How Much Does a Water Softener Cost?
$500 - $6,000
$500 - $6,000
Cost data is based on research by HomeAdvisor.
Updated March 10, 2022Written by HomeAdvisor.
A water softener system installation costs $1,500 on average with a typical range between $1,000 and $2,800. DIY installs might run as low as $500 while large homes with high demand and a smart filtration system can pay $6,000 or more. The largest cost concern is the type of system. Regardless of type, labor costs $150 to $600 or more for complex installs.
Professionals often sell or recommend specific brands with which they may have more experience or find that they have fewer problems. But you can always buy the one of your choice from a local dealer or home improvement store. These systems work by either removing or neutralizing the minerals that cause hard water. Because you’re dealing with plumbing, it’s always a good idea to have a professional do the install.
|Softener Type||Average Price Range||Total Install Cost|
|Ion Exchangers (Salt & Brine)||$300 – $1,000||$500 – $2,000|
|Water Distiller||$50 – $1,500||$50 – $2,000|
|Salt Free||$500 – $3,000||$800 – $4,000|
|Reverse Osmosis||$100 – $1,800||$1,000 – $2,800|
|Magnetic||$200 – $400||$200 – $600|
The most common type, ion exchangers or conventional water softeners, cost $500 to $2,000 to install. They use salt and an exchange medium to switch out an ion from the incoming hard water, thus removing the hard minerals from the system. It doesn’t increase salt content by a noticeable amount.
They have a long history of working well in most homes.
Inexpensive to install.
Requires regular salt refills, increasing ownership costs.
Salt-free water softeners cost $800 to $4,000 to install. They use potassium and work not by removing the calcium and magnesium, but rather by neutralizing the ions and preventing them from building up as they flow through your plumbing. However, this will not keep them from settling where water sits still.
Safer for septic tanks, the environment, and people on low-sodium diets.
Significantly higher operational costs and slightly higher up-front costs.
Potassium costs more than sodium.
Well water softener system costs vary depending on the water but tend to run $500 to $1,500 more than a home on municipal systems. Well water often includes a chemical injector for chlorine and often an iron removing stage. They also include a pre sediment filter.
Highly variable cost due to varying needs.
Often has a pre-filter and other attachments most homes don’t need.
Requires a professional well test.
A new (and controversial) water softener is a magnetic, or electronic water softener which costs $200 to $600 with mixed reviews. Some magnetic device studies give compelling evidence that they don’t work. Regardless, many users claim satisfaction.
This is a plug-in device that attaches to your existing pipes.
Excellent DIY install – no pipe cutting required.
Little evidence they work.
Water distillation systems cost $150 to $900 to install. They work by creating water vapor at near-boiling temperatures, which separates the water from heavy metals and hard minerals.
Don’t remove all chemicals.
Easy DIY installation with many countertop models available.
Work extremely slowly, making them only suitable for creating drinking water.
Reverse osmosis filtration systems cost $1,500 on average to install. They’re not usually considered just a water softener, but a whole filtration system designed to both remove minerals and other harmful pollutants.
Filters water for drinking, not just hardness.
Often used in tandem with other softener components.
Available as a point-of-use (under sink) unit.
|Grains per Gallon||Water Softener Capacity||Cost Range*|
|0 – 3,500||24,000 Grains||$300 – $500|
|3,501 – 4,500||32,000 Grains||$400 – $600|
|4,501 – 6,850||48,000 Grains||$500 – $800|
|6,851 – 9,150||64,000 Grains||$600 – $1,200|
|9,151 – 11,500||80,000 Grains||$1,300 – $2,000|
*These prices reflect the cost of the water softener alone. Installation includes labor, materials, and the removal and disposal of any existing system—which adds $250 to $1,000.
The cost of a water softener depends on the size of the unit itself and the quality of the model. A 33,000-grain softener can handle a 1 to 5-person household and costs around $350. A high-end water softener of 75,000 grains per gallon can cost $1,800.
Water softeners measure capacity 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 90. The average number of gallons used per person for washing, drinking, and cooking ranges from 80 to 100 gallons per day.
Multiply that result by the hardness of your water. The average number of grains per gallon in the United States is 10 but can range from 0 to 17. Most municipalities publish water hardness online.
