Hard water is a term that describes the mineral content in the water. Certain minerals, like calcium, lime, and magnesium, can be dissolved in the municipal water supply. Although not harmful to your health, these minerals can cause damage to your home's water-using appliances.
Signs of Hard Water
The most obvious sign of hard water in the home is the presence of chalky buildup around faucets, on shower walls, or on glassware. The residue is usually white, but it may also be yellow-ish or even orange depending on what minerals are present.
The residue tends to build up most in areas that are frequently exposed to hot water, which is why it is often first noticed on glass shower walls or as spots on dishes when they are removed from the dishwasher. You may also notice heavy buildup around tap faucet openings, on the aeration screens in the faucets, or on shower heads.
Damage from hard water can greatly reduce the lifespan of your appliances. The appliances most likely to be affected are automatic dishwashers, water heaters, refrigerator ice makers, washing machines, and coffee pots.
Water lines can become coated in hard water buildup, which reduces and sometimes completely arrests the flow of water. In some cases, water lines can burst due to the pressure of water building up behind the hard water blockage. Damage to seals and valves are also common, as is clogging of water emitters, such as those found in a dishwasher. In water heaters, mineralization can cause pressure buildup that leads to cracked tanks or tank overflow. Rust and corrosion can also occur from hard water.
Although it is possible to replace damaged valves and water lines, prevention is a much better option when it comes to hard water problems. The best form of prevention is to install a whole-house water softener. This appliance is hooked up to the water main so that the minerals are removed from the water before it flows to your appliances and faucets.
Annual appliance maintenance is also a must. For example, water heaters should be flushed out and cleaned every year so that mineral buildup is removed before it becomes severe. Water lines in other appliances may also require periodic flushing to prevent buildup and damage.
Contact a residential plumber in your area if you would like to learn more about protecting your appliances from hard water damage.