Hard water is a concern for most households in Texas, and controlling hardness has traditionally involved salt softeners or water conditioners, like HydroFLOW.Water is considered “hard” due to elevated levels of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. It becomes obvious that water is hard when shower heads form limescale blockages, coffee makers clog and soap does not lather very well.
The hardness of water is referred to by three types of measurements: grains per gallon, milligrams per liter (mg/L), or parts per million (ppm). Water in Texas and Oklahoma is generally considered moderate to very hard. This table provides a reference.
The minerals in hard water can build up on the inside of plumbing pipes, in fixtures like toilets, showerheads and sinks. Hard water shortens the life of plumbing and fixtures and water pressure decreases over time due to the accumulation of limescale. The formation of scale is even more prolific when water undergoes temperature change (like a water heater) or pressure change. These conditions cause water to saturate with minerals and the ions form bonds that cause limescale to form on hard surfaces.
When scale forms on water heater elements, the ability to heat water diminishes, since the scale that coats the element must also be heated, which acts like an insulator. The heating elements work harder and begin to fail which is expensive and causes repairs and periods without hot water. 1 millimeter of scale increases energy costs by over 11%.
Scale problems are different between gas and electric water heaters. Both devices have problems with the efficient transfer of heat from the heating element or flame to the water being heated. In electric water heaters, scale first forms on the heating element then flakes off into the tank, building up on the bottom. When the buildup is deep enough to cover the bottom heating element, chances are good that the element will over heat and burn out. Gas water heaters work by applying a flame beneath the water tank. Mineral deposits build up in the bottom of the tank causing it to overheat.
Accumulated scale and flakes that collect in the tank will take up space that limits hot water storage, reducing the holding capacity. People often increase the temperature setting hoping to improve the water temperature, but it is likely that the scale has advanced in thickness to act as an insulator, which not only fails to effectively heat the water, but also concentrates the heat on the element causing it to fail. Energy costs increase, with more frequent repairs and replacement of the water heaters.
Tankless water heaters have the longest lifespan of water heating devices on the market. Since they don’t have a tank, the only concern with scale is the accumulation on piping and components. According to a 2013 report issued by The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a unit under the Department of Energy, Salt-based water softeners have been known to cause corrosion in tankless water heaters.
Water conditioners neither add or remove chemicals in water, and cause a soft scale to cluster in the moving water that prevents attachment to pipes and components. It is wise to flush a hot water tank at least annually to ensure that accumulated scale is removed from the bottom, and follow the manufacturer’s specifications for restarting the unit.
Many tankless “instant” water heaters apply HydroFLOW water conditioners to new units in order to prevent scale from attaching, which extends the life of the device by many years. Conventional gas and electric water heaters with tanks benefit from HydroFLOW water conditioning which prevents scale from forming on elements and surfaces, which extends the useful life by years while reducing maintenance.
HydroFLOW water conditioners require less than 5% of the space of a water softener, use less than $10 per year of electricity, and require no salt or chemicals. The chore of remembering to purchase salt and lifting it to load the softener is eliminated. A HydroFLOW device will condition water for an entire house (less than 5,000 square feet) and will extend the life of water heaters and appliances.
HydroFLOW costs approximately 50-60% less than a water softener, and can be installed without tools in about 5 minutes. No maintenance or chemicals are required, and the microscopic mineral clusters that form in the water are safe to drink and otherwise pass through the water stream.
Water quality and water safety can be accomplished with HydroFLOW, and with less cost and effort.