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3 Ways Hard Water Increases Your Household Expenses

As water travels through rocks and soils, it absorbs very small amounts of minerals like calcium and magnesium. This is how it becomes hard water.

These two minerals aren’t necessarily a problem. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers dissolved calcium and magnesium in water as essential to human health. Calcium, in particular, is good for our bones and teeth; while magnesium is credited for preventing muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat.

What is Hard Water

A higher than average volume of calcium and magnesium in water makes water “hard”. Other minerals aside from calcium and magnesium like iron also result to hard water. Water hardness can come from surface water – water that moves through rocks and soils, groundwater, inorganic chemical and mining industries. Surface water is generally softer than groundwater.

Water hardness is primarily the amount of magnesium and calcium in water. It’s computed by adding up the concentrations of magnesium and calcium, and converting this value to an equivalent concentration of calcium carbonate in milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water.

In the paper “Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality”, Health Canada categorizes waters with a calcium carbonate concentration less than 75 mg/L as “soft”; between 75 and 150 mg/L as “moderately hard”; between 150 and 300 mg/L as “hard”; and more than 300 mg/L as “very hard”.

Water Quality Association (WQA), meanwhile, categorizes less than 1 grains per gallon (gpg) and less than 17 per mg/L as “soft”; 1 to 3.5 gpg or 17.1 to 60 mg/L as “slightly hard”; 3.5 to 7 gpg or 60 to 120 mg/L as “moderately hard”; 7 to 10.5 gpg or 120 to 180 mg/L as “hard”; and more than 10.5 gpg or more than 180 mg/L as “very hard”. Click here to view the water hardness level in your city.

Hard water increases your household expenses in three ways:

1. Hard Water Results in Excessive Soap and Detergent Consumption

Traditionally, hardness in water is tested by using soap. If the soap lathers or foams easily, the water is considered as soft. If it takes some time for the soap to lather, then the water is considered as hard. Hardness of water is evident in our daily household tasks, from personal grooming, bathing, dishwashing and laundering. As hard water makes it difficult to form lather, this lessens the cleaning effect of soaps and detergents. Water hardness makes soaps and detergents less effective as hardness renders active ingredient in soaps and detergents partially inactivated.

The harder the water, the more soaps and detergents are needed to clean your hands, hair, body or for washing your dishes and laundry. Hard water also causes graying of white fabrics and the loss of brightness in colored fabrics. It can also shorten the lifespan of your clothes.

2. Hard Water Lowers Efficiency, Shrinks Lifespan and Raises Costs of Water-Using Appliances

If you’ve ever used an electric kettle, chances are you’ve most likely spotted a limescale. It’s that stony, off-white crust covering the bottom of your electric kettle. This hard, off-white crust is also evident in your coffee maker and water heater.

When hard water is heated or left unattended, the dissolved minerals in it solidifies and forms a limescale – also known as calcium carbonate or simply scale – as the moisture evaporates. It can shrink the lifespan, lower the efficiency and raise the costs of heating water of water-using appliances. Limescale can also manifest through dry, itchy skin and scalp.

“Water quality is the single most important factor affecting the life of the water heater,” the Natural Resources Canada said in the paper “Water Heater Guide”.

According to the Natural Resources Canada, the average person in Canada uses 75 L of hot water per day and the average Canadian household uses 225 L. Hot water in Canadian homes are used mostly, according to the Natural Resources Canada for faucet use – food preparation and handwashing (34%), followed by shower (25%), bath (17%), clothes washer (15%), leak (5%) and dishwasher (4%).

A Pacific Northwest National Laboratory report found that local water quality is one of the factors that affects most significantly to the performance and longevity of water heating equipment. The report highlighted that highly alkaline water – rich in calcium, magnesium and other minerals – will lead to the accumulation of “scale”, which will impact the efficiency of water heaters’ storage and can lead to decreased equipment life.

“Increasing the lifetime of water heaters can improve the cost-effectiveness and increase the amount of savings achieved by an efficient water heater investment,” the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory report said.

3. Hard Water Clogs Pipes

Limescale can also develop on the inner walls of pipes where there’s hard water or water with high mineral content. As water travels through the pipes, calcium ions present in hard water react with the air inside to form limescale. The limescale buildup can slowly clog water pipes, resulting in lowering of water pressure and less water movement. Limescale inside your pipes may require an expensive pipe replacement.

How is Hard Water Treated

A New Mexico State University report found that preventing and reducing limescale buildup in appliances and pipes, households could achieve longer lifespan for their water-using appliances and pipes between 25 and 40 percent.

A water softener is a home water filtration system that removes up to 99.9% of harmful minerals in your household water. By installing a water softener in your home, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  1. Save money on soaps and detergents;
  2. For use fewer soaps and detergents, you help save the environment; and
  3. Prolong the lifespan, increase efficiency and lowers the cost of your water-using appliances and pipes.

“Conditioning of water, including central softening and stabilization, may be necessary to reduce corrosion of piping materials and/or scaling effects in installations and to improve consumer acceptability,” WHO said. “Corrosion and scaling can be associated with adverse effects on health (from leachates such as lead) and the environment (from leachates such as copper if the water is not conditioned) and reduced lifespan of the distribution network and appliances using water.”