Jul 10, 2017

Diagnosing Hard Water Problems

Understanding hard water & how to treat it

Nationwide, many people deal with hard water in their homes. It can be a nuisance, so what are the best options when it comes to solving the hard water dilemma for the general public?

Finding the Cause

The first step to solving a hard water issue is understanding what hard water is and identifying its root cause. Water is considered hard when it contains a high amount of dissolved minerals, typically more than 7 grains per gal. These minerals, calcium and magnesium, are not necessarily harmful, but can leave stains or deposits on household fixtures after water evaporates.

Permanent hard water and temporary hard water are the two types with which people generally deal. Permanent hard water takes effort to solve. Dissolved calcium sulfates are present in it, so ion exchange is needed to remedy the problem completely.

Temporary hard water can be easier to remove. Caused by calcium bicarbonate, this type of hardness can be removed by boiling the water.

Symptoms of Hard Water

Identifying that there is a hard water issue is the first step, followed by determining which solution is the best one for the situation. It is important to note that, in most cases, hard water does not negatively impact human health. (Kidney stones are an exception.) Hard water is more harmful to appliances, especially hot water appliances, bathroom and kitchen sinks, showers, bathtubs and other plumbing fixtures.

The effects of hard water are not always obvious. Homeowners may not realize they are experiencing hard water issues until they experience a clogged pipe or spikes in energy bills. These symptoms suggest requesting a water test from a local water treatment professional is in order.

Keys symptoms of hard water include:

  • Increased soap usage;
  • Dingy laundry;
  • Reduced water flow from faucets;
  • Scale buildup on faucets;
  • Hard-to-remove soap scum or film in sinks and showers;
  • Mineral deposits on glassware;
  • Reduced life of toilets and other plumbing;
  • Mineral buildup in coffee pots and teapots; and
  • Discolored drains or faucets.

After a water test is completed and the hardness or type of hard water is determined, a full inspection of the pipes and water system will determine whether to install a water softener or a scale prevention system.

Treatment Options

A water softener uses an ion exchange process to completely remove minerals from the water and replace them with salt. This process can leave the water feeling smooth, lessening the amount of mineral buildup in hot water fixtures and appliances, and therefore preventing unnecessary expenses in the future.

People looking to soften water throughout their homes should have the system installed on the main water line. In certain situations, it may be advisable to install the water softener on the water line that feeds the hot water heater so only hot water is softened. Depending on the water’s hardness, a whole-home solution could assist in lengthening the life of major plumbing fixtures such as toilets, showerheads and sink faucets.

Those seeking a more environmentally friendly option may choose a scale prevention system. These systems generally do not remove hardness minerals, meaning some spotting and scale may be present following installation. Scale prevention systems are best applied in less demanding applications.

Either type of system can be paired with a whole-house water sediment and carbon filter to improve water quality and maintain an ongoing positive customer relationship. It is important to take note of the chemical disinfectants present in the municipal water supply so the correct type of carbon can be recommended. Catalytic carbon is recommended for reducing chloramines, for example.

Homeowners should always have a water test conducted to determine the level of hardness in the home before making any major water treatment purchase.

Water treatment professionals can help customers find cost-effective custom solutions for their hard water issues. Living with hard water can be a pain and can reduce the life of clothing, kitchen and bath fixtures, and appliances such as dishwashers. Assess the symptoms, identify the type of hard water, help the customer find the right a solution, and a hard water-free home will be the result. 

About the author

Jon Sigona is president of Perfect Water Technologies. Sigona can be reached at [email protected].

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