Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Hidden Threat of Hard Water

Hard water is pretty much a given in the vast majority of the United States. If you live in a typical neighborhood, the water flowing through your pipes will be hard; the only question is how much. Since it's such a common occurrence  many homeowners have come to accept the existence of hard water and are used to its various detrimental effects, such as causing blockage in pipes and wearing down equipment faster than it normally would have. Most of the time, the average homeowner will simply brush these factors aside and just come to accept it as part of home ownership.

But there's a possibility that hard water can cause problems that go beyond the minor inconveniences listed above. With the frequency that the pipes are used on a daily basis in a home, it's easy to forget that hard water causes mineral build-up on the interior. Once the build-up is thick enough, the pipes begin having problems with letting water flow through, and given enough time this can cause leaks and pipe bursts which of course lead to water damage in your home.

Since prevention and maintenance are key to nipping a water damage problem in the bud before it starts, what exactly can we do about this? Since the water in question is being distributed throughout the entire house, a small-scale device as a water filter would be prohibitively expensive and impractical for a property-wide solution. Here's two common answers that are in use today:

1. Water Softeners

Softeners have been around for quite some time and are a proven technology. A water softener is powered by salt; with the way chemistry works, the minerals in the water are attracted to the salt in the softening unit and after being processed, the water comes out free of minerals and smooth as silky. However, due to the way the technology works, sodium is added into the water which may or may not be problematic. The amount added is wholly dependent on exactly how hard the water is, so be sure to get an inspection first before going this route.

2. Water Conditioners

Otherwise known as descalers or more commonly, a saltless water softener, these devices do not actually soften the water; the chemical composition of the water itself is not changed. Instead, the device uses assorted technologies, ranging from filters to electronic pulses to alter the structure of the minerals in the water so they no longer form scale. As long as the water is flowing, scale cannot build up; however, in places where the water remains still, the water will eventually "revert" to its previous form and cause buildup regardless.

Regardless of which way you go, addressing hard water is an important aspect to ensuring the safety of your home from water damage. Some of the most common areas for water damage include the toilet and water heater. When both appliances use softened water as opposed to hard, the difference is usually very obvious: appliances become free from the typical stains and buildup caused by hard water, soaps and detergents become much more effective and it tastes great. A further benefit is the cost savings associated with reduction in soap and detergent usage, as well as health benefits from showering with soft water.

The topic of hard water and its various effects regarding water damage is rather broad, so for now we will stop here. In further articles we will go over the finer types of treatments and equipment available, various benefits and how they relate to preventing water damage in your home.

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