Ashburn, VA

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Water Softener System?

$800 – $3,000 Average Total Cost

Water softeners cost $800 to $3,000 on average for whole-house systems, depending on the size, type, brand, and installation costs. High-end brands like Kinetico or Culligan water softener systems cost up to $5,000 to install. Water softeners cost $10 to $20 per month to run and refill salt.

Get free estimates from water softener companies near you or view our cost guide below.

Water Softener Installation Cost

Water softener installation costs $800 to $3,000 on average, depending on system size, type, brand, and labor. Water softener prices range from $600 to $2,500 on average, and the labor cost to install is $200 to $500. Water softeners cost $10 to $20 per month to run and refill salt.

Water Softener Installation Cost - Chart

Water Softener Installation Cost
Type Average Cost Installed Features
Budget $600 – $1,000
  • Sufficient for small to medium-sized homes
  • Sold at home improvement stores
  • Lower quality components
Average $1,000 – $2,200
  • Provides enough soft water for almost all homes
  • High-quality components that last longer
High End $2,200 – $3,500+
  • Choice of top brands
  • High-quality components
  • Additional features such as metered regeneration, wifi controls, water filter, purification
Get free estimates from water softener companies near you. View Pros
Average Cost To Install Water Softener
National Average Cost $1,400
Minimum Cost $400
Maximum Cost $5,000
Average Range $800 to $3,000

Around 85% of Americans have hard water that contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, which cause plumbing and cleaning problems. A water softener:

  • Removes the minerals (scale) from hard water.
  • Prevents soap-scum stains, clogged pipes, damages to hot water heaters, and stiff or faded laundry.
  • Reduces energy bills, plumbing repairs, and saves money.
  • Adds more lather from less soap. Makes skin and hair feel cleaner and softer.
  • Lasts for 10 to 15 years.

Water Softener Cost

Whole-house water softeners cost $400 to $2,700 on average for a traditional ion-exchange system. Alternative salt-free water conditioners cost $300 to $4,000, and magnetic or electronic descalers cost $160 to $600, but they don’t soften the water.

Water Softener Cost By Type - Chart

Water Softener Prices
Type Price Range (Unit Only) Features
Standard Ion Exchange $400 – $2,700
  • Installation costs $200 – $500
  • Conventional water softener
  • Sodium or potassium (salt)
Dual Tank Ion Exchange $1,100 – $2,500
  • Installation costs $300 – $1,000
  • Ideal for large households
  • Sodium or potassium (salt)
No-salt Conditioner $300 – $4,000
  • Installation costs $150 – $250
  • Salt-free conditioner
  • Low maintenance
  • Electricity free
  • No drain required
Magnetic / Electronic $160 – $600
  • Easy DIY installation
  • Salt-free conditioner
  • Affordable
  • No drain required
Reverse Osmosis (Below Counter) $150 – $500
  • Installation costs $150 – $400
  • Affordable and installs quickly
Reverse Osmosis (Whole House) $4,000 – $11,500
  • Installation costs $200 – $500
  • Complex installation process
  • Expensive and uncommon
Portable / RV $150 – $300
  • Lightweight, easy to hook up
  • Easy to regenerate, some units use table salt
Commercial $1,500 – $15,000
  • Larger and more expensive
  • Handles dozens to hundreds of gallons per minute
Consult with water softener professionals near you. View Pros

Ion Exchange Water Softener Prices

An ion exchange water softener system costs $600 to $3,200 installed, depending on the size (grain capacity), brand, and labor costs. Ion exchange softeners remove hard minerals with a mineral tank plus a brine tank using either sodium or potassium salts.

Ion exchangers are the most common type, and the size required depends on the household’s water hardness and water usage.

Ion Exchange Water Softener Installed With Digital Control Panel

Dual Tank Water Softener Cost

Dual tank water softeners cost $1,400 to $3,500 installed, and are ideal for households with high water usage. Double mineral-tank systems regenerate alternately with no downtime for a continuous 24-hour supply of soft-water.

