Reverse Osmosis System Cost (Incl. Whole House RO Prices) – How Much to Own and Operate?

RO systems are a popular choice for home water filtration, but they’re not cheap. If you’re weighing your options and estimating how much you can expect to pay for a quality reverse osmosis filter, the answer depends on a few factors. These include what size ro system you select, whether you hire a plumber to install it, and how heavily it’s used. Keep reading to learn how to calculate approximately how much a new reverse osmosis system will cost when all’s said and done.

There Are Four Main Factors Affecting Reverse Osmosis System Cost

While purchase prices of ro units in brick and mortar stores may vary by location, online prices come down to a few simple factors.

  1. Brand – Apple laptops are nearly double the cost of a comparable PC. While some diehard fans would claim they’re far superior, in all reality you’re mainly paying for a brand name and whatever bells and whistles come with it. If a brand has been around forever and has a good reputation, it’s more likely to come with a high price tag. It’s not necessarily better than a new brand, but buying from a brand backed by years of positive feedback doesn’t hurt.
  2. Filtration process – The basic reverse osmosis filtration process is always the same. However, reverse osmosis systems with less elaborate additional filter stages are less expensive. Naturally, a system with 6-step filtration and UV sanitation will be more expensive than a simple 3-step model. If your water is already in decent condition, you may not need the most advanced filtration technology, so have your water tested to inform your purchase decision.
  3. Size – The larger the unit, the higher the price tag. For most households, an under sink reverse osmosis system is the best choice. They’re only a few hundred dollars, discrete, and easy to use. If you’d prefer a unit that supplies your entire home with purified water, a whole home ro system is a better option. That said, they’re much more costly to purchase and install, usually over $1000.
  4. Extra features – There are plenty of add-ons that can improve your reverse osmosis system experience. Some models include a selection of these, like a pressure boosting permeate pump and a remineralization phase to improve flavor and alkalinity. Others are built with a convenient modular design to simplify routine maintenance and filter replacements. All these features are nonessential but nice to have.

For a ballpark figure, the average under sink reverse osmosis system ranges from about $200-$500 USD, while countertop models run a bit less. There are even a few on the market for less than $100! The downside of these discount models is that they tend to have fewer features, shorter warranties, and break sooner. If you can spring for a more tried-and-true model, it’s a worthwhile investment.

reverse osmosis water filter system

Whole House Reverse Osmosis System Cost

Whole house reverse osmosis systems are a different story. The least expensive whole house system will run around $500, without an atmospheric tank and delivery pump, or bladder tank. With all necessary attachments, $1,500 is a more realistic starting price. Larger ro systems are several thousand dollars, and for good reason. They’re usually designed with commercial usage in mind, not home installation. It’s possible to install one in your home, but keep in mind that whole house reverse osmosis systems are much larger than under sink models. They require several steps aside from the ro filter itself, including both pre- and post-filters and large storage tanks. For this reason, for most households an under sink system is a safer bet.

Long Story Short, Buy What You Need

High-priced products usually come with an enticing list of innovative features, but what use are fancy features if they aren’t useful to YOU? To avoid overspending, make a list of the features you need plus a few extras you’d like. If a high-end model has tons of added features that aren’t on your list, look for a model that focuses on quality and performance instead of shiny new gimmicks.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Reverse Osmosis System?

If you want to take the easy route, countertop ro systems are easy to attach without any fuss or plumbing experience. Under sink filters are trickier to install, but for most people DIY installation is possible if the included instructions are followed to a T.

reverse osmosis faucet installation

Some people would rather call a plumber, however, and for whole house reverse osmosis systems it’s essential. For professional installation of under sink ro systems, prices range between $150-400 USD ($200-300 USD being the average), unless significant changes need to be made to the existing plumbing. If there are major modifications or repairs needed, expect additional charges. Installation usually takes one to two hours, and the costs include labor, required materials, and all necessary equipment. If you don’t have many tools of your own and don’t want to bother figuring out what to buy, calling in a pro will save you a big headache.

