7 Reasons Your Home Has Low Water Pressure & How to Fix It
You arrive home after a hectic day and decide to take a long, steamy shower to unwind. You step into the shower expecting a forceful stream of hot water, but instead, you get a series of weak spews, leaving you feeling annoyed and even more exhausted. On top of that, your washing machine or dishwasher takes forever to fill. If you’ve been suffering these inconveniences lately, there’s a good chance your home’s water pressure is low.
Low water pressure can be very frustrating – not only because you can miss out on your relaxing showers but also because it can make your water-using appliances inefficient and cause a lot of other expensive household damages. Besides, it’s often tricky to pinpoint what’s causing the reduced pressure in the first place, let alone find ways to fix it and get things back in the flow.
Luckily for you, this article will help you figure out the root cause of low water pressure in your home and outline some practical DIY tips and tricks to remedy the problem.
How to Measure Your Home’s Water Pressure
The average inlet water pressure to a standard home is about 40 and 45 pounds per square inch (psi), but if you’re experiencing any of the situations described above, your pressure has likely slipped below this range.
A quick and accurate way to determine the water pressure in your home is to purchase a simple pressure gauge (available at most hardware and home improvement stores for about $10).
Here’s how to measure your water pressure using a pressure gauge:
- Tighten the gauge’s female threaded fitting onto an outdoor garden-hose faucet.
- Check to ensure that all the valves closest to the water meter are fully opened.
- Open the hose faucet all the way and read the water pressure on the gauge’s needle dial. If it reads less than 40 psi, your home has low water pressure.
Common Causes of Low Water Pressure in the Home
There’s a handful of reasons you might have low water pressure. Some are easier to fix than others, but no matter the issue, you’ll want to address it sooner than later. Here are a few possible reasons why your water pressure is so low:
1. A faulty or incorrectly adjusted home water pressure regulator
A home water pressure regulator is a valve that lets you control spikes in water pressure in your plumbing system to a safe level that will not damage your pipes or water-using appliances.
If you have one of these devices installed on your home’s main water supply and you notice a sudden reduction in water pressure, the device is faulty, or you’ll need to adjust it to match your household’s water use.
Most water pressure regulators are factory preset at 50 psi but can be adjusted to anywhere between 25 and 75 psi. Many homeowners aren’t aware of this, so the first time you take a shower with water pressure at or below 50 psi, you’ll likely notice the water flow is pretty dang low.
The good news is that replacing or adjusting your water pressure regulator can be a fun DIY project, mainly if your regulator is the same brand and size and you have the know-how.
Here’s an overview of how to replace your water pressure regulator:
- Locate the water pressure regulator. Typically, water pressure regulators are installed where your main water line comes into your house, after the main water meter shutoff valve.
- Measure your current pressure (using the guidelines outlined above). If the pressure gauge shows that your water pressure is low, this may indicate a failed pressure regulator.
- Shut off the water to your home. Shut off your water main and ensure your pipes are completely drained by running your faucets until water flow stops. Run the taps farthest from your water main to draw the water away from the area you’re working.
- Check the position of the valve. Most valves are embossed with an arrow pointing in the direction of water flow. You must install the valve facing the right direction. If you don’t, the device won’t reduce pressure when it needs to.
- Install the pressure regulator. Most water pressure regulators come with a set of instructions on how to install. Installation involves cutting away six inches of pipe after your main shutoff valve, soldering on fittings around the exposed ends of the pipe, and then inserting your pressure-reducing valve into the gap and tightening it onto each fitting with pliers.
- Adjust to the desired pressure. Turn your water back on and take another pressure reading. You can now adjust the default pressure by tightening or loosening the screw at the top of your new water pressure regulator.
Note: If you don’t think you can manage to do this project yourself, we recommend hiring a professional plumber. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
2. A partially closed water meter valve
In many homes connected to a municipal water supply line, two main valves control the water flow into the house. The first one is the water meter valve, located right next to the water meter on the main city supply pipe serving your home.
Typically, you wouldn’t use this valve because it belongs to the water company and is usually only used by personnel from the water company. However, if your water pressure is low throughout your entire house, especially after some work has been done to your plumbing system, chances are this valve is not fully open.
If you suspect the water meter valve is to blame for a noticeable reduction in water pressure through your home after a recent repair, check the water meter valve or contact your municipality.
You can probably find the meter valve in an underground box between your house and the street. Otherwise, it may be located in an interior area like an attached garage or basement or outside on a wall.
Generally, the valve is open when the valve handle (perhaps just a metal tab that can be turned with a special wrench) is parallel with the water pipe. If the handle is positioned at an angle to the pipe, it is not fully open.
3. A partially closed main house shutoff valve
Just as there might be an issue with the water meter valve at the curbside, there might be one closer to home. If your water pressure has mysteriously taken a nosedive after a recent repair, the main shutoff valve was likely left partially closed after some repair has been done to the system.
The main home’s shutoff is typically located inside the house, near where the main city supply pipe enters the home through the foundation wall. In some cases, like in a warm climate, you may find the main shutoff outdoors. Ensure this valve is fully open.
