Hard Water: Bad for Your Home and Wallet
90 percent of American homes have hard water - water containing high
levels of calcium and magnesium, according to The U.S. Geological
Survey. The hardest water is commonly found in the states that run from
Kansas to Texas as well as in Southern California. Hard water on its own
is bad enough, making it difficult to wash clothes and dishes and
leaving scaling on your pipes and showerheads as well as nasty brown
rings in your sinks and toilets. However, it is also costing you money.
Research by the Battelle Institute found that with hard water,
showerheads lost 75 percent of their flow rate in less than 18 simulated
months and could not maintain the required flow rate because of
Water heaters are also negatively affected by hard water. When using
softened water, researchers found that all the water heaters tested
maintained 100 percent efficiency over a simulated 15-year lifetime, but
with hard water, the gas and electric heater efficiency dropped by 25
percent - an incredible loss in energy resulting in significantly higher
costs. In the case of the new instant tankless water heaters, hard
water caused them to completely fail to function because of plugged-up
scale, or mineral build-up associated with hard water, after only 1.6
years of simulated use - about a tenth the normal life of the appliance.
Another study conducted for the Water Quality Research Foundation
assessed the impact of water hardness on automatic dishwashers. Soft
water was up to 12 times more effective at cleaning dishes than
increasing the amount of detergent used. Researchers also found that for
washing machines, the most important factor in removing stains was
water softness. Reduction of water hardness was up to 100 times more
effective at stain removal than increasing the detergent dose or washing
with hotter water.
You can take steps to eliminate the source of the scaling with a
salt-based water softener. In order to make hard water into soft water,
you have to remove the calcium and magnesium. The only way to do that
effectively is with a salt-regenerated water softener. These work by
running the incoming hard water through a resin filter that traps the
calcium and magnesium in the water, as well as any iron, manganese or
radium ions and replacing them with sodium ions. Magnetic and other
non-salt based water softeners do not remove these harmful hard
Do-it-yourself water testing kits are available at most hardware
stores, or you can have a water treatment professional do the testing.
The Water Quality Association's website lets you search by company name,
state or ZIP code to help find a professional in your area to handle
Eliminating hard water minerals delivers significant benefits in
terms of the efficiency and maintenance cost of appliances and plumbing.
From a budgeting perspective, using less detergent and energy can add
up to real savings for families and individuals. Plus the harder these
machines have to work, the faster they wear out and need repair or
replacement, representing another very significant expense for
homeowners. For more information on water softening, visit
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