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Friday, September 27th by Mike Ohlinger
How much do you know about pH? Maybe you’ve had some experience dipping litmus strips into lime juice back in your high school chemistry class, becoming familiar with the differences between alkalinity and acidity. Maybe you maintain an aquarium at home and test pH regularly to make sure your fish keep swimming instead of floating to the top of the tank.
Highly acidic or alkaline water running through your home can cause a bevy of problems with your plumbing and fixtures and are often signals of bigger issues, requiring unique treatment methods to rebalance your water. Whether your home is supplied by a municipal water source or a private well, it’s important to understand what pH is and how an unbalance can affect your home.
Just in case it’s been a few years since your last chemistry class, pH stands for “potential of hydrogen”. In simple terms, when we talk about the pH of a substance, we’re referring to the number of hydrogen ions present. In regards to acidity vs. alkalinity, the more concentration of hydrogen ions there are, the greater the acidity. In contrast, the fewer hydrogen ions present in a substance, the more alkaline, or basic, it is. This potential of hydrogen is measured on a fourteen point scale, with zero being the most acidic, fourteen being alkaline, and seven being neutral.
Looking around at the foods you have in your kitchen right now and the soaps and detergents you keep underneath your bathroom sink, everything can be represented on the pH scale. In terms of common acids, everything from bananas and lemons to vinegar falls below the 7.0 pH line. Some alkaline substances that you have around the house that register higher than 7.0 pH are eggs, baking soda, and bleach.
Each number on the scale is ten times more or less than the number beside it. For example, a level of 5 on the scale is ten times more acidic than a level 6. A level of 4 would be 100 times more acidic than a 6 while a 3 on the scale would be 1000 times more acidic. The numbers start to grow exponentially, especially when comparing acids to bases.
Like some of the substances mentioned above, your home’s water has its place on the pH scale. In a perfect world, water would be pure and balanced, sitting neutral on the 7.0 line. The reality can be much different. As water travels through vegetation, soil, and bedrock, it begins to pick up elements of whatever it comes in contact with. These newly introduced elements and minerals result in the water becoming unbalanced as it reaches the source that supplies your home, whether it is from a public water supply or a private well.
The pH of water is considered a secondary contaminant by the EPA and doesn’t pose a risk to health when consumed or used within the home. However, it is recommended that the pH levels of water used in the home fall in the 6.5 to 8.5 range. Despite its consideration as an aesthetic contaminant, highly acidic or alkaline water can pose some unique problems within your home if left untreated.
Acidic water is “hungry” water. Often caused by chemical runoff or contact with decomposing vegetation, low pH water is naturally corrosive in its attempt to rebalance itself. High acidity water can eat holes in copper plumbing, cause substantial leaks, and ruin appliances. As acidic water corrodes as it travels, it brings along the material that it has stripped with it. These materials are deposited once the water evaporates, resulting in green-stained fixtures, sinks, and toilets in homes that have copper plumbing and rust-colored stains in homes with galvanized steel or cast iron pipes.
The greater risk comes in the form of leaching, especially from other metals present in home plumbing. Lead, copper, and zinc present in pipes and faucets can be introduced into the water through corrosion and are often identified by the water taking on a metallic taste.
High pH water is synonymous with hard water and is characterized by the abundance of minerals inside it. Contrary to low pH water’s corrosive nature, alkaline water is constantly leaving behind minerals as it travels through plumbing, causing scale build-up on fixtures and inside pipes.
Hard water buildup associated with alkaline water can create extensive problems for your home’s plumbing and water-using appliances. Over time, pipes can lose pressure, appliances can lose efficiency and burn out, and showerheads can become clogged, overcome with scaly residue.
High pH levels can also affect the taste of the water, making it taste a lot like baking soda.
Fixing some of the problems associated with pH issues in your home means rebalancing your water, returning it to a neutral state. The approach is different depending on the type of pH that you’re attempting to correct.
The answer to acidic water is the introduction of more minerals to “feed” the “hungry” water. This can be accomplished by the integration of an Acid Neutralizer, a type of filter equipped with a media called calcite that dissolves on contact with water, raising its pH level as it leaves the unit. Following neutralization and pH correction, the leaky pipes, bad taste, and stained fixtures attributed to corrosive water will cease.
Alternatively, high alkaline water requires minerals to be removed from water. Again, as high alkaline water contains hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium, the solution to the effects of high pH is treatment via a water softener. The minerals influencing the pH are removed via ion exchange, and soft water is then supplied to the home, alleviating the clogged pipes and residue encrusted fixtures associated with hard, high pH water.
If you suspect that your home’s water is too acidic or basic, you can test your water at home using a simple pH test kit. However, due to the complexity and range of issues behind pH problems, consulting a certified laboratory for a test is the best way to identify exactly how far from neutral your water is. The proper solution will depend on the amount of adjustment is needed for your home.
If it’s time to address a pH problem in your water, Evolve’s flexible line of acid-neutralizing filters and advanced water softeners can tackle the heart of any issue. Call us now to learn more!