The Effects of Hard Water on Plumbing
Minerals make water hard. You have hard water when you scum in the shower and a white crust on faucets. Calcium and magnesium represent the primary minerals causing the whitish buildup on fixtures and sinks. Hard water may also contain iron and copper. The minerals pose no threat to your health, but your plumbing system and appliances are another story. The gradual accumulation of mineral deposits in pipes and drains sets the stage for damage that will need repair or replacement.
Constricted Flow in Water Supply Lines
As years go by, minerals slowly collect on the interior surfaces of the pipes supplying water throughout your home. When you are not running water from faucets or for appliances, the water sits in the pipes. This creates an opportunity for the water to deposit minerals inside the pipes.
The process begins to narrow the diameter of the pipes. You may eventually notice that your water flow diminishes. Meanwhile, the pressure in the pipes could be increasing. As the process continues, the pressure could wear down the connection joints in pipes. Leaks will ultimately develop. These will naturally require repair.
Hopefully, you’ll notice the water leak right away. However, a leaking pipe inside a wall may take time to reveal itself. You probably won’t see the problem until drywall has become soaked. This outcome only adds to the expense of your repairs because you’ll have to fix the pipe and the wall or ceiling.
Hard water minerals can also collect on the inside of drains. This worsens the normal issue of grime or other clogs developing in drains. The interaction of the minerals with all of the soap suds that go down drains creates a problem.
Hard water encourages the formation of soap scum that will cling to the inside of waste lines. The scum can reach the level of building a physical obstruction.
Drains that deal with the most suds are the most susceptible to clogging related to hard water. Your shower drain and washing machine continually move away soapy water. As a result, they have a greater chance of becoming slow or entirely blocked due to hard water.
Pouring a commercial hard water stain remover down the drain is NOT the answer. These products that are marketed for cleaning off deposits of calcium, lime, and rust (CLR) are meant for dissolving scale on faucets, sinks, and showerheads. Only small amounts are supposed to wash down a drain. The product does little to address the hard water soap scum problem in a drain. CLR cleaners will damage your drain pipes when used excessively.
Strain on the Water Heater
Your water heater works on the front line of hard water problems. The appliance continually heats water, which promotes the buildup of mineral scale inside the tank. In extreme cases, the mineral layer reduces the capacity of the tank.
The scale will also cover the heating element within a gas or electric water heater. This coating of minerals reduces the efficiency of the machine. The heat must transfer through the mineral scale before it can have any effect on the water. This situation drives up operational costs because the appliance must use more energy to heat water to the desired temperature.
Hard water also places the lifespan of a water heater in jeopardy. The additional strain caused by mineral deposits simply wears down the appliance before its time.
As a homeowner, you can combat the problem of hard water in your water heater by flushing the tank twice a year. You’ll need to shut off the water heater and completely drain it to flush out minerals. Although helpful, this process only treats the symptom. The mineral buildup will resume after performing this maintenance.
Washing Machines and Dishwashers
All appliances in your home that operate with water will deteriorate more rapidly because of hard water. The drain of a washing machine could clog, and scale could impede the machine’s function throughout the washing drum. Mineral buildup on the many small drain holes in the drum makes it more difficult for the machine to spin excess water out of a load of clothes. Your clothes will therefore take longer to dry, which drives up electricity or natural gas costs.
Your dishwasher operates under a similar risk. Scale on the heating element and the strainers over the drain reduce efficiency bit by bit. Your dishwasher may fail to drain completely, and the machine will wear out faster. Hard water also results in spots on glasses and dishes where fine films of mineral scale remain after rinsing and drying. This issue is quite minor, however, compared to the expense of replacing a dishwasher that died an early death due to hard water.
Old Galvanized Steel Pipes Most at Risk
Owners of older homes that still have galvanized steel pipes have much to worry about in regards to hard water. Hard water has the easiest time of leaving scale deposits on this material.
Although many homes these days now have pipes made from PVC, PEX, or copper, these materials still face some risk of mineral buildup. Their resistance to corrosion is not total, and hard water could still reduce their usefulness and cause leaks.
The Cure for Hard Water Problems
Many products are on the market to mitigate the effects of hard water when washing your clothes or hair. These additives lessen the influence of minerals on the ability of soap to produce suds. Problems like dull hair, water spots, or poor results with laundry may be relieved by these products, but the minerals continue to strain your pipes and water heater.
A whole-house water softener tackles the problem at the source. This appliance filters out the calcium and magnesium that are responsible for the bulk of hard water problems. Once installed, your incoming water supply goes first through the water softener and then is distributed through the rest of your plumbing.
We Care Plumbing, Heating, and Air in Murrieta, CA, installs whole-house water softeners. You can rely on our advice when picking out the best appliance for your house. We’re fully prepared to install any model that will meet your household water softening needs.
Complete Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Services
If you’re experiencing plumbing problems caused by hard water, our team can fix or replace pipes and clear drains. We replace water heaters and install garbage disposals. We’re here for any of those unpleasant problems related to waste lines and septic tanks.
Hot and cold running water are only part of the home comfort equation. We have heating and cooling technicians standing by to repair your heaters or air conditioners. We offer 24/7 repair service for emergencies.
If you’re looking to replace your heating or cooling system, we’re a trustworthy installation company with an A+ rating at the Better Business Bureau. We have the training to address your indoor air quality concerns as well. Whatever is going wrong with your heating, cooling, or plumbing, we can set things right. Contact We Care Plumbing, Heating, and Air today.