13–18 GPG

48,000 grains

$500–$1,200

18–20 GPG

64,000 grains

$1,000–$1,500

20+ GPG

80,000 grains

$1,200–$1,800

What Are Water Softeners Cost by Brand?

The brand of water softener system you choose also plays a role in your total cost. Most brands offer a range of water softener sizes, with larger units being more expensive. High-end water softeners with large capacities or sophisticated technology are also pricier than smaller, traditional models.

BrandCost

Avantapure

$1,600–$7,000

Culligan

$400–$5,000

Dupure

$600–$1,000

Kinetico

$500–$5,000

Hellenbrand

$1,200–$2,500

Pelican

$800–$2,600

Sterling

$1,200–$1,800

Westinghouse

$900–$4,500

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What Are Additional Costs for Water Softener Systems?

The same system may require different installation costs for different homeowners. Here are some factors that may raise or lower your water softener installation cost.

The labor costs to install a water softener depend heavily on the type of system you select, your plumbing’s accessibility, and the installation’s complexity. Point-of-use water softeners that attach to a single appliance or faucet may only cost $100 to $300 to install. Whole-home systems usually start at $300 and can cost as much as $1,000 or more. 

Licensed plumbers typically charge $50 to $200 per hour. If the area near your home’s water main is difficult to access, water softener installation will take additional time and cost more than average.

Simple DIY water test kits are usually cheap, costing less than $50. However, if your home has its own well or you have concerns about water quality, you might want to hire a water treatment specialist to perform a more in-depth test. Professional water testing can cost up to $500.

Some water softeners can work with a home’s existing plumbing systems. Others require a new plumbing loop that directs the softened water only to the necessary indoor areas of the home. A soft water loop has multiple long-term benefits, including extending the life of the water softener and preventing mineral buildup. On the other hand, a loop requires up-front plumbing costs of $500 to $2,000.

Your city or county may require an inspection or permit to install a whole-home system. Contact your local permit office for costs and guidelines before starting your project.

In most cases, you don’t need a general contractor to oversee water softener installation. However, if the installation is part of a larger home improvement project, a general contractor will add between 20 and 30% to your total labor and material costs.

If you’re replacing a water softener rather than installing one for the first time, your home’s plumbing may already be prepared for installation, reducing overall costs.

The monthly maintenance cost for a water softener system is between $10 to $50. General upkeep includes salt and potassium refills, flushing, inspections, or general repairs.

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Whole-home water softener systems can be costly, but there are some ways to save, particularly long-term savings. The following tips will help you spend less on soft water.
Do your research: Shop smart, wait for seasonal sales, and take advantage of any manufacturer rebates. You’ll also want to choose a unit with a good warranty.
Consider renting: Some companies rent water-softening systems at a lower cost than buying and installing them. This may be a good option for renters. If you own your home and plan to stay in the area for multiple years, purchasing your system is likely more cost-effective.
Opt for metered control valves: If you’re purchasing an ion exchange system, look for one with an on-demand or electric metered control valve. Systems with timer-based controls are often cheaper, but they tend to run recharge cycles before they’re needed, wasting sodium or potassium refills.
Know your home’s needs: Ensure you’re using the right size and capacity for your home for maximum benefits.

What Are The Main Benefits and Drawbacks of Water Softening?

If you’re still wondering whether a water softening system is right for your home, here are the most prominent benefits.

  • Your drinking water will taste and smell better
  • Your hair, skin, and laundered clothes will feel softer
  • Soaps, detergents, and shampoos will be more efficient and work better for cleaning
  • Any fixtures and appliances that use water will run more efficiently and last longer
  • Your energy bills will likely be lower because of improved water heater performance
  • You won’t need to scrub away soap scum and water stains or descale coffee pots and kettles

What is the Downside of Installing a Water Softening System?

Despite their positive qualities, Water Softening Systems have a few downsides, including cost, excess salt deposits, and excess wastewater.

  • Whole-house water softening systems can be expensive to buy, install, and repair.
  • Ion exchange systems could cause problems by leaving salt deposits.
  • Creation and disposal of wastewater isn’t environmentally friendly

Can You Install a Water Softener System Yourself?

Some point-of-use water softeners attach directly to faucets or the pipes beneath the sink. These are good for do-it-yourself (DIY) installation. Whole-home systems deal with such a large volume of water that they’re best installed by a licensed plumber. 

It’s also common for Local Departments of Public Health to have codes that residential water softening systems must meet. Therefore, we recommend professional installation for whole-home water softeners.


Is it Worth Spending the Money on a Water Softener System?

If you’ve spotted signs of hard water in your home, on your skin and hair, or from water taste, you’ll likely benefit from a water-softening system. Having minerals like calcium and magnesium in your water won’t hurt you, but they can make domestic life less pleasant and lead to unwanted expenses.

Research the type and capacity of the system that’s right for you, and make sure it’s properly installed by a professional. Fill out this simple form or enter your ZIP code into the tool below to connect with local plumbers for professional water softener system installation.

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Typical Price Range: $500 – $6000

FAQ About Water Softener System Costs

How many years does a water softener last?

A standard water softener should last 10–15 years with proper maintenance and care. However, hard water can cause your system to break down faster or require more frequent maintenance.

What is the average cost of a whole-house water softener?

The total cost of a whole-house water softening system depends on the type and capacity of the model you buy, but the average price is about $1,500.

What is the downside of a water softener?

One downside of an ion exchange water softener system is that it adds sodium to drinking water. This can be a problem for people who are restricting their sodium intake. Thankfully, this problem can be avoided by using potassium salts instead of sodium.

Is it worth getting a water softener installed?

A water softener is best if your home’s water has a hardness of 7 GPG or more. Your clothes, hair, and skin will feel softer, and your water-using appliances and plumbing will last longer.

Are all water softeners the same?

No, all water softeners are not the same. Different water softeners are classified by the way they remove or neutralize minerals. The most popular are:

  • Salt-based ion exchange systems
  • Salt-free water softeners
  • Reverse osmosis water softeners

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

You can expect to pay between $500 and $6,000 to install a whole-house water softener, depending on the type of system you choose, your system’s capacity, and your water hardness level.

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