How To Increase Your Water Pressure in Your Home
The upkeep of the place where you're living is essential, regardless of whether you rent or own. A working home doesn't come easy; there are conscious steps you must take so that everything is in tip-top shape. Oftentimes, these are problems that you cannot fix yourself.
If you suspect that your home water pressure is not quite up to standard, follow these six steps from Roto-Rooter to determine if there is a problem and how to resolve it.
1. Test your water pressure
You can buy a water pressure test gauge from many local home improvement stores. Turn off any appliances inside that might be using water (such as the dishwasher or washing machine) and attach the gauge to an outdoor hose spigot. They screw onto the threads just like a garden hose. Turn on the spigot and note the reading. Anything less than 60psi is on the low side. Ideally, you’ll see a reading between 60 and 75 psi. Anything above 80 is too high and will wear down your plumbing fixtures and pipe joints over time.
2. Ask Around
You can determine if your water pressure issues are yours alone or possibly related to the city municipal water system by chatting with your neighbors or your landlord. Are they experiencing similar issues? If your neighbors also report low water pressure, give your local provider a call. They can confirm whether it is a known issue, or begin taking steps to remedy the problem on a municipal level. If you have well water, you could have issues with your well pump.
3. Check the water meter, shut-off valve, or regulator
If you’ve (unfortunately) confirmed that your water pressure problems are yours alone, start with the basics. Check your water meter and the main shut-off valve at the street to ensure they are both fully open. Contractors may shut off water at this point to do routine or other maintenance. If you have a water pressure regulator, check that too. Poorly functioning regulators can result in gradual drops in water pressure.
4. Check for leaks
Cracked or damaged pipes allow water to slowly seep into your home, damaging walls or ceilings and reducing water pressure overall. Check for hidden leaks using your water meter. Turn off all the water in your home and record the number on your water meter. Wait at least 20 minutes, return to check your meter again. If the meter reading has changed, that means you have a leak.
If you want to try to locate the leak, check the tank parts of your toilets, especially the flapper valve; look under kitchen and bathroom sinks; look for drips from your bathtubs and showers. You should also check for puddles around your water heater, as well as possible leaks in your washing machine hoses. If you need a professional to check for hidden leaks, you can rely on Roto-Rooter’s leak repair professionals to locate and repair every type of water leak in and around your home.
5. Check your faucets
If you received a normal reading on your water pressure gauge on an outdoor spigot but still experience low water pressure indoors, take a closer look at your faucets and shower heads. Mineral buildup on fixtures can affect water flow. Loose or worn out washers can also contribute to leaks, reducing water pressure.
6. Consider clogged pipes
Years of buildup and residue inside your water supply pipes decreases the amount of water flowing through, reducing water pressure. This rarely occurs in copper pipes or PEX piping, but it’s a common problem with iron and galvanized pipes. If you are experiencing low water pressure throughout your house, you’ve thoroughly cleaned and removed mineral deposits from faucets and showerheads, and can’t find any leaks, it’s time to call in a professional plumber from Roto-Rooter to assess the pipes in your home and determine whether extensive buildup is affecting your water pressure.
WATER PRESSURE TESTED LOW, WHAT DO WE DO NOW
If you have low water pressure problems, here are a couple of things to check. Check all of the strainers on the faucets to make sure they are not blocked. Aerators/strainers need to be removed annually to check for buildup of minerals inside openings and anytime anyone works on the water piping system. Check your main valve coming into the home to make sure it’s not half-way open. Check the meter valve to see if it is really open. Sometimes the valve gets stuck in the closed position, even though the handle continues to turn. If it is, then check the piping to see if it is galvanized (use a magnet). Copper is not magnetic.
If the piping in the house is made of galvanized metal, then it could be calcium and mineral deposits. When galvanized water pipes are in a home for 30 to 50 years, calcium is leeched out of the water and attaches to the inside of the water pipes. It builds up through a process called ion exchange (magnetic attraction). It takes many years for this to happen and when it does, it coats the full length of the pipe. Unfortunately calcium builds up on the inside of the piping and reduces the internal diameter with pebble like growths until the water can no longer flow. It slows down the water like the rocks in a stream. The deposits are hard, just like the bones in your body, so they cannot be removed. In addition, there is no tool or liquid you are allowed to put into the pipes to clean them out, which you would want to drink later.
