Hard Water in Bristol
Bristol is a naturally hard water area, and this can clog up appliances so it’s worth bearing in mind when you consider how regularly to call a plumber.
Is Water Naturally Hard or Soft?
Rainwater is mineral free, and, therefore, ‘soft’, when it first falls from the sky but when the water enters the soil, especially when there are porous or sedimentary rocks, it will begin to leach minerals from the rocks and soil and become ‘hard’. Water treatment plants do not remove these minerals, so the water you get in your house or business premises will have mineral content determined by your geographic location. More people in the UK live in hard water areas than soft water areas. People who live in Scotland and the far South West are likely to have naturally softer water.
Distinguishing Between Hard and Soft Water
Water is classified as hard or soft depending on its mineral content, in particular its content of calcium and magnesium. Soft water contains less than 17 parts per million of these minerals, while slightly hard water has 17 to 60 parts per million, moderately hard has 60 to 120 parts per million, hard has 120 to 180 parts per million and very hard water has more than 180 parts per million
Is Hard Water a Problem?
Hard water is mineralised water. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with minerals. In fact, minerals are essential to the body. However, in some cases they may pose health risks. Too much magnesium can be linked to renal issues and diarrhoea, and hard water has been implicated in eczema and other skin conditions. Yet, the concentrations of minerals would have to be very high for these conditions to develop. As far as taste is concerned, moderate minerals may improve water’s taste. Water softened by using a chemical or filtration system may taste slightly salty.
Shampoo, soap and other bathing products may not lather up as well with hard water. Fabrics may feel harder after being laundered with hard water and may cause skin irritation. Hard water can also cause scum marks. The reality, though, is that neither type of water offers a better or worse clean.
The defining reason why hard water’s mineralised nature gets a bad rap is the fact that the minerals can be deposited on pipes and in water-using appliances, and this can create plumbing issues for homes and negatively affect the operation of appliances. The problem regarding pipes was very evident when homes were built using galvanized steel, from the mid-1940s to mid-1970s, because excessive levels of calcium and magnesium tended to stick to the inside of the pipes. Modern pipe materials are not as prone to this as galvanized steel is.
Plumbing and Hard Water
From a plumbing angle, scale build-up can result in reduced lifespan and damage to pipes, boilers and other appliances. The more mineral build up you get the weaker the flow of water through pipes and stresses on pipework can mean bursts and leaks. Any appliances that heat water will suffer even more build up because heating means larger deposits of calcium carbonate.
Expensive bills are in the offing if you have to get serious plumbing work done. Hard water can also significantly up your energy bills if your boiler is burdened by deposits of minerals. Replacement appliances are also costly.
It is advisable to get your water tested to find out what it contains and how this affects your plumbing system.
Many plumbers advocate the installation of a water softener.
Water Filters and Water Softeners
Water Filters remove unwanted minerals from hard water. Sequestration filters are commonly used in scale inhibiting filters to sequester calcium and magnesium. Food grade polyphosphate, introduced in very small amounts, does the sequestering. However, it only inhibits scale, versus removes it, by keeping the minerals within the solution, so preventing them forming as scale on any surfaces. Reverse Osmosis filters remove magnesium and calcium ions by forcing water through a semipermeable membrane, such that most of the calcium and magnesium are left behind.
The means of operation of water softening is ion exchange. This is usually recommended in very hard water areas and in applications where water is kept at a constant high temperature of 95°C or more. Water Softeners use a physical and chemical process to filter water through resin or zeolite, wherein positively charged sodium ions attract calcium and magnesium, physically removing them from the water, and thereby reducing limescale. Resins using sodium ions may not be suitable for drinking water, as the amount of salt (sodium) in drinking water is legally limited to 200 milligrams/litre. An untreated cold-water supply for drinking, cooking and irrigation may need to be kept separately. Hydrogen-based ion exchange resin is the preferred option for drinking water filters.
M P Plumbing and the Soft Water Option
A qualified plumber at MP Plumbing Services can install a water softener at a convenient location for your home or business. The type of filter and whether it is programmable or manual can be discussed. Regular maintenance is necessary to monitor clogs and clean the filtering mechanism. Bacteria and fungi may accumulate in the filter over time and require removal. Cost and maintenance are the downsides.