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Water is an essential part of our lives, so when we experience an issue with the water in our home, it can cause many problems. One issue that isn't necessarily life-altering but can certainly be a nuisance is low water pressure. Of all the plumbing questions, water pressure is one many plumbers are all too familiar with.
If you notice that water seems to be dribbling out of a fixture in your home rather than spraying out with an appropriate degree of volume and speed, then you're experiencing low water pressure. One of the most noticeable effects of low water pressure is that it can make for a less pleasant experience in the shower.
Low water pressure won't only affect the way water feels. It can cause a whole host of problems. For example, low water pressure may make it more difficult to spray dishes to get them clean, can cause your washer to fill with water more slowly and can mean your sprinkler system outside doesn't spray water as far as needed to water your lawn.
Whatever problems you encounter due to low water pressure, you want to fix the issue. However, you should think of low water pressure as a symptom. To take care of the symptom, you need to diagnose the root cause. Let's look at 10 common causes of low water pressure and how to fix them, and then we'll look more closely at addressing low water pressure in the bathroom, where you're most likely to experience an issue.
Low water pressure can be the result of many different issues. Some of these issues indicate that your plumbing system is compromised and needs repair or replacement. Whenever you think this may be the case, seek out a licensed plumber to help diagnose and fix the problem. Now, let's take a look at ten of the most common sources of low water pressure.
Plumbing fixtures include sink faucets, shower heads and other places in your home where water is dispensed. In many cases, your fixtures are the obstacle that can hold water pressure back. Over time, minerals like rust, sediment or limestone can build up around the outside of fixtures. These deposits block water from coming out at full pressure. They can also compromise the quality of the water that comes out.
If you get good water pressure out of certain fixtures and not others, this indicates that your problem may be some of your fixtures. You'll want to replace any outdated fixtures that have reached the end of their lifespan, but first, check to see if the fixture only needs to be cleaned to function properly. The buildup could be limited to the screen or aerator. If so, the fix would be as simple as cleaning off the screen or aerator.
Another common cause of low water pressure is if one of your home's two main water valves isn't open all the way. This problem can come up sometimes when you've had the water to your home shut off temporarily. When someone turns the water back on, they could accidentally not open up one of the valves all the way. Both valves should be fully open. You can check both main shut-off valves for your home to see if this is an issue.
One valve is located on or in your home, typically either near your hose bib or in a utility area inside. If you have a ball valve, make sure it is all the way to the open position. If you have a gate valve, make sure it is unscrewed as far as it will go to be fully open. Your other valve is located at your water meter, which tends to be near the edge of your property on the street side. Check inside the box to see whether the valve is fully open.
Your water pipes can also be the source of a water pressure problem. Just like the faucets, pipes can be affected by minerals, rust or other types of debris that can eventually cause clogs. When pipes become clogged, this obstructs the flow of water, which, in turn, lowers the pressure. Galvanized steel pipes are especially notorious for this issue, which is why it's now considered an outmoded choice for plumbing pipes.
A sign that clogged pipes may be the issue is if you have good water pressure when you first turn on a fixture, but then the pressure quickly drops. One thing to note about this issue is that you should never try to fix yourself. If you think you may have clogged water pipes in your home, call a licensed plumber to come and officially diagnose the problem. Some pipes may only need to be cleaned out, while others may need to be replaced entirely.
Even if your pipes aren't fully clogged, the pathway for water can still be narrowed by mineral deposits. Water naturally contains minerals, and these minerals enhance the healthfulness and taste of water, so you shouldn't see them as a problem, necessarily. However, some water is considered "hard" if it contains too many minerals. Fortunately, there are solutions for improving hard water. A water conditioner can either remove hardness minerals from your water, exchanging them with salt ions, or can make the hardness minerals behave differently so they won't settle around the interior of pipes.
Even if your home doesn't have hard water, you should consider the possibility that mineral deposits may be the cause of your low water pressure, especially if your home has older pipes, like galvanized iron pipes. Horizontal pipes are especially susceptible to mineral deposits since minerals can settle on the bottom. Hot water also contributes to the issue. If you think your pipes may contain mineral deposits, have a plumber check on the issue.
