One of the most common questions home inspectors are often asked is, “does the house have good water pressure?”.
While this may sound like a great question, however, a deeper understanding of plumbing systems reveals that this is usually the wrong question to ask.
But because people understand very little about water pressure and water flow, they failed to have more fruitful discussions about plumbing systems. Ultimately, being able to turn on your faucet and wash your hands is all due to water pressure and flow.
And because these are essential parts of everyday life, you should understand how water pressure works.
In the following guide, we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about water pressure, how it works, and how it impacts your day-to-day living.
Understanding Water Pressure
Water pressure is basically the amount of force from the water main into your home. It’s measured in pounds per square inch, and normal or good water pressure is approximately between 30 and 80 PSI or pounds per inch.
Water pressure is often affected by gravitational pull. It is also much denser than air, so water is affected even more by small height differences.
What causes low water pressure?
If you are experiencing low water pressure inside your home, then there could be a few reasons for this, so let’s take a look at them:
Leaky or Faulty Valves
Your home’s water supply can be shut off by two different types of valves.
Check both of these valves on your own. If either of them is not fully opened, then it can affect the water pressure throughout the inside of your house.
If you notice that your basement or foundation is flooded, then you already know that your pipes are leaking. However, it doesn’t necessarily take a leak of that size to mess with your water pressure.
Ultimately, if you do have a leak, it will misdirect your water supply so that even if everything else is working fine, you still won’t be getting the full flow
To determine this, try to access your pipes, and go and take a look around and see if you can find any wet spots or pooling of water. Try and ascertain which pipe is leaking and fix it as quickly as possible.
Low water pressure can also be caused by fixtures that have become faulty over a period of time.
A buildup of mineral deposits, including limestone, sediment, or rust, can obstruct the fixture and prevent water from flowing freely.
Once pipes become clogged, these blockages can interrupt or disrupt water flow through your pipes. With the flow disrupted, water pressure will also be reduced.
So the pipes need to be cleaned out regularly, and if that cannot be done to resolve the issue, then it needs to be replaced. Certain fixtures such as faucets and showerheads can also become faulty or clogged over time.
Simply cleaning out the screen or aerator is usually enough to fix this issue, but in other cases, the entire fixture may need to be replaced.
Some homes contain multiple plumbing fixtures that are on at the same time and can place too much of a demand on the water supply for proper water pressure to be maintained in all of the fixtures simultaneously. So with a little coordination, you can usually help to avoid this issue.
How to find the causes of these issues?
Finding leaky or faulty valves and pipes
When experiencing low water pressure, the shutoff valve is usually the culprit. If you are the only fun on your block with low water pressure, then it’s time to start checking around your house for the issue.
Once you’ve located the shutoff valve for your main house, you need to check if it’s open all the way. This valve usually remains intact unless there’s a leak or a burst pipe. In most cases, the valve is located outside or may even be located inside, where the main city supply pipe enters the home.
It usually has a handle that’s much like the one you use to turn on your hose, and it needs to be turned counterclockwise at far as it can go. If the handle looks like a lever, it needs to be parallel to the pipe.
It’s not parallel to the pipe; then it means the shutoff valve is not completely open and could be the cause of your low water pressure.
If your water meter valve is not open all the way, this could be another cause for concern. The water meter valve is the second valve that controls the water entering your home.
It belongs to the water company, so most residents do not have to deal with this valve directly. They are also difficult to reach in most cases, especially when they are located underground.
If you had any renovations or repairs done to your home recently and simultaneously started to notice low water pressure, you might need to contact the water company. It’s highly likely that the valve is open but not completely, so someone will need to get to it and open it all the way.
Identifying mineral buildup
Over time, mineral buildup can occur inside your fixtures and faucets. Test all your fixtures one at a time by turning them on and then determining the pressure of the water.
Ensure that any screens on your faucets are clean and unobstructed. If the screen or aerator is clogged, you may need to have it replaced to resolve the issue.
In some cases, you may be able to clean it out. When replacing your fixtures, ensure that they fit correctly. When replacing your faucets, measure the distance between the two outer holes once they are removed.
A distance of 6 inches or more means you need a widespread faucet. Ultimately, this type of faucet requires you to connect valves to the mixing tee, manually.
Finding pipe obstruction
Ultimately, clogged pipes reduce the water flowing through pipelines. This blockage or obstruction can cause water to be concentrated in certain areas of the pipe rather than moving it to the faucets.
So to prevent this from happening and also from future bursts in the pipes, it’s important to eliminate the obstruction as soon as you find it. Lots of people are unaware of this, but clogs don’t just build up underneath drains.
It can actually form in the depths of your piping, and even a small clog can mess up the works enough to reduce water pressure. These types of clogs can occur anywhere underneath your house, and it’s one of those times when you need to call in a professional.
If you try to attempt to locate the clogged pipe or resolve the issue on your own, you may be knocking something loose or contaminating your pipes.
Using dangerous chemicals is a norm for homeowners who find their pipes clogged; however, it’s not advisable as it causes damage to your pipes, and this could turn out to be quite a costly mistake.
What can be done to fix it?
