Unlike other in-home water filter options that might use chemicals or certain materials to target water contaminates, reverse osmosis uses a semi permeable membrane to remove up to 99.99% of all harmful impurities . The tiny pores in the membrane are 0.0001 micron, so the only thing that gets through are the base H2O molecules for healthy and safe tap water . The practicality of RO systems have made them one of the most popular filtration options at home. But how much does a reverse osmosis system cost?
Some people might not seriously consider an RO system for their home because it seems too good to be true, they must be expensive! Thankfully, RO systems come in all shapes and sizes so you can find an ideal solution for your needs at an affordable price.
In this article, we’ll discuss the prices for different types of reverse osmosis systems, installation cost, and maintenance and filter replacement cost, so you get the whole picture when making your decision.
Reverse Osmosis System Cost Comparison
Below is the average cost of a reverse osmosis system. We will dive into the differences between each type next.
|Type Of System||Average Price Range|
|Countertop RO||$250 – $500|
|Tankless RO||$300 – $900|
|Tank RO||$200 – $700|
|Whole House RO||$1,500 – $7,500|
Point of Use (POU) Vs Whole House Systems (POE)
Although the filtration process is effectively the same, there are two primary in-home filter options for reverse osmosis systems. “Point-of-use” systems refer to models that only address one location, for example, your kitchen sink. Whole house systems are sometimes referred to as a “point-of-entry” RO system because they are installed where your main water line enters your home. The whole house RO will treat all water that enters your house as opposed to a single point.
Point of Use Reverse Osmosis System Cost
Point of use reverse osmosis systems are by far the most popular residential option. Because they only address a single source, point of use options are more cost effective and flexible. However, within this category we can break it down to three distinct types of reverse osmosis systems: Countertop ROs and Under Sink ROs that can be either Tankless or Tank based.
Tankless Reverse Osmosis
Tankless reverse osmosis systems can have a slightly higher average price of between $300 – $900.
Many tankless units come with more innovative technology like a smart display faucet, TDS monitoring, or filter life tracker. They also provide purified water on demand so you never have to wait for the storage tank to fill up like the tank based options. And of course, the tankless ROs take up significantly less under sink space. While tankless ROs can be more expensive than their tank-based undersink counterparts, there are certainly exceptions to that rule.
Tank Reverse Osmosis System
Storage tank reverse osmosis systems are the least expensive option with an average price between $200 – $700.
Tank ROs are installed under your sink, typically for drinking and cooking water. These are the most common RO models because they have been around for so long. Therefore, there are a lot of options on the market that you can find at affordable price points. The tank based systems fill up the storage tank with purified water so it’s ready when you need it.
Countertop Reverse Osmosis System
Countertop reverse osmosis systems cost between $250 – $500 and provide the most flexibility when it comes to ROs.
The great thing with countertop RO systems is they require no installation or setup. Simply plug them in to an electrical outlet and you’re ready to go! This also means you can take it on the go anywhere with access to electricity. The downside is that most countertop units require the water tank to be filled up manually, unlike the undersink units that are connected to your water line.
Whole House Reverse Osmosis System Cost
Whole house reverse osmosis systems cost between $1,500 – $7,500. The whole house models are the most expensive residential option because they treat all the water entering your home. The upside is you get peace of mind knowing all the water flowing through you sinks, showers, and washing machines are contaminant free. And when compared to a typical catalytic carbon whole house filter, the RO removes more harmful contaminants.
Commercial Reverse Osmosis System Cost
Reverse osmosis technology was originally developed for military and commercial applications. These days, there are perfect solutions for businesses of all sizes. Smaller commercial reverse osmosis systems are commonly used in restaurants, hair salons, labs, and offices. This type of commercial system typically costs between $1,000 – $15,000.
For large scale commercial and industrial use, the cost can be significantly higher. Businesses like breweries or waste water facilities require custom filtration solutions that are in effect “built to order” for their exact needs.
Cost to Have A Reverse Osmosis System Installed
Installation costs for a RO system depend on the type of system you choose. For a countertop RO, there is no installation required. Simply set it on your counter and plug it in.
Installing an under sink RO system (both tankless and tank) can be a DIY project if you are comfortable with light home projects. Most kits will include everything you need to complete the job so you don’t need to purchase additional materials. However, if doing it yourself isn’t suitable, the under sink reverse osmosis system installation cost of hiring a qualified plumber is typically best. A small system should cost between $150 – $300.
