Replacing a water softener is an investment, and you're certainly not the first person to experience sticker shock. After all, like most appliances, water softener cost varies dramatically, as does water softener quality. You could simply purchase the cheapest unit available, but will that really save you money in the long run? And will it do everything you need?
Before you make your final decision, it’s important to consider all the factors that influence water softener cost. Those same factors also affect water softener performance and longevity.
1. Type of system
There are different types of water softening systems. Most use salt, but some do not. Some have a single tank, while some have two. Some regenerate at pre-set times, whereas others – like the Kinetico brand models we sell at Haferman Water Conditioning – are self-actuating, so they only regenerate as needed.
Since various systems operate differently, some require more human intervention (you know – hassle) than others.
2. Cost of ownership
It costs money to operate and maintain any water softener. Often, a low-priced unit will actually cost you more in the long run. Parts aren’t always available for cheaper systems, which means if something goes wrong, you may be out of luck.
Longevity is another factor to consider with a less expensive system. You can expect most water softeners to last between 2 and 12 years, although Kinetico products typically last 20-30 years.
- Power usage. Kinetico systems are among the most energy efficient water softeners on the market.* That’s because the system works on kinetic energy rather than electricity. The softening process is more efficient, and your monthly power bill won’t suffer.
- Supplies. Most water softeners use salt as a catalyst for ion exchange. Salt isn’t expensive, but it adds up over time, and those big bags are heavy! Thanks to Kinetico’s more efficient operating system, you may need only three bags of salt for every 10 you would need for another system. You could also consider a salt-free system, but other than the savings on salt, they are considerably more expensive to operate. And they are finicky, so they are not recommended for whole-house water softening anyway.
Also consider the fact that, with many water softening systems, you will still need an additional iron filter to get the water quality you want.
*The Kinetico S650 XP was rated “The World’s Most Efficient Water Softener,” as verified by independent testing from WQA to NSF/ANSI Standard 44.
Manufacturers that are proud of their products give them a quality warranty. Read the fine print, as they say, because the limitations and timeframe (check to make sure it’s not prorated) could make all the difference later on. Are both parts and labor covered? For how long? And under what circumstances? In general, longer warranties really do indicate quality products. After all, a manufacturer would go out of business if their warranties covered too many breakdowns!
4. The source
You can buy a water softener online, at a big box store, or from a local specialty company such as Haferman. There’s a lot to be said for local expertise. Instead of hoping you can find a plumber to install the system or help later on if a problem arises, you get local service – from the same people who sold you the softener.
That’s as important as choosing a product with a great warranty, for the same reason – reputation and quality go hand-in-hand. (Here at Haferman, we’re very proud of our A+ rating from the BBB!) We earn it by delivering neat, clean, friendly and expert quality installation and service.
5. Made in America
This is more than just a popular slogan. It is a formal designation conferred by the Federal Trade Commission for products that are, literally, made from American-made parts, within the US.
American-made equipment may cost more, but it’s because manufacturers are paying decent wages and providing appropriate working conditions. It's a matter of pride.
Not All Costs Come with a $ Attached
The point of investing in a water softener is to improve the quality of life around your household. By getting rid of hard water, you can also say goodbye to dry hair and skin, dingy laundry, crusty fixtures, spotty dishes and glassware, and premature repair and replacement of your water-using appliances. Plus, your water will taste so much better! Those benefits are priceless, whether or not you can put a number to them.
Once you know what you're really paying for (or not), over the expected life of the system, the water softener that has a higher upfront cost is most likely the better investment.