Under Pressure: 10 Causes of Low Water Pressure in Your Home
Are you experiencing low water pressure in one or more rooms in your home? Check out this guide to learn what's causing it and how to fix it.
We’ve all dealt with clogged drains and pipes that are bad enough to call in a plumber. But what happens when the issue isn’t with the water draining but instead with the amount of water actually coming out? The average in-home water pressure is about 40 to 45 pounds per square inch (or PSI). If you feel like you’re dealing with low water pressure, chances are your pressure has slipped below this number.
Between showering, running the dishwasher, and flushing the toilet, American families use an average of 300 gallons of water a day. We tend not to think about where that water comes from or how it comes out of our faucets. Most of us don’t know where to look if the water pressure drops.
We’re here to talk about 10 possible causes for your low water pressure so that you know what to do and, if necessary, who to call. Read on to find out why your house is operating under pressure.
1. Your Water Supplier is Experiencing an Issue
Before you start turning valves and knocking on pipes, ask around. If your neighbors report similar issues, chances are your low water pressure is not connected to something in your own house.
Contact your water supplier and find out if they are aware of and working on an issue with their water supply. If it’s something that they are in the process of fixing, you’ll have to sit tight for a bit.
However, if they deny the issue or refuse to address it, you may have to mobilize. You didn’t expect that rinsing the shampoo out of your hair properly would require a petition, but it might.
2. Your City Has Changed Its Regulations
There is also the possibility that your city has changed some of its water regulations, in which case your water supplier has no choice but to comply.
If that’s the case, you may want to purchase a water pressure booster system. While you can install these systems yourself, you’d be better off calling a plumber who can make sure that it’s installed correctly.
Proper installation depends on things like the size and age of pipes. It is also possible that you will be required to bring in an inspector after making this kind of change to your home. Hiring a plumber will make all these steps a lot easier.
3. The Main House Shutoff Valve Isn’t Open All the Way
If you do find that you’re the only one on the block with low water pressure, it’s time to start checking around your own house for the issue.
It’s important for homeowners to know how to find and shut off your main house shutoff valve. Now we’re going to talk about what happens if it isn’t all the way open.
Unless you’ve had an emergency involving a leak or a burst pipe, you haven’t messed with this valve. It may be located outside, but chances are it’s inside where the main city supply pipe enters your home.
If it has a handle similar to the one you would use to turn on your hose, it needs to be turned counterclockwise as far as it can go. If the handle looks like a lever, the lever needs to be parallel to the pipe. Otherwise, it’s not fully open, which is why your pressure is low.
4. The Water Meter Valve Isn’t Open All the Way
The water meter valve is the second valve controlling the water intake in your house. This valve belongs to the water company, so most residents will never deal with this valve directly. Some of them are quite difficult to reach, especially those that are located underground.
If you’ve had work done on your house recently, especially if that’s when you started to notice your low water pressure, you may want to contact your water company. Chances are, the valve was not opened all the way after the work was complete, and someone will need to go in and open it all the way.
5. The Pressure Regulator is Failing
Not all plumbing is equipped with a pressure regulator. If you don’t have one, then this solution is not for you.
If you do, there’s a test you can try yourself to find out if the pressure regulator is failing to get an accurate read. Attach a water pressure gauge to your outside hose spigot, ideally the one that is closest to your pressure regulator. When you turn the water on, the pressure gauge will give you an immediate read of your water pressure.
If it’s lower than what your pressure regulator is reporting, your issue might be with the pressure regulator. These regulators are designed to adjust the pressure coming from your water supply line to a level that is safe for your pipes. If it’s not reading, it thinks that it’s doing its job when it’s actually letting through a low PSI.
You can replace your pressure regulator on your own, but it’s not a bad idea to call in a plumber, especially if you’re not used to tinkering around with pipes.
6. The Pipes Are Clogged
Believe it or not, clogs don’t just build up beneath drains. They can actually form in the depths of your piping, and even a small clog can gum up the works enough to reduce your water pressure.
Because this kind of clog could be anywhere beneath your house, this is another one of those times where you’re going to want to call a plumber. The last thing you want to do is start pulling pipes apart and not being able to put them back together.
Plus, you may not know what you’re knocking loose or contaminating your pipes with. It’s one thing to put dangerous chemicals down your drain to eat away clogs, although that’s not advisable. It’s another thing to use any questionable or dangerous chemicals in the pipes that are pumping in your drinking water, which is definitely not advisable.
7. The Pipes Are Corroded
How much do you know about your house’s piping? Is it original to the house or was it updated recently? What material is it made from?