A whole house reverse osmosis system install is certainly a different story. Because these systems are placed at the point of entry for your home’s water line, it requires a more complex process than disconnecting a kitchen faucet. Most folks (not all) need to hire a professional plumber for help installing a whole home system. Professional installation will take a few hours and cost between $200 – $1,000 depending on the size of the system and if any additional plumbing components need to be purchased.
Factors Affecting Reverse Osmosis System Cost
Is it worth it to pay more for some RO systems? And why are some so cheap? There are a few key considerations to look at when assessing which one provides the best value.
Type Of System
The size and type of system is the biggest cost factor when deciding on an RO system for your home. You can expect to pay more for a system if it is larger in size. A whole house system will of course be the most expensive. A tankless option is on average slightly more expensive because of the technology and efficiency. While an under sink or countertop option may only cost a couple of hundred dollars.
Reverse osmosis systems can have a varying number of filter stages. A basic model may only have 2 stages, while more advanced options can have up to 10 stages. Critically, the process should include at least a sediment pre-filter to protect the RO membrane from large particles and debris. Ideally it should also include a carbon filter in front of the membrane for additional contaminant treatment and protection. In general, the more stages, the more expensive the filter system will be.
Homes with heavy bacteria contamination or with untreated water should consider a system with a UV light purification option. Ultraviolet lights are able to sterilize 99.99% of viruses and bacteria. Additionally, if you want healthy minerals added back to your water, a remineralization filter is an ideal solution. There are RO options on the market that include one or both of these options already built in.
There are multiple RO systems currently on the market, each at various price points and with different features. Like all product categories, there are popular brands that command a higher price than others. On the flip side, there are a lot of low quality brands with “cheap” filtration options that can end up doing more harm than good.
Reverse osmosis systems create waste water during the filtration process. The average RO will use 4 gallons of water to create one gallon of purified water. Thankfully, there are new high efficiency models that have come out that will purify up to 3 gallons of water and waste only one gallon. You will spend about $150 more on a high efficiency reverse osmosis system.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification is a stamp of quality. While it isn’t required, it can provide peace of mind the system uses only the highest quality components. Reverse osmosis systems and components specifically fall within the NSF/ANSI 58 certification. RO systems that do not have any certifications should be looked at with a little more caution. In contrast, brands that do have the NSF certification can charge a higher price.
Reverse Osmosis Maintenance and Operating Cost
A quality reverse osmosis system can last for decades if you maintain it properly. Things like how often do you have to change reverse osmosis filter membranes are important to consider.
Membrane And Filter Replacement Cost
RO systems will typically come with a few filter stages. The first stage filters like sediment or activated carbon filters generally need to be replaced about every 6 months and cost around $25 – $40. The main RO membrane will last about 12 – 24 months depending on usage, and cost approximately $70 – $100. Filters may need more frequent replacement if the water is heavily contaminated.
The reverse osmosis process by its nature wastes some water. An average system usually requires four gallons of water to create one gallon of purified water. If you are using a total of 1,000 gallons per month through a point of use system, it will cost approximately $15 in water per month depending on where you get your water from.
Traditional under sink tank ROs and whole house models do not require electricity. However, tankless and countertop ROs need to be plugged into an outlet. The good news is that they are extremely energy efficient and you likely won’t even notice it on your utility bill.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is reverse osmosis worth the cost?
If you have heavily contaminated source water, yes, reverse osmosis is worth the cost. For homes where drinking water is the primary concern, a point of use system may be the better choice. Point of use systems have a lower upfront price and lower maintenance cost.
If you compare the cost of reverse osmosis to consuming bottled water on a regular basis, again, reverse osmosis is more cost-effective. The reality is that while RO systems generate waste water to cleanse the filters, tap water is so inexpensive that a home filter system will save money and reduces plastic waste.
How much does reverse osmosis cost per gallon?
According to the EPA, one gallon of tap water costs on average $0.00295. So we you know an RO of average efficiency (not high efficiency) has a waste water ratio of 4:1, it would cost approximately $0.015 cents for one gallon of filtered water.
If bottled water is the most used alternative, one gallon of wholesale bottled water costs $1.17 according to IBWA.
How long does a reverse osmosis system last?
A quality reverse osmosis system can last decades if it is properly maintained. To get the longest life possible out of your unit it is critical to read the filter replacement tables that come in the owner’s manual and stick to the required maintenance. Note that if your water has heavy contamination, you will need to change the membrane and filters more frequently.