You can get an estimate for your costs here. Please notice: We are not associated with homeadvisor.com or any other 3rd party service related to homeadvisor.com whatsoever.

Installing a Whole House System

It’s tough to give an exact figure, but $500 and up is likely. It requires significantly more labor and materials to assemble a whole home ro system, so the jump in price is understandable. Definitely factor in this expense if you’re going the whole home route, as DIY installation is impossible for all but the most skilled DIYers.

Annual Cost of Operation

When you’re considering installing a reverse osmosis water filter system, remember to factor in the cost of maintenance and operation, too. In addition to the cost of initial purchase and installation, there’s the price of membrane and filter cartridge replacements, plus a few other factors.

What You Need to Know

The frequency of filter replacements depends on how heavily the system is used. If your existing water is very high in sediment or chlorine, or very hard, or if you use large quantities of water, the filters will need to be replaced more often. On average, water filter cartridges last between six months and a year, with higher end filters lasting longer than their cheaper counterparts. RO membranes usually last around 3-5 years.

The Annual Filter Element Replacement Cost Ranges from $60 – $200

Most often, $80-100 is a reasonable estimate for an under sink reverse osmosis system. If the system you’re considering has multiple filtration stages or a modular design, the price will be a little higher. When you begin buying replacement filters, you’ll quickly notice how many off-brand options there are. While some quality products are out there, it’s difficult to estimate quality at first glance. To ensure your ro system is working effectively, stick with the replacement cartridges recommended by your owner’s manual.

Needless to say, whole house reverse osmosis systems will cost more to maintain. Annual expenses for filter cartridges can be as low as $200 or as high as a few thousand.

One plus is that changing filter cartridges and membranes is simple enough to do yourself, so there should be no additional annual service charge to consider. You do need to add in the cost of wastewater, however. Reverse osmosis systems waste water by design, collecting purified water in a storage tank while the rest goes down the drain. Up-to-date POE systems waste no more than 2 gallons of water for every gallon of purified water created. Still, because of this, your water bill will rise. For under sink ro systems, the difference will be barely noticeable.

In either case, by adding a pressure pump ro systems can conserve substantially more water.

Where to Buy? The Cheapest Place to Purchase an RO Water Filter Is…

Online! No surprises here. The most reasonably priced filters are usually found on Amazon, Home Depot or other large, online retailers. Buying online comes with another benefit: reviews. You can easily compare and contrast different brands and models to find one that’s well-rated and effective for customers with similar needs to your own. Once you start shopping around, you’ll notice there are certain features that help determine price.

Is Bottled Water Cheaper?

In laymen’s terms, nope! A gallon of bottled water can cost up to $10. Meanwhile, tap water costs a fraction of a cent per gallon. An ro system would have to waste dozens of gallons for every gallon of filtered water to cost more than bottled water. If you replace daily bottled water usage with using water from an ro filter, the filter will pay for itself in no time.

You can easily calculate how much you’ll save each year by making the switch. First, estimate how many gallons of water the people in your household consume per day. Let’s say 2 gallons. Multiply this by the price of bottled water per gallon, say $1.50, times 365 days. That adds up to $1095 a year! Then, calculate how much reverse osmosis water would cost. Multiply 2 gallons per day by 4 to factor in wastewater production, times 365 days, times an estimated $0.005 per gallon. Add an estimated yearly maintenance cost of $100, and it still only costs $114.60/per year, not including the initial system purchase or installation.

That’s a big difference! Your mileage will vary depending on how much water you consume and which type of bottled water you’re switching from, but the costs are drastically less. As a bonus, you’ll be sending far fewer plastic bottles to the recycling plant, which is both more sustainable and better for the environment.

person with bottled water

We could try to estimate costs for treating city wastewater, desalinating seawater, or recycling industrial wastewater, but we’re not going to. There are just too many variables involved to come up with an accurate figure. If you’re interested in installing a reverse osmosis system for heavy duty commercial purposes, your first plan of action should be to speak with a professional who can assess your specific desired configuration and go from there.

Still confused? Leave a comment below to get quick answers to your biggest reverse osmosis system price questions.

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