How Hard Water Can Damage Your Home’s Plumbing System
For those of your not familiar, hard water is water that has an especially high mineral content. Formation of hard water occurs when water comes in direct contact with limestone and chalk of which calcium and magnesium carbonates are a derivative.
Okay, enough with the scientific sounding jargon for now. Why does hard water matter? It matters if you’re a homeowner. As hard water flows over various surfaces, it leaves small traces of these minerals. Over time, these mineral deposits aggregate into a substance referred to as “limescale,” or “limescale build-up”. Lime scale can cause damage in a variety of different ways, and be quite difficult to remedy. Below we’ll take a look at some typical ways that limescale (from hard water contact) can cause problems.
Limescale build-up can accumulate causing the restriction of the water flowing in your pipes. Steel pipes are the most prone to this problem, copper and PVC are less susceptible. This can affect the pressure in your plumbing system leading to pipe corrosion, leaks, and premature fixture replacements.
One study estimated that hard water can decrease the life of toilet flushing units by upwards of seventy percent and water taps by forty percent. Shower heads can also be quite sensitive to pressure, and as mentioned above increased pressure can be a byproduct of limescale buildup. Addressing this problem can save numerous trips to the home depot. Also, the orange stains that are left behind can be quite ugly.
Here is another huge pain point in terms of hard water damage. Any appliance through which the contaminated water passes is liable to be damaged and may require replacement sooner than otherwise necessary. Dish washers, water heaters, and washing machines are all good examples of potential victims. Once the free floating minerals begin to cling to the internal parts of these machines they begin to falter.
The heating elements in water heaters can also quickly form problematic mineral deposits when exposed to this type of water. When there is lime scale between the heating source and the water it will act as a buffer, preventing the water from heating up as it should. This causes the heating system to work overtime. Mineral deposits from hard water can also dramatically reduce the lifespan of a water heater by clogging valves, drains, and other components.
The thing that makes hard water damage such a vexing problem is that it’s difficult identify. It’s a gradual process that builds up slowly over the months and years. The water pressure gradually decreases. The damage to appliances and fixtures creeps in over time. Often this all happens in ways that are invisible unless you look closely. Vigilance as a homeowner is going to be your best defense against this problem. Getting a point of entry water softener system can go a long ways toward it avoiding it. For more on how water softeners work, check out our page on Water Treatment. When it comes to hard water damage preventive maintenance can be a worthwhile investment.