The true cost of hard water
Many know hard water to be an annoyance that leaves scale buildup all over surfaces, and leaves skin feeling dry and itchy. The constant application of lotion and use of conditioners and other hair products is annoying. Not to mention the constant cleanup required for showers and fixtures. Even with all of this, many still consider a water conditioner to be a luxury that will cost them more money.
In many cases however, the opposite is true. Having hard water run through your home and wreak havoc on your appliances will end up costing more than having soft water, and homeowners have to fight with water all the same.
In 2009 the Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF) did a study of the effects of hard water on appliances. They found that a dishwasher running with hard water required twice as much detergent to get the dishes clean, though there was still a film left on the dishes. Furthermore, the hard water was detrimental to the dishwasher’s function after only 240 cycles requiring repair or replacement in order to continue functioning. Depending on the size of the household, 240 cycles could be less than 1 year.
The same study by the WQRF looked at water heaters as well. They found that water heaters using soft water would maintain their efficiency for 15 YEARS. The same efficiency as when they left the factory for 15 years. That is pretty incredible, but not as incredible as the hard water results. Water heaters that had hard water in them, lost up to 48% efficiency before they quit functioning. 48% efficiency loss means TWICE as much energy required to heat the water 24 hours a day 365 days per year. Just think about the effect that has on a power bill!
Actual photos of a water heater on 12 gpg water for 7 years. So much scale had developed that the heater couldn’t be drained out the bottom.
While it was not covered in the WQRF study, we’ve also seen the devastating effect of hard water on hot water re circulation pumps and piping. The water has so much time while it recirculates that nearly 100% of the calcium and magnesium form scale in the already small diameter pipes (usually 1/2″) until no water can flow, or the pump burns out, or both.
Now factor in the cost of replacing those appliances. A dishwasher is $500 and a decent water heater is at least $400, and that’s if you’re savvy enough to replace them on your own. Let’s assume a generous 5 year (60 month) lifespan for these appliances on hard water. That equates to $15/mo for replacement cost alone. That’s negating the additional energy cost, additional soap, etc. Add to that your washing machine, fridge icemaker, coffee brewer, every faucet in your house, all of your showerheads, the cost of all the cleaning products, the extra lotions and conditioners, and even (but hopefully not) bottled water. Multiple studies have shown that hard water (15 gpg) costs a family of four $48.00/month.
That’s more than a water system costs! At that cost you’re already buying a water system, but you’re not enjoying any of the benefits.
Conditioned water makes sense on many levels, but the $$ proves that it is anything but a luxury item.