Water in your home makes all the difference in your quality of life. But depending on where you live, it might not be the pure H2O that you’re hoping for. When your local water source runs over or through limestone, it can pick up minerals that might bother you.
Hard water is a name given to water with relatively high calcium or magnesium content, and Calgary’s water supply definitely falls within that range. We’ve encountered damage due to hard water in our customers’ homes, especially — and more than a few complaints about skin and hair comfort that traces back water hardness as well.
We usually recommend a water conditioner or water softener to alleviate the problems caused by Calgary’s hard water. But it might not be obvious what the damage is, how it works, and how a water softener could help.
What is Hard Water?
Hard water’s defined by its calcium or magnesium levels. “Very hard” levels trend above 180 milligrams of minerals per litre, and Calgary registers 166mg/L to 216mg/L, depending on the season. Comparatively, North Vancouver has only 2.42 mg/L to 6.31 mg/L, so it’s considered very “soft.”
What Happens When Water’s Too Soft
When your water has too little calcium or magnesium, it can lead to corrosion of the pipes supplying the water. That effect can require water treatment in very soft water. There’s little need for it in Calgary, though, since we have hard to very hard water. A water authority often has to strike a balance between hardness and softness — between incrustation of calcium or corrosion.
What Kind of Damage Comes from Hard Water?
Hard water can damage your home through the gradual accumulation of minerals on surfaces and inside your plumbing and by the effects it has on soap. When it comes to clothing, minerals can make laundry cycles harder on the fabric and wear them out faster. It can also affect your hair and skin unfavourably.
Damage to Your Home
Hard water’s damage predictably comes from the mineral content. For one, it reacts to soaps and detergents, leaving a residue on surfaces beneath your taps. That residue can wear down your sinks and counters.
The minerals have a delayed, inhibited reaction with soap. You have to use a lot more soap to create soap suds, which also contributes to the same residue. You’ll have a lot more soap crusting up and staining clothing, dishes, fixtures, and other exposed porcelain surfaces.
Damage to Your Water Heater
Especially on full-tank water heaters (as opposed to tankless water heaters), hard water takes its toll. Your hot water tank holds dozens of gallons of water, sometimes over 100 litres, if it’s a larger tank.
Incrustation, otherwise known as calcification or scale buildup, can ruin your water quality, and mineral clogs can mess with water pressure in your home’s plumbing. Pressure changes can lead to costly plumbing repairs if it’s not dealt with. Hard water sits unmoving and hot in your water heater, so it’s the part of your hot water supply that attracts a lot of precipitate in your home’s water system. Without water softening, you might notice flakes of mineralization coming through your taps.
Effects on Skin & Hair
It should be noted that hard water hasn’t been flagged as a real health hazard. But hard water’s been linked to a few annoyances in most cases, and there are more serious reported side effects as well.
- Hair that feels like it’s under a gross film, becoming dull, limp, and brittle
- Color-treated hair that loses its sheen quickly, requiring color treatments more often, further damaging to your hair
- Hair that’s you can’t lather with shampoo
- Residual shampoo in your hair
- In some, thinning hair and breakage caused by hard water
- In some, hair loss
How a Water Softener or Water Conditioner Can Help
A water softener usually uses salt to chemically react with the calcium for removal typically. This type of water softener falls under the ion exchange category. Water conditioners are saltless, often using carbon materials trying to mechanically capture the minerals.
- Softer hair
- Skin that feels less dry
- Easier housework
- Longer appliance lifespans
- Better shower water pressure
- Cleaner dishes & cutlery
Making a Hard Call on Hard Water
You might be tempted to avoid another costly appliance in your home, where there’s already HVAC and all the other appliances to install and maintain. And a water conditioner or water softener is another investment needing a little bit of maintenance on top of the start-up cost of installation.
But the idea is to save your kitchen and bathroom plumbing from mineral deposits. If you can avoid preventable repairs to those areas, it might be well worth it! Water softening is mostly hands-off maintenance, so you’re not in for a ton of work. Please contact us if you have any questions about what kind of savings you could enjoy!