Another issue that can affect your plumbing pipes is corrosion. Corrosion naturally occurs when metal comes in contact with water, so you can expect to see this issue in metal pipes that have been around for a long time. If your home's plumbing system is outdated and has become corroded, then it's time to call a plumber to replace all your old plumbing.
Plumbing pipes are available in a variety of materials, so you'll want to choose something that is durable and will resist corrosion. When it comes to metal pipes, copper stands out as a durable, corrosion-resist choice, but it's an expensive material. Some popular modern plumbing pipe materials include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) and cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) — all of which are completely resistant to corrosion.
Another potential issue with your pipes is that the water supply line to and from your heater could be too narrow. Typically, this line consists of a 3/4-inch pipe. However, sometimes, you'll find a 1/2-inch pipe instead. If this is the case in your home, the narrow pipe may be the issue. If you find that your water pressure decreases when you're trying to dispense hot water, then this is a likely culprit.
The good news is that the solution is fairly simple — just replace the 1/2-inch pipe with a 3/4-inch pipe, and your hot water pressure should notably improve. However, you should not attempt this on your own. To be safe, contact a licensed plumber to swap out the narrow pipe for a newer one. The plumber can make sure the new supply line has resolved the issue.
Many homes are equipped with a pressure regulator — a bell-shaped device that keeps water pressure within a certain range. If your pressure regulator breaks or is somehow faulty, then this can suddenly cause an issue with your water pressure. A telltale sign of a pressure regulator problem is if there seems to be no middle ground between very low and very high water pressure when you're turning on a faucet.
Look for your home's pressure regulator below the front hose connection and check to make sure it's set in the 50 to 60 PSI range. You can tighten the screw on the tip of the regulator to increase water pressure, but it's safer to call a plumber to adjust it. If your pressure regulator has stopped working, then you should ask a qualified professional to take a look at it and either repair your current regulator or replace it with a new one.
City water reservoirs are kept at high elevations so that water can flow from them with the help of gravity. Gravity-flow systems are more reliable than systems that use electrical pumps since they will keep on working when power outages occur. The only issue with this system is that not all homes are at the same elevation, so some homes will be farther in altitude from the water storage tank than others.
These homes are likely to experience higher water pressure, which can also be an issue, but a pressure regulator can help. Likewise, homes that are more elevated and, therefore, are closer to their local water reservoir may experience low water pressure. You may even experience a difference in water pressure from the lower levels to upper levels of your home because of the difference in elevation.
If there are any leaks present in your plumbing system, even if it's just a minor leak, you can expect your water pressure to be affected. According to the EPA, 10 percent of homes in the U.S. have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons of water per day. Corroded pipes, loose connections and other common problems can all cause leaks. If you suspect you may have a leak, rely on a plumber to perform an inspection and fix the problem.
One way to check to see whether your home's plumbing system is leaking anywhere is first to make sure no faucets or water-using appliances are on. When you're sure no one is using any water in your home, check the meter. If the meter indicates that water is being used, you know you have a leak, and probably a pretty serious one. You can detect a more minor leak by checking the meter right away and then waiting an hour or two before checking it again. Just make sure no one in your home uses any water during this time.
While most of the reasons for low water pressure we've looked at so far are due to problems with your plumbing system, another ordinary cause of low water pressure isn't really a problem at all — it's just a reality to be aware of. This reality is that the average person's daily routine is fairly similar, particularly when it comes to using water. So, if you notice that your water pressure is low when you go to take a shower in the morning, it may very well be because your neighbors and many others are taking showers at that same time.
If you want to experience higher water pressure when taking a shower or using water in other ways, try adjusting your schedule so you can avoid peak periods when water is in high demand. While this primarily applies to those who use city water, households with their own wells may still notice that water pressure dips when multiple people in the house are putting a demand on your water at the same time.
