Solving Low Water Pressure

If your home suffers from low water pressure, the most obvious result will be seen in the shower. If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel, you’ll remember that shower every time you step in under the trickle in your own shower. Perhaps you are frustrated that your hose does not reach as far as you feel it should, or have enough pressure to clean off your sidewalk without the help of a broom. These issues can be addressed, and the pressure to your fixtures improved, but you must start by determining the likely cause of the low pressure.

Common Causes of Low Water Pressure

Pressure regulators

Your home may be equipped with a pressure regulator, designed to reduce the pressure to safe and manageable levels, if unregulated pressure is too high. While the output pressure of these devices are set by the manufacturer, and is just right for your home when the regulator is working properly, problems arise when the device fails. If it fails, it can restrict water flow enough to reduce water pressure to some or all of your plumbing fixtures.
The best recourse for this problem is to call a professional to repair or replace it. Check with your utility company; it may be that it is owned by the city, and they are responsible for its repair.

Elevation

Where your house is in relation to the water supply tower effects the pressure to your home. If you have a private water well and storage tank, you may be able to raise its elevation to improve water flow and get higher pressure to the home. If the drop in pressure is sudden, call your utility company during dry spells, to find out if low water supply is the problem, or if there is a broken supply pipe nearby. If your supplied pressure is too low for your needs, it is possible to install a pressure booster in your home.

Home valves

Check that all valves in the home are fully open. If a valve is inadvertently turned – even just a little – it will restrict the flow of water to your fixtures. If your home uses galvanized steel pipes, which are notorious for clogging with minerals over time, the only effective cure is to replace them with a more modern material. Copper is excellent, but is the most expensive commonly used material by far. PVC is very inexpensive, but serves very well, and does not tend to accumulate sediment. PEX is slightly more expensive than PVC, because of the cost of its fittings, but is a new favorite among plumbers and do-it-yourselfers alike, because of its flexibility and the ease with which it is installed.

Leaky PEX joints can be disassembled and reassembled, making it a good choice for the do-it-yourselfer.

Water leaks

Leaky pipes or fixtures diminish the water that is available to other fixtures. Cracked pipes – to include those outside your house owned by the utility company – will reduce home water pressure. A test that you can perform to make sure there is no water being used in the home for a period of two or three hours. Note the reading on the water meter at the start of the test, and see if it has changed at the end of the test period. If it has, water is being used, which means you probably have a leak which, in turn, is reducing your available pressure. Try to isolate the location of the leak using existing valves throughout your plumbing system.

Mineral deposit build-up

Over time, minerals may build up in your plumbing system. Remove your shower head to see if there is a buildup of sediment. Shower heads may be soaked in white vinegar to completely clean them of sediment safely. Faucet aerators can be cleaned the same way. Brush them with a soft brush afterwards and run them under water to wash off what remains.
If pressure from the fixture has improved after cleaning the parts, your next step should be to address the problem of sediment build-up in your plumbing system.
Peak usage periods

In a municipal utility district, you share the water supply with all of your neighbors. There are periods throughout the day when many homes are using the shower, or the washer, or the garden hose, etc.. During these times, pressure will be reduced for everyone in the neighborhood. If your average pressure is marginal, it will be too low during peak times, and some or all of your plumbing fixtures will be noticeably lacking in pressure.

If you have added fixtures, such as an additional lavatory or any fixture that uses water, it may be that your water requirement now exceeds the supply. In this case, it will be necessary to increase the size of the supply line coming from the water main to your home. Alternately, installing a pressure booster can raise the pressure again.

Once you determine the likely cause of the low pressure in your home, maybe with the help of a professional, you can better determine the course needed to correct it.

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