Troubleshoot Low Water Pressure in Your Home This Spring
Maybe it’s the rain, seeing rivers and reservoirs higher than usual, or just the fact that summer is on its way, but spring always gets us thinking about water. Most folks in our area are concerned about water in their state and conserving water at home, and we’re all trying to cut back usage in the face of an ongoing drought.
One place that a lot of people don’t think about water conservation is the water pressure in their homes. And that means that a lot of folks are dealing with water-using devices that don’t perform as well as they could be. It’s also a potential symptom of larger plumbing issues. We’re going to talk today about those issues and the general problems of low water pressure, as well as what you can do to find and fix the problem in your home.
Why Is My Water Pressure Low?
There are a number of possible reasons for low water pressure in your house:
- Pipe blockage or buildup. If you’re used to pretty high pressure in your shower, and it’s getting less and less powerful over time, you’re probably dealing with some sort of pipe blockage or buildup. We’ve talked in the past about hard water in our area, and that’s a big cause of buildup in pipes, also known as “scaling.” As the mineral-filled water courses through the plumbing, minerals are sucked out of the water and onto the insides of the pipes. They can slow water or even cut it off over time if left unchecked. Corrosion on non-copper pipes can also have a similar effect.
- A leak. If on the other hand, you’ve seen a rather immediate drop in water pressure, that can be the sign of a recent, and potentially serious, plumbing issue. A leak somewhere in the system might result in low water pressure in one or more faucets or showerheads, which means the water that should be delivered to the faucet is instead leaking out somewhere in the system. It’s important to deal with leaks as soon as you can. Leaks like that can cause lots of damage to the plumbing and to your house.
- Faulty hardware. If you just had a remodel and switched over to new faucets or showerheads, and the new ones aren’t giving you the pressure the old ones did, it might be an issue with the hardware itself. Low-flow or flow-limited devices are more and more common and in some places mandatory, and you should check with your remodeling contractor to make sure your new sink or shower hardware will fit your needs.
- Disruption of water service. Sudden changes in water pressure can also be the result of issues with your water supply—check in with your supplier to see if they have any notices about disruption of service.
How Do I Fix It?
Obviously, if the problem is hardware, you have to replace the plumbing parts, and if the problem is a disruption in service, you have to wait for the water to come back on. But what if you’ve seen a gradual drop in water pressure and think it’s scaling, or you’ve noticed a sudden drop in pressure?
If your water flow just seems sluggish but hasn’t suddenly dropped in performance, you may be dealing with hard water issues or other buildup on your pipes. There are a variety of products and methods you can use to clean your pipes, and in many cases that will work and your water pressure will return. In homes that consistently have hard water, you should consider investing in a water softener or deionizer to help prevent future buildup. While you can probably handle this problem yourself, in cases of extreme buildup or corrosion, pipe replacement may be necessary. A plumbing contractor will be better able to tell you what’s right for your home.
If a leak is the issue, you probably can’t fix the problem yourself, and it’s important to get a plumber out there ASAP (you should really do so anytime you have a sudden drop in water pressure). Like we said above, major leaks can be more expensive than just the cost of repairs. They can damage your home and possession, risk injury to your family, and will only get worse over time. Plus, you’re paying for money to go down the drain, literally.
There are a few things you might be able to do yourself when your plumbing is in good shape but you’re not happy with your water pressure. The first is to make sure your water is turned on all the way at your water main and at the street hookup — while it’s highly unlikely that it’s not turned on fully, strange things can occur. Some DIY sites will tell you to fiddle with your pressure regulator too, but, in our opinion, these are delicate instruments, and we tell homeowners that the risk of plumbing damage is too great to be fiddling with that stuff. It’s best to ensure the water is turned on all the way at the main and move on to other options.
If you have water pressure in all your devices but one or two, and the issue isn’t a leak or buildup, you may be able to increase the water flow by taking the faucet or showerhead apart, removing the rubber o-ring, and widening the inside of the ring before replacing it all. However, if you live in a place where water flow in devices is restricted, such DIY repairs may be frowned upon (and it can also damage expensive faucets and showerheads).
If you’re noticed a drop in water pressure in your home but aren’t sure of the cause, call a good plumber to get more advice on your specific situation. They’ll be able to give you a solid assessment based on their on-site visit, give options to fix the problem, and make a plan to address your home’s needs.