Dealing with low water pressure in your home can be frustrating, and there are many reasons why this problem can occur. If your water pressure is suddenly low and then goes back to normal within a day or two, the issue was likely related to the municipal water supply and not your home. However, if you constantly struggle with low water pressure, here are some options that may help to increase it.
Check That the Water Shut-off Valve Is Fully Open
The shut-off valves control the supply of water to your home. We are often called out to inspect low water pressure issues only to find that the problem was due to a shut-off valve only being partially open. If the shut-off valves aren’t fully open, it will reduce the volume of water flowing into the home and result in decreased pressure.
You will first need to locate the shut-off valve. In warmer climates, the shut-off valve is typically in the front yard where the water line from the street feeds into the home. This valve will be just below the surface inside a small access panel near your water meter. In colder areas, the shut-off valve is usually located inside the house. Most often, it will be near the front of the house in the basement or crawl space. Some homes also have a shut-off valve both in the yard and inside the home.
After locating the shut-off valve, you will then need to turn it so that it is fully open. If you have a ball valve with a straight handle, the handle will be parallel with the pipe when fully open. If it is perpendicular to the pipe or at an angle, then the valve is not fully open. Older plumbing systems typically have a gate valve, which is a round handle that looks similar to your hose faucet. With a gate valve, turn the handle clockwise as far as it will go to make sure it is fully open.
Measure Your Water Pressure and Flow Rate
Measuring your water pressure and flow rate is an easy way to tell if your home has enough water pressure and enough volume. You can check the water pressure with a pressure gauge, which you can pick up for cheap at any hardware or home improvement store. Screw the pressure gauge onto your outdoor hose spigot and then open up the faucet all the way and read the pressure. Your water pressure should be between 40 and 60 psi. If it is under 40 psi, your water pressure is low for some reason.
Flow rate is also important. It is measured in gallons per minute (GPM) and determines how much water you can use at one time. If the water pressure in your faucets is only low when running the dishwasher or showering, you may not have a sufficient flow rate. This problem usually makes it seem like you have low water pressure, but the reality is your flow rate is too low to adequately meet all of your water needs at one time. This usually happens because the water line has a large amount of mineral deposits built up inside the pipe, which restricts the flow of water coming into the house.
To check the flow rate, grab a few 5-gallon buckets, a timer, and your hose. Turn the water on as high as it will go, and then, start filling the buckets for exactly one minute. After the minute, check to see how much water you have. If you filled two and a half buckets, your flow rate is 12.5 GPM. If you only filled one, your flow rate is only 5 GPM, which is far too low.
The average flow rate is between 6 and 12 GPM. Anything above 6 GPM is acceptable, but it still may not be sufficient to allow you to shower and run your washing machine at the same time since your shower likely uses 2.5 GPM, and your washing machine can use up to 5 GPM.
Make Sure That You Don’t Have a Plumbing Leak
Small leaks typically don’t have a major effect on water pressure, but a more serious leak definitely can. The easiest way to check if you have a leak is to monitor your water meter. Make sure that there is no water running inside the house and then check the meter. If the numbers are still going up when the water is off, you definitely have a leak that could be contributing to your low water pressure issues. It can also help to take note of the meter reading and then check it again after your water has been off for 15 minutes to see if the reading is higher.
Inspect Your Pressure Reducing Valve
Most homes have a pressure-reducing valve that is designed to prevent damage to your plumbing caused by high water pressure. The pressure in the municipal water system is usually much higher than your home can handle, and the valve works to lower the pressure before it comes into the home.
The pressure-reducing valve is usually located in the same place as your main shut-off valve and water meter, and it should have a gauge that shows the water pressure. You really shouldn’t ever need to adjust the valve, but there are times when the valve is set too low for some reason.
On top of the valve is a threaded bolt that allows you to adjust the pressure. To turn the pressure up, loosen the locking nut on top of the bolt, and then, slowly turn the bolt clockwise. Pay close attention to the pressure gauge while turning the bolt to make sure it doesn’t go too high. Once the pressure reaches 50 psi, tighten the locking nut to make sure the bolt can move.
If nothing happens when you turn the bolt, it usually indicates that the pressure-reducing valve has failed and needs to be replaced. When the valve starts to fail, it can cause the pressure throughout the entire building to either drop drastically or become too high. If the valve is faulty, you will need to contact a plumber to have it replaced.
Contact Your Water Department
If everything else has failed to fix your water pressure issues, the next step is to contact your local water department. Most municipal water departments will test the water pressure coming into your water main for free. The city also has its own shut-off valve that controls the water coming into your home. Sometimes, this valve is not fully open, and this is something that they can check for you.
Have a Water Pressure Booster Pump Installed
If the city determines that the water pressure coming into your home is fine, then it’s time to call a plumber. They can inspect your plumbing system to see if you have a leak or other issue that is causing your low water pressure. If no obvious issues are present, your only option is to have a water-pressure booster pump installed. This is a small electric pump that works to increase the water pressure coming into your plumbing system to the proper level.
If you are experiencing any issues with your home’s water pressure, the licensed plumbers at Express Plumbing Heating & Air in Boise can help you overcome your water pressure problems. Our team will inspect your entire plumbing system for any issue that could be causing your low water pressure and determine the best way to overcome it. We also specialize in a full range of other plumbing services including drain cleaning, sewer repair, septic pumping, repiping and water heater repair, maintenance and installation. To learn more about your options for boosting your home’s water pressure, give us a call today.