Calcium Can Destroy Your Water Heater If You’re Not Careful!
Stop us if this sounds familiar:
You’re working in your basement when suddenly your water heater starts making the strangest noises. It sounds like something is banging around in there, but you’re not sure what to do about it, so you ignore it.
Later that night, you are trying to enjoy a nice hot shower. You turn it on to let it warm up before hopping in. After a minute you get in, expecting to feel a refreshing burst of warmth, but instead, it feels like icy daggers! So, you grumble as you huddle in the corner, waiting for it to finally warm up.
As if this weren’t enough, the next day you’re doing your bills and are shocked to discover that your heating bill is super high. So, now you must pay through the nose for water that couldn’t even keep you warm in the shower!
Plus, you suspect that banging noise in your water heater means you’re going to have to replace it soon. Good grief!
What if we told you that these effects stem from one little mineral? Read on to discover how calcium can wreak havoc on your heater and what you can do to prevent these problems.
All These Water Heater Problems from One Mineral?
It’s true! Calcium deposits are one of the leading causes of water heater malfunction in our region.
The element resides in hard water, which flows into 85% of American homes. But the problem is it calcium doesn’t stay in hard water. Instead, as the water flows through our homes, it leaves behind calcium deposits. This sediment can build up over time and cause massive problems.
How Calcium Causes Problems
To understand calcium’s detrimental effects, we must first understand how water heaters work.
How Water Heaters Work
A water heater is a straightforward piece of equipment that performs an essential task. Cold water flows in through it, gets heated by a heat source, and then flows out once you turn on the warm water in your home.
There are two main types of water heaters: gas-powered heaters and electric heaters. In gas powered water heaters, the heat source is an open flame that sits at the bottom of the tank and conveys heat to the water through metal plates. In electric water heaters, the heat source is two electric heating elements. Both heaters are optimally designed to heat the water efficiently. But when calcium enters the equation, heat begins to fade.
The Problem with Calcium Buildup
Just as it does in your plumbing, hard water leaves behind calcium deposits in your water heater. In fact, the high temperatures in water heaters increase the amount of calcium hard water leaves behind.
The calcium then makes itself at home inside the tank. As it builds up, it begins disrupting the heating process by stifling the heating elements. In gas powered heaters, calcium suppresses the metal walls that once so effectively conveyed the heat from the burner flame to the water. It causes similar damage in electric heaters by bombarding their heat elements and causing them to burn out.
With their heat conveyors caked in calcium, the water heaters must work extra hard to produce adequately heated water. As a result, the water in your shower takes longer to warm, and you waste water waiting for it to warm up. And as more calcium invades your heater, it begins to rattle around, causing those strange noises you were wondering about before.
All in all, your heater works less efficiently and ages more quickly, costing you a headache and a whole lot of your hard-earned money.
So, what’s a water heater owner with hard water to do?
How to Fight Back
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent calcium problems from occurring in your water heater. Here are a few actions the experts recommend:
Flushing Your Water Heater Regularly
If you purchase a water heater with a warranty, you will notice that you must annually flush it to preserve the agreement. This is because water manufacturers know that failing to flush a water heater enough can bring the product to an untimely demise.
Conversely, when you do flush your heater, you give it the opportunity to remove the calcium from its system. This process should be done at least once a year to ensure your water heater is functioning correctly.
Flushing a water heater involves turning the heater off and letting all the water drain out (and the calcium particles along with it). While flushing is a relatively simple process, you should be aware that the water you’re flushing can be dangerously hot. So, be sure to give it some time to cool before draining.
There are also chemicals you can use to remove the calcium from the inside of your heater. Two of the most effective chemicals for combating mineral buildup are vinegar and lye.
To clean with vinegar or lye, you must flush the water out of the heater and then let the chemical them sit in the tank a few hours to work its magic. Then you should thoroughly flush the tank to eliminate the chemicals before turning your heater on again.
Keep an Eye on Temperature
As we mentioned earlier, higher temperatures cause hard water to leave behind more calcium. So, one thing you can do to keep calcium buildup to a minimum is to monitor the temperature of your heater. Keep an eye on your thermometer and make sure it doesn’t go above the manufacturer-recommended temperature setting for your tank. Usually, this is somewhere around 120-140 degrees.
Invest in a Water Softener
Of all the solutions, this one is best because it gets to the root of the problem. A quality water softener removes ions from water that cause water hardness, which includes calcium. By removing the element from the water before it enters the water heater, water softeners stop calcium buildup before it starts.
Of course, like any water treatment equipment, a water softener requires regular maintenance to ensure it runs properly. So, be sure to treat your softener right to enjoy soft, warm water for the long haul.
What If the Problem Isn’t Calcium?
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that calcium isn’t the only problem that can affect your water heater. There are also many other problems that you should watch out for, which require regular maintenance.
Here are some of the most common issues:
- Malfunctioning thermostat
- The tank is too small for your home
- Leaky valves
- Faulty heating element
The best way to prevent problems like these from occurring is regular water heater inspection and upkeep. You should keep a close eye on your heater by checking it every six months or so. We also recommend getting it inspected by a licensed plumber every year.
How’s Your Water Heater Performing?
If the story we told at the beginning of this post hit home, then do not delay in taking action! The longer you wait to fix your water heater, the more the calcium will accumulate and the worse the results will be.
At Angel Water, we help our customers maintain their water heaters for fantastic long-term results. We have a team of licensed plumbers who are ready to help you with whatever water heater inspection or maintenance you need.