Flushing the hot water tank
If you find that the hot water pressure in all of your home’s fixtures and appliances is low, it’s highly likely that you have sediment build-up in your water heater tank.
So to get your hot water pressure back to normal, you need to figure out what’s causing the sediment to build up in your water tank and how to fix the problem.
So, where exactly does the sediment build-up come from, and why does it affect water pressure?
Sediment build-up accumulates in your water heater, and they’re basically minerals in the water that eventually sink to the bottom of the tank.
Once the minerals build up in your tank to the point where it’s clogging up both your hot and cold water supply pipes, then you’ll definitely notice a reduction in hot water pressure. This is especially in regions where water is very “hard.”
It is highly recommended that you hire a professional to flush your hot water tank. Flushing will help by bringing your water pressure back to normal.
The plumber will essentially drain, clean out, and then fill up your water tank again. That would allow for the mineral build-up to be cleared out completely.
It is also recommended that you get your hot water heater flushed at least once a year in order to prevent loss of hot water pressure, lower your energy bills and maintenance costs, extend the life of your water heater, and prevent voiding your warranty.
Using vinegar to remove build-up
If you start noticing a reduction in water pressure on faucets or showerheads, then you can try this vinegar fix.
Fill a small sandwich bag with vinegar and place it over your faucet, so the tap is completely submerged in the vinegar. Use a rubber band or two to tie the bag down and leave it to soak overnight.
Ultimately, what it should do is disintegrate the mineral build-up and clear the holes that have been causing the pressure to back up. Once the showerhead and faucets have been rinsed, then begin to use it as normal.
Once you’ve allowed the fixtures to sit overnight in the vinegar, and once they have been rinsed out, you should notice an immediate difference. If the pressure is still low, there could be another reason for this.
Usually, you may just need to have a section of piping unclogged or replaced, but there are some exceptions where an entire home’s plumbing system has become corroded and may need to be completely replaced.
Galvanized steel pipes have a typical lifespan of 20 to 50 years. Materials like copper, iron, and brass can last much longer, but ultimately even these pipes need to be replaced somewhere between 40 and 100 years.
Similarly, in a much older home, your plumbing may have been there for decades and become severely corroded. If all the plumbing in your house is likely corroded, you will need a new plumbing system, which will cost an arm and a leg.
When installing your plumbing, choose robust materials so you don’t have to worry about the costs and inconvenience of replacing the piping again in your lifetime. This, of course, is a job for professionals, and you need to call in a certified and licensed plumber to repipe your entire home.
How do you flush your water heater?
It’s not surprising that lots of homeowners don’t know that flushing their water heater at least once a year removes sediment buildup from the bottom of the tank.
Ultimately, flushing sediment improves the water heaters’ lifespan and efficiency. It also creates a barrier between the heating elements of the water heater and the water itself, ultimately making it harder to heat your water’s dishwasher, laundry, and home showers.
The flushing of the water heater tank is highly recommended, and here’s how you can go about doing it.
If at any time you are unsure about any of these steps, it is suggested that you call a licensed plumber, as opposed to taking a chance.
Turn off the water heater
Turning off the water heater allows the hot water to cool.
Turn off the cold water valve
A hot water heater works by heating up the cold water that’s brought into the tank. So with no cold water coming through, you can completely drain the tank of water.
Allow the water to cool
It is recommended that you not drain hot water. Allow it to cool for two hours.
Attach a garden hose or drain hose to drain the valve on the side of the tank
Ensure that the hose is threaded on completely, or you could end up with leaks as you drain your water tank.
Place the end of the hose into a bucket or drain
To avoid flooding your home, attach the other end of the hose into a bucket or in a drain.
Turn on a faucet or two
In order to prevent a vacuum from forming within your pipes, turn the taps on to the hot water setting and then turn it in on. You will hardly see any water coming out because you’ve closed the cold water valve, and no cold water is being displaced.
Drain the tank by turning on the drain valve
You can do this using a flat head screwdriver to turn the drain valve on slowly, ensuring that there aren’t any leaks and the other end of your pipe is either inside a drain or bucket to catch the water coming out.
Turn off the drain valve, remove the hose, turn on the cold water valve and heating elements.
Once the tank has been drained, completely remove the sediment within the water heater, then fill up the tank again, ensuring that your taps are still on and once you see a normal flow, turn them off. After approximately 30 minutes, you can test hot water.
When is it time to call your local plumber or serviceman?
Low water pressure inside your home is definitely an inconvenience and more of an annoyance. But, it can also be a sign of a large plumbing issue.
Low pressure can be caused by a number of reasons but if the flow rate inside your home has changed suddenly or we’ve noticed a gradual change, then it’s probably time to call in a licensed plumber.
Low water pressure may also be a symptom of a bigger problem happening inside your pipes. For example, if you have leaks, then you’ll probably experience water pressure, which is low; however, you will also see an increase in your monthly water bill.
So to avoid damage to your home or lawn and prevent high utility costs, enlist the help of a licensed and certified plumber to handle your low water pressure issues.
There are lots of ways to troubleshoot your low water pressure issues.
However, if you find that the problem seems too much for you to handle or you would rather not take the risk, the advantage is that licensed plumbers are out there and available to assist you.
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