It's perhaps no surprise that the composition and quality of local water supplies can differ wildly from region to region. Many homes are forced to use hard water for drinking, washing and other household uses. Unfortunately, hard water can cause several problems in appliances that rely on constant water supply, and evaporative air conditioners are particularly vulnerable.
What is hard water, and how can it damage evaporative air conditioners?
Water is considered 'hard' when it contains relatively high concentrations of calcium and magnesium salts. These salts are not harmful to humans and sometimes contain beneficial minerals. However, hard water can cause serious damage over time if it used to supply an evaporative air conditioner.
When hard water is used in an evaporative cooler, the salts dissolved in the water are left behind when the water evaporates, creating solid crystals that become embedded in the absorbent evaporation pads inside your cooler. Small amounts of these crystals generally don't cause problems, but over time, the gradual buildup of solid material inside and around the pads can dramatically reduce your air conditioner's efficiency.
This buildup of calcium and magnesium crystals inside your air conditioner can also cause other problems. If water flow rates are impeded by the buildup, the crystals can form inside the cooler's water feed pipes, causing serious damage. Errant crystals of solid matter can also cause serious damage to the fan and fan housing, particularly if they fall into the fan while it is running.
How can you prevent hard water from damaging your evaporative air conditioner?
If you suspect that hard water may be damaging your evaporative cooler, there are many potential solutions. One option is to create a separate water feed system for your air conditioner, using a tank filled with filtered or distilled water. However, this can be expensive to maintain, especially if you need to buy filtered or distilled water rather than creating your own.
You can also add a water softener to your household water supply, which can filter out a large amount of the salts before they reach your taps and appliance. These softeners can protect all of the appliances in your home from hard water damage and are very useful if hard water is also causing problems with your dishwasher or washing machine. However, their effectiveness can be limited in areas with extremely hard water supplies.
How can you repair hard water damage?
If salt crystals are building up inside your evaporative air conditioner, cleaning or replacing the cooler's pads and filters with purified water is usually enough to correct the problem. However, while this is a relatively simple DIY job, damage to other components in your air conditioner requires professional attention. If your evaporative cooler has leaking water pipes or a damaged fan, call in an air conditioning repair service as soon as possible to have your cooler thoroughly inspected and repaired.