Low water pressure is probably one of the most common complaints in the plumbing industry. There’s nothing especially satisfying about having to run around in the shower to get a good rinse, so let’s take a look at some of the probable causes and potential remedies of a low water pressure problem.
What Is Considered Low Water Pressure?
What causes the dreaded trickle? Often, and especially in older homes, the problem is clogged pipes. But if you’re in a newer home or just had older pipes replaced, there are some other things you can check in your search for the “choke point”. If your house is served by city-provided water, you can begin by contacting them for a pressure reading to confirm your low-flow condition. Ideally, you should be getting a reading somewhere between 45-55 psi (pounds per square inch); below that and you have low water pressure.
If you’re not on city water, you can test the pressure yourself with a pressure gauge, usually available at your local hardware or big-box home improvement stores. Just hold the gauge to an outside spigot and run the water for an instant reading.
Why Do I Have Low Water Pressure?
If the city is providing low pressure and/or your gauge is giving you the bad news, there are several ways to tackle the problem. Your first move might be to contact your city’s water department to find out if additional water pressure can be delivered. If that isn’t possible, or if you’re not on city water, there are other things you can do to improve your situation:
Check Out Your Pressure-Reducing Valve
If your pressure reading is low, check your pressure-reducing valve, if indeed you have one. It will be mounted on your water main and can be adjusted if necessary. These valves are usually pre-set at around 50 psi. If yours is lower, you can adjust the pressure by turning the pressure adjustment screw at the top of the valve.
Pressure-Reducing Valves (PRV) can also wear out over time, so if it’s 10-20 years old it might be time to replace it. If your reading is good but your shower, for example, still isn’t what you think it should be, you might have blockages in the pipes or the pipes might just be too small. In either case, you should contact a licensed plumber to evaluate and repair the problem.
Consider a Water Pressure Booster
If you have a ¾ inch or larger plastic or copper water main, you can more than likely have a water pressure booster installed that will solve your issues. Approximately the size of the propane tank you use on your outdoor grill, water pressure boosters take the water coming into your home and increase the pressure through the use of an electric pump and a pressure tank. These boosters can usually be adjusted via a dial on the top of the unit. Pressurized water is maintained in the tank so that the booster doesn’t need to run every time you open a faucet and will provide an increased flow when demand for water is high in situations such as running multiple simultaneous showers or multi-zone sprinkler systems.