Installing a water softener system costs an average of $2,600, but can range between $1,100 and $3,000.* Water softener systems help homeowners resolve common hard water issues, such as frequent clogs, residual buildup, and poor water quality. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), investing in a water softener system offers several cost-saving benefits, such as improving water heater efficiency and reducing energy consumption.
Our team invested hundreds of hours researching types of water softeners, typical cost factors, and ways to reduce installation costs. Below, we’ll expand on this and how a system can improve your everyday home life.
*Unless otherwise noted, all cost information is from Angi and Fixr.
Water Softener System Major Cost Factors
Water softener installation ranges from $1,100 to $3,000. A dual-tank ion exchange system for a three- to four-bedroom home costs $2,500 on average. Project costs vary by system and its complexity. For example, a basic water descaler system might cost $600, while a six-bedroom, whole-house water softener could cost up to $7,000.
System type, home size, location, and labor fees influence installation costs. We’ll cover these major cost factors in greater detail below.
Cost by Type of Water Softener System
Your choice of water filtration system has the biggest cost impact. Each type uses different filtration methods and substances to improve water quality. Magnetic water systems start around $200 and provide the most cost-efficient option. Ion exchange systems, one of the more popular types, raise costs by $500 to $2,000. Consider a reverse osmosis or distiller water system if you’re only focused on improving your drinking water.
We’ve provided an overview of each water softener type below, with price ranges for the system only:
- Magnetic systems ($200 to $400): Magnetic water softeners use magnets within the water pipes to repel mineral ions from the water. These systems are less effective than other water softener types and may cause staining inside your pipes.
- Ion exchange system ($500 to $2,000): An ion exchange water softener uses sodium or potassium pellets to remove water ions. The ions attach to resin beads and pass through a brine tank with high salt levels. The tank water then washes away hard materials.
- Salt-free system ($800 to $4,000): These systems use potassium instead of sodium for water treatment. A salt-free water softener works well with homeowners on low-sodium diets or septic systems more prone to sodium corrosion.
- Dual-tank system ($1,000 to $5,000): These salt-based water softener systems can handle more gallons of water, making them suited for larger homes. Dual-tank softener systems use two or three tanks to provide uninterrupted water filtration.
- Water distilling systems ($1,200 to $4,000): Due to their complex water filtration process, distilling systems only produce small quantities of soft water. These systems use high temperatures to create steam, leaving hard minerals behind for removal. The steam is then cooled and returned to clean drinking water.
- Reverse osmosis systems ($1,500 to $1,800): These systems employ high pressure to push water through semipermeable membranes for filtration. These systems remove minerals and filter water, improving tap water quality. They have the highest price point and involve the most complex process.
Cost by Home Size
Water softener systems should match your home’s daily water usage. Systems that are too small won’t provide enough household water. Larger homes with more bathrooms need a larger system.
You must calculate your typical home water usage to determine the correct system size. The average person uses about 90 gallons of water per day. Based on that estimate, multiply the number of people in your home by 90 for an accurate amount. This number is crucial for determining the right system capacity.
Cost by Capacity
Find your water hardness in grains per gallon (GPG) to calculate the right system capacity. This measurement indicates how many minerals (such as magnesium and calcium) are in your water. The higher the grain capacity, the harder the water.
Your water company or a professional testing lab can test your water hardness, or you can use a do-it-yourself (DIY) testing kit. Water hardness levels fall between 0 and 20 GPG, with anything around 3.5 indicating hard water.
Once you get your water hardness level, multiply it by your daily water amount. Then, multiply that final number by 10 to get your ideal water softener system capacity.
Here’s an example of how to get these calculations:
- For a four-person household, multiply 4×90 to get 360.
- Imagine you have a 10 GPG score. You’ll multiply 360×10 to get 3,600.
- Finally, multiply 3,600×10 to get 36,000—your ideal system capacity.
Water softener costs will increase if you need a larger water supply.
Cost by Capacity
Below are the average costs by capacity for materials only.
|Grain Capacity||Cost (Materials Only)|
$300 to $500
$400 to $1,000
$600 to $1,200
$800 to $1,500
$1,500 to $1,800
$1,700 to $2,500
Your local water conditions can affect your total cost. Water hardness varies from state to state and through various regions of the United States. The United States Geological Survey maintains a map of water hardness levels throughout the country. Although the map is from 1975, these hardness levels still apply to these regions today. Rural areas will have lower labor and material costs than urban and metropolitan regions.
Labor and Installation Costs
Labor costs will vary based on your type of system, installation complexity, and plumbing configurations. Labor costs range between $50 for more basic water softener systems to $1,300 for more complex systems. Point-of-use water softeners, made for single-appliance use, have lower installation costs than whole-home systems. If you need additional plumbing work, your total costs will increase.
Professional vs. DIY Water Softener System Installation
Installing a whole-home water softener system requires advanced plumbing knowledge and electrical expertise. Complex systems, such as reverse osmosis softeners, involve intricate parts and setups that are too advanced for the standard DIY.
