The number one question we hear in the water treatment business is “how much does a water softener cost?”. The short answer is “it depends”. You might think this answer is vague, but what most people don’t realize is there are a lot of factors to evaluate when choosing the right softener for your needs. The first step is to consider your geographical location and what makes up your groundwater table. Secondly, it’s important to know how your water is being delivered to your home; is it city or well water? Another factor is the size of your home; how many sinks, toilets, showers, people, and pets are in your house? These are just some basic questions that start the whole process of finding the right water softener for you. If you need help answering these questions, speak with a water specialist.
Once you have answers you can start looking for a softener. This is commonly where the consumer focus shifts from “what do I need?” to “how much is it going to cost?”. I’ve created a basic guide to help explain the different price ranges of water softeners and what you will get for your money. With this guide, you should be able to educate yourself enough to see past the low-cost, low-yield, and low-grain quick fixes and get the softener that will solve your individual water problems. You’ll notice a small overlap in the price ranges; this is due to varying locations and possible sales or other discounts that might be offered.
$0 – $800: In this price range you will find all kinds of low-cost, low yield units. These are the “builder grade” water softeners. The equipment in this price range can be purchased relatively easily and can be found in most big box retail stores. These softeners, or any other large-scale water purifier in this range, have very little to offer. They will take most of the smell out of your water and remove a couple grains of hardness before they need to regenerate (if they have a regenerate cycle). The ones that do regenerate use salt either way too much or none at all, making you question if they’re even working. You may get rust, iron, sulfur, chlorine, or other chemicals in your appliances, fixtures, and in your potable water. There are usually no prefilters recommended and you will have to install the system yourself or call a plumber to install it for you. For a small amount of money, you’ve purchased something that has a small effect on your water problems.
$500 – $1600: This is what I call “the homework range”. If you’ve answered all the questions above (the homework) and figured out what you need for your specific water problem, the water softener you are looking for could fall in this range. Most of the water softeners on the frugal side are much like the builder grade softeners. Equipment on the other end of the spectrum, standard electrical simplex water softeners, are much more effective in treating your water. They plug into the wall and run through a preset cycle controlled by the electric servo that determines when your system is working or recharging. If you manage to find one that will handle your water needs, you’ll notice that the softener removes the smell and most chemicals from your water; you will have soft water most of the day. These softeners use salt to recharge the media in the tank. The major flaw you’ll discover is they will only recharge at an appointed time and not based on how much water has passed through the system. It is also recommend that you install a prefilter. You can purchase these softeners from larger retail stores or online, and you will have to install these yourself or call a professional for help.
$1000 – $2500: Water softeners in this price range are standard electrical symplex water softeners and will handle most of your water problems. They will remove smell and hardness and, depending on which water softener you purchase, will remove a varying amount of chemicals from your water. A prefilter and auxiliary unit are usually recommend to help maximize the water softener’s abilities and handle specific chemical issues (such as iron or arsenic). Standard electrical symplex systems can only provide a set amount of soft water before they shut off and wait for an electrical timer to regenerate the media in the tank. If you are doing laundry in the morning, but the softener doesn’t regenerate until the evening, you run the risk of the softener entering bypass and letting in hard water. The higher-end models address this problem with a secondary regeneration that triggers after a certain amount of water has gone through the system. These softeners can be found at your local water softener dealer or online. It is recommended to have these water softeners installed for you, but if you’re knowledgeable in home plumbing you can probably install it yourself.
$2000 – $5000: In this price range you will be dealing primarily with non-electric water softeners which can only be purchased through an authorized dealer. The specialized electric symplex units will also fall in this range. A water specialist will help you choose the best option for your specific water needs. These softeners remove all hardness and a majority of chemicals. With these softeners, a prefilter is recommend and may sometimes need an auxiliary unit to handle high levels of specific chemicals such as iron and chlorine. Non electric softeners operate in collaboration with the water pressure in your home; as long as you have water pressure you have soft water. The water softeners in this range carry a long term warranty, usually between five and ten years. Authorized dealers generally offer financing to help ease the cost of these softeners and will not give you the option to install it yourself to insure that it is installed and working properly.
After reading through this guide you should have a rough idea of what to look for for your specific needs and how much to expect to spend. If you need help finding answers to your questions, I highly recommend calling a water specialist. They will come to your home, free of charge, and help you find the answers you seek. Education is your greatest tool when seeking the answer to the question, “how much does a water softener cost?”.