Hard water is generally found in areas that are composed of limestone. Calcium and magnesium are absorbed into the water as it comes in contact with the limestone. The level of absorption varies by region. Hardness in water is found in both deep drilled and shore wells, it can also be present in rivers and lakes with spring fed water sources.
Soft water is defined by American National Standards NSF/ANSI 44 and NSF/ANSI 330 as water containing <1 grain of hardness per gallon (or <17.1 mg/L hardness). It is not caused by a single substance but by a variety of dissolved polyvalent metallic ions, predominantly calcium and magnesium cations, although other cations (e.g. aluminum, barium, iron, manganese, strontium and zinc) also contribute.
Hardness is most commonly expressed as milligrams of calcium carbonate equivalent per litre (mg/L). Another common method of measuring water hardness is known as grains per gallon or GPG.
Determining your Water Hardness Level
Testing for water hardness is conducted in a variety of different forms. Simple testing strips are available which utilize a colour match to give a general result for the level of hardness in the water. Additional testing is available through a titrant drop test which uses buffer solutions in combination to provide a more accurate result. Water treatment dealers will use the buffer testing method or a photometer centrifugal fluidics reagent disk for accurate testing. Water hardness can also be tested with any accredited licensed laboratory in your local area.
Effects of Hard Water in Your Home
Tankless & Hot Water Heaters
By creating a barrier at the bottom of your water heater’s tank, hard water will significantly decrease the efficiency of your water heater because your unit will have to work harder and longer to keep your water warm. This will increase your water heating bills and can also mean that your water won’t be hot enough when you need it for things like showering, doing the dishes and laundry.
More Frequent Flushing
Typically, water heaters only need to be flushed about once per year. If your home has hard water, however, the buildup of minerals in the tank will require you to flush your water heater much more frequently (as often as every 3 months).
The stress that hard water puts your water heater through will take its toll over time. Not only will you likely need to make more repair calls throughout your water heater’s lifespan, but your unit will likely require replacement due to a failure more quickly.
After cleaning, do glasses emerge from your dishwasher cloudy or spotted? Is there a whitish crust on your dishwasher's heating element? If yes, you might think there's something wrong with your dishwasher. But the problem could be caused by hard water, which has a total level of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals at 7 grains per gallon or 121 milligrams per liter or higher. Hard water can not only lead to the spotting and crusted-over heating element but also diminish how well your dishwasher cleans.
If you question whether your clothes look and feel clean coming out of the washing machine, you’re not alone. Issues with laundry such as yellowing or graying clothes and stiff towels are not uncommon, and if you’re experiencing any of the following issues at home, you are likely dealing with a hard water problem.
- Laundry grays or yellows easily. Fabric is stiff and not fluffy.
- Clothes are weakened or tear easily. White or gray streaks appear on colored clothes.
One of the most noticeable effects of hard water is skin irritation. Eczema in children has been linked to hard water. Many people who bathe with hard water notice dry skin and even hard or bumpy patches of skin caused by dryness and irritation from skin and hair products. The many minerals that are present in hard water means that the cleansing products used while showering don’t dissolve well in the water. This can lead to them irritating the skin when they don’t rinse off the skin well.
Faucets, appliances, bathtubs and sinks. If you notice white calcification, you very likely have hard water. Mineral deposits will start showing up on not only your faucets and showerhead, but also on appliances like your coffee pot and kettles.
Recommendation for Treating Hard Water
A water softener
is a device that reduces the hardness of the water. A water softener typically uses sodium or potassium ions to replace calcium and magnesium ions, the ions that create "hardness." The resulting soft water requires less soap for the same cleaning effort and eliminates scale build-up in pipes. It is important to properly size a water softener for the hardness level of the water, number of people and consider the efficiency of the unit. If you are unsure, contact a certified water treatment professional for assistance.