Hard Water Treatment Can Prevent Damage to Pipes in the Sacramento Area


hard water treatmentOur client was dismayed. She’d just finished remodeling her bathroom and her new shower door—a frameless piece of hand cut glass—was already developing a film of soap scum. It’s a common source of distress for homeowners here in the Central Valley: hard water. “Hard water” describes the concentration of heavy minerals in a water supply, measured in parts-per-million, or ppm. Water that has less than 60 ppm is considered “soft,” while anything over 60 means the water is hard. On average, Sacramento groundwater sources have levels of 170 ppm! The lowest levels in the city are 65 ppm, and some areas tested as high as 370 ppm. At that point, you can actually taste it.

More Than Just a Matter of Taste

But taste is the least concern. Hard water contains minerals—lots of them. When sent through piping, those minerals coat the interior of the pipe. As this happens over time, more and more buildup will occur. This process is called “scaling,” and we’ve cut open copper pipes so thick with deposits they were almost clogged shut. Because it takes years to build up, it’s hard to notice a reduction in water flow, but it’s destroying your plumbing all the while. It will also hurt appliances that use water, like coffee makers or water filters. These appliances are a lot smaller than your pipes and faucets, so it doesn’t take much to clog them and render them useless. We had a friend who needed a new coffee machine every year—and he wasn’t buying cheap ones, either. After the sixth or seventh one broke he threw his hands in the air and went to a French press instead. Around that time his pipes started failing. He’d ignored a very common warning sign of hard water scaling.

Scaling can have other bad effects if left unchecked. While very uncommon, pressurized water systems (like boilers and water heaters) can fail catastrophically if scaled pipes prevent water flow. In our opinion the biggest hard water concern is costly pipe replacement and repairs, not a doomsday explosive scenario. Still, it is a possibility to be aware of.

What Do I Do?

By now you’re probably wondering if hard water is something to be worried about in your home or office. It’s definitely a concern for anyone living here in the Sacramento region, and that goes double if your plumbing is more than a decade old. There’s good news, though, on all fronts. First, hard water is very easy to check for. Our plumbers can come out and assess whether your property is at risk for hard water damage or not; if hard water is detected they can then ascertain how much damage (if any) has been done to the plumbing. Second, once we know the situation we can tailor a plan to meet your needs. This may be as simple as flushing your pipes with a cleaning agent to remove scaling; if you’re already experiencing leaks, water stoppage, or other issues caused by advanced scaling we’ll replace the damaged plumbing in addition to cleaning.

The third piece of good news comes in the form of one word: prevention. Cleaning and repair will take care of existing hard water damage, but what about preventing it in the future? Ensuring the long-term integrity of your plumbing is a top priority, and the best way to do that is with water softening. Water softeners are devices that do exactly what you’d expect–they soften hard water. The most common way to do this is with mineral replacement, a simple chemical process that grabs the hard minerals before they get into your house. These systems are tried and true and work well.

Other Methods of Hard Water Treatment

There’s another method besides replacement, though. A new—but very cool—method for treating hard water is called “magnetic water conditioning,” which changes the minerals in the water so they won’t scale on your pipes. This method is eco-friendly and causes minimum interference and maintenance. It’s water softening without the chemicals or the maintenance, which can be a real relief to homeowners already dealing with plumbing issues. In addition, the device is comparatively inexpensive.

Hard water can be a real headache, but it does not have to be. We recommend contacting a good plumber like Bell Brothers if you’re having concerns or problems with hard water. We’ll be able to address your situation, answer specific questions, and help you come up with an action plan for your plumbing. What you shouldn’t do is wait–if hard water is causing build-up in your tub and shower, it’s probably scaling your plumbing as well. As for our client–she followed our advice. A fair amount of scaling was removed from her plumbing but fortunately a cleaning was all that was needed (no repairs or replacements). After the cleaning she installed a water softener outside her home, and she hasn’t looked back. No more soap residue on that shower door, and no more damage to the pipes! So if your Valley home is in need of hard water treatment, contact Bell Brothers.