Parts of Pennsylvania and other areas across the country struggle with hard water. But homeowners should know that it’s not just a problem for dingy laundry, lack of soap lather or the spots left on drinking glasses. Hard water can slowly cause damage throughout a house. Find out how it can impact your home and what you can do to prevent costly damages.

What Does ‘Hard Water’ Mean?

The name sounds a little strange. How can a liquid be hard? The term means water that contains a certain amount of calcium and magnesium particles. According to the Water Quality Association, the level of hardness is defined as follows:

  • Hard water – 7.0 to 10.5 grains per gallon (gpg) of calcium carbonate,
  • Moderately hard water – 3.5 to 7.0 gpg of calcium carbonate,
  • Slightly hard water – 1.0 to 3.5 gpg of calcium carbonate,
  • Soft water – less than 1 gpg of calcium carbonate.

Any concentration of calcium carbonate over 10.5 grains per gallon would be considered very hard.

How Can I Test Water Hardness at Home?

There are many signs of hard water that homeowners often notice. If you think you have this problem at your house, you’ve probably noted the telltale white, scaly buildup around the faucets and kitchen fixtures. Your local water supplier should also provide an annual report with data about your water quality. But if you’re still unsure if this is affecting your home, here’s an easy water hardness test.

Take a clean water bottle with a cap and fill it about 1/3 full of tap water. Next, add a few drops of liquid dish soap and put the cap on the bottle. Then, shake it up for a few seconds. If a lot of bubbles fill the top of the bottle and the water remains clear, this is a good sign of soft water. If only a few bubbles form and the water looks cloudy, you probably have hard water.

How Does Hard Water Affect My Home?

As long as we’re talking about soap bubbles, hard water may not seem like a big problem. If we think about the fact that hard water is constantly running through the pipes and appliances of our house, the negative impact becomes clearer.

Residential Pipes

With time, hard water causes heavy mineral buildup all along the pipes of a house. It will eventually lead to clogs in the sink and shower drains as the water flow through the pipes diminishes. If left untreated, hard water can damage the pipes and cause leaks.

Household Appliances

Similarly, calcium deposits will eventually block the sprayers, nozzles, pumps and drains of your dishwasher, washing machine, coffee maker, ice machine and more. Clogged pipes will contribute to low water flow to and from appliances and cause them to run less efficiently. In this way, hard water can slowly damage and decrease the lifespan of your household appliances.

How Does Hard Water Affect an HVAC System?

Hard water also deposits calcium and magnesium minerals in HVAC system components, including the water heater and humidifier.

Water Heater

As the temperature of the water inside the boiler rises, the suspended calcium and magnesium particles are deposited there. The minerals form a solid, scaly buildup that decreases the heater’s efficiency and can cause damage.

Over time, the mineral deposits block the boiler’s heating elements. Then, the unit must cycle more frequently and run longer to heat the same amount of water. Additionally, heating elements are more likely to get damaged and require replacement when running with hard water. Long-term scale buildup can lead to more severe ruptures that ruin the water heater and cut its lifespan short.

Whole-House Humidifier

Utilizing a whole-house humidifier with your HVAC system is a great way to improve indoor air quality and counteract uncomfortable dryness when the furnace is running. But using a humidifier with hard water can be problematic for a homeowner.

Similar to other appliances, hard water affects humidifiers by leaving mineral deposits in the unit. The calcium and magnesium left by hard water will solidify and become airborne. When this happens, you will notice an abundance of white dust settling on the furniture and surfaces around the house. White dust also pollutes the air that you and your family breath.

Over time, hard water mineral buildup can facilitate the growth of mold and bacteria inside the unit. Plus, it may clog the humidifier piping requiring repairs or replacement.

How Does Hard Water Affect My Wallet?

All this damage can really add up for homeowners. Inefficient appliances lead to higher energy bills. Plus, needing to fix pipes and replace major appliances more often is another frustrating expense. According to HomeWater, hard water can be a big financial loss for homeowners:

  • Water heaters consume nearly 30% more energy to heat hard water.
  • Household appliances may need replacing 30 to 50% sooner because of the effects of hard water.
  • The average household spends $1,500 more on energy costs over 10 years.

How Can I Prevent Hard Water Damage?

There is a solution to the hard water problem. Homeowners can prolong the life of appliances and HAVC components, while keeping utility costs low.

  1. Test your tap water at home to know if your water is soft or hard.
  2. Consider installing a water softening system to treat hard water throughout the home.
  3. Ask your HVAC specialist if annual water heater flushing could help your system run more efficiently and last longer.
  4. Schedule frequent HVAC maintenance to prevent buildup and related damage. This is recommended for every type of system: gas, electric and tankless units.

Do you know what to look for? Learn the Signs that Your Hot Water Heater Is About to Fail.

Protect Your Home – Call AQM

AQM provides inspections, repairs and maintenance services for all types of HVAQ equipment in the Delaware Valley. We will help keep your system running well for years to come. Request a free quote or call our office at (610) 363-3940.

AQM, Inc.