In this article, we are going to break down the cost of owning a reverse osmosis system in the US from the initial price to the cost of installation and maintenance. We provided the estimates for the countertop, under-sink, and whole-house RO systems.
RO system cost = Initial price + Maintenance Cost
Reverse osmosis systems have become an essential part of our lives when it comes to water filtration and with the ever-increasing demand, we continue to see an increase in the number of brands and suppliers of RO systems in the industry.
Consequently, the price of RO systems now varies widely with each brand striving to offer a more competitive price tag than its competitors.
However, the initial price of an RO filtration system is just one part of the equation as there are other expenses you will need to factor in which include installation and maintenance.
Therefore, if you are weighing your options and wondering how much it will cost you to own and manage an RO system, then keep reading to learn more.
Whole House RO Systems:
Average Price of a Whole House RO System
Whole house RO systems are designed to produce sufficient purified water that can cover the demands of an entire household.
They are larger than countertop or under-sink systems and the technology behind them is often more complex and powerful which means their prices tend to fall on the high end.
For a small whole house system, the least price will run around $500, exclusive of an atmospheric tank and the delivery pump or bladder tank. With all the necessary attachments included, the minimum or average cost is about $1,500.
Larger whole house systems, on the other hand, can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 or even upwards exceeding $12,000.
The price will primarily depend on the amount of pure water that needs to be produced per day as well as how sophisticated the purification process is. The more the demand, the bigger the system required, and ultimately the higher the price.
Setting up an entire whole house RO system is more complicated and it’s not something that can be done by an amateur. It involves a significant amount of labor and materials to assemble and install a whole-house unit.
DIY installation is only possible if you are a highly skilled DIYer. Even so, it’s still highly recommended and essential to hire a professional plumber or have the supplier do it at an additional cost if they offer installation services to ensure everything is done properly.
It’s really hard to give an exact figure because the installation cost of whole house systems isn’t standardized plus every manufacture or plumber will charge differently.
The bare minimum for most though can range from a few hundred up to around $500. However, this cost is likely to exceed $1,000 depending on the additional materials and amount of plumbing work involved.
As we mentioned earlier, in addition to the initial price, the total cost of owning an RO system will include the cost of maintenance and operation too which is tied to the frequency of filter and membrane replacements.
The filter replacement will depend on the quality of the source water and how heavily the RO system is used. If the water is very hard or high in sediment or chlorine, or if you regularly use large quantities of water, then the filters will need replacements more often.
Generally speaking, filters can last between 6 to 12 months. High-quality filters from top brands like Home Master last up to a year before requiring replacement but most other whole-house systems have filters with a maximum lifespan of 6 months.
On average, an RO membrane of a whole house system can last around 3 to 5 years. Therefore, most of the maintenance will be changing the filters either annually or periodically based on the quality of the system you purchase.
For annual filter replacement and maintenance, you can expect to spend anywhere between $200 up to a few thousands of dollars. If the filters need changing periodically like after every 6 to 8 months, then the cost will be a bit more especially for systems with modular design filters.
Under-sink RO Systems:
Average Cost of an Under-sink RO System
The price of an under-sink RO system will largely depend on the type of filtration process it has and other additional features included like a booster or permeate pump, iron pre-filter and modular filter design.
Most standard under-sink RO systems have 5-stage filtration process with or without a permeate pump while other more advanced systems include additional stages like remineralization and UV light sterilization stages with or without a permeate pump.
That being said, the average cost of an under sink system can range from around $150 to $500. For commercial under sink RO systems, the cost may start at around $500 and may exceed $1000.
Basically, your purification needs or the number of filtration stages and any additional features like permeate pump will dictate how much you get to pay. It’s also worth keeping in mind that some brands such as Home Master are simply a bit more expensive than others due to the quality and durability of their systems.
Under-sink RO systems are fairly tricky to install, but in most cases, DIY installation is possible provided you are somewhat handy or at least have some basic DIY skills. This is a great option if you are working with a tight budget or just looking to save some few extra bucks.
For those that don’t have DIY skills and the necessary installation tools of their own or don’t want to go through all that trouble, hiring a professional plumber to do the installation is the best choice.
In general, the average cost estimates for a professional installation of an under-sink RO system range from $150 to $300, unless there are significant changes or modifications need to be made to your existing plumbing.
In case there are any major modifications or repair needed, then you can expect additional charges which can push the cost up to $400. The installation costs will often include the labor, required materials as well as all the necessary equipment.
Like whole house systems, under-sink RO systems come with filters that can last up to 6 months or 1 year while most of the RO membranes usually go up to 5 years. Therefore, maintenance majorly involves either periodic or annual changing of filters.
The annual costs for replacement filters range from $60 to $200 depending on the brand, but most often the standard range is $80 to $100.
If the system you purchase has more filtration stages, then the expenses will be a little higher. You can also expect to spend more if the filters of the system feature a modular design because you have to dispose of the entire housing with the filter inside.
Countertop/Portable RO Systems
Average Cost of a Countertop RO System
Countertop RO systems are amongst the simplest yet functional RO filtering units designed to sit on the counter. These systems run a bit less compared to under-sink RO systems when it comes to the initial purchase price.
The typical cost of most countertop RO systems can range from about $100 to as much as $1000 depending on the brand, water capacity and the number of filters. Top-rated brands are a bit more expensive, but you can find a few models on the market that cost even less than $100.
One of the best thing about countertop RO systems aside from the affordable price and portability is that they are incredibly easy to set up and require no permanent installation.
They don’t have much hardware compared to traditional RO systems and most are designed to sit on the counter. The process involves a simple attachment of a unit directly to any standard kitchen faucet in just a matter of minutes and you are good to go. So no plumbing experience is required to install them which means no installation cost to worry about.
Same as there low initial price tag, countertop RO systems are equally low in maintenance since most units don’t have a lot of hardware or parts. Many systems have 3 to 5 filters or stages and the only maintenance involved is replacing the filter cartridges and RO membrane.
You can expect to change the filters periodically, at least twice a year because a lot of the filters on these systems have a lifespan of 6 to 8 months with the membranes lasting 2 to 5 years.
The annual cost of replacing the filters assuming they have a lifespan of 6 months would range from around $60 to $80 depending on the number of filters. If it’s a 4-stage system, you can spend about $60 while for 5-stage systems, the maintenance cost can go as high as $100.
Whether you want to remove potentially harmful contaminants from your water or just want a cleaner and better-tasting water, a quality RO system is without a doubt a great solution.
When going for a whole house or under-sink system, look beyond the initial price tag. Make sure to factor in the installation and maintenance cost of the system you are considering so that you can have a clear estimate of the amount of money you will be spending.
Generally speaking, you may find several lower-priced RO systems that can purify water just as good as higher-priced models, but you want to be careful because most often have low-quality parts and filters that might wear out quicker.
Paying a bit more for a top-quality unit is much ideal as you will get value for your money and the annual maintenance cost is likely to be low due to durable filters. Some high-end brands even offer a lifetime guarantee on their units. Therefore, the cost shouldn’t scare you from getting a quality unit that can serve you for long.