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Watch a video: 5 Signs You Have Hard Water
What is Hard Water?
Water that has dissolved calcium, iron, etc. In Florida, nearly all water sources (City or Well) have hard water. As rain falls and the water seeps through the ground, and through the sandstone into the aquifer it gathers minerals from the soil and rock. This dissolved minerals makes the water hard. Water hardness is measured in "grains per gallon" (gpg).
3 gpg is moderate hardness and you will get mild scale in dishwashers, mild soap scum in showers/tubs, hard water rings in toilets over time, also where standing water is left it will leave a scale (flower vases, pot/pans used to boil water, on counter tops by faucets). It can reduce the life span of a hot water heater by 10-15%
As you approach 7-9 gpg (many municipalities city water) households will notice scale build up around water dispensers on the refrigerator and tough to clean sinks within months. At this level, hot water heaters will start losing efficiency due to scale forming around the element. If a homeowner has a tank-less hot water heater; it can void the warranty due to the vast build up of scale inside the unit.
Is Hard Water Harmful?
Most hard water in Florida has from dissolved calcium. No - this isn't like the vitamin, but it is dissolved rock. It isn't harmful to humans in drinking water. It can reek havoc on your appliances, plumbing, clothes, hair, and skin. When hard water comes into contact with soap particles, the soap binds to the mineral and then "sticks" to the closest surface. This can be clothes, hair, tubs, sinks, etc.
When hard water is heated the minerals come out of the water and will stick to the closest surface. This is typically your hot water heater element, over time encapsulating the element in rock which reduces efficiency and life span. This will also happen to shower heads, dishwashers, which presents as scale and will start plugging fixtures. This same scale can also build up on your house's plumbing. With the worst cases, this will require the home to have to be re-plumbed due to clogging of the pipes.
How is hard water treated?
Because hard water is caused by dissolved calcium it cannot be "filtered out"; just like salt cannot be filtered out of salt water. The only way to remove it is through an ion exchange media. This is where the calcium ions (positively charged) are attracted to the resin (negatively charged) and thus are removed from the water. Every so often, your water softener will need to regenerate (or clean itself) to remove the calcium off the resin. Watch a video on how this works here
What can I expect when I put in a Water Softener?
The first thing most people recognize is the silky texture of the water and how much less soap and detergents they need to use. When there isn't hard minerals binding to soap and then sticking on your skin, you can feel the natural oils your body uses to keep skin vibrant and hydrated. No more soap scum build up in tubs and showers. Your clothes will also start to feel softer and new clothes will stay vibrant longer.
The Detergent Savings Study was conducted in 2010 in conjunction with Scientific Services S/D, Inc. and funded by the Water Quality Research Foundation.
Here are the findings: