Looking to increase your home’s water quality? A water softener is a great place to start.
The cost to install a water softener in Michigan typically ranges from $800 – $4,000+, with most homeowners paying an average of about $2,000.
Some of the factors that impact the cost of your water softener installation include:
- The type of water softener system
- The size of the water softener
- The efficiency of the system
- Professional vs DIY installation
In this blog, we’ll review each of these factors and how they can impact the cost of having a water softener installed in your home.
Looking for a Michigan plumber to give you a quote on your water softener installation? We’re happy to help! Learn more about the water quality services we offer.
Cost factor #1: The type of water softener
The cost to have your water softener installed will vary depending on the specific type of system that you choose for your home and needs.
There are two ways to categorize a water softener:
- By its softening/conditioning method
- By its system set-up
1. Water softening/conditioning methods
An ion exchange system is the most common method of water softening. Ion exchange systems produce soft water by eliminating calcium and magnesium from hard water.
The ion exchange process uses resin beads that are coated with a salt solution. As the hard water flows through the resin beads, the sodium ions on the beads exchange with the magnesium and calcium ions in the hard water.
The water exiting the tank and entering your home is now softened, but does contain low amounts of sodium as a result of the softening process.
Water softeners are a great option for homeowners who wish to effectively remove hard minerals from their water. Water softeners (compared to conditioners) produce water that “feels soft” and they’re more effective at preventing scale buildup in your home’s plumbing.
However, water softeners require regular upkeep as well. Homeowners who decide to install water softeners will have to frequently add salt to the system to keep it running efficiently.
So, if a little extra maintenance doesn’t bother you, a water softener is a good choice.
Typically, salt-free systems are more expensive than salt-based softeners. Salt-free systems use potassium instead of sodium to neutralize magnesium and calcium minerals.
Salt-free systems don’t actually “soften” water because they don’t remove hard minerals (calcium and magnesium). Instead, salt-free systems “condition” the water.
The conditioning process involves changing the chemical structure of the hard minerals in order to keep those hard minerals from sticking to the surfaces in your system.
In a salt-free system, hard water enters your home and passes through a tank that converts calcium and magnesium into harmless crystals. This process is called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC).
After the water passes through the TAC media, the now crystallized calcium and magnesium minerals flow into your home’s plumbing, without sticking to surfaces.
Magnetic systems are the least expensive option by far.
Much like salt-free systems, magnetic systems are not really water softeners. They are water conditioners.
Magnetic systems work by attaching powerful magnets to the outside of your water supply lines. The magnets alter the chemical make-up of the hard minerals, which prevents calcium and magnesium in the water from sticking to the surfaces of your home’s piping and plumbing appliances and causing buildup.
Water conditioners (magnetic and salt-free) are a better option for homeowners looking for:
- Less maintenance
- Lower running costs
- Less scale build-up, without removing nutrients (calcium and magnesium) from water
2. System set-up
All water softeners/conditioners need to “regenerate” after they’ve treated a certain amount of water. Single-tank systems (vs dual-tank systems) can’t supply softened/conditioned water while they’re regenerating. During regeneration, the whole system shuts down in order to effectively recharge and clean itself.
Single-tank systems have to be set on timers, that way you’re getting softened/conditioned water during the day, when more water is being used. So, homeowners typically set their single-tank systems to regenerate overnight, when water isn’t being used.
Dual-tank systems, on the other hand, come with two tanks and are able to provide you with softened/conditioned water 24/7. While one tank is regenerating, the other tank is producing softened/conditioned water.
Dual-Tank systems are better suited for homeowners with larger homes, higher water usage or irregular schedules.
Cost factor #2: The size of the water softener
Water softeners are sized according to how many grains of hard mineral they can remove from your water between regeneration cycles (the process that requires the system to shut down to efficiently cleanse and recharge itself).
The size of the water softener you need for your home depends on the level of hard water in your area and how much water is used in your household.
Michigan, for example, is known for having hard water. The water hardness level here in Michigan is typically 7 - 10.5 grains per gallon (GPG).
To determine the size of the water softener you need, follow these steps:
- Multiply the number of people in your household (let’s say 5), by 80 (the average gallons of water a person uses per day). Example: 80 x 5 = 400.
- Multiply that number by the level of water hardness in your area (10 GPG is the level in Michigan). Example: 400 x 10 = 4,000.
- Multiply this number by how often your water softener system regenerates.
Now, some systems regenerate every 7 days, while others regenerate every 3 - 5 days. So, the results will depend on your system’s specific regeneration frequency.
For example, if you have 5 people living in your Michigan household and your system regenerates every 7 days, you’ll need a 28,000-grain water softener.
Cost factor #3: The efficiency of the system
The higher the efficiency, the higher the cost will be to install the system.
Today, more homeowners are looking for the most efficient systems for their homes. So, water softener manufacturers have focused on delivering these higher efficiency systems to their customers. How?
There are systems available that feature upflow regeneration. Upflow regeneration has proven to be the most efficient way to regenerate a water softener.
Most water softeners regenerate with the resin flowing from the top down (known as downflow regeneration). Downflow softeners completely drain the unused portion of the resin bed each time it regenerates.
Downflow systems cause the hard minerals to pass down through the unused portion of the resin bed. As a result, the bed has to be completely regenerated, requiring that much more salt or potassium. This process wastes more water and requires more salt/potassium.
Upflow systems, on the other hand, reverse the flow of the regeneration cycle and allow the hard minerals to flow up through the depleted bed and out of the softener. This process preserves the unused portion of the bed and even creates softer water.
Upflow softeners allows the system to use about 75% less salt than downflow softeners. Upflow softeners also use about 65% less water than downflow softeners.
So, if you’re looking to save/replenish a significant amount of water and salt/potassium, you should consider installing a water softener with upflow regeneration.
Cost factor #4: Professional vs DIY installation
Thinking about tackling the project on your own? Installing a water softener yourself can be cheaper if you choose to DIY.
But be aware: You risk losing more money in the long term if you try a DIY water softener installation.
Installing the system on your own requires some mid-level plumbing knowledge. And, if you’re installing a softener for the first time, your home will have to be pre-plumbed, which means more plumbing work.
Also, forgetting or skipping simple steps, like not shutting off the water supply, can cause damage and end up costing you more.
By hiring a professional, you can be assured that the job will get done right the first time around. A quality job done by a quality plumber can save you valuable time and money in the long run.
So, it’s best if you look at the extra cost of hiring a professional plumber as more of an investment.
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