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Hard water can wreak havoc on all your water-using appliances, so if you know you have it, you can be fairly certain it’s affecting the efficiency of your water heater. Hard water contains a number of minerals, most commonly calcium and magnesium. These minerals can build up over time, especially in appliances that use hot water, as heating the water separates the minerals and causes them to settle or form scaly deposits around heating elements. Over time, this buildup can lower a water heater’s capacity by reducing the amount of space for water inside the tank. Buildup also impacts efficiency because it collects near the heating elements and makes heating cycles take longer.
While you may not be able to change the hardness of the water coming into your home, you can perform a few interventions that can help restore your water heater back to its original condition.
Lower the temperature. The hotter the water, the faster the minerals in hard water build up because the minerals are more easily separated at higher temperatures. Manufacturers typically recommend setting your temperature to 120◦F, which is the maximum recommendation if you have hard water. If you’re comfortable setting the temperature a little lower, that’s even better. Changing the temperature won’t stop hard water buildup, but it will slow it down.
Flush the water heater. Flushing your water heater involves completely draining the tank so that minerals suspended in the water or loose scales built up around heating elements are swept out. Some methods of flushing also include keeping the cold water valve open so the water coursing through loosens more buildup. You can perform a water heater flush on your own, but most experts recommend hiring a professional to perform this work. Opening a spigot and valves that get little use can be risky, as these components can break or fail depending on their condition. Also, the water coming out of the tank is extremely hot, and a misstep could cause injury.
Get a water softener. A whole-house water softener removes hard water minerals as water enters the home from a well or public source. Because this happens upstream of your water heater, hard water minerals have already been removed by the time the water reaches the tank. No minerals, no buildup.
If you have concerns about hard water and your water heater and need advice, request an appointment with a trusted IT Landes plumber. To learn more about our water heater options, including tankless systems, visit itlandes.com/water-heater-installation.