To Soften or Not to Soften Water - The Million-Dollar Question

Which is Cheaper, Softening your water or not?

Devin Ergler |

Water quality is an important consideration for every homeowner. It affects not only the taste and behavior of your water, but also the lifespan of your appliances and overall home maintenance. Elsewhere on our blog, we’ve shown you why Cascadian should be your first choice when looking for a water softener. But does this investment truly pay off in the long run? 

Below, we'll compare the capital and operational costs of having a Cascadian softener versus not having one, and let you draw your own conclusions. 

Capital Costs of Cascadian Softeners

Initial Investment

Cascadian water softeners range in price from $748 to $1177, with annual cartridge replacements at a 10% discount with our Worry Free Guarantee. Cartridges typically only have to be replaced once per year. Compared to traditional salt-based softeners, which are much bulkier and more difficult to install, and run anywhere from $2500-$7500. 

Installation Costs

Cascadian is much more compact and simple than conventional salt-based water softener, and fits in any home or apartment. Since all of its attachment hardware is standardized, professionals can do it in only a couple hours, DIY-ers in a weekend.

Operational Costs of Cascadian Softeners


Due to their complexity, traditional salt-based softeners require frequent maintenance, including the purchase of salt — a $360-475 expense for the average home. But the real cost comes in the form of monthly, back-breaking hauls of 50-pound(!) salt replacements that aren’t exactly fun to grab off of store shelves. 

Delivery services will pass their fuel charges off to you, or you could burn your own gas and wrestle that salt bag into your shopping cart. Ouch – what’s a good chiropractor go for these days? 

Cascadian, on the other hand, requires no salt, no floor drain, no complex computerized systems or apps – just once-yearly, lightweight, DIY cartridge replacements.  

Energy Consumption

Zero. Unlike salt-based softeners, which require computerized monitoring and flow regulation, Cascadian filters have no electrical components.

Water Usage

Traditional softeners use up to 10,000 additional gallons of water per year during their regeneration cycles. If you pay for water by the gallon, this can add to your monthly water bill, but more upsettingly, your cleaning bill – homes with septic tanks not designed with salt-based softeners’ wastewater load in mind are at risk of surprise toilet overflows. 

Since Cascadian’s PolyHalt® salt-free Ion Bond™ system does not produce wastewater, your water bill is not affected. It’s also drought-resistant, a big plus for customers in areas with water rationing protocols. And best of all, no funny business with the toilet. Ever. 

Are You Really Saving Money by Skipping the Softener? 

Since you’re not buying or maintaining any specialized equipment, you may be tempted to skip water softening to save money. While this might be doable in the short term; long-term, you’re in for some major payouts involving your  home’s fixtures, plumbing, and even your health. 

Appliance and Plumbing Repairs - Ouch.

The biggest capital cost associated with hard water is the damage it causes to appliances and plumbing. Scale buildup in pipes, water heaters, and major appliances like dishwashers severely reduces their efficiency and lifespan. While salt-based softeners can help save your plumbing, their briny discharge creates its own set of problems. Salt-based softeners create two types of water, highly salty wastewater that can damage pipes (salt + metal = not good) and/or your soil (salt + dirt = not good). The other type is the slightly salty “soft” water that flows out of your faucet—it’s not salty enough to damage pipes, but it is salty enough to irritate indoor plants, fish, and even people.

With today’s service and material costs, foregoing the softener — or opting for the salt-based option — can easily flush tens of thousands of dollars down the pipes.

More and Harsher Cleaning Products 

Hard water buildup on your appliances and household surfaces can be a nightmare to clean, requiring harsh cleaning chemicals — and lots of them — to address. 

These chemicals aren’t exactly kind to your hands, eyes, and respiratory system, either, so you may even be adding medical costs to your annual budget by choosing to tough it through hard water. 

Salt-based softeners once again come with caveats, as they tend to strip away all of water’s natural minerals, rendering it “wetter than wet” and leading to buildup of routine cleaning products like dish soap, which aren’t easily washed away by super-soft water. 

Skin and Hair Care Costs

Depending on your hair type and skin sensitivity, you may have to invest in specialized shampoos, conditioners, and lotions to counter the effects of hard water on skin and hair. As above, salt-based softeners lead to their own set of problems, as they tend to “over-soften” water, making it difficult to scrub away residues of your usual soaps and shampoos.

Bottled Water 

No one likes the taste of hard water, so if you drink it at all, you end up drinking less than you should — it’s just plain gross. Salt-softened water has added sodium, another flavor-killer that can even increase your long-term risk of cardiovascular disease. So, most hard-water homes, and many salt-softened ones, end up dumping hundreds of dollars a year into bottled water.

What’s Your Time Worth?

Scrubbing appliances, shopping for specialty treatment products, lugging bottled water and bags of salt, waiting around for expensive inspectors and contractors… these are just some of the fun pastimes you’ll be committing to by going with unsoftened or salt-softened water. 

If you prefer more engaging hobbies, it might be time to go with Cascadian. 

And Now You Decide… 

In the intro, we said we’d let you draw your own conclusions about whether Cascadian makes sense in the long run. We’ll stick to our word, but… well, we know where the smart money is, and now you do too. Both capital and operational expenditures are far greater with salt-softeners, and without softening at all. 

If you have any questions or concerns, we’re happy to talk shop all day — it’s what we’ve been doing for 30 years. Reach us here: 509-674-4000