SAVE: £100 a year, COST: £100 to £1,000
Limescale is a hidden enemy that increases annual heating costs by as much as £200 for those living in ‘hard water’ areas. The chalky-white calcium carbonate clogs up hot water pipes and household appliances with a layer of scale that means more energy is required to heat up the house.
According to the Government-backed independent body The Carbon Trust, a one millimetre film of limescale means a seven per cent increase in energy is required to heat up a boiler – adding as much as £200 to annual heating bills.
Limescale also makes appliances such as washing machines run less efficiently and shortens their life span.
There are two main ways to treat hard water. The best – but most expensive – is to install an ‘ion exchange’ softener where salt is introduced into the house water system to offset the effects of the calcium and stop limescale build-up. Such systems cost around £1,000, are the size of a large briefcase, and are usually stored under a sink.
A cheaper, but less proven alternative, is to install an ‘electric fields’ gadget that plugs into the mains and generates electricity through coils of wire wrapped around the water supply pipe. This aims to break up calcium deposits so they do not fur up your pipework. The small device costs about £100.
David Green, 40, from Caversham, Berkshire, paid £1,200 to have a water softener fitted in his home 18 months ago.
The events manager, who is married to teacher Louise, 41, and has a son Owen, six, and daughter Hannah, four, says: ‘Although it is hard to say how much money we are saving it is easy to see the health benefits. My son and wife both suffer from eczema and softer water is better for their skin. The only cost is salt blocks we put in every four to six weeks – costing £5 a month.’
Calcium levels vary across the country with the worst areas tending to be in the South East. Cornwall, western areas of Wales and parts of Scotland escape limescale and enjoy ‘softer’ water.