Here in the UK we’re lucky that we can turn on a tap and get clean water, or switch on the shower and wash in clean, warm water. But whereabouts in the UK we live does affect the type of water we get through our pipes.
Most people know that their area has either hard or soft water – But did you also know that this could affect your appliances, including your boiler?
In hard water areas, you may find that your boiler is more likely to breakdown and could even result in your energy bills being higher.
If you’re unsure how hard the water is in your area, head to https://www.water.org.uk/advice-for-customers/find-your-supplier/ where you can put in your postcode and find out your water supplier (if you don’t know already). Most supplier websites will have a postcode checker to enable you to find out how hard your water is.
What actually is hard water?
You might be wondering what the difference is between hard water and soft.
When rocks and rich soil dissolve in water, they can leave behind minerals such as magnesium and calcium. Hard water is when you get a high concentration of these minerals left in the water. Whilst these minerals are beneficial for many things, they’re not great for our household appliances.
The obvious ones that come to mind are of course kettles and washing machines (we all know the advert jingle for getting your washing machine to live longer!). We often de-scale these appliances and look for ways to avoid limescale build-up caused by hard water.
But we tend not to think of boilers and plumbing being affected by hard water too. Unfortunately though, hard water can have a negative impact on your boiler and heating system too.
In comparison, soft water is usually surface water from rainfall and tends to be in areas of the UK where the soil and rocks are low in calcium and take longer to dissolve. This means that the water has a lower concentration (less than 50mg of calcium carbonate) and thus deemed as soft.
Thankfully it’s not all down to geographical area, and there are ways to put hard water through a softening process to make it easier on our household appliances
Will hard water be a problem for my home?
If you live in a hard water area, then unfortunately you are more likely to encounter problems with some home maintenance.
Let’s look at some of the common problems that can come from hard water.
A build-up of limescale
Essentially, anything that uses water in your home can be affected by hard water. We’ve talked about the higher concentration of minerals in the water -These minerals will gradually build up in your plumbing, leaving a coating of limescale behind.
Most cleaning products need to foam up to be effective. In areas of hard water, the minerals present can stop the cleaning products foaming as much, which can make cleaning more tricky.
Running costs may be higher
Appliances that use water may have to work harder in hard water areas, which in turn could end up using more electricity and driving up your bills. Washing machines, dishwashers and kettles spring immediately to mind, but it is also true for your boiler.
What central heating problems could be caused by hard water?
Obviously we care about your kettles and washing machines, but here at Aura Gas our priority is keeping boilers and heating systems in excellent working order.
Hard water can cause problems for boilers and central heating because of a build-up of limescale in the pipes, radiators and even the boiler itself.
Let’s take a look at hard water problems specific to boilers and heating systems. Where in your heating system might you see damage from hard water?
Boiler heat exchanger – A build-up of limescale on this particular part will cause problems by reducing how much heat it can emit.
Pipes – If a coating of limescale builds up in pipes it affects how much hot water or gas can pass through. This can negatively impact how effective your heating system is. Limescale build-up in pipes can also cause a boiler to work harder and less efficiently, by struggling to maintain a consistent level of heat. If you leave a limescale build-up in pipework for too long, it can cause your boiler to breakdown.
Radiators – This is another place in your heating system that is prone to limescale build-up. Tell-tale signs of a build-up of limescale in your radiator could be rattling noises in the boiler and pipework when turned on.
What can I do to look after my boiler, especially if I live in an area of hard water?
One of the most effective ways of preventing your appliances from hard water damage is to install a water softener machine. This will filter out the minerals and ions, leaving your water with a lower concentration and less likely to cause build-ups of limescale.
There are a few other super simple ways of looking after your boiler and heating system, regardless of whether your water is hard or soft.
To help avoid a boiler breakdown you can:
- Make sure you keep up with annual boiler services. Book it in with a Gas Safe engineer to make sure your boiler continues to work safely and efficiently. If you are a Boiler Care Plan customer with us here at Aura Gas, your annual boiler service is included in your monthly price.
- Help avoid your external pipes from freezing during the winter by insulating them with lagging. This could help prevent your boiler from having a breakdown.
- Use your boiler manual instructions to make sure that your water pressure stays between 1 and 2 bars.
- Always make sure that the pilot light has a strong blue flame. If it is ever yellow or orange, call a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure it is safe. It’s important to keep a carbon monoxide detector close to your boiler at all times.
- Regularly bleed your radiators. This makes sure that you get rid of any air pockets which could stop them from heating up fully.
- It’s a funny thought, but try to turn your heating on for at least 15 minutes once a month during the Summer period – Even if it’s in the middle of the night! This can help to stop any blockages by making sure the water keeps flowing.
- Hearing strange noises all of a sudden? Or maybe your heating isn’t working as well as it used to – Either way, don’t ignore any changes and get them looked over by a Gas Safe registered engineer. This will nip any issues in the bud – Making timely repairs can help to avoid a complete boiler breakdown.
Most of the counties we cover here at Aura Gas will have Hard to Very Hard water (Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex, Berkshire, Surrey and South London). If you have any concerns regarding the efficiency of your boiler or heating system, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.