Pipes, especially galvanized steel pipes, have an expiration date. In fact, galvanized steel pipes can begin to corrode after only 20 years. Copper pipes are usually good for 50 or more years and brass pipes should be fine for anywhere between 40 and 70 years.
The possibility of corrosion increases if you have an older house. Newer pipes aren’t often made from galvanized steel and their plumbing should be fine for years to come, but older houses that haven’t been modernized may need to be re-piped.
Corrosion may also be an issue if you have added plumbing fixtures to your home, like an extra bathroom or a washing machine, after the house was built. When you add plumbing fixtures to an already complete house, you are generally supposed to enlarge the branch lines of your piping. Otherwise, those portions of your pipes are working overtime and are going to corrode faster.
One last thing about corrosion: you can’t see it from the outside. It’s going to be beneficial to find out how old your plumbing is from the previous homeowners or city records.
8. You Share Pipelines
This is never a fun one to break to people. Shared pipelines are pipelines that run water into more than one house. What that entails is that when your neighbor takes a shower or washes their car, your water pressure is going to go down. This doesn’t mean that you’re paying for their water usage, but it does mean that your water supply is divided between two or more households.
Think of it this way: when you’re washing your hair and someone runs the dishwasher, you often notice a change in water pressure. Only this time, it’s changing because of someone next door, not someone you can scold for using a lot of water when you’re trying to bathe.
You’ll have to decide how unbearable it is to have low water pressure here and there. You may find that experimenting with your timing and changing your routine will help. As long as you can gauge when your neighbor isn’t using their water, you’ll be able to use yours just fine.
If you do decide that pipe replacement is the way to go, do your research and find a plumbing company that won’t hit you with hidden fees and outrageous upcharges. If they aren’t transparent with their prices, don’t be surprised if your bill is a lot higher than you expected.
9. Your Pipes Are Leaking
If your basement or foundation is flooded you already know your pipes are leaking. However, it doesn’t take a leak of that size to mess with your water pressure. The leak is misdirecting your water supply so that even if everything else is working properly, you’re not getting the full flow.
If you can access your pipes, go and take a look around and see if you find any wet spots or pooling water. Figure out which pipe is leaking and try a quick fix.
First, turn off your water supply and dry the outside of the leaky pipe as much as you can. Then, wrap a rubber patch around the spot that is cracked or corroded and use electrical tape and a pipe repair clamp to attach the rubber patch to the pipe.
This isn’t going to solve your problem for good, but it might prevent further damage for a few days. Even with a quick fix in place, call a plumber as soon as possible. Leaky pipes can damage your foundations but they can also contaminate your drinking water.
Truthfully, if you’re noticing a change in your water pressure as a result of leaky pipes, you’re probably dealing with more than one leak. It’s also possible that the leak is one of several things causing low water pressure.
10. You’ve Got Faulty Fixtures
If you have low water pressure in all your plumbing fixtures, the issue is almost definitely with your water supply or your pipes. However, if it’s one or a few fixtures that seem to have a low flow, you may want to check out the fixtures.
The aerator on a faucet fixture is designed to reduce the volume of water coming from your faucet without altering the pressure. Over time, aerators can get bogged down with dirt and limestone build-ups or rust over.
Remove the aerators on your low-pressure faucets and see if they need cleaning. Once they’re completely clear of any buildup, put them back on and see if this makes a difference in your water pressure.
Fixtures, themselves, can become clogged. Because most fixtures aren’t particularly pricey, it may be a good idea to go ahead and replace them at this point. Before removing them, whether to clean or replace, turn off the water supply to that plumbing fixture.
What We Can Do to Increase Water Pressure
While we can’t fight with your water supply company or city representatives, we can help you with any issues related to your pipes to increase water pressure in your home.
We always make sure we know what we’re getting ourselves into before we start digging underground or pulling apart your plumbing. We send in our fiber-optic video line to find the problem areas so we know exactly where to go.
While we’re more than happy to replace your pipes, we do offer pipe relining. Pipe relining is a great solution for pipes with internal issues that don’t need to be completely replaced. At a low cost, it’s a great solution for your wallet, too.
Think We Can Help with Your Low Water Pressure?
Low water pressure can ruin everything from your shower to your dishes. If you’re tired of dealing with a low flow, let us know. The earlier we deal with it, the less the damage will spread–plus, the sooner you’ll be enjoying your regular water pressure again.
Whether you want to know the root of your pressure problems or you’re ready for us to tackle your plumbing head-on, contact us today.