If you’ve been told your home has hard water but you’re not exactly sure what that means, you’re not alone. Water is described as being hard when it has a high content of minerals like calcium and magnesium. This occurs when your water runs through limestone or chalk deposits in pipes or the soil. Certain regions of the United States, such as Southern California, Arizona, West Texas, Greater Chicago and other areas have great incidences of hard water than most of the country. The compounds found in hard water can create expensive problems in your home over time if a solution is not found.
What Is Hard Water and How Is It Measured?
The hardness of water is measured using instruments and can be expressed in many different ways, including grains of calcium carbonate per gallon, parts per million, Clark degrees and French degrees. None of these particular units are important to you as a homeowner, but the United States Geological Survey uses these units, combined with temperature and pH, to put fresh water into several different categories. The classifications are:
- Moderately hard
- Very hard
According to the USGS, more than half of the homes in the United States have water that is hard or very hard.
You can learn about the current conditions of water in your area by visiting the Water Quality Portal, a website jointly run by the USGS, EPA and National Water Quality Monitoring Council. A professional can also visit your home to directly measure the hardness of water running out of your fixtures.
What Are the Effects of Hard Water?
If your home has hard or very hard water, it’s very likely that you’ve already experienced some of the negative effects. You may have seen evidence of this in your showers and tubs in the form white spots. This annoying substance is the result of the water evaporating and leaving the minerals behind. A far more annoying effect of hard water can occur in your plumbing system and appliances when calcium carbonate deposits interrupt water flow. Hard water can:
- Clog water pipes
- Reduce the efficiency of appliances
- Damage hot water heaters
- Create scum in showers, tubs and sinks
Replacing appliances, hiring plumbers and scrubbing surfaces can cost you a lot of time and money. The installation of a new water heater can cost as much as $2,000. A professional plumber can charge more than $60 an hour, and constantly cleaning surfaces stained by limescale can rob you of time doing the things you love.
As far as health in concerned, hard water does not appear to adversely affect the human body according to studies performed by the World Health Organization and other institutions. The National Academy of Sciences believes that hard water may even be a benefit to people who need more calcium and magnesium in their diet.