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How much does a water softener cost

Increasing numbers of British consumers are seeking to improve the quality of their household water by adding a water softener system.

The benefits of adding a water softener system and eliminating limescale deposits are many, from making it easier to wash and iron your clothes to improving the condition of your skin.

Your home appliances and boiler will run more efficiently and last longer, you will use less cleaning detergents, and you will probably find that many of your household fittings that come into contact with water – brass etc. – last longer.

But the question most people ask is, ‘how much does a water softener cost?’

Many people are initially concerned only with the cost of the water softener system, but there are many things to consider before choosing a system that best suits your needs.

Consumers should first consider:

  • - The type of system that best suits their needs
  • - The quality, effectiveness and the reliability of each model
  • - Installation and maintenance costs and
  • - The reputation of the supplier (customer care and being able to get expert advice from the supplier is essential).

So how much does a water softener system cost?

The prices of systems range anywhere from around £200 for a cheap, small system to an expensive commercial-sized system suitable for an extremely large home that could cost up to £3000 (almost everyone reading this will NOT need a £3000 system).

Before you start comparing brands and models, you must first ask yourself what type of water softener system will best suit your needs. There is a lot of confusion about what is available and what different systems do.

Firstly, you must decide between a ‘traditional’ system that uses salt to remove scale and build-up, or a salt-free water softener system.

It is important to understand that you should not drink water that has passed through a traditional water softener system. You need a separate bypass drinking tap, or you should buy bottled water.

A better option for many people is to install a whole of house filtration system that removes most of the scale and also filters the water for drinking. Purchasing one of these systems means that you can enjoy the benefits of softer water without using salt, with the added value of drinking purified water from your tap. There is no need to install a bypass drinking tap or to buy bottled water.

Salt-based systems require you to replace the salt used to clean the softening resin beads, usually every few weeks. See below for more information about the associated costs.

Whole of house filtration systems typically require only that you replace the cartridges at regular intervals.

There is a wide range of prices in each product category depending on the quality of materials, effectiveness and efficiency of the system, and durability. Like most products, the better made ones last longer and are more effective.

Before you begin to list the costs of different products, you must verify that you are getting what you need. Make sure that the products you add to your shortlist have proven technology that has been tested under certified protocols – DVGW-W512, for example.

Importantly, you should also think about what size system you need. This will obviously depend on the size of your home and garden and your water consumption. In order to properly size your water softener, you need to take into account the water hardness level in your area, the required flow rates and the amount of water that needs to be softened.

Make sure the product you choose has a good warranty and check that the company offers a money back guarantee. Reputable companies will often give you a ‘no questions asked’ refund if you are not happy.

Once you have decided upon the type of system you need, you can start comparing the prices of different brands. Some things to keep in mind:

  • - Seriously consider products sold by UK businesses with good customer service
  • - You want a quality product that offers value – cost, reliability, performance
  • - Choose a company with a customer care focus so that you can quickly resolve any issues if they arise
  • - Online recommendations will help you decide which company you can trust.

You won’t have to do a lot of maintenance on a water softener system, but you will have to add salt to the system or change cartridges if you go with a salt-free system.

When it comes to pricing a water softening system, please remember to compare models and makes that do the same job.

Do not compare a smaller, inefficient model with one that is larger and will probably cost less in the long run when you consider installation, maintenance, running, and replacement costs.

The old adage that quality lasts long after the price is forgotten is true.

You don't have to go out and buy the most expensive water softener system – you’ll probably get ripped-off if you do – but you should steer clear of products that seem too good (and cheap) to be true.

How much does it cost to have a water softener installed in the UK?

As with estimating the cost of purchase, the cost of installing your water softener system is not straight-forward. Some systems are more complex than others, some require electricity, some use salt, and some do not.

The installation process is usually quite simple for most households, with the system often placed under the kitchen sink. However, systems can theoretically be added at any point in your water supply.

Most experts suggest you engage a plumber to install your system as the work must be done to comply with WRAS (Water Regulations Advisory Scheme) standards. Usual installation costs are between £150 and £300, but it really depends on your system, your house, and the complexity of the installation.

If you decide to go with a water softener system that uses salt, you might also want to include the cost of a by-pass drinking tap. Adding a filter to the system will also add to your costs. Most standard installations will take about two hours to complete.

Typical water softener running costs in the UK?

How much it costs to run your water softener system depends on several factors. If you choose a system that uses salt, your biggest running cost is to replenish the salt used to ‘backwash’ – the process of regenerating the resin beads that soften the water.

Different systems will use more or less salt, depending on whether they are more or less efficient, are single or double cylindered, and if they have overrides built into their programming (to maintain water quality they may add salt when it is not needed).

Another consideration is how much water you use, and this is most often determined by how many people live in your house. Six people having a shower each day use a lot more water than a couple, and six people wash more clothes and dishes. Obviously a two-bedroom flat will use much less water than a five-bedroom house with a large garden.

Some systems use salt that you purchase in bags, others use block salt. Your salt costs will be approximately £5 per month (for a very small system with one or two occupants) to £18 per month for a larger home with about six occupants. These prices are for efficient systems installed correctly. Inefficient systems, systems being asked to work above capacity, and improperly installed systems may need a lot more salt (and cause other problems).

There may also be additional servicing costs for water softener systems that use salt, and these prices vary greatly from one manufacturer to another. Some need no annual maintenance, while others can cost up to £150. You might also need to replace filters at designated times on these systems, but often they are included in the annual maintenance cost.

There is usually no monthly cost when using a salt-free system, but you should replace the filters (cartridges) at selected intervals. Salt-free water softener systems usually use two cartridges. One is a softener media cartridge that costs around £150 and lasts for about two years. The other is a whole of house media filter that costs just under £100 and should be replaced annually.

There is another consideration that is influencing more and more decision makers when deciding which system to choose: the environmental cost. There is some concern that water softener systems using salt cause environmental damage when the wastewater enters the drainage system. Consequently, environmentally conscious consumers are turning to salt free systems. The cartridges used in salt-free systems are also recyclable.

In summary, the cost of adding a water softener system is much more than the cost of your system. You should consider running costs, including salt or replacement cartridges, installation and maintenance – if any—and the quality of the system and the reputation of the supplier. If you do your research carefully and ask the right questions, the result will be years of great quality ‘soft’ water in your home.

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