Hard Water and Your Water Heater


The effects of hard water are detrimental to the life of any hot water heater. In this article we’ve broken down what hard water is, and its effects on your home’s water heater.


Is Rainwater Considered Hard or Soft Water?

Rainwater is considered soft water because it’s relatively pure and mineral free. As rainwater is absorbed into the ground, it passes through soil and rock on its way to rivers and other bodies of water. Along this journey, the soft rainwater changes to hard water as the minerals from the ground are dissolved. Hard water contains a high concentration of natural minerals, particularly calcium carbonate and magnesium.


What is Limescale?

When mineral-laden hard water enters our homes, a scaly build-up begins to form. This scaly buildup is called limescale.

Limescale (or calcium scale) is a hard, off-white, chalky substance often found on the metallic parts of water-operated machinery. It is particularly common in machinery that involves heating elements or heat transfer elements, such as:

  • Boilers
  • Hot water tanks
  • Heat exchangers
  • Tankless water heaters

What is a Tankless Water Heater?

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, use high-powered burners to rapidly heat water. Water runs through a heat exchanger and delivers it directly to your faucets or showers without storing it in a tank. These water heaters are usually powered with electricity or gas.

According to tests conducted by Consumer Reports, tankless water heaters are 22% more energy efficient on average than gas-fired storage-tank models.


How Does Hard Water Effect Your Water Heater?

Hard water causes calcium buildup. The harder the water, the more quickly buildup will accumulate. Buildup of minerals in a tankless water heater causes the heat exchanger to work harder than it should. Eventually, the heat exchanger will overheat due to the increased workload, and in many cases trigger an error code.

The hardness of the water in your specific area will ultimately determine how often your tankless water heater will need to be serviced.

Calcium, sediment, and other mineral buildup needs to be regularly removed from your tankless hot water system. If not removed, it can reduce the heating efficiency of your tankless heater. Calcium and sediment buildup acts as an insulator, preventing the elements from heating water efficiently and using more energy than necessary.

Buildup can also obstruct the pipes and reduce the flow rate of your tankless water heater. It can accumulate to such a degree that it even blocks pipes, causing clogs, leaks and potential damage to your water heater.


Protect Your Home

To protect your water heater from costly repairs and frequent servicing, the water entering the tank should be softened/conditioned. By installing a Pro Elite water softening system from WaterDaddy, your water will be softened prior to entering your tank, saving it from the wear and tear caused by buildup.

For more information on water softening and conditioning systems or to schedule a water hardness test please call 509-381-7818 or schedule your FREE in-home water test here.

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