What is Hard water?
Water is considered as “Hard” when it is rich in certain metal ions such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron or others usually presenting as bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates. Those metals are acquired naturally in the waters by dissolving them from rocks and soil. The water hardness is measured in terms of GPG (grains per gallon) or milligrams per liter, where a grain is defined as 64.8 milligrams of calcium carbonate. According to the Water Quality Association, the water can be:
- Soft - 1 GPG or less
- Soft/Slightly hard - between 1 and 3 GPG
- Moderately hard - between 4 and 7 GPG
- Hard - between 7 and 10 GPG
- Very hard - above 11 GPG
Problems the hard water causes:
- Hard water is less a health issue than a potential expense, but it still can lead to some health issues. By changing the skin’s PH levels and making it hard to rinse the soap off, pores are being clogged, often causing skin problems and rashes.
- The hard water minerals form a buildup of limescale which clogs the plumbing system and reduces the water flow. The scale cakes onto interior surfaces of water-heating appliances such as dishwashers, coffee makers and water heaters, causing malfunctions and reduced efficiency.
- Due to the high levels of calcium and magnesium which react with the soap, shampoos and many another detergents, you would have difficulties in rinsing them while cleaning. Common signs are the coating of insoluble stearates on tub and shower surfaces, and the scale on the cookware and dishes.
- Unpleasant odors or taste of the water is caused by some minerals like iron and manganese
Solutions to hard water:
The distillation and filtration by reverse osmosis are one method to fight the hard water, but can’t always be used for the whole household’s water supply. The packed batches with chemicals are a solution for some home appliances, but are not applicable for drinking water. Therefore, the best solution so far remains the water softener.
Water Softeners and how to choose one:
The Water Softener is a device usually installed to serve the whole household water supply. The most common type of water softener is the Salt-based ion exchange softener which substitutes *sodium (salt) for hard minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium.
*The increased sodium in the drinking water is not considered to be a health threat as the levels of the daily dose are not dramatically changed compared to the usual intake.
The most common type of water softener works with beads with a negative electrical charge that attract the positively charged mineral ions of hard water, while giving off sodium ions. These softeners would usually have controls to show when the beads must be recharged, for newer models this is an automated process. The models with timers are considered less effective as they would recharge the beads on a set schedule rather than recharge based on usage. Investing in a model with automated controls would save you energy, salt and water.
Please be aware of that: Some manufacturers offer non-chemical devices (magnetic or catalytic). They claim to use magnetic field that changes the electromagnetic properties of the minerals in the water and as result they remain in the water but do not bind to surfaces. The Water Quality Association, however, was unable to prove that any physical or chemical changes occurred in the water. Carolina Plumbing Pros advises our clients to trust only proven products and brands that would be able to provide the needed quality and would remain on the market long enough to respond to any warranty or maintenance issues.