Twin-tank softeners take up more space since they include a brine tank also, and they require double the amount of salt and resin. However, they last twice as long before needing a salt refill or resin replacement.

No-Salt Water Conditioner Cost

A salt-free water conditioner costs $400 to $4,000 for materials and installation. A no-salt water conditioner temporarily restructures mineral ions into non-clogging micro-crystals to prevent scale buildup in pipes. Salt-free conditioners don't remove hard minerals or soften the water.

Salt-Free Water Conditioner Installed In Garage

No-salt water conditioners or scale-inhibitor systems are referred to as Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) or Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC). The benefits of this system are:

  • No additional sodium intake
  • A good option for areas banning salt-based softeners
  • Easy installation and low maintenance
  • No regeneration, salt refilling, and wastewater
  • Does not require a drain or electricity
  • Smaller size and environmentally friendly
Only sodium or potassium-based ion-exchange systems provide the full benefits of water softeners.

Magnetic / Electronic Descaler

Magnetic and electronic descalers cost $160 to $600 and are easy to install. The magnets wrap around the water pipes and temporarily restructure the hard-mineral ions to prevent scale buildup within the pipes.

Contractor Installing Salt-Free Magnetic Descaler

While these systems are affordable and require no maintenance, the evidence that they work is controversial. While descalers may prevent scale buildup, they do not remove any minerals from the water supply and aren’t true water softeners.

Reverse Osmosis Filtration System

A reverse osmosis system costs $300 to $900 installed for below-counter models and $4,000 to $12,000 for whole-house systems. Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems remove the extra sodium from softened water, and clean up to 98% of contaminants from drinking water.

Reverse Osmosis Filtration Systems
System Total Cost Installed
Below counter $300 – $900
Whole house $4,000 – $12,000

Whole-house RO systems are complex to install and maintain. Only severely contaminated water would require an advanced RO system to filter the entire water supply.

Contractor Installing Below Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System

While an RO system does soften water, a hardness of more than 7 GPG causes scale buildup on the membrane and reduces its lifespan. Well-maintained under the sink RO water filtration systems last 10 to 15 years.

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Water Softener System Cost Factors

Water softener system costs mainly depend on the size, brand, type, labor, and if any modifications are required. Consider purchasing the softener and the installation service together to get a discount.

Factors that influence the total cost are:

  • System size and brand
  • Accessibility and installation labor
  • Any modifications required to existing electrical or plumbing systems
  • Any necessary inspection and permit fees
  • Upflow vs. downflow regeneration systems
  • Timer-based vs. on-demand regeneration system
  • Upgrades, such as UV-light disinfection and iron filtration

Water Softener Price Comparison

Top brands like Kinetico, Rainsoft, and Culligan water softeners cost $500 to $5,000 without installation. When comparing water softeners, prices depend on the size, type, number of tanks, and services included.

Water Softener System Cost By Brand
Brand Average Cost
Culligan $400 – $5,000
Kinetico $500 – $5,000
Pelican $800 – $1,600
Westinghouse $900 – $4,500
Alamo $1,000 – $4,000
Harvey $1,050 – $2,375
Sterling $1,200 – $1,700
Avantapure $1,600 – $7,000
Water Right $2,000 – $3,000
Rainsoft $2,750 – $6,000

*System cost only, without installation fees. Some dealers offer free system delivery, removal of the old unit, and setup and programming.

  • Culligan water softener prices may include ongoing maintenance services.
  • Kinetico water softener costs are higher because they operate without electricity using advanced features.
  • National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified brands are the most efficient.

Labor Cost To Install Water Softener

The average labor cost to install a water softener is $200 to $500, depending on the system size and type. The plumber’s estimate should include transportation of equipment and personnel, site prep, materials, installation labor, cleanup, and finishing.

