Access to water is very important to the citizens of the United States, yet as of 2015, there were still 1.6 million Americans that do not have indoor plumbing – practically less than 1% of the entire national population. But in terms of water quality itself, a curiously overwhelming majority of nationwide taps draw out water that has high mineral content.
This is popularly known as ‘hard water’ which, according to the American Geological Survey, is overwhelmingly consisted of magnesium and calcium. According to Home Water 101, 85% of the United States territory has hard water. Cities like Indianapolis (Indiana), Las Vegas (Nevada), Minneapolis (Minnesota), Phoenix (Arizona), San Antonio (Texas), and Tampa (Florida) have the highest mineral concentration in the country.
Average Cost of Water Softener
While 85% of the land is pumping up hard water, only 30% of these people living in these territories use water softener systems. While hard water is understood to be a terrible nuisance, it is important to understand that it is not in any way hazardous to the health. In fact, medical experts consider the calcium and magnesium content in water an integral aspect of the overall nourishing diet. Further studies are still being conducted in an effort to find a direct correlation between hard water and health issues.
However, the same science that extols the marginal health benefits of hard water blames it for a number of negative effects that inconvenience the contemporary domestic lifestyle. As it happens, hard water is singlehandedly responsible for these specific hassles:
- clogging of the galvanized pipes
- accumulation of film in bath tiles and fixtures
- soapy film or shampoo residue after showering
- faster lifespan deterioration of appliances
- increased electricity bill when using the heater due to corroded steel
- reduced foaming action for laundry detergents
- accumulation of spots after cleaning glasses and plates
- poor taste in coffee and tea due to mineral saturation
These are the answers to the question why a water softener system may be required. However, a relative ease of lifestyle in this particular aspect entails a certain degree of financial investment. So how much does water softener cost? The broadest estimate is anywhere between $400 and $10,000. Between the two price ranges mentioned, the estimated national average water softener system cost is roughly around $3,000.
What is Included
There are two main components of the water softener price – the water softener unit and the overall cost of installation. As mentioned earlier, prices can be dictated by specific settings. However much these contexts modify exact prices, a shrewd consumer must know all the things included in the basic expenses.
Knowing the parts of the water softening system also give consumers a fair idea of how exactly the process of transforming hard water into a more suitable variety. These are the following components of a salt-based ion exchange water softener unit:
- Resin tank: this is where the filtration process begins, where hard water passes through plastic beads that attract calcium and magnesium.
- Brine tank: this is where the filtration process continues, wherein salt water solution is channeled into the resin tank to assist the removal of calcium, magnesium, and iron.
- Control valve: the principal mechanism that regulates the filtration and regeneration process, attached between the segmented (see the outlet and inlet diagram) main water pipe.
- Drain tube: the pipe that carries away the mineral ions removed from the plastic beads after the filtration process.
Anyone without a working knowledge of plumbing is would naturally hire professionals. In this particular case, it is important to take note of the following inclusions in the labor cost:
- Transportation of material (unit), personnel and equipment to the worksite.
- Worksite preparations that entail safeguarding the existing structures and its refinement.
- Hourly wages (or other payment schemes based on specific labor setup).
- Worksite cleanup after the job is completed (can be optional, yet best to be discussed).
Getting the water softener running is, by itself, a paramount concern. However, many shrewd consumers would not mind going an extra mile and make it better. Apart from the unit price and the cost of labor, there are other things a consumer needs to add to the overall budget. These following aspects allow the appropriate function and maintenance of the water softener unit:
- Water hardness test
As part of the water softener system cost, the exact price of the unit depends on the house’s specific need. Crucial to that decision is to know how much mineral content is in the water supply (e.g. well). The harder the water is, the higher the water softening capacity is required and the measurement is often expressed in terms of ‘grains per gallon.’ One may purchase a pH test to determine these odds and the testing kits usually cost around $50.
- Water softener salt/grain
Not all water softeners require the use of salt. However, anyone who owns the conventional type needs this item. One may think of it as ammunition for firearms. A 4 kg block salt for water softeners cost roughly around $6 to $7 on eBay.
Normally, water softeners are plugged in a pipe that only courses through bathroom functions. Yet if these filtration systems include kitchen taps, it is crucial for homeowners to consider a specific type of salt pellets for safe consumption. Potassium chloride pellets are absent of real chemical attributes that cause health issues and can be purchased at Home Depot for around $27 to $28.
- Water softener repair
Thinking about when or how a water softener unit would break down seems cynical and unhealthy, especially if these machines were just newly installed. However, preparing for such possibility nonetheless reveals a higher level of prudence on the part of the homeowner. In terms of repairs one can choose which of the average budget scale is appropriate:
- Low: around $83
- Medium: around $134
- High: around $217
Shopping for Water Softener System
In the interest of buying a water softener unit, there are two things that compete in the minds of most consumers. These are the price tag and the quality. Hence, water softener price is best understood as the balance of both polarities since good investment entails ‘getting the most value out of the least cost,’ The Top Ten Reviews nominated its list of three best water softener brands based on the following performance standards:
- US Water – best in flow rate
- GE – best in softening capacity
- Morton – best in maintenance needs
Factors that Affect Water Softener Cost
There are several considerations every homeowner takes prior to making the purchase when it comes to the question how much does water softener cost. While selections are primarily motivated by the balance of price versus quality, the final deliberation always comes down to the factors that consumers cannot control. Examples of such include the following:
- Softener Capacity
Relative to its proximity to the top 5 cities mentioned in the introductory part of the article, location is just one factor that directly correlates with the required softening capacity. It is also important to consider the size of the house (measured relatively in terms of the number of occupants), the number of appliances, and the volume of water used on a regular basis. One can determine the softener capacity requirement of the ideal unit choice based this rough calculation:
Step 1: Number of occupants x 75 = Average gallons of water used per day
Step 2: Grains per gallon x Average gallons of water used per day = Softener capacity
Note: the softener capacity is often included in the features of the unit brand and it is labeled as exact numerals affixed with the word grain or grain capacity (e.g. Morton 45,000 Grain Capacity Water Softener or GE 30,400 Grain Water Softener).
- Type of Softener
A water softener unit comes in different types. One can either choose the traditional salt-based ion exchange, a dual tank softener, a magnetic softener and a salt-free descaler. By comparison strictly in terms of price value, the traditional salt-based ion exchange seems to be the cheapest.
For strict health considerations in water consumption, homeowners would opt for a salt-free descaler coursing through their kitchen taps. For people who wish to use soft water on a 24-hour basis, they would invest on the expensive dual tank softener. The magnetic softener is a curious low-cost alternative for a salt-free method yet its relative risks are yet unknown.
- Another important factor that truly jacks up the overall cost of water softener investment is the difficulty in terms of installation. After all, worksite preparation is a non-negotiable step. Here are the different types of complexities as well as their equivalent projected labor costs:
- House pre-plumbed for water softener: around $250
- Houses with accessible water line requiring minimal work: around $350
- Houses requiring additional water conduit, especially for upper floor taps: around $750
- Houses requiring massive 11-hour excavation for three workers: around $1,200