One of the places in your home where low water pressure is likely to be a nuisance is in the shower. While you may not care how pressurized water feels when you're washing your hands, for instance, many people enjoy the feel of high water pressure when they're showering. We've already looked at some common causes of low water pressure in general, but let's take a moment to look more specifically at why your shower might have low water pressure. You can potentially improve low shower pressure in three different ways.
The first common cause of low water pressure we discussed in the list above was faulty fixtures. This problem directly applies to showers. Shower heads are fixtures, and they can become clogged over time by mineral deposits. To see if the issue lies with your shower head, try removing it and observing whether the water pressure improves.
If your shower head is metal, you can scrub it or soak it in a cleaner or diluted vinegar to get rid of the mineral scale. If your shower head is plastic, it may not be able to handle certain cleaners. Regardless of what type of shower head you have, you can also replace it. Check your local hardware store for a shower head that will fit your shower and provides the settings you like.
While a clogged shower head is the most likely culprit of low water pressure in the shower, don't become disheartened if cleaning or replacing your shower head does not fix the problem. If the water pressure in your shower dropped suddenly, then the culprit may be one of your diverters. If you have a bathtub with a shower head rather than a stand-up shower, you'll want to check for a broken faucet spout diverter.
This diverter is the piece on the tub faucet that directs the water from the tub up to the shower head. In the most extreme cases, a broken spout diverter could prevent water from coming out of the shower head at all. You can replace your existing spout diverter by finding a matching one at your hardware store.
Finally, you may want to check the shower's secondary diverter that is mounted in the wall. You can still buy a replacement in a hardware store, but this diverter is more difficult to replace on your own, so you may want to call a plumber to take care of it. You'll likely have to shut off the water to your home while the plumber is replacing this part.
If none of the above three parts are the source of the problem, consider whether you have other parts in your shower system, such as a mixing valve, that could be causing the problem.
Another place in the bathroom where you may notice low water pressure is in your toilet. In the toilet, low water pressure manifests itself in the form of a weak flush. When you flush the toilet, there should be enough pressure behind the flush to wash away any waste in the toilet bowl swiftly. Let's look at how to fix low water pressure in a toilet.
If your toilet normally functions well, but you're currently experiencing low water pressure when flushing the toilet, then it may be clogged. An excess of toilet paper or non-flushable items are common causes for toilet clogs. You can use a plunger or snake to unclog a toilet. If a clog is what's interfering with your water pressure, then it should return to normal after you unclog the toilet.
A low water level in a toilet tank can also cause a weak flush. To see if this the issue, remove the lid from your toilet tank and check to see whether the water level is up to the designated line inside. If the water level is too low, then you can raise it by either raising the float arm or adjusting the float cylinder, depending on what your toilet tank is equipped with.
Another potential issue is clogged flush holes. These are the holes located around the rim of a toilet bowl that release water when you flush. Visually inspect these holes and see if any appear to be clogged. If so, use a narrow device like a bobby pin to clear the hole. After you've done this, flush the toilet again and see whether the water pressure has improved.
A good way to thoroughly clean the toilet bowl to prevent and clear clogs is to use bleach. First, shut off your toilet’s water tank supply by fully turning the knob on the water supply valve. Then, pour about a gallon of bleach into the toilet bowl and leave it for up to 20 minutes. Then, flush. After flushing the bleach, you can reopen the water supply valve so the tank refills. Reflush the toilet several more times, and then your toilet's system should be clear.
Another way to clean out your toilet system is to use vinegar. Open up your toilet tanks and, if there is rubber fill hose inside, remove it. Then, use a funnel to pour a quart of white vinegar directly into the tube inside the tank. Allow the vinegar to sit for at least two hours before flushing. Like bleach, vinegar can help disinfect and clear out any clogs causing low water pressure in your toilet.
If your search for the cause of low water pressure in your home uncovers an issue with your plumbing, you can depend on Haynes Plumbing to resolve the issue in a timely and professional manner. We’re a locally owned and operated team of plumbers serving commercial facilities and residential homes throughout northern Utah. Our 24/7 service schedule means you can count on us to be there fast if you experience a plumbing emergency, no matter what time of day or night.