Low water pressure has a number of causes and equally as many fixes
Trying to rinse your hair under a showerhead that’s barely producing a trickle can make mornings stressful. You could be experiencing low water pressure for several reasons, some of which may be specific to the room or might even impact the entire house.
If you find yourself frustrated while washing dishes or filling the bathtub, here are some common causes of low water pressure and how to fix them.
Causes of Low Water Pressure
Low water pressure makes showering, washing dishes, cleaning, and cooking a hassle. As you tap your foot waiting for a pot of water to fill up, you might wonder if there’s an easy fix. That depends on the cause of the low water flow.
One main cause of low water pressure is leaking pipes. Plumbing leaks divert water flow, leaving you high and dry. Some leaks are easy to identify by sound or moisture in the area. Others will require that you shut off all water taps in the house and record the water meter. Check it a few hours later, and if it shows increased usage, then you likely have a leak on your hands.
Most homes have two shutoff valves: a water meter valve and a main shutoff valve. If you notice low water pressure throughout the house, one of these valves might be closed or partially closed.
Buildup in Pipes
Blocked pipes are detrimental to good water flow. Old steel pipes are prone to corrosion buildup over time. Metal pipes have a lifespan of up to 100 years, after which they are more likely to rust or break down, leaving buildup within the pipes. If you live in an older home, you may have to deal with corroded pipes at some point.
Debris or minerals can also build up within pipes. These pollutants can occur naturally, as water may leave behind minerals or other residue while it moves through the pipes.
Some residences just can’t handle a high demand for water. If someone is showering in each bathroom while you run the dishwasher, you might just get a trickle of water for handwashing. Although it’s annoying, this issue is easy to resolve with some coordination.
Failing Pressure Regulator
Pressure regulators help maintain a balanced water flow that is neither too high nor too low. If the entire home’s water pressure drops suddenly, this can be a clear indication of a broken pressure regulator.
Faulty Faucets and Fixtures
If you notice low water pressure only in one showerhead or one sink faucet, you’re likely dealing with a fixture issue. The fixture might be clogged or need a new aerator, or you might need to replace the fixture altogether.
6 Ways to Fix Low Water Pressure
Now that you know how to identify the cause of your low water pressure, it’s time to explore some ways to fix the problem.
1. How to Fix Leaks
Once you’ve identified a leak, you can clean and seal it yourself. More serious leaks may require replacements and help from a local plumber.
2. Open Valves
To find the water meter valve, locate your water meter. You can usually spot it on an exterior wall of the house, in your garage or basement, or in an underground box on the property. The valve is open when the valve handle is parallel to the water pipe.
Locate the main shutoff valve either on an exterior wall or in utility areas within the home, like the basement, laundry room, or garage. A gate valve looks like a wheel; spin it counterclockwise fully to open it. A ball valve has a lever; like the water meter valve, ensure the lever is parallel with the pipe to open it.
3. Clearing Buildup or Corrosion in Pipes
Plumbing chemicals are your friend for mineral or debris buildup in pipes. But if you’re dealing with corrosion, the pipes need to be replaced. This is a big job best handled by a professional. If left alone, the corrosion can lead to massive, costly damage. Corroded pipes can burst and flood your home.
Replacing pipes may cost upward of $10,000 in a two-bathroom home, but flooding can be more costly.
4. Alleviating Water Demand
Try to coordinate with your fellow housemates to alleviate the strain on your water. Plan to run the dishwasher or washing machine at night while no one is showering or cooking. As an added bonus, you might also save money on utility bills by running water-consumptive appliances during non-peak times.
5. Fixing a Broken Pressure Regulator
Is your pressure regulator failing? Sudden, house-wide changes in water pressure are a clear indicator of a broken pressure regulator. To confirm any suspicions, attach a water pressure gauge to an outdoor water spigot, where you hook up a garden hose.
If the water pressure is below the recommended threshold of 52 to 75 pounds per square inch, call a professional to fix the broken pressure regulator. This is not recommended as a DIY project because it involves shutting off the water and replacing the pressure regulator with an accurate model.
6. Clean Fixtures
Faulty fixtures are a fairly easy issue to fix on your own. First, the showerhead or faucet might just be clogged, so give them a scrub to dislodge any dirt or buildup. Experts recommend changing faucet aerators about once a year and cleaning them regularly.
Enjoy Normal Water Pressure
Hopefully you can finally find a good balance of water pressure in your home after addressing the cause. But keep in mind you can also have water pressure that is too high for comfort. Plus, high water pressure can cause costly plumbing problems. Strike the perfect balance to keep your water flowing smoothly.