Water is water. Right? Yes and no. Water itself is good. The problem for plumbing stems from whether or not you have minerals in your water. The presence of minerals in your water can be damaging and costly to your plumbing over time. Whether or not your water has mineral deposits in it is the difference between hard water and soft water.
Hard water is water that contains a considerable amount of dissolved minerals. Calcium and magnesium are the most common minerals found in hard water. If your water is hard, you will probably notice these signs:
- soap scum ring around your tub
- spots on washed dishes and glassware
- lime scale on shower heads
- soap and detergent filmy instead of sudsy
There are methods to test water hardness that range from taking paying a professional to purchasing a home test kit online or at your local hardware store. You can even perform a do-it-yourself test using an empty bottle, your tap water, and dish washing liquid.
If your water is considerably hard, this can be costly in the long run. Hard water can cause:
- Clogged pipes
- Stained tubs and sinks
- Reduced efficiency in water-using appliances
- Damage to water-using appliances
Eventually, you will have to either replace pipes or appliances due to the effects of hard water.
In contrast to hard water, soft water is water that little or no trace of water deposits. Soft water can occur naturally or can be the result of water treatment processes. Soft water allows soaps and detergents to work more efficiently, but is not good for drinking. Water softened by water treatment usually has a salty taste due to the dissolving of sodium into the water as part of the treatment process.
If your water is considerably hard (over 10.0 grains per gallon), you may want to consider softening your water for the sake of your plumbing and appliances. Most water water softeners replace the calcium and magnesium ions in your water with sodium ions. A descaler, on the other hand, introduces a chemical reaction that does not remove the calcium and magnesium but keeps the ions from bonding to pipes and on other materials. Water softeners are priced from as low as $400, depending on the model.
Weighing the Costs
In considering whether or not to invest in water softening, you need to consider that the cost of installing and maintaining a water softener in relation to the cost of having to repair plumbing or replace an appliance. In the long run, installing a water softener, if you need to soften your water, will extend the life and efficiency of your plumbing and appliances.