What Is Hard Water – And Why Does It Matter?
Virtually every homeowner has probably heard some rumblings about hard water and why it should be avoided. It’s only natural to wonder, “What’s the big deal? Why is hard water so bad?” While it’s far from a life-or-death issue, hard water can significantly impact a home’s plumbing, appliances, aesthetics, and the comfort of everyone in the household – so it’s worth paying attention to.
So, what is hard water, exactly? Essentially, “hard” water refers to any water with an above-average level of dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium. The higher the mineral content, the harder the water. These minerals are picked up as the water flows through rocks and soil to the aquifer, river, or whatever body of water a given region uses as its water source.
Although perfectly safe to drink, these minerals can have undesirable effects, so many homeowners install a water softener to remove them from their home’s water. This article will explain how water softeners work, their benefits, and how to tell if the home might need one.
How Water Softeners Work
As the name suggests, water softeners reduce hardness by removing dissolved minerals from the home’s water supply. They are usually installed where the water main connects to the home, just upstream of the water heater.
The most common type of water softener system uses ion exchange to remove minerals from the water. As water enters the softener, it passes over thousands of tiny resin beads charged with sodium ions. The water softener resin attracts the calcium and magnesium ions, releasing the sodium ions in exchange. When the resin beads become saturated with mineral ions, they are rinsed with brine from a separate tank filled with salt pellets, washing away the mineral ions and replacing them again with sodium ions.
Other water softeners use electromagnets or other methods to crystalize or neutralize mineral ions so they cannot stick to surfaces and form mineral scales. While these don’t technically “soften” the water, they effectively eliminate the effects of hard water.
Common Signs of Hard Water To Watch For
Many of the effects of hard water also serve as evidence for its hardness, so homeowners usually don’t have to look very hard to tell if they have hard water. They may notice hard water stains (white or cloudy spots) on glassware, dishes, or silverware. They may also notice water spots or soap scum on fixtures and on sinks or shower walls (hard water makes soap harder to wash away).
If homeowners have difficulty getting soap and shampoo to lather and rinse off, they likely have hard water. This can lead to dry skin and hair after bathing. Similarly, hard water may be to blame if clothes are fading or wearing out quickly. Scale buildup on faucets, showerheads, and inside pipes can often be seen in homes with hard water, and over time, the mineral scale can even clog pipes and cause low water pressure. Homeowners may experience higher energy bills and hot water issues if scale builds up inside the water heater.
Benefits of Installing a Whole Home Water Softener
Considering the negative effects, it’s easy to see why many homeowners are installing water-softening systems. For those who have been living with hard water for a long time, the benefits of a water softener can practically make a night-and-day difference:
- Healthier, more hydrated hair and skin
- Less time spent scrubbing water stains and soap scum off of sinks, tubs, and showers
- Cleaner glassware, silverware, and dishes
- Clothes and linens will last longer and keep their colors
- Pipes and fixtures will last longer and function properly
- Less money spent on energy costs and appliance repairs (water heaters and appliances will operate more efficiently and last longer)
With all these benefits, a whole-house water softener is worthwhile! So, if homeowners suspect that they have hard water, they should call a professional plumber to measure their water’s hardness and determine which kind of water softener is best for their specific needs!
About E.R. Services
E.R. Services has been Charlotte’s go-to plumber since 1997. Their fast turnarounds, competitive up-front pricing, clear communication, community involvement, and outstanding service have earned numerous 5-star reviews and awards, including the Angie’s List Super Service Award. They offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee and 24/7 emergency service with no after-hours fees, so homeowners know they can count on E.R. Services for water softener installation in Charlotte, NC!