Hard water contains a high concentration of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, relative to “soft” water. These minerals are typically not harmful by themselves, but hard water is a nuisance that, if left untreated, can ultimately cause serious plumbing problems.
Learn what hard water is and why it is a problem.
Defining Hard Water
Hard water is defined by the concentration of minerals present, usually expressed as grains per gallon (gpg) or parts per million (ppm). Hard water will show a measurement of anywhere between 3.5 to 10.5 or higher gpg or 60 to 180 or higher ppm.
Hard water typically doesn’t cause problems for outdoor use. Inside the home, however, hard water causes several problems.
Problems Caused by Hard Water
Hard water is “hard” because it has a high concentration of mineral salts. Pipes capture these salts over time, and the salts build up as limescale. This scaling can eventually cause pinhole leaks in water pipes and sewer lines.
Small leaks tend to grow into larger ones, meaning small, undetected leaks eventually can become large problems.
Scaling is especially concerning with hot water pipes because, when water is heated, minerals precipitate out. This mineral salt buildup can impair a water heater’s efficiency.
Limescale can coat heating elements and even buildup at the bottom of a hot water tank, reducing the available heated water at any given time.
Other effects of hard water include:
Spotty dishes and dull clothes –
detergents and soaps don’t dissolve well in hard water, so soap scum builds up on surfaces. Laundry detergents and shampoos lose effectiveness in hard water. Soap doesn’t rinse off skin as easily as it should and hard water can cause itchy skin and rashes as a result.
some water management ideas to consider
Poor appliance performance –
hard water affects dishwashers and washing machines. The narrower pipes that serve these appliances can become clogged with deposits more quickly.
Corroded pipes –
pipes that have problems on the inside can show problems on the outside. If the pipe begins to leak, the minerals build up at the site of the leak, corrode connections, and make it difficult to clear the blockage without replacing entire sections of pipe.
Cloudy, bad-tasting water –
hard water may not be harmful, but it often doesn’t look or taste very good.
other valuable tips:
Anyone considering purchasing a home for renovation or building a new home should have their water supply tested. A reputable and experienced plumber should conduct a thorough inspection to determine if mineral deposits or other debris threatens to clog or damage pipes.
Warning signs of hard water include rusty rings in the toilet, soap scum buildup, drippy faucets, and sluggish water pressure. Understanding what hard water is and why it is a problem can help homeowners and house flippers avoid costly problems.
Image credit: hard water by twenty20.com
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