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How to Recognize Hard Water

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What is Hard Water?
Results from the U.S. Geological Survey indicate that 85 percent of American homes are supplied with hard water. Hard water contains dissolved calcium and magnesium ions. Commonly referred to as "hardness minerals," dissolved calcium and magnesium can cause numerous problems when present in a water supply. Whether it's from a well or a municipal water utility, water usually contains these troublesome elements.

Probably the most recognizable symptoms of hard water are soap scum in the tub and shower, and hard water spots on faucets and fixtures. According to an Ohio State University study, the average person cleaning the home spends more than six hours a month cleaning up tap water spots, streaks and scum alone. Hardness minerals react with soaps and detergents to form an insoluble, sticky residue that's difficult to rinse from bathtubs, sinks, faucets and fixtures. This soap residue is often left on hair, skin and clothing as well. Although not highly visible in these instances, the substance can cause drying and itching of skin, and premature fading and wearing of clothing.

Hard water causes a variety of problems
Over time, scale formed from continuous contact with dissolved minerals in water can collect inside plumbing and on the internal parts of water using appliances. Service calls to plumbers and repair persons may become necessary as water pressure drops and mechanical parts stop working.

Water hardness is typically measured in "grains per gallon," an indication of the quantity of dissolved calcium and magnesium the water contains. In amounts as small as one grain per gallon, water is classified as hard to a certain degree. Most homes use water that is considerably harder. While many families choose to soften their water by removing the calcium and magnesium with home water treatment equipment, many don't even realize they have hard water.

Hard water scale can coat the inside of a water heater and drastically reduce its heating efficiency. Greater fuel consumption and higher utility bills result when the appliance has to heat a layer of rock as well as the water. According to a study commissioned by the Water Quality Research Council and conducted at New Mexico State University, water heaters work 22-30 percent less efficiently with hard water, driving up utility bills unnecessarily.

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