Here's How Much It Costs To Add A Water-Softening Unit To Your Dishwasher

Dealing with hard water, which is full of minerals like calcium and magnesium, can leave you with a gross buildup inside your dishwasher, shower, water heater, and pipes, and can hinder the performance of your hot water appliances. According to the United States Geological Survey, approximately 85% of U.S. households have hard water, and if you notice a thick white or gray substance covering the inside of your dishwasher or a bad smell emanating from it, hard water is in your home, too.

While water softening systems will help to filter your tap water, they vary in their capabilities and costs. Some systems are specific to one part of your home, like your dishwasher or shower, while other systems work for your entire house. Depending on what type of water softener you want, where you live, and the size of your house, the cost of a water-softening unit can range from less than $100 to upward of $10,000.

Types of water softeners

If you want a softening system for one appliance, like your dishwasher, a point-of-use water softener is the best choice. Note, however, that while they're more cost-effective than whole-home systems, these water-softening units have filters that need to be changed every few months.

For whole-home use, salt-based systems are very common, and can have one or two tanks. They use resin and salt to filter the minerals out of your water and can have different grains per gallon capacities — meaning the amount of minerals the system can remove. If you have very hard water or need to filter a lot of water, your softener may need a 60,000-80,000 GPG capacity, which can cost in the range of $1,000 to $1,800. Average small to medium homes can get away with 16,000 to 32,000 GPG, which range in cost from $300 to $1,000. These systems will also need monthly refills, which can be $10 to $25 on average.

Salt-free water softeners don't remove minerals from your water but treat them with chemicals so they don't stick to your pipes or appliances. These systems can cost between $500 and $3,000 to install. Reverse-osmosis softeners, meanwhile, are the most expensive type, ranging from $100 to $500 for point-of-use systems to $4,000 to $12,000 for your entire house.

Note, it's important to consider the labor costs for installation, which will typically run you $200 to $500. In general, the more complicated the system is, the more it'll cost to install.

What water softener is best for you

While water softeners can be expensive, they last an average of 10 to 20 years or longer. When deciding what type of water-softening unit is best for your home, consider what's being affected by the hard water and if it's necessary to install a system for your entire home. The cost of water softeners varies based on brand, capacity, and type, and installation costs vary by region and complexity.

Water softeners can be found at big-brand stores, like Lowe's and The Home Depot, and some can be installed without the help of a plumber. If you already have a buildup of lime and hard water in your dishwasher but can't invest in a softener, try a rinse cycle with baking soda and vinegar and make sure to clean your dishwasher's filter often.

If you're sick of dry skin after showering, residue in your dishwasher, and less effective hot water appliances, installing a water softener in your home can make life easier.