The main shutoff valve can either be a gate valve, indicated by a wheel-like handle, or a ball valve, marked by a lever handle. If it is a gate valve, make sure the handle is turned fully counterclockwise. If it is a ball valve, the handle must be parallel to the pipe direction to be fully open.
Be careful not to force-turn the valve as it may be corroded and rusty and may break if you turn it too hard. In this case, it’s better to call a plumber. Otherwise, you risk damaging the valve or snapping the pipe, which may cause flooding in your home until someone else can turn off the water meter valve.
4. Corrosion buildup in old steel water pipes
One of the most serious and potentially expensive causes of low water pressure in your home is old, corroded galvanized steel water pipes. Over years or decades, these pipes can corrode so much that they restrict water flow significantly. What’s more, they often corrode internally, so you can’t see the corrosion. It’s when they clog up over time due to the buildup of corrosion and scale that you realize there’s a problem. That means you won’t notice a sudden pressure drop in most cases. But if you move into a house with old steel pipes, the pipes may already have significant corrosion, and the problem may worsen relatively quickly.
What’s also unfortunate about having such a problem is that you’ll likely have to re-pipe the entire house with new copper or plastic water supply piping. Unless you don’t mind moving into a new home with corrosion-resistant pipes and plumbing already installed, there’s no other solution.
If you decide to re-pipe the plumbing system, it’s better to use PEX tubing rather than copper pipe, as PEX tubing is usually cheaper and easier to install.
Check out: America’s Aging Water Pipes: Is Your Tap Water at Risk?
5. Clogged pipes and plumbing fixtures
Believe it or not, the water in your home could be the culprit behind your low water pressure woes. If you live in an area with hard water, there’s a high chance mineral buildup in your pipes and plumbing fixtures is the cause of your low water pressure.
Check your showerheads. Do you see any crusty deposits? What about on your sink faucets? Do the aerators look clogged? Are there white spots on glasses and silverware coming out of the dishwasher? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might have hard water.
Mineral deposits from hard water can gradually build up inside pipes, fixtures, water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers. Over time, the deposits accumulate, shrinking the pipes’ interior diameter and restricting water flow.
The solution is to call a plumber to help diagnose the situation and perhaps flush the pipes to clear all the mineral buildup. Afterward, we recommend installing a water softener to eliminate hardness minerals and prevent them from clogging up your pipes, plumbing fixtures, and appliances in the future.
Learn more: How Hard Water Damages Your Plumbing and Appliances
6. Clogged water filters
If none of the explanations above doesn’t seem to be panning out, you might need to take a closer look at your water filter system or water softener, especially if it’s been a long while since you’ve changed the filters.
While your water filter or softener system is outfitted with various filters that can trap contaminants and particulates in the water before they can get to the rest of the system and into your house, they can become clogged. And the result? Restricted water flow and low water pressure. The higher the restriction, the more time the water takes to pass through the filtering stage, thus affecting water pressure and flow.
For example, sediment can accumulate in the filter, restricting water flow throughout the system and cutting your water pressure in half. Sometimes iron or scale can also clog the filters, causing the same problem. Likewise, if you don’t replace the resin in your water softener tank promptly, it can eventually deteriorate and break apart. It can then travel through your plumbing, clogging faucets, or showerhead and causing the water pressure to drop at that location, though not necessarily elsewhere in your home.
It is also possible that your filtration system is unsuitable for your water conditions. An excellent example is using an ultrafiltration filter to treat water laden with sand, silt, scale, and rust without proper pre-treatment. Not only will this lead to insufficient filtration, but it also means you might not get more than a trickle of water in the shower.
The solution is to replace the filters on time, clean the tank (if it has one), and install the right filter for the correct purpose. If iron buildup is an issue, you can try adding mineral cleaner to the resin bed or setting the water softener to regenerate more often.
Check out: The Best Water Filtration Systems for Your Home
7. Sediment buildup in your water heater
You want to do the dishes quickly, but it takes an excruciatingly long time to fill the sink or dishwasher. You compare your low hot water pressure with the pressure from the cold taps, and the hot water is the only one that trickles.
Changes in the water pressure that comes out of your shower or sink are likely signs of sediment buildup in the water heater tank. Sediment can accumulate in your hot water tank over time. Eventually, this buildup can disrupt the hot water pressure in your home. So, if your hot water pressure seems abnormally low, sediment may be the issue.
There’s also the possibility of your water heater failing to keep up with the demand because it is getting old. There could also be mineral deposits inside the tank lowering its efficiency. If this is the case, switching to soft water is the way to go.
Learn more: 7 Signs of Sediment Buildup in Your Water Heater
Get Better Water Pressure with Soft Water
By now, you’ve probably discovered that hardness minerals play a significant role in reducing your water pressure – from leaving mineral deposits in your pipes and plumbing fixtures to clogging your water filters.
Homes that have a reliable water softener to eliminate hardness minerals from water tend to have more efficient and longer-lasting appliances, higher water pressure, softer and cleaner laundry, and stronger plumbing and fixtures, to name a few. What’s more, you’ll spend less time cleaning and enjoy smoother, healthier skin and silkier and cleaner hair.
There is a lot to consider when choosing the right water softener for your family, so give us a call at 800-589-5592. You can also send us a message, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.