Earth Day!

Wow. When I realized that today was Earth Day, I remembered the article that I wanted to write on water treatment and how the condition of your water impacts the efficiency of your appliances. The thing that you need to know is that the condition of your water is the main driving component to maintaining the efficiency of those tankless water heaters or that nice, expensive, front-loading clothes washer or that really cool dishwasher that only uses about a quart of water to wash the dishes. (OK, I’m pulling your leg here.)

Yes, really. If you look at the manufacturer’s recommendations you will see that they suggest that you have water that is within certain specifications. That is usually a condition that equates to removing all or nearly all of the iron and having softened water that is between 0 and 3 grains per gallon (17.1 mg/l = 1 grain). In the New River Valley area of Southwest Virginia, this usually requires a water treatment system.

Now, I know. You actually LIKE the taste of hard water. Well, so do I. But you know something? Hard water is what CAUSES that squeaky clean feeling on your skin. This is causing the natural oils in your skin to be depleted and drying out your skin, hair, etc. That’s precisely why you have to use skin lotions for your hands and face and conditioner in your hair. Hard water also causes the soap that you use to form a curd. This soap curd is NOT dissolved into the water. It is deposited into the fabric of your clothes, on the sides of your dishwasher, or on the bottom of the sink or shower. This causes your clothes to get dingy and stiff and will wear them out faster.

OK. So, what does hard water do to your water heater? First, I’ll talk about the tankless water heater. The heating process causes the calcium and magnesium to deposit onto the inside of your heat exchanger over time. This will eventually clog the heat exchanger and will require a service call to replace it. This is NOT an inexpensive part to replace and if your water conditions are outside the manufacturer’s recommendations, then it will probably not be covered under warranty. If you do not have a water softener, then we recommend that you have your tankless water heater flushed with vinegar periodically.

If you have a tank water heater, then you will need to replace elements frequently, depending upon how hard the water actually is. In addition to this, the calcium and magnesium (which make up limestone) will eventually fill up the bottom of your water heater and coat the inside of your pipes, requiring replacement of your water heater. Have you ever tried draining or removing a water heater that is full of water/powdered limestone? Oh, right. You’ve probably hired someone to do it or had your spouse/in-law/brother/sister do it for you. You are basically moving a water heater full of water and rock. It’s not easy!!! Even using a two-wheeler. I’ve got to tell you that this will cost you – maybe not in money (if a family member did it), but it will cost you in favors.

Soft water doesn’t do that. Softened water means that you will have less maintenance on your appliances. Fewer service calls to replace water heater elements. You will use less soap in your dishwasher. You will use less soap in your clothes washer. Your clothes won’t wear out as quickly. You will use less soap / shampoo to shower. You will not have to clean the shower as often. You’ll buy fewer shower curtains. And if you install a whole-house filter in front of it, for the annual cost of a filter change, the softener will last longer and you probably won’t EVER have to replace those $275 filters on your nice, new, sub-zero refrigerator. Yeah, I’m pulling your leg again. The filters only cost about $45 – $75, but the point is: soft water saves you money.

-Andrea Jones
Laboratory Director