It’s Time to Consider Your Home’s Water Quality
August is National Water Quality Month.
While normally this would be the time to look at the report your local utility provides each year summarizing your overall water quality, we thought it would be a good time to talk about hard water (which is most common in Piedmont and Western Virginia) and how it impacts your and your home.
Do you know if the water running through your pipes is hard or soft?
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is determined by the amount of calcium and magnesium particles per gallon of water.
The Water Quality Association of America defines it as follows:
- Very Hard Water – 10.5+ grains per gallon (gpg) of calcium carbonate
- Hard water – 7 to 10.5 (gpg) of calcium carbonate
- Moderately Hard Water – 3.5 t0 7 gpg of calcium carbonate
- Slightly Hard Water – 1 to 3.5 gpg of calcium carbonate
- Soft Water – less than 1 gpg of calcium carbonate
How Do I Know If I Have Hard Water?
There are often telltale signs of hard water, like a white, scaly buildup around faucets and kitchen fixtures. You can test your water yourself by doing the following:
- Fill a clean, clear plastic or glass bottle (with a cap) with 1/3 tap water. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap and screw on the bottle cap. Shake the mixture for a few seconds.
- If a lot of bubbles fill the top and the water remains clear, you probably have soft water.
- If only a few bubbles form and the water looks cloudy, you probably have hard water.
As we noted above, your local water utility should provide an annual report with data about your water quality as well.
How Does Hard Water Affect My Home?
When hard water is running through your pipes and appliances, you could see trouble.
Hard water causes a mineral buildup that can lead to clogs in sinks, showers, toilets, and heating systems. If left untreated, leaks and corrosion can occur.
Calcium buildup can cause clogs in faucets, showerheads, nozzles, pumps, dishwashers, washing machines, water heaters, whole-house humidifiers, coffee makers, ice machines, and more. Slow water flow can strain appliance motors and decrease the efficiency of heating coils, and shorten a unit’s lifespan.
Hard Water Costs
There are several frustrating expenses associated with hard water:
- Water heaters take 30% more energy to heat hard water
- Appliances need replacing 30 to 50% sooner
- You may find you need to use more detergent in your dishwasher and washing machine to get good results. Hard water and soap don’t perform as well together as soft water and soap. In fact, clothes, hair, and dishes come out duller with hard water even after cleaning.
- You’ll spend more time cleaning a bathtub or shower if you have hard water. The high calcium levels prevent soap from dissolving and rinsing away. Instead, you’ll get an insoluble residue that sticks to tile, tub surrounds, and shower curtains.
- Hard water can lead to dry, itchy skin, so you may see your moisturizing lotion costs increase. If you suffer from eczema or other skin irritations, hard water can weaken your skin’s barrier against harmful bacteria and infections.
- Power washing your house may not be as effective as you’d like as the minerals in the water tend to cling to all surfaces, including your brick and siding.
- Households spend an average of $1500 more on energy costs over 10 years.
Hard Water Damage Prevention
Here are some simple steps you can take to help mitigate the damage caused by hard water in your home:
- Test your tap water to see if it is hard or soft
- Research and consider installing a water softening system in your home.
- Flush your water heater twice a year (at least)
- Schedule HVAC maintenance more often. This will help to prevent buildup and related damage. It doesn’t matter if you have gas, electric or tankless, with hard water you’ll want to add a maintenance appointment to your calendar.
Some Good News About Hard Water
Though hard water can have a very distinctive taste, it may actually be beneficial to your health. Drinking it can help you fulfill your RDA of calcium and magnesium which leads to stronger bones, lower cardiovascular disease mortality, a healthier immune system, and more regular blood glucose and energy levels.
Soft water is not universally considered healthy to drink, and usually doesn’t taste as good due to high levels of sodium carbonate. So if you are sensitive to high salinity or sodium levels, you’d be best to stick with your hard water!