If it is galvanized metal, the only solution is to replace the piping. We would recommend replacing all the piping, not just the horizontal sections. Many people make the mistake of having their plumber only replace the horizontals. The problem is, half of the cost is the tear out and it doesn't take any more time to tear out the complete system. The set up time and demolition time is the same for both jobs, but if you do them at the same time, you only pay once.
Once in a while an old galvanized main valve gets stuck halfway open. Gate valves often have problems with the rising stem pulling out of the disk that shuts off the water. Even though it seems like the valve is open, because the inside threads allow the stem to continue turning up to the top of the threads, the valve is closed. Inside each gate valve there is a tapered round disk that fits into a tapered slot. When it's all the way down the valve is shut off. When it lifts up the valve is open. If the valve hasn't been closed in many years, calcium builds up on the ground faces of the slot as the water passes over it. When you close the brass gate, it gets stuck on the rough sandpaper like surface. When you try to turn it up, the stem simply pulls through the brass-casting slot and leaves the gate in place. Once this happens, you have to replace the valve.
WAYS TO KEEP THE INCREASED PRESSURE IN YOUR HOME:
Take good care of your garbage disposal
Let's face it, garbage disposals can really come in handy. They're a better alternative than throwing an item in the trash, because disposals break down the material instead of it just sitting there. However, lots of people misuse this feature, which can lead to plumbing blockages and expensive repairs. Only scraps of food should be put down the disposal; anything else can back up your drain and plumbing system. Here are some items you definitely cannot throw down your disposal:
- Fibrous foods like lettuce, carrots, onion skins and potato peels.
- Greasy foods or grease from cleaning.
- Food that increases in size with water, like pasta, rice and other grains.
- Non-food items.
Protect your pipes
The most serious plumbing issues usually come in the winter in the form of frozen pipes. Without proper insulation, the water inside your fixtures can freeze, stopping flow altogether. Unfortunately, the first way people notice this is by trying to turn on a faucet and having nothing come out. But it doesn't stop there. Over time, the frozen water can thaw, becoming liquid again, and put a huge strain on your pipes, which may lead to them bursting. This can cause an extensive and even more expensive mess in your home. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this.
First, when the weather gets cooler, be sure to head out to your local hardware store to pick up some insulation. That's the pink material found in unfinished basements and attics. Cut the material, and wrap it around all of the exposed pipes in your home. This will work as a jacket for your fixtures. But prevention doesn't end there. The insulation will do you no good if your home is freezing cold. Be sure your heating systems are in order so the air will be warm enough to keep your pipes at a safe temperature. In the same vein, make sure no pieces of furniture are covering your vents, allowing the air to properly circulate around your home.
Make sure your air vents aren't blocked by any furniture.
Lastly, and it may sound counterproductive, but let your fixtures drip a little every day. Taking the time to run your faucets, showers, etc., each day will help prevent ice from forming. Most appliances in your home may not run into this issue because they get used every day. However, sometimes there is a sink in the basement or laundry room that doesn't get much use. If you're going on vacation, make sure to have someone keep an eye on your plumbing so you don't come home to a huge mess.
Protect your drains
We've already mentioned that the wrong items can back up your garbage disposal, but the same thing goes for the rest of your drains. The pipes connected to your showers, baths and faucets are susceptible to the wrong kinds of waste. For example, hair can quickly clog a pipe. Have you ever noticed that you're standing in a couple of inches of water while showering? Odds are there's something backing up your plumbing fixtures. Be sure to put a hair catcher over your drain to prevent blockage. If your plumbing still gets backed up, use a declogging product to eliminate the mess or call a professional to take care of the issue.
Don't ignore the issue
Some people think that problems can go away on their own, and this couldn't be less true. In fact, waiting on a problem to fix itself can actually cause more damage in the long run. For example, a leaky faucet seems relatively harmless. However, as more water drips, harmful mold can grow from the constant moisture. Not only that, but it can actually cause your water bill to skyrocket because you're getting charged for water you aren't even using.
Call a professional
Sometimes, you just need someone who knows what they're doing. At Roto-Rooter, we have experienced plumbers who know how to fix any issue that you might have, from unclogging a drain to installing a pipe. Just give us a call. We have professionals on hand to answer any questions you may have.