One of the biggest factors in deciding whether or not to get a water softener is the same one that looms large over all our buying decisions – cost. Water softener prices differ greatly depending on the type and brand of the system, such that no matter how little you have to spend, you can find one that fits your budget. But whether it fits your needs is another story.
Salt-Based Water Softener Prices
If what you need is an ion exchange (salt-using) system, then you can expect to pay between $200 and $3000 for a residential unit. The amount of water it has to soften is the key factor that will determine both the initial price tag and the ongoing costs. However, there are also a variety of extra features, such as resin depletion sensors, that can drive up the initial cost of a water softener.
Salt-Free Water Softener Prices
If you’re looking for a saltless system, the main factor in determining the cost is the type of softening method it uses. Electronic and magnetic softeners are often very cheap, around $100 at the low end. Systems that use filter media, on the other hand, can cost as much as a high-end ion exchange system.
No salt water softeners – electronic ones in particular – are often comparatively easy to install, to the point where many homeowners can do the job themselves. With professional installation often running hundreds of dollars, this is another factor that should be figured into the overall cost.
The Hidden Costs of Owning a Soft Water System
Salt-based systems generally cost significantly more to maintain. The cost of water softener salt isn’t exactly “hidden,” but a lot of people may not realize how often they have to refill the tank. This is dependent on the amount of water being softened, how hard it is, and how soft you want it to be.
Many salt-using systems also waste a lot of water – hundreds of gallons per year, by some estimates. Similar to the issue with resin sensors, you can save money in the long run by finding a system that includes water-saving features.
Finally, using water softener salt makes water taste slightly salty. If you drink a lot of tap water, you may need to get a water filter or switch to bottled water – both of which increase your costs.
Cost isn’t Everything
So with all of those factors going against salt-based softeners, why do people still buy them? In comparison, salt free softeners are practically maintenance free.
The answer is that people trust the tried-and-true softening method used by ion exchange systems. In contrast, buying a saltless system is a lot dicier. There aren’t a lot of big-name manufacturers who offer them, and some of the softening techniques are controversial. The extra money people are willing to pay for a conventional softener is the cost of having a little extra peace of mind.