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Everything you need to know about hard water and how an electronic descaler can help

Hard water and electronic water descaler

Around 60% of the UK’s water supply is hard. Many other countries have hard water supplies, including up to 90% of the water supply in the US.

Due to the high mineral content in the water, hard water itself is not a problem. It does however create other issues, particularly within your water system. Limescale is a major problem that many of us will be only too aware of.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can minimise such problems. Here is everything you need to know about hard water and how you can minimise the problems by using an electronic water descaler.

What is hard water?

What is hard water?

Water that is referred to as being ‘hard’ is due to the high levels of minerals present in the water. There is no difference in the rigidity of the water, and the water quality remains the same. It is all down to what’s at the molecular level.

Minerals such as magnesium and calcium are the culprits. Guilty as charged! The greater the amount of calcium and magnesium ions present determines the hardness.

In comparison, soft water has minimal amounts of these mineral ions and usually consists of greater amounts of sodium ions or salt.

The classification of water hardness is dependent on the amount of minerals present:

Hard water levels

Parts per million (PPM) can also measure hardness. For the Chemistry buffs out there, check out more scientific information on hard water.

Hard water in the UK

Areas within the South and East of England experience the highest levels of water hardness. The water supplied to these regions are exposed to higher amounts of chalk and limestone as the water passes through the granite regions in the North and West of the UK.

Swindon is reported to have the hardest water, reaching up to 349 mg/L. Slough, Milton Keynes, Hemel Hampstead, and Bath also have very hard water.

Anyone living in the following counties will also experience high levels of hardness:
•    Bedfordshire
•    Berkshire
•    Buckinghamshire
•    Cambridgeshire
•    Dorset
•    Essex
•    Gloucestershire
•    Greater London
•    Hampshire
•    Hertfordshire
•    Kent
•    Oxfordshire
•    Surrey
•    Sussex
•    Wiltshire

You cannot judge hardness by just observing it. Instead, you can watch the effects of soap solutions. Hard water forms a precipitate sud as opposed to a lather produced with soft water. The ions destroy the surfactant properties of soap. This makes it more difficult to wash, requiring more soap for a sufficient lather.

See how hard the water is in your area.

It came from the sea

Rain cycle

To begin with, water is not hard. For it to get hard, it needs to pass through limestone and chalk rocks. You were probably taught at school about the water cycle. Well, this is how it becomes hard.

To begin with, water in the seas, oceans, and lakes evaporates. And this is where the story begins. On a nice day, the sun will heat the water from these sources. Then, evaporation causes the vapour to rise into the sky.

As the vapour cools, it condenses to become droplets. These droplets form clouds. The clouds continue to form and transport droplets inland. Once enough water has condensed, the drops are heavy enough to fall to the ground.

Here we have precipitation. Meteorologically speaking, precipitation is where the condensation of atmospheric vapour falls from the clouds under the gravitational pull. Newton anyone? In other words, we have rain (or snow depending on how cold it is). Either way, the water at this stage is still not hard.

The rain needs to fall onto sedimentary rocks, such as limestone or chalk, with calcium and magnesium compounds present. That shouldn’t be too difficult as limestone can be commonly found all over the surface of the Earth.

The water then percolates through the rocks. As it percolates through the rock deposits, the minerals are dissolved into the water. Limestone is slightly soluble which allows the minerals to be dissolved. It is here now that the water becomes hard.

Finally, the water then flows from the rocks and into streams and reservoirs before going on to form our water supply.

Is it damaging to our health?

Hard water and health

There has been no conclusive evidence to indicate that hard water can have damaging effects on our health. The calcium and magnesium minerals can provide health benefits and contribute to our daily mineral intake.

Magnesium is essential for supporting muscles, nerve function and energy production. Calcium is also essential for bone and teeth development. Calcium can also be beneficial to aid blood clotting and support normal heart rhythms. Some people also prefer the taste.

The only negative effective it may have on our health is the contribution to kidney stones. However, the consensus appears to be that drinking hard water alone does not form kidney stones. Discover more about the World Health Organisation's guidelines on hardness.

There has been some research that indicates water hardness can increase the effects caused by eczema. Areas that have a hard supply have reportedly experienced higher levels of those suffering from Eczema.

Around 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults are reported to have eczema in the UK. People report that soft water feels cleaner and silky to the skin. While there is no cure for Eczema, reducing the effects of water hardness can help minimise the effects.

Find out more about the effects on eczema.

What’s the problem?

Hard water problems

While not damaging to our health, the excess mineral content can create many problems. The mineral ions start to solidify in hot water.

They attach themselves to the nearest hard surface and solidify, forming calcium carbonate (or limescale). The most prevalent example to showcase the build-up of limescale is inside a kettle.

