According to a recent geological survey over 8/10 homes in America suffer with hard water problems. Hard water typically comes from aquifers and numerous other underground sources. They collect certain minerals such as calcium, carpet, manganese and magnesium from rocks. Unfortunately, the addition of these minerals will give water many undesirable characteristics that are collectively known as hardness – Grains of mineral per gallon (gpg) is how this is measured. Traditional measurements also include parts per million (ppm), whereby 17.1 ppm is equal to 1 gpg. If water contains more than 1 gpg of dissolved minerals, it is considered “hard”. However, in reality, water that measures from 0 to 3.5 gpg is still considered relatively soft. If water contains in excess of 10.5 gpg it is considered extremely hard and in between these two extremes, water is considered moderately hard.
Hard water is not considered particularly unhealthy for you, but the problem lies mainly in the potential expense. Hard water is known to cause certain malfunctions within your home’s plumbing system and also in most water using appliances. If the water is heated you actually find that the dissolved hard water minerals will become crystallized and eventually form scale. You may be aware that scale is known to clog up plumbing and thus reduce the flow of water through your pipes. Unfortunately, deposits of scale and lime will eventually take their toll on all your water heating appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and coffee makers. This, in turn, can cause problems, meaning your appliances are likely to need repairing.
The Water Quality Research Council at New Mexico State University recently commissioned a survey in which they found that water appliances can operate up to a third less efficiently if they are found to be “infected” with hard water scale. The most obvious problems of hard water are apparent whenever you cook or bathe. Calcium and magnesium are known to react with numerous detergents and soaps which will actually diminish their overall cleaning capabilities. This will typically lead to the formation of scum which is extremely difficult to wash or rinse away. In the kitchen this may lead to dishes that are spotted and cookware covered in scale. As for your bath tub it is likely to have a ring or tile scum surrounding it. This is also likely to make your laundry gray and the clothing extremely stiff. This will merely lead to much more scrubbing and rinsing around the home.
Hard water can actually cause certain health problems as people who have hard water are likely to be more prone to skin problems and rashes. This is mainly due to the fact that hard water can actually change the skin’s pH and therefore soap is more likely to remain in the skin, which will eventually clog your pores. However, this no longer needs to be a problem as many companies now sell and install water softener systems. Water softening will involve removing the specific ions that initially cause water to become hard. In the majority of cases during water softening the calcium ions, magnesium ions and often iron ions will be removed. There are numerous ways to achieve this, although arguably the best way to soften water will be via the use of a water softener unit. This can be connected directly to your water supply.
Water softeners can best be described as ion exchangers which will specifically remove the positive ions from water. In most cases a softener will be able to remove up to 5 mg per liter of dissolved ions. Of the different types of water softener systems you are able to purchase are a manual one, semiautomatic or automatic. They are typically rated on the actual amount of hardness they can remove. The water softener will collect the hard minerals inside its conditioning tank and will occasionally flush them away through the drain. Many water softener systems will also use ion exchangers, which will look to replace calcium and magnesium with ions such as potassium and sodium. You will actually find that the majority of water softener systems are able to last for many, many years and can therefore be considered very cost effective. It will typically cost up to $0.50 a day to run a water softener system, although the benefits far outweigh the costs.
When purchasing a water softener system you will also require softening salts. The three main types of salt that come with a softener system are usually rock salt, solar salt, and evaporated salt. Rock salt is known to contain certain ingredients that are not very water-soluble. Therefore if you decide to use rock salt you will need to clean your water softener system far more regularly. However, rock salt is far cheaper than either solar or evaporated salt, but you will also need to consider that a lots more time and energy will need to go into cleaning your system. With that said, it is not harmful to mix these different types of salt into a water softener, although certain systems are specifically designed to use just one type of salt.