This past weekend I had the pleasure of showing Round Rock area homes to clients relocating here from out-of-state. While looking at one home and as we entered the master bathroom, the Mrs. eyed over the master bath shower and commented to me, "My, you'd think the sellers would have taken the time to clean the shower." The truth is, as I explained to her, the shower glass and inside walls had a hazy film of mineral build-up caused from hard water, and it's lot easier to prevent this problem than it is to remove it.
If you've lived in an area where water is ‘soft,' you might never have of heard of ‘hard water' but the fact is, 80% of US homes have some level of water hardness. Central Texas is no exception and is known for large limestone formations that contribute to hardness of water in some areas. Here, having some type of water softening system is more of a necessity than a luxury and for many good reasons.
Hard water results from high levels of calcium and magnesium in the water supply. While studies show drinking hard water doesn't pose a safety issue, it can present problems that can be frustrating and costly for homeowners.
In laundry, hard water causes clothes to look dingy, dulls colors and gives whites a grey or yellow appearance. Overtime, hard water can damage fabric fibers and shorten the life of clothes by up to 40%.
Washing dishes, glassware and silverware in hard water can cause spots and an unsightly cloudy coating - even more so when cleaned in dishwashers because the minerals from hard water are released faster when in contact with the heat.
Bathing in hard water leaves a film of sticky soap residue leaving skin dry and itchy. The residue left on washed hair can make it dull, dry and hard to manage.
Hard water causes limescale build-up on faucets, shower heads, glass shower surrounds, tubs, water heaters and inside pipes. It eventually reduces water flow and, in extreme cases, puts water-using appliances out of service and clogs pipes. I've actually seen water pipes blocked off completely from limescale build-up.
Most builders of new homes in our area of hard water don't normally install water softeners as a standard feature but they often do install water softener ‘loops' in the garage and it's up to the buyer to purchase a water softener system. Surprisingly, many homeowners opt not to invest in hard water softener, yet beyond all the inconveniences hard water poses, it can be costly to replace failed appliances and replace water lines. Plus, limescale has been known to increase energy bills up to 25% because of reduced efficiency of hot water heaters.
There are a few options available for treating hard water so you might want to do some research and get price quotes. The ‘traditional type' water softener we purchased for our home cost $1400 including install but there are less and more expensive brands on the market. Ours was purchased back in 2002 and it's working like a charm from day one. The only expense we incur is about $30 once every three or four months for salt pellets that takes the hardness out of water.
Once installed, the water softener services all inside water lines. Your outside faucets are not part of the looped system simply because softened water is not recommended for watering plants, lawns, and gardens due to its sodium content.
While there are many signs of hard water, you might want to contact your water service provider who can probably tell you the hardness level of the water they deliver. Another option is to have your water tested. Some companies that sell water treatment equipment offer free water tests. Alternatively you can buy a home water test kit found in many hardware stores. I found a site online that offers free test kits from Diamond Crystal water softening products. They can be reached at (800) 428-4244.