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Do I Need a Water Softener?

If you live in an area with hard water, you might want to consider a water softener.

If you live in an area with hard water, you might want to consider a water softener. Living with hard water can cause premature failure of your water heater and other home water appliances, hard-to-clean stains in your drains, and in some cases damage your water pipes.

What is hard water?

"Hard water" is a term for water that has an excessive amount of dissolved minerals in it that can cause damage to fixtures and appliances. The main minerals found in hard water are magnesium and calcium carbonate.

Water is classified as "hard" or "soft" depending on the ‘grains per gallon’ (gpg) of dissolved minerals found in the water. Here’s a brief rating system:

  • Soft: 0-3 grains per gallon (gpg) - your water doesn’t need softening.
  • Moderately hard: 3-7 gpg - you may see some spotty dishes or more noticeable dry skin after you shower.
  • Hard: 7-11 gpg - your water is packed with minerals and if you have porcelain sinks, you may see some reddish rings from excess iron.
  • Very hard: 11-15
  • Extremely hard: 15+

What happens if I have hard water?

Stains can build-up in your drains and faucets.

The dissolved minerals found in the water can accumulate over time on surfaces causing ugly stains and discolorations on toilets, bathtubs, sinks, and any other surface regularly exposed to the hard water. These stains are difficult to clean and remove. In some extreme cases, they become impossible to clean and you are left with a costly tub or shower replacement.

Higher energy bills.

The build-up you see on fixtures that is caused by hard water is called "scale." Scale can build up in pipes as well, making it harder for water appliances, such as water heaters, to push water through. This can affect the energy efficiency of those appliances, which can cause your energy bills to increase.

Sudden water heater or other appliance failure.

The most costly issue associated with hard water is the malfunction or failure of your water heating unit. Untreated hard water can lead to premature aging or failure in water heaters. If you have an electrical model this is especially important. The heating element is inside the water heater tank and as it heats the hard water, this accelerates scale build-up on the element. Resulting in a much greater chance of failure, and a costly repair.

On traditional tank-style water heaters, hard water can corrode the anode rod more quickly than it should. An anode rod is a sacrificial metal rod that attracts molecules in the water that would otherwise corrode the tank lining. If your anode rod depletes faster than it should, the tank is left unprotected from harmful elements.

How do I know if I have hard water?

The first place to check is with your local water utility. Each year, your local water utility publishes water quality information on their websites to inform you of the level of solids found in your water, as well as any harmful substances that may have entered your water system. If you’re still unsure, consider getting your water tested. You can purchase a kit to do it yourself, or have a professional test it for you.  

How to solve your hard water problems.

Home water softeners replace the excess minerals with harmless compounds that will prevent staining of fixtures and damage to your water heater.

Also called ion exchange units, water softeners remove magnesium, calcium, and other minerals from your home's water supply. Water softeners contain resin beads inside the unit that trap the minerals and exchange them for potassium or sodium. This "softens" your water and prevents damage caused to your sinks, pipes, and water heater.

If you want to learn more about water softeners, give one of our expert technicians a call.

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