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Water Softener Installation Cost

Water Softener Installation Cost

National average
$2,500
(ion exchange dual tank system for a 4-person home)
Low: $500

(magnetic water descaler installed for a 4-person home)

High: $5,000

(reverse osmosis system installed for a 4-person home)

Cost to install a water softener varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from water filtration specialists in your city.

The average cost of installing a water softener is $2,500.

In this guide

Signs that you need a water softener
Capacity
Salt-based and salt-free softeners
Types of water softening systems
Installation
Labor costs
Running costs per month
Maintenance
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to install a water softener?

Hard water 1 makes it difficult to get your dishes and laundry clean and creates buildup in your pipes and appliances. If you have hard water 1, the most effective way of dealing with it is to install a water-softening system in your home. Water softeners 2 either remove or render harmless the minerals that cause hard water 1. They vary in cost depending on size and type, but the average household will spend around $2,500 on the installation of a dual tank ion exchange 3 system.

Signs that you need a water softener

Hard water 1 can be caused by a few different minerals, including calcium and magnesium. You may see a film on your sink, tub, or dishes or a stain or buildup on things like your showerhead or coffee pot. Also, soap may not lather properly in the presence of hard water 1. If your laundry is not getting clean, items stain when coming in contact with water, or evaporating water leaves a film or stain, then you probably have hard water 1, and a softener may help.

Capacity

Water softeners 2 are only effective if they are properly sized to your home. If they are too small, they will not be able to remove or deal with the hard water 1 properly. 

Capacity is measured in grains per gallon (GPG). The grains refer to the amount of minerals in your water, and you find this information by having your water tested. 

To determine the total capacity for your home, you need to find out how much water you use a day. Look at your water bill to find the amount. If you have a well, take the number of people living in your home and multiply it by 75 gallons to get the approximate number of gallons you use per day. Multiply this by the number of grains per gallon of water hardness you have, and then multiply this number by 10. The result is the size of the unit your home requires.

For example, a three-person household with a water hardness level of 15 requires a unit that can handle roughly 35,000 GPG. 

The chart below provides a basic idea of the capacity your home will need.

Hardness level

Number of people

in your home




1 - 2 3 - 45 - 67 - 8
5 - 1032,00032,00032,00040,000
11 - 2032,00032,00040,00048,000
21 - 3032,00040,00048,00064,000
31 - 4040,00064,00064,00096,000
41 - 5064,00080,00096,00096,000
51 - 7564,00080,00096,000110,000
76 - 10080,00096,00096,000110,000


Salt-based and salt-free softeners

The most common type of water softening 2 system is called an ion exchange 3 system. This system typically uses salt to exchange ions in the calcium and magnesium, making the water less hard. 

Salt-based systems are very effective and are made up of several parts. The brine tank contains the salt, and the resin tank exchanges the ions. Periodically, the brine tank is flushed through the resin tank to replenish the system. 

This system has a few drawbacks, however. Salt is expensive and must be added regularly. It raises the sodium content of your water, and the water-flushing wastes water and puts salt into the environment near your home. 

It is possible to use this system with a salt-free additive, usually potassium chloride. It is not as effective as salt because it will not reduce the amount of minerals. It only prevents buildup. However, while salt costs around $5 to $10 a bag, potassium chloride costs between $20 to $30 a bag, making it a more expensive choice. It does, however, eliminate the issue of having sodium in your water.

Types of water softening systems

In addition to the ion exchange 3 system, which uses salt, there are several different systems to choose from:

Magnetic

Magnetic water softeners 2 use magnets around the pipes to neutralize the minerals. This helps prevent buildup, but after the water has been away from the magnets long enough, the minerals can once again leave a stain. So, leaving things to soak in water from this system can still result in residue. You may need several magnets depending on the size of your home. They are not usually recommended if you have very hard water 1, either. The systems are relatively inexpensive, however, starting at around $200.

Descaler

Magnetic systems are considered a type of descaler, meaning that they disrupt the minerals. There are other types as well, including electronic systems and some salt-free chemicals for ion exchange 3 systems. This system is not usually recommended if you have very hard water 1. Costs for these systems start at around $200 but can go as high as $2,000.

Ion Exchange

This is the most common system. It uses one to three tanks, depending on your home’s size and, therefore, takes up a lot of space. It uses a lot of water every few weeks and requires constant replenishment of a salt or salt-free additive. These systems start at $500 to $700.

Dual Tank Systems

If you have an ion exchange 3 system, the system is designed to flush itself periodically, usually on a timer, but they can be manual as well. When the system flushes, you will not have water for a short time. This is usually solved by scheduling the system to flush in the middle of the night, but some people prefer a dual tank system, which allows one tank to work while the other is flushing, preventing the loss of water. Dual tank systems start at around $1,000.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is effective at removing up to 96% of the minerals from your water. This system takes up less space as it pushes the water through a membrane using extreme pressure. It removes everything from the water, so it is a good choice for people with wells. These systems start at around $1,500.

