Does your home have hard water? Research shows that over four in five U.S. homes have hard water. Aside from causing soft scum, this otherwise common condition can take a toll on your water heater. What is hard water exactly, and how does it affect your water heater?
What is Hard Water?
Hard water is defined by high levels of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. It’s not physically hard. Rather, water is considered hard if it contains high levels of minerals.
Whether obtained from a well or a municipal source, water typically contains at least some concentration of minerals. The minerals are dissolved, but they are present in water, nonetheless. Soft water is characterized by low levels of minerals, whereas hard water is characterized by high levels of minerals.
How Hard Water Affects Your Water Heater
As hard water flows through your water heater, it can cause several problems. Hard water, for instance, can make your water heater is less efficient. Some of the minerals within it will accumulate at the bottom of your water heater where the heating element is located. Over time, the accumulation of these minerals can block the heating element so that it’s no longer able to heat up in an efficient manner.
It will take your water heater longer to warm hard water. Soft water requires less time to heat up because it contains a lower concentration of minerals. With soft water, the heating element will quickly heat up the water. Hard water contains more minerals, which essentially insulate the heating element while increasing the amount of time needed to heat up the water.
Hard water can cause your water heater to fail completely. When the minerals build up at the bottom of your water heater, they’ll deteriorate the tank and the surrounding components. If not addressed, you may be forced to replace your water heater due to the hard water.
You’ll have to spend more time maintaining your water heater with hard water. The general rule is that tank-based water heaters should be flushed once per year. If your home has hard water, however, you’ll need to flush it more frequently. Flushing will remove the minerals from the bottom of the tank.
Hard water is typically safe to drink. Nonetheless, it can damage and degrade your water heater. If your home has hard water, you should consider installing a water softener and/or upgrading to a tankless water heater.