0808 250 9949 Make an Enquiry


An invisible problem

60% of the UK is provided with hard water which damages expensive equipment, makes your bathroom and kitchens look dirty and, for some, is linked to dry skin and hair. While aesthetically unpleasant, there are also more sinister effects when it comes to energy efficiency and the environment.

Limescale doesn’t just damage heating elements in your expensive appliances, but it also severely reduces their efficiency. This means more energy is used to heat your water and that results in more carbon being released into the atmosphere.

In this article we’ll take a look at how limescale and hard water impact on your home’s sustainability and what you can do about it.


Energy Efficiency

Limescale has a serious impact on an appliance’s efficiency. That’s because it’s a very good insulator so any scaled-up heating element will absorb some of the heat that it’s actually trying to transfer to the water. That means that more energy is required to heat the same amount of water and that means higher bills and more carbon emissions.

The Carbon Trust says that just 1mm of limescale built up on a heating element causes a 7% increase in the amount of energy required to heat the water. If you live in a hard water area it’s common to have 3mm of limescale build-up or more. This affects your boiler and all other water-heating appliances, including your washing machine and your dishwasher.

Calculations using data from the BEIS 2018 report tell us that residential hard water production accounts for around 4% of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions. And, don’t forget this isn’t just a problem for homes, it affects businesses too.


Appliance Lifespan

As limescale builds up on heating elements within appliances, it puts the element under additional stress as it needs needing more and more energy to function – until it breaks.

If you have ever had a heating engineer or washing machine repair person remove a fully encrusted heating element in your home then you know what we mean.

Limescale doesn’t just affect the heating elements, it also damages the hoses and drum of washing machines, showerheads, taps and other fixtures and fittings in the home. The Water Quality Research Foundation it found that ‘low flow’ showerheads and taps can clog up with limescale within 7 days under stress testing so you can imagine how quickly damage can occur in normal circumstances.


Cleaning Products

The most significant environmental damage caused by limescale happens ‘behind the scenes’ (within closed systems that a householder can’t access or see) the visible aspect of limescale is also an environmental issue.

Limescale can be incredibly stubborn and difficult to remove and can harden to the point where brute force is needed to dislodge it. In addition to elbow grease, chemical de-scalers such as Viakal can be used however there are concerns about how harsh chemicals may affect the environment when washed down the drain. These products also create high levels of plastic waste, along with carbon emitted from import and export.



How can limescale be prevented?

We now know that limescale caused by hard water contributes to a households carbon footprint and that cleaners can be damaging to the environment, so how else can you deal with limescale?

The most well-known solutions to limescale are traditional water softeners with water conditioners which prevent limescale build-up in the home.


Water Softeners

Water softeners use ion exchange which swaps the hard water mineral ions in the water with sodium ions, thereby softening hard water. This type of solution prevents almost all limescale build-up in the home but requires salt in order to function.

The Water Quality Research Foundation found that softening water could yield a 14.8% reduction in the carbon footprint of a storage type gas water heater over a period of 15 years while other studies found that softening water allowed for use of lower temperatures and a reduction in detergent when washing clothes.

Despite the effectiveness of water softeners, they are not without their problems. The biggest issue is the use of salt. The act of purchasing this salt will of course adds to the carbon footprint of the device and the cost to the user. In addition to that, the water softener’s regeneration process flushes the left-over sodium chloride down the drain which is why some US states have banned their use.

The regeneration process also uses up more water than normal, with some of the older models using an additional 25 gallons of water per day.
So while water softeners may be very effective in dealing with limescale, they can be environmentally detrimental in other ways.


Water Conditioners

Water conditioners use a variety of different methods. Unlike traditional salt softeners they don’t actually remove minerals from the water. Instead they work by altering the way the hard water minerals behave.

There is such a wide range of salt-free systems with varying levels of effectiveness so it’s difficult to say for sure how effective they are overall.

Halcyan Water Conditioners commissioned a calculation of potential carbon savings to show how effective their conditioners are. This showed that the average UK household could reduce it carbon footprint by 14% by fitting a Halcyan Water Conditioner. The other key advantage of the Halcyan is that it is 100% passive and requires no maintenance or replacement throughout its 30 year lifespan.

Not all water conditioners have the same environmental credentials however. TAC systems for example use a resin media which must be disposed of and replaced. While systems such as Aquabion and Halcyan add to their carbon footprint through the mining required for the metals used in their alloys and outer casings, on the whole water conditioners have few additional environmental impacts compared to salt-based systems.


Final Thoughts

Hopefully this article has explained how hard water impacts the environment and provided you with some helpful information about how to tackle this issue.

If you’d like to know more about how Halcyan can help to tackle the limescale in your home please get in touch with them via their website, or contact our team to purchase a unit and find an approved installer.

25th May 2024   |    Blogs How-to guides