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Repair & Maintenance

3 Common Problems That Cause Low Water Pressure

There are many reasons your plumbing system might be experiencing water pressure issues. Knowing the causes and possible solutions low water pressure can help you restore the trickle to a steady stream.

Tap water flowing slowly from sink

Does your toilet tank take a long time to refill after every flush? Are the dishes that come out of your dishwasher a bit duller than you’d like? Has your shower lost its power? The problem may be with your water pressure. What causes low water pressure? There are many reasons your plumbing system might be experiencing water pressure issues. Knowing the causes and possible solutions low water pressure can help you restore the trickle to a steady stream.

1. Leaks

A leak found anywhere in your home's network of pipes can create a drop in pressure. Pipes can also crack or rupture, keeping water from reaching its destination. To determine if leaking pipes are responsible for your low water pressure, your first task is to figure out whether the issue is confined to one location in your home or whether it is affecting your entire plumbing system.

Check all of your indoor and outdoor faucets, as well as your hose hookups (like the one to your washing machine). Be sure to test both the hot and cold water taps as you go.

If you suspect water is leaking in more than one location, shut off all of the taps and check your water meter. Read the meter and make note of the number of gallons used. Wait between 20 and 45 minutes before turning taps on again and make sure not to use any water. Return to your meter to see if the number of gallons used has changed. If so, you may have a leak that needs to be repaired.

A very slow leak may take longer to register on your meter’s readout. If you have a digital water meter, it may also come equipped with a leak indicator. Contact your water provider about the features of your specific model of water meter.

2. Fixtures

If your low water pressure issue is limited to one area of your home, a clogged aerator might be the culprit. This faucet part is relatively easy to check and correct.

Unscrew the aerator from the spout of your faucet by hand. Once detached, check the aerator for evidence of dirt, sand, gravel or any other foreign material.

If you don’t see an obvious obstruction, the aerator may have sediment buildup, especially if you have hard water. Clean your aerator thoroughly by soaking it in a mixture of water and vinegar, or use an over-the-counter limescale remover. For the latter, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on use and safety precautions. You can apply this same solution to a shower head that’s suffering from low water pressure.

If cleaning does not work or has to be done too frequently, you can also just replace your aerator. Most hardware stores carry a variety of standard and universal fit aerators. If you have trouble finding a replacement, a plumber can help you identify and install the right part.

If a clogged aerator isn’t to blame, more investigation is necessary. A sticky valve or faulty washer could be stopping or diverting the flow of water at your faucet. A dripping faucet is one sign of a washer that is reaching the end of its lifecycle. Look for leaks around the base of your faucet while the water is running. Finally, check any valves on lines leading from the supply to the faucet in question. If you have individual shut-off valves installed on the hot and cold lines running to your faucet, make sure they are completely open, and test them to see if they turn easily. If they don’t, they may have rusted.

3. Buildup

The gradual buildup of sediment is what causes low water pressure in many homes. All water contains minerals, and when a home has hard water, minerals such as calcium and calcium salts will leave a residue inside of pipes. Over time, this residue can accumulate and create an obstruction, clogging your pipes. Residue can also leech heat, and you may notice it takes longer than normal for your hot water to heat up.

Older cast iron, copper and galvanized steel pipes are also susceptible to sediment buildup, leading to blockage and corrosion inside the pipes. Mineral buildup can be treated with chemicals, effectively flushing your entire plumbing system. However, a plumber will most likely have to examine a section of pipe or perform some other test to diagnose this issue and determine its severity.

If you do notice sediment buildup, don’t put off dealing with it. When left unchecked, corrosion can become a serious plumbing issue, and you may need to replace large sections of pipe.

What Is The Proper Water Pressure For Your Home?

Water pressure is often a matter of what feels right. Some homeowners prefer a lower pressure because it conserves water and places less wear and tear on plumbing fixtures. However, most plumbers recommend that water is delivered throughout your home at no lower than 40 and no greater than 80 psi (pounds per square inch). This number may vary based upon your location, municipal codes, building codes and other factors.

You can check your own water pressure using a gauge that attaches to your outdoor hose faucet. Assuming your home does not use a secondary supply for its outdoor water needs, the reading you take there should be accurate for your home’s overall plumbing system.

The pressure you feel or have measured is not necessarily the pressure at which water enters your home, however. Water may be flowing into your property’s supply lines at 100 psi, 120 psi or even higher, depending on your utilities provider and the technical specifications of the water mains serving your home. Look for a pressure regulator attached to the plumbing lines that lead from your water meter or main to the supply lines entering your home. The location of this regulator will vary, but it is a bell-shaped, spring-loaded valve that can also be the source of a water pressure problem. If this mechanism malfunctions or needs adjustment, consult a plumber.


 

At American Home Shield, we value the expertise of our contractors, including Gary Humphreys and the staff at Hardy Plumbing in Augusta, Georgia. Hardy Plumbing has been in operation since 1961 and is now in its third generation of family ownership. When your home’s water pressure needs special attention and care, contact an AHS-approved plumber for timely and skillful support.


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