Labor Cost To Install Water Softener - Chart

Labor Cost To Install Water Softener
Type Labor Cost
Ion Exchange Salt-based System $200 – $500
Dual-Tank System $300 – $1,000
No-Salt Conditioner $150 – $250
Reverse Osmosis System $150 – $500
Find water softener installers near you. View Pros

Extra labor costs apply if:

  • Any modifications are required to framing, HVAC, electrical, or plumbing systems. Plumbers charge $45 to $150 per hour, plus parts. Hiring a general contractor to oversee the installation costs 20% more overall.
  • Limited floor space is available to accommodate the tanks.
  • Plumbers have to install new piping lines, connections, or a soft water loop to connect the main water supply.
  • Any permits, inspection fees, or sales tax is required.

Water Softener Loop Installation Cost

A water softener loop installation costs $600 to $2,000 on average. Soft water loop costs depend on where the loop needs to be and where the existing plumbing is located. A loop is not always required, and some softeners have a softener loop and bypass built-in.

  • The primary use of a soft water loop is to keep the home’s inside and outside water lines separated, since outdoor grass, trees, and plants don't need softened water.
  • Installing a loop increases the life of the softener by decreasing the amount of water that needs softening.
  • The unit's filter lasts longer, which saves energy and costs.

Water Softener Replacement Cost

Replacing a water softener costs $700 to $3,000 on average for a new system and installation labor. Water softener resin or filter tank replacement costs $200 to $500 on average. Most softeners last for 15 years before they need to be replaced, and resin lasts 10 to 20 years.

Water Softener Replacement Costs
Item Average Cost
Remove Old Unit $50 – $100
Filter Tank Replacement $150 – $500
Resin Replacement $200 – $400
New Water Softener $400 – $2,700
Labor Cost To Replace New Softener $150 – $500

Cost To Move Water Softener

Moving and reinstalling a water softener costs $200 to $500, depending on the size of the units and the moving distance. Moving a water softener may require plumbing modifications, which add significantly to the total cost.

Before moving a water softener, consider the following:

  • How old is the system? Unless the system is brand new, moving the softener to another home is typically not worth the cost and lowers the resale value of the previous house.
  • How hard is the water at the new location? A system with a higher softening capacity may be necessary to treat harder water. Consult with a plumber to verify the system is compatible at the new location.
  • Are you moving from well water to municipal water supply? If so, ask the installation company if an additional carbon filter is necessary to prevent chlorine from damaging the system.

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Water Softener Cost Per Month

A water softener costs $10 to $20 per month to run on average, including monthly salt refills and annual maintenance and cleaning. Salt refills are the largest expense, and the extra wastewater for regeneration and electricity fees are insignificant.

Water Softener Cost Per Month
Expense Monthly Cost
Salt / Potassium (most softeners) $5 – $35
Citric acid (some conditioners only) $5 – $20
Siliphos (some conditioners only) $10 – $25
Water / Sewer / Electricity $1 – $2
Service / Maintenance $8 – $16

Water Softener Salt Prices

Water softener salt prices are $5 to $10 per 40-lb. bag for the standard sodium chloride and $25 to $35 per 40-lb. bag for potassium chloride. Most households use 1 to 2 bags per month, depending on the water hardness, household size, tank capacity, and type of salt.

Water Softener Salt Prices Chart

Water Softener Salt Prices Comparison
Type Price Per Bag (40 lb.) Pros Cons
Sodium $5 – $10
  • Cheaper
  • More easily available
  • Best water-softening results
  • Not ideal for low-sodium diets
  • Banned in some areas
  • Can pollute environment
Potassium $25 – $35
  • Sodium-free alternative
  • More environmentally friendly
  • More expensive
  • Requires 10% to 30% more to get the same results as sodium
Some companies provide salt deliveries and refills for a monthly fee. View Pros

Water Softener Service and Maintenance Cost

Water softener repair costs $150 to $600 on average, without a contract. An all-inclusive water softener service costs $100 to $250 per year. Water softener maintenance contracts may include all repairs, cleaning, salt refills, and delivery, water testing, and annual system inspection.

Ion Exchange Water Softener Filled With Sodium Salt

Water, Sewer, and Electricity Expenses

Salt-based water softeners produce 20 to 50 gallons of wastewater per cycle, meaning your water and sewer bill increases slightly. However, homeowners may end up needing less soft water than hard water as it's more efficient.

