Limescale is a significant problem in Wisconsin, which can eventually lead to blocked pipes and severely reduced water flow. It can also build up inside your faucets and shower head and will leave mineral spots on your shower door, tiles, and clean dishes. In addition, limescale can damage your water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, and coffee maker and cause them to leak or break down much quicker. Hard water also makes it more difficult for soap to lather appropriately, which is why your clothes come out of the laundry feeling stiff and dingy. It also leaves your skin feeling dry and itchy after your shower.
All these issues mean that you should always take steps to prevent limescale from becoming a problem. Both water softeners and filtrations systems can help in this regard, but you must understand how they work to determine the better option.
Understanding Hard Water and Limescale
Most of Wisconsin has quite hard water, creating numerous mineral issues for your plumbing and appliances. Hard water has a high concentration of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium. Whenever you use your plumbing, many of these minerals get left behind and will harden into limescale. When hard water is present, the minerals will continually collect inside your pipes and cause numerous plumbing issues.
The US Geological Survey measures and categorizes water hardness based on how many milligrams of dissolved minerals are present in one liter of water. For example, suppose 60 to 120 milligrams of minerals are in a liter. In that case, the water classification increases to hard water. Reading 121 to 180 milligrams per liter is hard, and anything above 180 milligrams is very hard.
Wausau has the lowest concentration in Wisconsin, but the water is still moderately hard, with a concentration of around 90 milligrams per liter. The average across the state is approximately 156 milligrams per liter, while Madison has the hardest water with a whopping 350 mg/l. These numbers show just how big of a problem hard water is and why every homeowner should take steps to soften their water and prevent limescale issues.
How Water Softeners Work
Water softeners work by using charged ions that attract and hold on to any dissolved minerals. The water softener tank is filled with thousands of small resin beads. These beads carry a negative charge, while calcium and magnesium particles are both positively charged. Since negative and positive ions attract, the dissolved minerals stick to the resin beads and are filtered out. This removes almost all of the minerals before the water flows out of the tank.
The only problem is that each resin bead can only hold onto one mineral particle, which means the process can only work for so long. This is why most water softeners have a secondary brine tank next to the softener tank that is used for flushing out any minerals from the resin beads. The tank is filled with salt pellets, which are mixed with water at the bottom of the tank to form a brine.
Whenever the softener tank needs to be flushed, brine is pumped into it and through the resin beads. All of the salt particles in the brine are also negatively charged. When they encounter the negatively charged mineral particles, the salt ions repel them and cause the resin beads to release all of the minerals. The tank is then flushed with fresh water, and all of the salt and mineral particles are washed out of the tank and into a nearby drain. Once the tank is flushed, the resin beads are free to capture more particles so the softening process can work again.
There are also salt-free water softeners that use potassium instead. These work in mostly the same way and are a great choice for any place where there are restrictions against using a brine-based softener.
How a Filtration System Can Prevent Limescale
Water filtration systems are designed to eliminate most all contaminants and dissolved particles. This means that they can both soften your water and ensure it is clean and pure. The most common type of system is a reverse-osmosis filter, which can trap most minerals, including calcium, magnesium, lead, copper, iron, mercury, and arsenic. These systems can also remove pesticides, bacteria, viruses, chlorine, fluoride, and any sediments or particulates.
Reverse osmosis filters work by using a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane has tiny holes that allow water molecules to pass through. However, any minerals and other impurities in the water are too large to pass through the membrane and are filtered out as the water flows through. This process can filter out up to 95% of all dissolved minerals and other particles. As a result, your water will be softer, cleaner, and better tasting.
Most reverse-osmosis filtration systems are point-of-use units that are installed directly at a sink or other plumbing fixture. This ensures that the water coming out of that fixture is clean and free of any contaminants or minerals. The only issue is that this type of system does nothing to stop limescale from building up inside your pipes or affecting the rest of the fixtures inside your home.
There are whole-house reverse-osmosis filters that can clean the water coming into the building before it flows into your plumbing. There are several issues with using this type of system, though. For starters, they take up a huge amount of space. They also waste quite a bit of water and require a lot of regular maintenance.
Another issue with any type of RO filtration system is that hard water puts a lot of stress on the filter and will often cause the system to break down much sooner. To prevent this, it is recommended to install a carbon pre-filter to help remove some of the minerals before the water flows into the RO system.
That being said, we always recommend that homes with hard water instead use a water softener. You can then install a point-of-use RO system at your kitchen sink. This will ensure that you won’t have any issues with limescale anywhere in the home while also making sure that the water you drink and cook with is clean and free of any impurities. You can even run an additional line from the RO system under your sink to your refrigerator so that your ice is also clean and doesn’t have an unpleasant taste.
Wisconsin’s Hard Water Experts
At Southport Home Services, we specialize in a range of plumbing services and can help you overcome any hard water and limescale problems. Our licensed plumbers install water softeners as well as different types of water filtration systems for both residential and commercial buildings. We also offer sewer and drain cleaning services as well as install, maintain and repair sump pumps and water heaters.
Our team also includes certified HVAC technicians that specialize in all types of heating and air conditioning services. We have locations in Wausau, Madison, and Caledonia and are ready to help with any of your plumbing or HVAC needs. For more information or if you need to schedule a service call, contact Southport Home Services today.