Hard Water- Hard On You – Hard On Your Home

What Is Hard Water?

Most of us are familiar with the term “hard water.” We are bombarded daily with advertising for products guaranteed to combat the white, crusty residue of hard water on shower heads and coffee pots. But what, exactly, is hard water?

Water, in its natural state, is not “hard.” In fact, the “softness” of rainwater has been common knowledge for centuries. It is only as rainwater seeps through earth’s soil and rock on its way to underground aquifers that it becomes “hardened” by the accumulation of dissolved minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium. The magnitude of hardness is determined by the amount of these minerals per gallon of water and is measured as “grains per gallon” (gpg). From 0.0 – 1.0 gpg (soft) to 10.5 – 50 gpg or more (extremely hard), approximately 85% of American homes are plagued with some degree of hard water. Central Texas, with its calcium-rich limestone aquifers producing a gpg level of 14.0+, boasts some of the hardest water in the country.

While hard water may have a distinct taste, drinking water that is merely hard, without heavy metal or biological contaminates, generally poses no health risks to humans or animals. The effects on household plumbing and appliances, however, are significant.

Hard Water Effects in Everday Life

Dry skin, dull hair, dingy laundry, spots on dishes and glassware, bathtub rings, residue on glass shower enclosures, and clogged shower heads and faucet aerators are all indicative of hard water. While these effects and the corresponding increases in the cost of personal hygiene products, clothing, and cleaning supplies are certainly problematic, the long-term damage to plumbing and appliances can be devastating, resulting in significant increases in energy consumption and requiring costly repairs or complete replacement.

The most common hard water effects are soap scum and scale. Soap scum is the result of the break-down of soap. Instead of producing a foamy lather, soap forms a solid white particulate that appears as residue in sinks, tubs and showers. Scale is a hard flaky build-up of mineral deposits. In household pipes, layers of scale restrict water flow, ultimately causing complete blockage and costly replacement of the affected plumbing. In water heaters, scale reduces the transfer of heat to the water, reducing water heater efficiency and increasing energy costs. As scale accumulates, tank components begin to overheat, ultimately resulting in complete failure of the water heater. Household appliances are particularly susceptible to scale damage. Water lines, pumps and filters on dishwashers and washing machines can become so encrusted with scale that performance is seriously compromised and replacement becomes the only option.

Softening Your Hard Water

Fortunately, these problems can be reduced or eliminated simply by softening your water.

Water softening removes the problematic ions (calcium and magnesium) by filtering the hard water through a “cleaning” agent, usually salt. When the water softening system has reached its hardness saturation, a regeneration or “rinsing” cycle is performed. During this cycle, a solution of sodium or potassium saturated water flushes away the accumulated hardness ions, regenerating the cleaning agent for continued use. While a fully filled water softening unit contains enough salt for multiple regeneration cycles, additional salt must be added as needed.

The initial cost of a water softening unit is offset in a very short time by lower utility bills, maximization of the effective life of plumbing and appliances, and savings on the cost of soap and cleaning supplies. When it’s time to choose a water softening system, be selective. Compare prices, installation and operational costs, and water softening capability. Most importantly, always buy from a reputable dealer. Casa Mechanical has been servicing the plumbing needs of Central Texas residents for over 10 years. Contact us today for more information on a water softening unit for your home.