Defining Hard Water
Hard water; you’ve heard the term before, but do you know what it is? Hard water is found in over 85 percent of the country according to a US Geological survey, so it is something almost all of us have had to live with at one time or another. Simply put, hard water is water that has a high density of minerals in it. You see, when water falls from the sky in the form of rain, it has little or no mineral content and is referred to as “soft” water. As the water passes through sand, soil, and rock, it starts to pick up and absorb minerals and become “hard”. The majority of the mineral content is made up of calcium and magnesium ions. Numerous tests have been done by a variety of organizations on the possible health risks of drinking hard water, but no negative effects have been identified. To the contrary, studies have actually shown that individuals who regularly consume hard water over the course of their lifetime report a lower rate of cardiovascular diseases.
So There’s Nothing to Worry About, Right?
Well, not exactly. While there are no serious health issues associated with hard water, many other problems can still be caused by this excessive mineral content in the water. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Over time the minerals can start to build up and clog pipes, reducing water flow throughout the house.
- It can leave your skin feeling dry and leave an invisible soapy film on your body.
- The life of your water heater will likely be reduced, due to deposits of scale.
- Scale and film can build up on tile and bath and kitchen fixtures.
- As scale builds up in the pipes, the amount of work your water heater needs to do increases, due to scale being a poor conductor of heat. This ends up leading to a higher electric bill at the end of the month.
- When you wash your glasses and dishes, you’ll notice they look white and spotted after being cleaned.
- The excess minerals can damage and decrease the life of your clothes over time.
- Soaps aren’t going to lather as well, which means you’ll be spending more on soaps over time.
There are many different minerals that exist in hard water, but the two that create all the hassles are calcium and magnesium. In the presence of heat, these particular minerals end up encrusting themselves onto objects as “scale”, which is just another word for mineral deposits.
Is There a Solution?
Yes, there absolutely is. The most common and effective way to deal with hard water is to install a water softener. These units work by trading the calcium and magnesium molecules in hard water for something else, which is generally sodium molecules, in a process known as ion exchange.
There are three main types of water softeners, and they are all available in a wide range of sizes.
- Fully Automatic water softeners regenerate and return to service on a preset schedule.
- Semi-Automatic water softeners require regeneration to be started manually, but the rest of the process is entirely automatic.
- Manual water softeners need to have one or more valves operated manually during the water regeneration process.
While you will be out some money for the initial cost to purchase and install a water softener, in the long run it should more than pay for itself by significantly decreasing the wear and tear on your water heater, appliances, and plumbing system. In addition, you won’t have to worry about your clothes wearing out prematurely, soap not lathering like it should, and your glasses and dishes looking white, spotted, and film covered. When you consider all the benefits you’ll receive, water softeners are usually well worth the cost.