How to prevent hard water from ruining your plumbing

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From kettles to shower heads, hard water can affect just about every part of your plumbing system. But it isn't just a case of having unsightly taps on your bath. The build-up of limescale from hard water can reduce the water pressure in your pipes, and it can also stop your appliances from working properly. But don't worry: we're here to help. We recently teamed up with James from Plumber Parts to bring you a series of videos about protecting your plumbing. Here’s how to protect yourself from the damage caused by hard water, and to show you how to test the hardness of your water supply:

1. Install a water softener system

One of the easiest ways to deal with hard water in your home is to get a water softener system installed. They're usually fitted under your kitchen sink, so that they're close to the source of the cold water supply entering your home. Water softener systems work by trading the calcium and magnesium found in hard water for sodium ions. That's why you need to put salt into your water softener for it to work. But that doesn’t mean you'll end up drinking salty water all day: the levels of sodium in water after it's been softened are actually quite low. Depending on the hardness of the water, your water softener will eventually reach its capacity – usually every few days. When this happens, the water softener system regenerates, using the brine solution you've made by adding salt. And if there's ever a problem with your water softener, you can bypass the system to return to your normal hard water supply. Just take a look at the video above to see how. A water softener system could also be helpful if you have an older plumbing system or it has already been damaged by hard water.

2. Install an in-line magnetic filter

Another great way of preventing the damage caused by hard water is to use an in-line magnetic filter. Instead of removing the magnesium and calcium particles from the water, the filter uses a magnetic field to change the particles into a more spherical shape. This new shape means that the calcium and magnesium particles won't cling to the inside of your pipes and plumbing components. So although the minerals are still there, your plumbing is protected against the damage that would normally be caused by hard water in its natural state.

3. How to find out if you have hard water

Testing the hardness of your water supply is really easy. You can buy a water-hardness testing kit online, or you can find them at most plumbing and DIY stores. You might also get a free test kit when you buy a water softener, so you can test how hard your water is before you adjust the softener to the right settings. Most of these kits work in a similar way:

  1. Pour a glass of water from your kitchen's cold tap
  2. Dip one of the test strips into the water
  3. Keep it submerged, without moving it, for the amount of time specified in the test kit's instructions
  4. Pull the test strip out, and compare the colour of the test strip to the colours on the chart provided with the kit