For example, a family of four in an area with an average water hardness of 10:
4 (people) x 90 (gallons per day) = 360
360 x 10 (average water hardness) = 3,600 grains per day
Use the chart below along with your grains per day needs to find the softener rating you’ll need.
|Grains per Day||Softener Rating|
|0 – 3,500||24,000|
|3,501 – 4,500||32,000|
|4,501 – 5,750||40,000|
|5,751 – 6,850||48,000|
|6,851 – 9,150||64,000|
|9,151 – 11,500||80,000|
Dual tank softeners take up more space than a single tank unit and cost from $950 to $5,000. You can purchase traditional salt, salt-free, and reverse osmosis systems with dual-tank configurations.
A dual tank water softener has two mineral tanks. This eliminates downtime while one tank recharges. It also allows a higher efficiency with less waste and less salt used.
Labor costs to install a water softener run anywhere from $100 to $1,000 or more. It depends on the type you’re putting in, complexity, and accessibility.
For example, putting in a simple under-counter unit might only take 30 minutes and cost $100. Where a whole house system that requires new pipes and fits into an already cramped utility closet might cost close to $2,000.
Replacing a water softener adds $50 to $200 for removal and disposal to your overall install price. In some cases, you may pay a bit less in labor since the pipes already exist from your previous install.
Leasing a water softener costs $25 to $50 monthly. These leases often include the salt and inspections. Repairs and additional components, like a whole home filter, increase the price.
Annual maintenance contracts cost $100 to $300 per year and include inspection, flushing and cleaning, and salt refills. If you prefer to do this yourself and wait for issues to arise, consider these upkeep costs:
Water treatment repairs cost: $150–$900
Salt: $5–$8 per 40 lb. bag
Potassium: $50–$70 per 40 lb. bag
Resin: $90–$130 per bag
Cleaner: $8–$20 per container
Rust remover: $5–$10 per container
Every three to four months, inspect the brine tank itself. Salt can begin to build up causing “bridging.” Break this up with a pole or broom handle. Sometimes, you’ll need to empty, clean, and refill the tank. Do this as part of regular annual maintenance.
When you get a system installed, you can expect these things included in that price:
Transportation of equipment, material, and personnel to the job site.
Worksite prep. This should involve protecting existing structures, finishes, etc.
Cleanup and debris removal after job completion. This doesn’t always include an old system, just the mess the workers make putting the new one in.
Generally, not included:
Any modifications to framing, surfacing, HVAC systems, electrical or plumbing systems (aside from the standard installation of the unit).
Additional costs if a general contractor supervises the project (which adds 15% to 23%).
Any necessary permit or inspection fees.
For under sink or countertop installs, DIY might be the way to go. These smaller systems often come with complete instructions for a homeowner to put it in. However, since you’re dealing with plumbing, one poor connection can lead to water damage. For whole-home systems that require new plumbing, always hire a local water softening installer for the job.
Water softeners consist of three main components: a mineral tank, a brine tank, and a control valve. Smaller units may combine the mineral tank and brine tank into one cabinet, with one inside the other.
Pros install whole-home systems at the point of entry of the main water line. You’ll find smaller units installed under sinks or near a washer. They only soften the water for that fixture, not the entire home.
Mineral Tank: Starting with your home’s main water source, hard water passes into the mineral tank and through resin beads. This is where the ion exchange happens. Magnesium and calcium ions are exchanged for sodium or potassium ions found in the brine tank.
Brine Tank: The brine tank contains sodium or potassium used to recharge the resin.
Control Valve: The control valve determines when it’s time to clean the plastic beads.
You should get whichever one fits your situation best. A salt softener removes the hard water minerals from the water. A potassium softener neutralizes those same minerals, so they don’t collect in pipes or appliances, but it doesn’t actually remove them from the water.
You should get a water softener because softened water:
Gets dishes cleaner
Extends the life of appliances
Is gentler on skin and hair
Use this water softener sizing chart to help narrow down the capacity of the water softener you choose. However, it’s based on averages. Your family’s actual water use and specific hardness may vary. Contact a professional for accurate results.
Ask the water department to tell you what your city’s hardness is. For wells, buy a test kit that will test pH, hardness, and iron content in your water. These kits normally cost from $10 to $50.
Water softener resin costs $90 to $150 per bag.
Each water softener has a gauge inside to tell you how much salt to put in the unit.
A water softener uses about 70 kW per year, about the same as a clock.