How Much Does a Water Softener Cost and Which Do I Buy?

In this blog, you’ll learn:
• “Professional” companies sell the best water softeners at anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000.
• “Sticker” companies sell the most common water softeners at anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.
• “Big Box” companies sell the cheapest, least effective water softeners at around $800.
• Cheap water softeners almost always cost more in the long run because they likely won’t work and will require a better replacement.

If you’re getting serious about purchasing a water softener, you’ve probably wondered whether water softeners are really necessary. After all, what’s so bad about a little hard water?

Hard water ruins clothing, dries skin, damages hair, breaks appliances, leaves stains on dishes and simply tastes funny. To purchase a water softener for a few thousand dollars is to address these problems immediately and effectively.

More surprisingly, some sediment in water from the deepest aquifers can contain Radium-226 and -228, carcinogenic isotopes that can wreak long-term havoc upon ingestion. So, water softeners can even protect you from cancer.

You get what you pay for. Though high-quality water softeners require a significant initial investment, they provide greater benefits in the long run. As a water softener is practically a medical device that keeps your family healthy, don’t skimp out with low-budget water softeners.

Here, we’ll talk about how much effective water softeners should cost as well as which ones to buy.

What’s the Average Price Range of Water Softeners?

There are many different types of water softeners. The primary difference across all of them is that less effective options tend to be cheaper and more effective options tend to be more expensive. Most water softeners fall in either of two categories, both of which we’ll go into in more detail.

Four major brands build water softeners, but most companies purchase three primary parts and, working out of a garage or warehouse, assemble those parts into what one would consider a water softener. Culligan, Kinetico, Rainsoft and EcoWater are the four major brands we call “professional” companies, while companies that focus on assembly exclusively, like Pelican, Aquasana, Fleck and Autotrol, are “sticker” companies.

Professional Companies

If you’d like to know how much a good water softener costs, water softeners from professional companies can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000. Instead of outsourcing parts, professional companies build water softeners in-house from head to toe. Also, these water softeners are made in America, so you won’t have to worry about shoddy parts.

Some professional water softeners have NSF 44 certification, which means that the National Sanitation Foundation has forced them through vigorous testing to guarantee effectiveness.

Warranties are excellent, most of which last for at least 10 years in total.  Often, warranties are 5-plus-5 warranties wherein the manufacturer and vendor offer five years, each. Some manufacturers provide 10 years of warranty in the first place, supplementing the vendor’s five years even further.

Sticker Companies

With a range from $1,500 to $5,000, sticker companies present a substantially cheaper option, but there’s much to forfeit. Because sticker companies purchase parts to assemble, you have to trust the dealer with your device and your health.

Many parts are made in China, which means they’re more likely to be ineffective, and the manufacturer won’t have to take responsibility if your water softener breaks. Accordingly, the majority of “sticker” water softeners don’t have NSF 44 certification, and the companies themselves usually don’t have plumbing licenses, bonds or insurance. All companies with exclusively online access are essentially sticker companies.

Big Box Companies

A third option is to buy a water softener from a “big box” company at Home Depot or Lowe’s. A “big box” water softener can cost as few as $800, but you’ll need to install it yourself, and as with “sticker” water softeners, it’ll be nothing more than a profound expense years down the line. Examples of companies whose water softeners you might find in large department stores include WaterBoss and Kenmore.

In the long run, “sticker” and “big box” water softeners are almost always more expensive than “professional” water softeners because of complications caused by shoddy craftsmanship.

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A woman walks down the aisle of a big box store
The water softeners sold by big box companies often aren’t of the highest quality.

What’s a Fair Price for a Water Softener?

In general, the fairest prices are the ones we’ve outlined above. “Professional” water softeners should cost between $4,000 and $7,000, while “sticker” water softeners should cost between $1,500 and $5,000. Big box water softeners should never exceed $800.

What to Keep in Mind When You Look at the Price

Mind the pricing differences among “big box,” “professional,” and “sticker” companies to make sure that the price corresponds to the right category. You can immediately dismiss $2,000 “big box” water softeners. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • NSF 44 certification is paramount because it’s a guarantee that your ultimate water softener will be worth all that money.
  • If a water softener is made in America, it’s made from better parts that aren’t prone to breaking.
  • The best water softeners come with at least a decade of warranty from the manufacturer and enjoy statewide licensing.

The bottom line is that a water softener is a medical device with which to prolong your family’s life and protect them from carcinogens, so don’t leave this water softener business up to anybody.

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off

Not all vendors are scammers, but do your research before purchase. Take a look at reviews. Search for a brick-and-mortar location and visit their facility. Make sure you’re buying from a real company that doesn’t have to depend on suspicious discounts.

We also suggest you note the difference between salt-free and salt-based water softeners. Salt-based water softeners are so effective as to use ion exchange, a chemical process that requires salt, to separate sediment from water on a molecular level. Keeping a genuinely salt-based water softener stocked with salt is a small price to pay for its greater effectiveness.

Salt-free water softeners don’t actually soften water. Rather, they condition water to keep it from sticking to pipes. The water is still going to be hard. This means a salt free system will still cause white film on dishes, showers and bathrooms and will not help your laundry.

How Much Does It Cost to Install and Maintain a Water Softener?

In isolation, installation, initial programming and testing cost about $1,000. Allowing a licensed professional to install a water softener is a lot less risky than doing it yourself. If something goes wrong because you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re tampering with your water supply. We can help you come up with a solution to a problem that’s too risky to get wrong.

Peripheral costs include annual maintenance, which might be necessary for your water softener to remain under warranty. We recommend annual maintenance either way.

When Should I Replace a Water Softener?

Most effective water softeners last for 10 years, while “big box” water softeners last for three years at most. Otherwise, here are some telltale signs that your water softener needs a replacement:

  • A significant drop in water pressure
  • Stains on dishes
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle Hair
  • Faded clothes
  • Broken dishwashers

The symptoms your water softener has worked so hard to alleviate will have returned. When a water softener stops doing its job, be sure to find a suitable replacement.

Showerhead with hard water stains
If your water softener’s on its last legs, you might have symptoms like this.

Buy the Best Water Softeners from Angel Water

Keeping families healthy and homes well-maintained, effective water softeners have more than earned their hefty price tags. Still, shady business practices can make the right water softener difficult if not impossible to find. Maybe you already know you need one, but you haven’t figured out how to get one. You’re still unclear on which option is best for your home.

Angel Water can help you find an effective water softener that’s a perfect fit for your family. We conduct professional water tests as well as smooth installation and even ongoing maintenance. If you’re ready to move forward with this big decision, we know we can help you install a water softener of your own.

Interested in a Water Softener System for Your Home?

You don’t have to live with a dry, itchy scalp and brittle hair anymore! It would be our pleasure to help you find the right water softener to make your showers enjoyable again.

Please give us a call at (847) 382-7800 or visit our water softener page to learn more.

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