How Much Does a Salt-Free Water Softener Cost?

by Hannah Stephens
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If you're tired of limescale clogging your pipes and damaging your fixtures, a whole-house water softener could be a nifty solution. However, most residential water softening systems use salt to remove hard minerals from your water, which could be an issue if you need to watch your sodium intake.

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Enter the salt-free water softener: a limescale-busting solution that won't raise your salt consumption. These units work differently from salt-based models and can help prevent clogged pipes, but they're also relatively pricey. Below, we'll explain how much a saltless water softener costs.

What Is a Salt-Free Water Softener?

Saltless water softeners are an alternative to regular salt water softeners to treat hard water. Unlike softeners with salt, they don't remove hard minerals from your water supply. Instead, they crystallize the minerals by changing their chemical state to minimize their effects.

Whole-house saltless water softeners attach to your plumbing system near the main water inlet, allowing water to flow through the unit for treatment before supplying your fixtures. You can also purchase smaller point-of-use units to soften the water supplying a single fixture, such as a shower or faucet.

Salt-free water softeners have a tank containing polymer beads called template-assisted crystallization media. The beads feature small depressions or craters that attract magnesium and calcium ions to create crystals. These crystals drop off when they reach the correct size and remain in your water supply.

Treating your water with a salt-free water softener can reduce limescale buildup in your pipes. It can also be a good option if you require a low-sodium diet. However, it's less effective at reducing issues such as soap scum buildup and skin dryness than salt-based models.

How Much Does a Saltless Water Softener Cost?

According to This Old House, salt-free water softeners cost between $500 and $3,000 (CAD 678 and CAD 4,071) on average. Factors such as your home size and water hardness can impact the cost because systems with larger capacities typically cost more. You may need a bigger unit if you have a large house with multiple plumbing fixtures or live in an area with a high concentration of hard minerals in the water supply.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Salt-Free Water Softener?

How much it costs to install a saltless water softener depends on the system type. Generally, you should expect to pay a plumber $50 to $200 (CAD 68 to CAD 271) per hour for installation services.

Small, single-fixture models are cheaper to install, with most plumbers charging between $100 and $300 (CAD 136 and CAD 407) per unit. Meanwhile, the labor to install a whole-house saltless water softening system starts at around $300 (CAD 407) and could exceed $1,000 (CAD 1,357) for complex installations. You may pay more if you live in an expensive city or your plumber struggles to access your water main.

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Salt Vs. Salt-Free Water Softener: What's the Price Difference?

The costs of single-tank salt-based units and salt-free water softeners are broadly comparable, but you'll likely pay more for a premium or extra-large saltless model. Single-tank salt water softeners start at around $400 (CAD 543), and you could pay up to $1,700 (CAD 2,037) for a high-quality unit.

Double-tank salt-based water softeners are more expensive at the more basic end of the scale, with prices starting at around $1,000 (CAD 1,357). The priciest double-tank models could set you back as much as $2,500 (CAD 3,392).

Bear in mind that salt-free water softeners often cost less to run than salt-based alternatives. Salt water softeners require regular refills, costing homeowners around $7 to $40 (CAD 9.50 to CAD 54) per bag of salt, according to data from Lowe’s.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.