A water softener uses 70 kWh of electricity per year, about the same as an alarm clock, which costs less than $10 a year.

Water Softener Rental Cost

Water softener rental costs $25 to $50 per month on average, depending on the size and dealer. High-end Culligan water softener rental prices are $80 to $150 per month, which likely includes installation, a reverse osmosis filter, bimonthly salt delivery, and maintenance.

Water Softener Rental Cost Per Month - Chart

Some dealers offer a rent-to-own option where they refund the rental fees if the unit is purchased in the first 3 to 12 months.

Water Softener Rent vs. Buy
Pros Cons
Rental
  • Affordable, short term solution
  • Some plans include salt and salt delivery, and maintenance
  • Opportunity to test the system
  • Long-term contracts may be required
  • Fewer models available
  • System may not be new
  • Renting costs more over time
  • Installation costs are not always included
Buy
  • Full system ownership
  • Can increase property value
  • Better selection of models
  • More money saved in the long term (3-5 years)
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Homeowner pays for maintenance and repair

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What Size Water Softener Do I Need?

The appropriate size of water softener depends on the number of people in the house, daily water usage, and water hardness rating. The average four-person household needs a 30,000 grains per gallon (GPG) water softener.

Water Softener Grain Capacity

A water softener's grain capacity is how many grains per gallon (GPG) of hard minerals a softener removes before regenerating or cleaning.

Water quality testing shows the amount of hardness in parts-per-million (PPM) measurements. The chart below converts PPM to GPG, which is needed to calculate the right size softener.

Water Hardness Map - United States

Water Hardness Scale
Hardness Parts Per Million (PPM) Grains Per Gallon (GPG)
Soft 0 – 17 0.0 – 1.0
Slightly Hard 17 – 60 1.0 – 3.5
Moderately Hard 60 – 120 3.5 – 7.0
Hard 120 – 180 7.0 – 10.5
Very Hard 180+ 10.5+

*Iron in the water raises the hardness rating. For every 1.0 PPM of iron, add 3 to 5 GPG of hardness to the total value.

To find out a home’s exact water hardness level:

  • City water supply: Ask the city's water department to provide a report.
  • Well water: Buy a water-hardness test kit for $10 to $40.

Water Softener Size Calculator

To calculate the water softener size needed:

  1. Multiply the number of people in the home by the gallons of water used each day (average is 90).
  2. Multiply that number by the GPG water hardness rating (average is 8).
  3. Multiply that result by 7 (optimal days between regeneration) to get the grain capacity requirement.
Water Softener Size Calculator
Hardness (GPG) People In Household
1 – 2 3 – 4 5 – 6 7 – 8
3 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000
6 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000
9 15,000 30,000 40,000 55,000
12 20,000 35,000 55,000 75,000
15 25,000 45,000 70,000 90,000
20 30,000 65,000 90,000 110,000
Get free advice and estimates from water softener companies near you. View Pros

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Why Use A Water Softener?

A water softener removes the minerals (scale) from hard water that causes soap-scum stains, clogged pipes, damages to hot water heaters, and stiff or faded laundry. Installing a water softener reduces energy bills, plumbing repairs, and saves money.

  • Dishwashing soap use is reduced by 70%
  • Laundry detergent use is reduced by 50%
  • Increased efficiency in water heaters by 24% to 48%
  • Pipes and water-using appliances last longer
  • Lower utility bills and better energy efficiency
  • Less plumbing repairs

Signs You Need A Water Softener

Here are the nine signs you need a water softener:

  • Skin and hair feel dry or itchy after showering
  • Stains on dishes, sinks, and bathtubs
  • Scale buildup on appliances and bathrooms
  • Glassware is brittle and easily damaged
  • Water-heating appliances break down faster
  • More frequent plumbing repairs
  • Soap is less effective and doesn’t lather well
  • Laundry is hard, grey and faded
  • Decreased water pressure and higher water bill

Pros And Cons of Water Softeners

A water softener’s main benefits are cleaner and softer laundry, soap-scum-free bathrooms, and long-lasting appliances and plumbing pipes. The disadvantages include a significant initial investment and ongoing salt and maintenance costs.

