So, you turn on the faucet in the shower and only two little streams of water come out of the showerhead. Then, you sigh at the thought of how long it’s going to take just for you to wash your hair. Or, when you turn on the sink faucet and, instead of a stream of water, a few drips come out. Plumbers call this low flow, homeowners call it low water pressure. Luckily, there are ways to solve this problem. First, it is important to understand what the causes of low water pressure can be. Some of these causes can be:
- Debris in the water
- Mineral deposit build-up
- Pressure regulators
- Low pressure to the house
- Water valves
- Water leaks
Identifying what is causing the problem is the first step toward properly repairing it. Although, in some cases, you will simply have to troubleshoot the problem by exploring all of the possible causes and making the necessary repairs.
A really common cause of low flow is stuff in the water. If you have old iron pipes, these plug with rust, and rust breaks loose and plugs up aerators, valve, and anywhere there is a restriction in the pipes.
Also, there is a certain amount of algae in our water. It looks a little like fine sawdust, and sometimes we get more than usual through the water supply. It can be seasonal. Sometimes, the plastic pipe inside the water heater disintegrates, and pieces of plastic plug fixtures. Sometime, the water department works on their pipes, and rust or gravel gets into the house and plugs up fixtures.
If the sink faucet doesn’t work well, take off the aerator (that little cylinder screwed on the end of the spout) and see how the water flows without it. If the water flow is fine, clean or replace the aerator. If the water flow is still bad, the problem is downstream. This is a little bit of trouble, but if you want to see if a faucet is plugged up, shut off the valves to the sink, disconnect the supply pipes from the shutoff valves to the faucet, point them into a bucket, turn the valves on, and see if a lot of water comes out. If it does, may be the problem is inside of the faucet. If not, it is the supply valve or supply piping that is plugged.
Replacing Pressure Regulators
A pressure regulator is a water device shaped like a bell. The regulator is usually found below the hose connection in the front of your home, though it may be located in a different area depending upon the construction of your home.
If the pressure regulator goes bad or stops working, it may cause low water pressure in some or all of the water fixtures in your home. This is one plumbing problem that is better left to the professionals, however, when it comes to making a repair. A plumber can easily replace or fix a regulator at a reasonable cost to you. On the other hand, homeowners who try to tackle this problem on their own can create a bigger problem. In the long run, this will cost even more money for you to fix.
Low Water Pressure from the city
You can test for low water pressure by buying a water pressure test gause with a hose connection, and screw it on to a hose faucet. Test it with all fixtures in the house off.. I consider 45 or 50 psi on the low side, 60 good, above 80 is too much.
If the city pressure is not very high, there are two things that we have had some success with.
If the pressure is low, it helps a lot to have big water pipe sizing. The Uniform Plumbing Code gives sizing tables, including one for lower water pressure. The tables are for minimum size, so you can go bigger. It doesn’t hurt to have bigger cold water piping, and if you use a recirculating hot system, it doesn’t hurt to have big hot water pipes. If you don’t have a recirculating hot water system, the bigger the hot pipes, the longer the wait for hot water and the more water you waste.
Also, a pressure boost system can be installed in the house, and this works pretty good..
Turning Your House Main Shutoff Valves
Valves turn, which means these valves sometimes get accidentally moved or turned off without the homeowner realizing it. There is usually a main water valve in a home. If this main water valve is not shut off or if it is not completely turned on, it will affect all of the water flow in the home. Be sure the main water valve is completely turned on if you are having a water pressure problem. Also, if the valve is built without a full size passage, it will not supply as much flow as a valve with full size passage. A plumber can often tell by looking at a valve if it does have a full size passage. Your water heater also should have a main shutoff for the water. If it is restricted or partially off, you might get low flow for the hot water in the house.
Repairing Water Leaks
Cracks or damage to water pipes servicing you house can cause water leaks. Water leaks can cause low water pressure because not all of the water is making its way to your faucet. Some of it is leaking through the cracked or damaged pipe. Check your pipes for damage or leaks. A trick to figuring out if you have a leak in the main pipe is to shut off the water valve in your home and mark down the meter reading showing on your water meter. Come back two hours later and read the water meter reading again. If the meter reading increases, then you have a leak.
Taking Care of Mineral Deposit Build-Ups
Over time, pipes can experience mineral deposit build-ups. These build-ups clog faucets and showerheads, preventing full water pressure. Try cleaning out the faucet heads and showerheads in your home to see if this alleviates the low water pressure problem. If this does not resolve the problem and you believe it is a mineral deposit build-up causing your low water pressure, then you may have to call a professional plumber to assess and correct the problem.
Hiring a Pro (Knoxville Plumbing)
You can try to diagnose your low water pressure problem on your own and test solutions to see if it resolves the problem. The bottom line is, if you cannot correct the problem on your own then you are going to have to hire a professional plumber. There are also problems that you just cannot resolve on your own no matter how much of a do-it-yourselfer you are. Corrosion of your pipes, major blockage problems, or major leaks are all problems better left to the pros.