If you need additional plumbing or water connections, you’ll need a licensed plumber or contractor to complete the work properly. Professional installers often include additional warranty coverage to protect their work, offering added peace of mind and security.
Less complicated DIY installations, such as a point-of-use water softener, are better suited for homeowners to tackle. These systems attach directly to the faucet and are simpler installations. We recommend reading all instructions to ensure you can complete the task independently. If not, work with a licensed professional instead.
Additional Factors Affecting Water Softener System Cost
Ongoing maintenance, water filter refills, and permitting are just a few extra factors that could impact your water softener installation cost. We’ve included a full list of additional cost factors below.
Pricing varies between different water softener filtration brands. Most companies offer a range of products to fit different homeowner needs. Higher-capacity and high-end models have a higher price than simpler, more traditional options.
Inspections and Permits
Some areas require special permits to install a whole-home installation system. We recommend checking with your installer or local municipality for any required applications or fees.
Water softeners require ongoing maintenance to ensure they run proficiently. You might also need occasional repairs. In addition, brine tanks require checks every three to four months. Average maintenance costs typically fall between $150 and $900. You can expect a higher bill if your system needs significant repairs.
Your plumbing system may need an upgrade to support your new water softener system. This could include additional pipes to help move the softened water throughout your home. We recommend working with a licensed plumber to make any necessary changes.
Water Softener Salt Replacement
If you choose a water softener system that uses sodium or potassium for filtration or has a resin bed, you’ll need salt refills every few months. You’ll pay more for higher quality products, which provide better filtration. A 40-pound bag of salt could cost $5 to $10. A 40-pound bag of potassium costs between $50 and $70. Replacing the resin costs between $90 and $130 per bag.
Water Testing Kits
Factor any water testing kit expenses into your total system costs. DIY testing kits cost between $5 to $20. You’ll pay considerably more for a professional testing lab. Check with your local water company for on-site testing and any associated fees.
How to Reduce Water Softener System Costs
Investing in a whole-home water softener system could require a significant investment. Consider the following recommendations to make this home improvement project more cost-effective.
- Choose the right system size: Find a water softener system that meets your home’s needs. Selecting a system that’s too big will cost more to operate and maintain.
- Compare pricing: Compare water softener pricing from several suppliers and contractors to find the best solution. Consider shopping during holiday sales or ask about upcoming sales.
- Consult a professional: Work with a professional installer or contractor to properly assess your home’s water usage and recommend the best water softener based on your needs.
- Install a smaller system: If you’re only concerned with improving your drinking water, consider a smaller system versus a whole-home installation, such as one that attaches directly to your faucet or an under-counter kitchen or bathroom water softener.
- Rent a water softener system: Homeowners can reduce expenses by renting a water softener system. These systems serve as an excellent solution for short-term soft water needs, such as for a rental property.
How to Hire a Professional
Remember the following tips when shopping for a professional water softener system installer:
- Ask questions: When speaking with a professional, don’t hesitate to ask questions about your project. Get details on the estimated timeline, warranty coverage, and installation process. Ask about financing options and available rebates.
- Check each quote: Review all quotes for equipment details and up-front costs. Ensure full disclosure of labor fees, workmanship coverage, and additional installation costs.
- Consider a home improvement store: Several retail home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot, offer installation services. These companies work with local third-party installers and contractors to do the job.
- Find a licensed plumbing company: Look for plumbing companies in your area that offer installation services. Check with multiple companies and get quotes for their full services.
- Research each company: Check each company’s reputation and online reviews. Verify their credentials and ensure they have the proper business licensing and insurance.
Signs You Need a Water Softener System
Here are some common issues that indicate you might need a water softener system:
- Clothes appear faded and don’t feel clean
- Frequent clogs in your sinks, faucets, or shower
- Hair and skin show signs of excessive dryness or irritation
- Hard water stains on your faucets, sinks, showerhead, or bathtub
- Noticeable soap scum and residue buildup in your shower or bathtub
- Sediment and stains found inside your water heater
- Soaps and shampoos don’t create much lather
- Tap water has an unpleasant taste or odor
Investing in a water softener system can improve your home life and personal health. Choose a system that meets your daily needs and offers the best hard water solution. We recommend working with a professional to ensure a safe and quality installation. Compare quotes from multiple companies or contractors to find the best pricing.
Water Softener System FAQ
Are water softener systems high maintenance?
No, water softener systems aren’t high maintenance. They require minimal regular maintenance to maintain their performance. If your system uses salt, potassium, or a resin bed, you must replace those supplies every three to four months. Clean brine and resin tanks once per year.
How long does a water softener system last?
Water softener systems have an average life span of 10 to 15 years with proper maintenance.
What are the benefits of a water softener system?
Water softener systems offer benefits such as improving hair and skin dryness and drinking water quality. Adding a system also helps your soap products produce a better lather, allowing you to save on cleaning supplies. Additional benefits include improved appliance performance, reduced plumbing clogs, and boosted water heat efficiency.