Pros and Cons of Water Softeners
Pros Cons
  • Cleaner, brighter, and softer laundry
  • Heated-water appliances and plumbing pipes last longer
  • No more stains on dishes, showers, tubs, and sinks
  • More lather comes from less soap
  • Skin and hair feels cleaner and softer
  • Less repair and maintenance costs for plumbing and water-using appliances
  • Upfront unit and installation cost
  • Ongoing operating expenses for salt and maintenance
  • Minor increase of sodium levels in drinking water
  • Environmental impact of softener wastewater pollution
  • Not ideal for plants
  • Less health-promoting minerals in drinking water
  • Softened water leaves salt deposits that damage steam irons and swamp coolers

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How Does A Water Softener Work?

A water softener removes magnesium and calcium ions from hard water and exchanges them with sodium or potassium ions to create softened water. The main components used in a water softener is a mineral tank that's connected to a brine tank with a control valve.

How an ion-exchange water softener works in 6 steps:

  1. Hard water enters a mineral tank from the home’s main water source and starts the ion-exchange process.
  2. The water flows through negatively charged resin beads.
  3. The resin attracts positively charged minerals like calcium and magnesium out of the water.
  4. The water absorbs sodium or potassium from the resin.
  5. The now-softened water enters the home’s pipes.
  6. During the regeneration process, the brine tank cleans the hard minerals from the resin beads and flushes the wastewater down the drain.
Water Softener Components
Component Definition Function
Mineral Tank Tallest system component that contains positively charged resin beads
  • Pumps water through resin beads to remove hard minerals. Then pumps out softened water to the household.
  • Larger homes may need two mineral tanks for a continuous supply of soft water while one tank regenerates.
Brine Tank Smallest system component that stores salt
  • The brine tank supplies a salt solution to the mineral tank during weekly resin regeneration and cleaning.
  • Keep the brine tank half full with salt.
Control Valve System monitor box with a timer attached to the top of the tanks
  • The control valve measures the water flow to detect resin depletion.
  • When the resin needs recharging, an automatic valve allows brine solution into the mineral tank for regeneration.
  • Manual valves need a homeowner to program regeneration times. The cleaning frequency depends on water hardness level and usage.

Water Softener Regeneration

During the regeneration process, the brine tank cleans the hard minerals from the resin beads and flushes the wastewater down the drain. Most water softeners regenerate once weekly.

Timer-Based vs. On-Demand Regeneration System
Type Pros Cons
Timer-Based
  • Cheaper
  • More commonly used
  • Regenerates on a fixed schedule, even in times of low water usage
  • Wastes more water, salt, and energy
On-Demand / Electric Metered
  • Monitors water flow and only regenerates when necessary
  • Saves money in the long run
  • Costs $50 to $220 more than timer-based systems

An upflow regeneration system uses 75% less salt and 65% less water than standard downflow systems.

How Long Does It Take To Install A Water Softener?

Installing a new water softener system takes 3 to 6 hours on average. Replacing an existing water softener takes 1 to 3 hours. Time increases if plumbers need to install new pipe connections, if the main water line is not easily accessible, or if there's limited floor space for the tanks.

How Much Space Do You Need For A Water Softener?

A typical water softener needs 3 feet for width, 1.5 feet for depth, and 5 to 6 feet for height. A dual-tank system needs 4 to 7 feet for width, 2 feet for depth, and 5 to 6 feet for height. An additional 1 foot of space is required above the tanks for maintenance.

Water Softener Space Needed
Type Width x Length x Height
Single Tank 3' x 1.5' x 5-6'
Dual Tank 4-7' x 2' x 5-6'

Whole-house water softeners are placed near the main water line in a garage, basement, or utility room. Small softeners are commonly installed underneath a kitchen sink but only soften water for that fixture.

How Long Do Water Softeners Last?

Most water softeners last between 10 and 15 years, or much longer if well-maintained. The lifespan depends on the brand, quality of installation, maintenance frequency, the hardness rating and iron content of the local water, and daily water use.