As the water is boiled at speed, the limescale can build up very quickly. While not particularly pleasant to your tea or coffee, the problems of limescale build-up stretch far beyond your kettle.

Remove limescale from kettle

Anywhere in the house where water is heated will see a build-up of scale. That includes your kitchen appliances, heating, boilers, and bathroom facilities.

If you were to look inside your plumbing pipes, you’d be surprised to see the amount of scale that can build up. Around 1.5mm (that’s the thickness of a grain of rice) builds up.

Think limescale buildup insulating a pipe

That includes taps, on hard surfaces, and inside your appliances. Not only can scale lead to iron and steel pipes corroding, but hard water also causes other problems.

As scale continues to build up, your appliances need to work harder. Washing machines, dishwashers, and other kitchen appliances are all affected. Over time, the appliances become less efficient and will require regular maintenance and replacement parts.

Eventually, you’ll need to replace the appliance altogether. An expense many households and businesses would wish to avoid. Appliances that see a build-up of scale have a much-reduced life.

Because it happens beneath the surface, many people are unaware of the problem. The same goes for your heating too. As scale continues to build up, it insulates your pipes and heating.

It makes the heating less efficient, and you may find yourself turning the thermostat up to get the same heating effects. The scale not only creates greater inefficiency with your heating but also increases your heating bills.

Scale that builds up in the bathroom and around sinks will also require spending on additional cleaning products to get rid of the unsightly marks. Whether it’s built up around an outlet, or the watermarks left on a surface, specialist cleaning products will need to be acquired to get rid of the calcium stains.

To highlight the significance of the issue caused by hard water, look at these facts:
•    A 1mm layer of scale in heating systems can cause a drop in efficiency of 12%.
•    The 1mm scale build-up increases your boiler energy input by 7%.
•    Your annual energy bills could, on average, increase by £200.
•    Clothes washed in appliances wear down quicker.
•    Excessive washing can cause glasswork to become more brittle.
•    Pipes are more likely to crack and break, causing damaging leaks.
•    Skin becomes itchier and more irritable, and hair can seem dry after washing.

Electronic water descaler

If you experience any of the of the above problems, you may decide to finally act. To overcome such problems, an electronic water descaler can be used to help get rid of such problems.

What are they?

Electronic water descalers are an ideal option for anyone who wishes to overcome the problems caused by hard water. While only a small device, they can have great benefits.

These devices are ideal for both homes and businesses that want to get rid of all those damaging consequences of scale build-up.

So, how do they work?

There is often a misconception about electronic descalers. They either don’t work or add other minerals and salts to the water. While that may be the case for water softeners that use ion exchange resins, it most certainly is not for water descalers. And yes, water descalers do work.

A water descaler works by altering the behaviour of the mineral ions. The water descalers are fitted to the water supply. They are quick and easy to install and does not take up a mass amount of room. Just a little device that fits neatly by the plumbing.

The devices work by creating an electromagnetic field. An electrical current is passed through the water. The electrical current alters the behaviour of the ions to prevent them from solidifying the building up. No more nasty calcium deposits.

You still get the same great taste of your water and the minerals that are good for you. It just eliminates all the problems caused by scale build-up.

Why should I use one?

Installing an electronic water descaler can provide a vast number of benefits. They take up very little room, are easy to install and require next to no maintenance.

Aside from the cost of the appliances, the only running cost is a small amount of electricity. You’ll end up saving money as your appliances become much more efficient.

There are no additional chemicals or salt added to your water supply, and the water is safe to drink. No damage is caused to the environment either. The beneficial minerals to our health are kept in the water. The devices are also more cost-effective compared to a water softener.

Asides from the low price, installation is easy. All you need to do is find the main water supply and attach the coils of wire from the descaler. Then, attach the device to a nearby wall (away from any damp) and switch it on. It’s as simple as that.

You’ll also experience other benefits too over installing a water softener:
•    No scale deposits.
•    Appliance’s lifespan is longer.
•    Less maintenance required saving you money.
•    Cracks and leaks are less likely to appear in your water pipes.
•    Blockages are also less likely to happen inside your pipes.
•    No unsightly scale build-up around water outlets or on surfaces.
•    Efficiency of heating systems won’t be affected by insulation.
•    Eczema conditions will improve.
•    Reduce water usage and increased water pressure.
•    Creating a lather with soap, shampoo and other detergents is easier.
•    Washed clothes feel more comfortable and softer.

While not a problem that affects everyone, it still causes prevalent problems for many people living in the UK. Hopefully, you’ve found out everything you need to know about hard water and why you should consider using a water descaler. With so many benefits, why not give it a try?