Whole House Systems

While it is possible to get a point-of-use water filter, meaning it uses reverse osmosis to clean the water as it reaches your tap, most of these systems are considered whole house. This means that they are installed at the point where the water enters your home, protecting your pipes and appliances from hard water 1 buildup. Whole house costs start at $200 for magnetic options and $500 for ion exchange 3 systems.

Installation

Installation of your system varies depending on the type you choose. In most instances, your installer will locate the area closest to where the water enters your home and has room for the tanks. Except for magnetic systems, your water softener 2 requires space for up to three tanks. 

The pipes are configured to run through the tanks, which will be positioned in their final locations. The pipes are connected so that the water runs through them, and in ion exchange 3 systems, they are connected to one another as well. Ion exchange 3 systems also need to flush, so they need an exit either to a drain or sump pump 4 to take the water out of the house. 

The entire process takes about 4 hours to set up on average and is generally carried out by the company you purchase the system from.

Labor costs

Labor costs differ according to the size of your tanks, type of system, and location. Expect labor costs to start at around $400 for the installation of an ion exchange 3 system. Dual tank systems start with labor costs closer to $600. But many dual tank systems can cost as much as $1,000 to install, particularly if numerous pipes must be cut, the system is far from the entry point of the water, or for very high-end systems. 

For a dual tank, whole house system for a family of four, the installation will likely run about $800 of the total $2,500 cost.

Running costs per month

Running costs vary depending on the system. Most do not require electricity or fuel to run, so the only costs are the additives. Salt costs around $5 to $10 a month while salt-free chemicals cost about $30. Other systems have no real running costs.

Maintenance

Ion exchange 3 and reverse osmosis systems should generally be inspected and have any necessary maintenance performed every 2 to 3 years to make sure they are running properly. Your installer can advise on a maintenance plan and timing. 

Otherwise, maintenance usually means simply ensuring that the system flushes itself on schedule and adding the salt or salt-free chemicals on the recommended schedule.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Softener DIR Controls

If you have an ion exchange system, you may want to opt for demand initiated regeneration (DIR) controls. These indicate when to flush the resin based on when it needs recharging rather than on a schedule. They use the same amount of water and salt each time for better performance. These systems are more costly, starting at $800 to $1,000.

Additional considerations and costs

  • Some water softeners add sodium to your water. If you are on a low-sodium diet, you may need to avoid drinking this water. Otherwise, it is safe to drink.
  • If you need modifications done to your home to install the system, including framing, HVAC, electrical, or plumbing, these are not included in the estimated installation costs.
  • Some areas may require permits for the installation of water softeners. Always check with your town hall before proceeding.
  • Ion exchange softeners have ongoing costs in the form of added salt or chemicals, roughly $20 to $30 a month.
  • If your system breaks down and is under 5 years old, consider repairing it rather than replacing because it may be under warranty.
  • Look for softeners certified by NSF International, an independent testing organization, or the Water Quality Association.
  • If you need to soften small amounts of water for equipment use, portable distilling 5 units are available that can make a difference. They are not effective at helping a home’s water supply, however.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to have a water softener installed?

The average cost to install an ion exchange system is around $2,500.

  • Does a water softener need a drain?

Ion exchange systems require either a drain or sump pump to get rid of the backwash. ​

  • Can water softeners be installed outside?

These systems are designed for interior use only. 

  • How long should a water softener last?

Water softeners last roughly between 10 to 15 years on average. 

  • Do water softeners need to be serviced?

Some systems should be serviced every 2 to 3 years. Check with your installer for more information.​

  • How do I size a water softener for my house?

Have your water tested to find the hardness level, then check your water bill for your water usage. Multiply the number of gallons you use a day by the hardness level, and then multiply by 10 to find your GPG rate for your house. ​​

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Hard water: Water that is high in mineral content. It often leads to a buildup of scale
glossary term picture Water Softener 2 Water softeners: A device that reduces the amount of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals in water using ion exchange
glossary term picture Ion Exchange 3 Ion exchange: A method of water purification that exchanges the ions of dissolved contaminants for similarly-charged ions of more neutral substances
glossary term picture Sump Pump 4 Sump pump: A mechanical device used to remove water from wet areas such as basements and crawlspaces in order to help prevent flooding
5 Distilling: A method to remove the impurities in water by boiling the water and then recondensing the steam

Cost to install a water softener varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Person filling a glass of water from a water softener system

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Athens, GA
-9%
Depue, IL
-8%
Fort Worth, TX
+6%
Hobart, IN
+11%
Inverness, FL
-36%
Lake City, FL
-38%
Lanham, MD
+16%
Montgomery, IL
+10%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Safford, AZ
-41%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Labor cost in your zip code
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Methodology and sources