Hard water is a scourge upon any home. It clogs pipes and shower heads, leaves chalky residue around your faucets, makes your skin and hair feel terrible, and ruins your glassware. It also can contribute to serious water heater problems.
But don’t worry: hard water isn’t an unstoppable evil, and your water heater won’t be corrupted just for touching it. But you will need to stay diligent.
What Is Hard Water?
You’ve most likely heard the term “hard water” plenty of times, but you may not know the technical definition and reasoning behind it.
In nature, water will run over the ground and rocks. Along the way, it picks up minerals like magnesium and calcium. These two minerals, in particular, are very stubborn and won’t be dissolved easily. They’ll stay in the water through the entire treatment process and end up in your home plumbing system. Once there, they’ll cause all sorts of annoying symptoms like those listed above: leaving soap scum on your glassware, making your skin and hair feel bad, and creating limescale deposits in your pipes and on your fixtures.
Water Heater Sediment
Another common place that hard water ends up is inside your water heater. The heat from the burner can cause minerals to separate from the water, especially magnesium and calcium. They’ll then build up at the bottom of your water heater and become what’s known as “water heater sediment.”
How Water Heater Sediment Affects the Tank
Experts familiar with water heaters in Grand Rapids, MI know that water heater sediment is nothing new. They know all about it and what it can do to your water heater. Some of the problems it creates include:
- Lowered efficiency: Excessive sediment buildup can create a layer of insulation between the burner and the water. The water will take longer to heat, meaning more energy will be consumed in the process.
- Weakening of the tank: Areas beneath the sediment can trap heat and become too hot. This will weaken the steel and can lead to a leak (and that means a complete water heater replacement).
- Noises: The sediment can create air bubbles, which then pop inside the tank. This can create noises that are more annoying than harmful, but enough to serve as a warning that there’s too much sediment.
What to Do About It
Of course, what you want to know is what you’re supposed to do about these water heater sediments. There are two approaches you can take:
- Water softening: This is the proactive approach. By installing a water softener, you’ll be able to actively remove some of the minerals that make up water heater sediment. This will reduce the number of times you have to flush the tank.
- Flushing the tank: Regardless of whether or not you have a water softener, you’ll always need to flush your water heater when the sediments have built up too much. This involves simply removing all the water from the tank and then letting it fill back up again.