Can Water Softeners Be Installed Outside?

While most water softeners can be installed outside, the sun, rain, and wind shorten its lifespan. Water softeners need protection from the elements and to stay in temperatures between 40° to 100°F. The basement, garage, and utility rooms are the most common places to install a water softener.

Where To Install A Water Softener?

The ideal location to install a whole-house water softener is in the basement, garage, and utility rooms that are:

  • Near a power outlet
  • Accessible to a drainage system
  • Near the main water line
  • Protected from direct sunlight and rain
  • On a sturdy, level surface
  • Ten feet away from a water heater

Some companies install water softeners inside an insulated outdoor cabinet attached to the home to prevent freezing. The company must approve the location; otherwise, the warranty is void.

Does A Water Softener Need a Drain?

Most water softeners require a backwash drain and overflow drain. A backwash drain line disposes of the brine discharge after regenerating or cleaning the resin beads. The overflow drain tube connects to the brine tank.

Installation near a floor drain, standpipe, or utility sink is ideal. Alternatively, additional piping can send backwash to a backyard dry well or city storm sewer, if the city regulations allow it.

Still have questions? Ask a water treatment pro. View Pros

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DIY Water Softener Installation

DIY water softener installation is difficult but possible for no-salt water conditioners or magnetic and electronic descalers. A whole-house ion exchange system requires cutting and resoldering pipes and installing a drainage system for the recharge process.

Pro vs. DIY Water Softener Installation
System Difficulty Level Who Should Install
Ion Exchange Hard Pro
No-Salt Conditioners (TAC) Moderate Pro / DIY
Magnetic / Electrical Easy Pro / DIY
Reverse Osmosis Filtration Moderate / Hard Pro

Always hire a professional, as any mistakes may void the warranty. Benefits of hiring a professional water softener installer:

  • They are licensed, insured, and bonded.
  • They provide accurate and trusted advice.
  • They are experienced, trained, and knowledgable to fix any plumbing issues.
  • They use the proper tools and equipment to deliver quality work.
  • They are knowledge of safety measures, drainage laws, and building codes.
  • Ensures the product warranty is valid.

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Who Installs Water Softeners?

Water softeners are installed by licensed plumbers, water treatment companies, or local retailers like Home Depot. Always hire a licensed professional to install a water softener to satisfy warranty requirements and avoid faulty installations.

Who Installs Water Softeners?
Service Pros Cons
Retailer
  • May offer financing and warranty extensions
  • Cheaper installation fees
  • Varying quality of service between retailers
  • Takes up to 1-2 weeks to get an appointment
Water Treatment Dealer
  • Well-trained and experienced
  • Suggests the best system for each home's needs
  • Warranty-backed installation
  • Usually the most expensive option
Plumber
  • Homeowner is free to choose their system
  • Proper installation to satisfy the softener warranty requirements
  • Homeowner has to research and buy the softener separately
  • Buyer is responsible for hiring a certified plumber

Tips For Hiring A Water Treatment Service

  • Get at least three in-person estimates to compare.
  • Ask for recommendations from family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Read reviews and check out their previous work on HomeGuide, Google, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Select companies that are insured, bonded, and have been in business for longer than five years.
  • Avoid selecting the lowest quote as quality may suffer.
  • Ask for a full itemized contract in writing in case of a dispute.
  • Ask for a clear written warranty.
  • Avoid making large payments upfront. Never pay in full or in cash, and come up with a payment schedule for work completed.

Questions To Ask

  • How much experience do you have installing water softeners?
  • Can you explain the building code requirements and local drainage laws for discharging salt-laden wastewater?
  • What permits do I need, and will you obtain them?
  • Do you include local tax fees in the estimate?
  • Are you licensed, insured, and bonded?
  • How do you charge for unforeseen plumbing problems or modifications to accommodate the unit (longer drains or extra piping)?
  • Can you provide any references?
  • How long will the work take?
  • How do you handle damages that happen on the job?
  • What does your warranty policy include?
  • What’s your payment schedule?

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