Angie's List: Hard Water

You may be surprised how many people have hard water.

85% of U.S. homes have problems with hard water.

Solving the problem can be pretty simple, and not terribly expensive.

Hard water is water that has a high mineral content.

Specifically, it has high concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions.

Angie Hicks of Angie’s List says, "If you suspect you have hard water, you should have your water analyzed. A water conditioning company will often offer a free analysis. You can also get an analysis from your local water utility or health department, and both of those organizations don't have a vested interest in the outcome."

Hard water can reduce the life of appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, and can add additional wear to your clothes.

Hard water can ruin your water heater, decreasing your heater's efficiency.

Shower heads and sink fixtures can become clogged with minerals that they must be replaced.

Hard water can cause dishes and glasses to look cloudy and/or feel gritty.

It also reduces soap and detergent's ability to lather.

Homeowner Nathan LaGrange says, "It's just really hard, and our clothes were pretty dull, and it's hard to lather up and all kinds of stuff like that. So, listening to my wife and my girl go "My hair, my hair," so yeah, we needed one. We have an old house too, so all the pipes in it were getting corroded and stuff like that because of all the hard water."

So, people like Nathan may want to invest in a water softener.

Angie Hicks says, "Water softeners cost around $400, but could be nearly $1,500 depending on the model. You should also ask the water softening company if they have an opportunity to rent the equipment for a nominal monthly charge."

Newer water softeners these days are as complicated as they used to be.

{Mark Timmons, a water softener salesperson, says, "It used to be water softeners were very troublesome because they had all kinds of gears and dials and mechanics. Now, they are almost fully electronic. They measure the amount of water that you use, and they only regenerate or recharge when they need to based on the actual water usage. So, they are very salt efficient these days. They may use 50 to 75 percent less salt than they used to."

Before you buy a water softener, make sure you investigate the product, and be sure to deal with a reputable company that offers a money-back guarantee.

You can also check out water conditioners. They are sometimes called "descalers."

They are usually less expensive than softeners.

They typically fit around a pipe and claim to change the chemical structure of minerals in water as it travels through the pipe, by using magnets or electrical current.

They are not entirely effective, as places where water sits, like your hot water heater, will still get a build up of scale.

The advantage is that there are no chemicals added to the water and there is no waste water.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Common effects of hard water:

• Pipe damage: minerals can eat away the pipes in your home which can cause flooding. Check floors and walls for dampness.
• Reduce the lifespan of water-using appliances: hard water can reduce the life of appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines, and can add additional wear to your clothes.
• Hard on your water heater: minerals can accumulate in your water heater, decreasing your heater's efficiency. Every three months drain a quart of water from the water heater. That's going to help get that sediment working through the water heater and give it a much longer life.
• Clogged fixtures: shower heads and sink fixtures can become clogged with minerals that they must be replaced.
• Stained dishes/spotty glasses: hard water can causes dishes and glasses to look cloudy and/or feel gritty. It also reduces soap and detergent's ability to lather.

Angie's List tips for removing hard water:
• A water softener is a water treatment system that uses salt to remove minerals responsible for creating hard water, like calcium and magnesium, and replaces them with soft minerals, like sodium and potassium.
• Some homeowners prefer alternative softeners because they are concerned with the salt in their water. Salt-free units are often called "water conditioners" or "descalers." water conditioners typically fit around a pipe and claim to change the chemical structure of minerals in water as it travels through the pipe, by using magnets, electrical current and crystallization polymers. The descalers prevent those solids from being deposited inside pipes and on fixtures. They're not entirely effective, as places where water sits, like in your hot water heater, will still get a build up of scale. The advantage is that there are no chemicals added to the water and there is no waste water.

Angie's List tips for buying a water softener:
• If you suspect you have hard water, test to be sure. Water conditioning companies will usually offer free analysis, but you can get a reliable review from your local water utility or health department, which don't have a vested interest in the outcome of your test.
• Water softeners start around $400, but there are some models that cost nearly $1,500. Price varies according to the size and type of softener. Some companies offer to rent their equipment for a nominal monthly charge. Installation costs typically fun from $150 to $300.
• Before you buy a water softener or conditioner, do you due diligence and investigate the product and company supplying it. Be sure to deal with a reputable company that offers a money-back guarantee.
• In most states, licensed plumbers are not required to install a water softener. If hiring a water softening company, check that they are certified by the water quality association.
• Don't forget maintenance. They key is not to let the water softener run out of salt.


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