What to do about Low Water Pressure

by Tim Adams

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Low water pressure usually results when you've been forced to turn on two different plumbing fixtures at the same time, whether they are the outside garden hose, the kitchen/bathroom sink, the toilet, or even the shower. Although your water pressure may be sufficient when only one fixture is operational, you'll definitely notice a drop in water flow when the second fixture comes into use.

In most cases low water pressure affects you in many other areas around the house. If low water pressure is affecting only your shower head, you should check for an obstruction in the shower head or see if your shower head has a water conservation filter installed. However, there are numerous factors and situations that may result in low water pressure, which is why the trick is determining which cause it is and how best to solve the problem.

Some typical problems that can lead to low water pressure are:

  • Pressure regulators
  • Elevation
  • Home valves
  • Water leaks
  • Peak periods
  • Mineral deposits

    Pressure Regulators
    The water pressure regulator is a bell-shaped device generally found below the front hose connection of your home. The regulators are generally preset by the manufacturer at about 45 - 60 psi and, in most cases, don't need to be adjusted. But there in lies the problem. Sometimes a pressure regulator simply goes bad and needs to be replaced. But rather than calling a professional, a homeowner takes matters into their own hands, which can lead to further water flow problems. Pressure regulators can be replaced or fixed easily by a licensed plumber at a reasonable cost.

    Elevation
    Since water is essentially a non-compressible liquid it shows the unique trait of transferring pressure horizontally when in a confined space. This means is that water in a pipe exhibits the same pressure as it would if the pipe were perfectly vertical, even if the pipe isn't. This is why a water storage tank should be located higher than the homes it is designed to serve so that the water can flow by gravity.

    Home Valves
    Simply put, sometimes valves are partially or completely turned off by accident. There are two main valves that you should make certain are in the "on" position - the customer valve and the home valve. The customer valve is located in the meter box and the home valve is located near the hose bib, which is the exterior water hose faucet, at the front of the residence. Even if slightly turned from the "on" position, these valves can cause a decrease in water flow.

    Water Leaks
    Any damage to the pipe that results in a leak, whether large or small, will result in a lower water pressure. The issue here is how to determine if you have a leak or not. The trick is to read the meter and not the bill. To do this, you should shut off all water taps inside and outside the home. Read the meter after doing this and return two hours later. If your water usage has increased, chances are you have a leak and need to contact a certified plumber as soon as possible.

    Peak Periods
    Although you might not realize it, most of us operate during the same hours during the day. So, low water pressure could be the result of the majority of your neighborhood using the shower at the same time every morning or watering the lawn at the same time every evening. If that's the case, you might look at altering your schedule a bit.

    Mineral Deposits
    In older houses or in houses built with galvanized iron pipes, mineral deposits are unavoidable over time and it doesn't help that hot water and horizontal pipes speed up the process. But if you believe the problem to be the result of mineral deposits or piping, the best thing to do is to get a reputable, certified plumber to the house for an estimate so you can gauge the extent of repairs that need to be made.

    Hire a Pro
    The bottom line when you need to increase water pressure is that you can check the simple things yourself. However, when it comes to the bigger issues like pipe erosion, blockage, or leaks, it's best to consult a professional. By checking the valves and monitoring water usage amounts and schedules, you can either eliminate the problem or identify the need to call in the reinforcements. The last thing you want to do is to make any problem bigger than it already is, so lean on a professional to help and rest assured, once the problem is fixed, you can go back to being yourself.