The issue of hard water can be likened to that of mold. Creeping, consuming and otherwise slow building, it’s a problem that affects not only the health of home occupants but also impacts everything associated with water in the home. The only point where these two break is that the health effects aren’t necessarily as severe.
“While hard water doesn’t often cause substantial health risks, other contaminants often found in conjunction with hard water can cause notable health issues such as stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, dehydration, and be problematic for infants,” states Tim Dunphy, Water Expert at Leaf Home, a home improvement company dedicated to health and sustainability in residential buildings.
Not to mention, hard water can cause mineral build-up in appliances using it, causing them to require more maintenance and even break down more frequently. It can even impact the overall appearance of a home through unpleasant scaling and hard water stains on affected surfaces.
It’s an important topic to address when dealing with water quality in the home, and one that remains largely open for discussion, as Leaf Home found out in a recent survey addressing public awareness of hard water in the home.
The Impact of Hard Water on Homeowners
In contrast to normal water, hard water is simply water that has high levels of magnesium and calcium carbonates. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), 80% of all US homes have hard water in them.
Most commonly, hard water causes a variety of systemic issues throughout a building, including mineral scaling on shower heads and faucets, laundry stains and clogged or even burst pipes, which can cost, at their worst, thousands of dollars. Hard water can also impact one’s hygienic routine.
“The excess calcium and magnesium in hard water doesn’t allow water to nourish hair, so it becomes dull, brittle, and difficult to manage,” he continues. “Soap scum caused by excess calcium in hard water may prevent bacteria from being removed and leave skin irritated, instigating dry skin problems such as eczema.”
The USGS says all it takes is one grain per gallon of water to cause an issue. That’s because when you scale it up based on water usage: that is 21 pounds of minerals going through a home’s pipes in a single year, and that’s something a simple under-the-sink filtration system isn’t going to be able to cover outside of drinking water.
And homeowners are fairly cognizant of these effects. Of the thousand or so that Leaf Home interviewed, 54% were aware of the underlying health issues associated with hard water. Meanwhile, 68% percent were aware of the impact it causes throughout the home. There were slight disparities between age groups, with those over 60+ being more aware of the health effects than those in the 25 – 40 range, but that only showcases an awareness.
A ‘Clear Disconnect’ Between Concern and Action in Homeowners
In that same survey, Leaf Home found that despite 68% percent of people being aware of the issues that hard water causes, only 33% of those people have ever tested their water for it. Of those that tested, 43% were done over five years ago. Younger demographics were also more likely to test (41%) compared to older generations (34%).
It’s also worth noting that people who received their water from a well were far less concerned about hard water, even though well water is far more likely to have more minerals in it.
“These survey results should not only raise flags for us at Leaf Home, but for anyone who works in water quality, as they clearly show a disconnect between homeowners’ water quality concerns and the actions, they’ve taken to address them,” states Dunphy.
However, this is where professionals have an opportunity to step in and offer a critical wellness solution for homeowners. As Dunphy suggests, it’s important to inform clients that they have access to free water testing and professional consultations through organizations like Leaf Home to find a water softening solution that best fits their home needs.
“Treating hard water and choosing a water softening solution can be a difficult decision for homeowners, as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” Dunphy continues. “I’ve seen the biggest success from helping homeowners understand that we evaluate multiple factors when recommending a water solution for them, including the homeowner’s water source, family needs, and budget.”
Most Homes Already Have Some Form of Filtration in Place
On average, a whole house system that covers both softening and purification costs around $3,500, according to Leaf Home. And according to the study, 80% of respondents have the purification part covered. If properly maintained, those systems can last for nearly a decade before needing to be replaced wholesale.
“Water filters come with a manufacturer recommendation on when they should be replaced, but this is usually based on general assumptions of usage and baseline water quality,” Dunphy states. “It’s important to recognize that water quality varies from home to home because Americans receive their water from different sources.”
“In addition to water conditions, the amount of water being filtered, and the size of the filter also play a role in how frequently the filter should be changed. With that being said, I believe the best way for homeowners to ensure their filter is doing its job is to listen to home advisors who are recommending and installing the water solution. They will have the best understanding of a home’s unique conditions.”
Technology like water flow sensors can help with this, and paint a feasible roadmap for maintenance, much like one would with oil changes on a car. For integrators, this should be familiar territory, even if you’re new to installing smart water solutions. Any familiarity with setting up alerts and notifications actively benefits this type of system, paving the way for specialized services such as cloud-based monitoring or automated filter replacements.
Unaddressed but Not Unwanted
Though hard water has largely gone under-addressed in the home, concerns surrounding it still tap into a prevalent issue in America, that of water security. Given the fact that headlines this past summer have discussed heat waves, droughts, water conservation, water rerouting and water contamination almost constantly, it is safe to assume that all eyes are on our water.
Being able to provide a water softening solution presents two distinct benefits: improved health and hygiene and less money being spent on repairs and replacements of plumbing and appliances. Where integrators shine is being able to create a smarter water system that not only does all of the above but also provides assurance and ease of maintenance for homeowners.