When the water in your plumbing fixtures slows to a trickle, you’re dealing with a sudden loss of water pressure. While it’s a frustrating problem, it’s also one that you can easily troubleshoot and, in some cases, fix on your own. Here are four things to do when you suddenly lose water pressure.
Before you can solve water pressure problems, you need to get a sense of how big (or how small) of an issue you’re dealing with. Is the low water pressure limited to one sink, or is it happening everywhere? Here are a few scenarios to rule out.
If the low water pressure seems restricted to a single faucet or showerhead, the problem isn’t with your pipes or water supply, but with the fixture itself. If it’s a sink, the most common causes are a clogged aerator or clogged cartridge. You can remove both using a pair of pliers, and clean them with a mix of water and white vinegar to scrub away limescale buildup.
If the low water pressure is happening in one specific shower, unscrew the showerhead and inspect it for signs of hard water deposits. These cloudy spots block the flow of water and decrease water pressure. Soak the showerhead in a bowl of water and vinegar overnight, and scrub away at any remaining spots in the morning. Once you reattach your showerhead, your water pressure should improve. If not, it’s time to call a plumber.
If every fixture in your home has frustratingly low water pressure, check your main shut-off valve to make sure it isn’t partially closed. The main shut-off valve may be located underground near the street, or in your garage, basement, or crawlspace. If you can’t locate it, you can ask a plumber to find it for you.
Low water pressure also commonly occurs in homes that are more than 20 years old. The steel and iron pipes used in home construction decades ago are prone to becoming clogged with lime deposits that limit the flow of water. Orangeburg pipes in particular can cause low water pressure as tree roots invade the porous pipes.
In some cases, the problem of low water pressure can affect more than one house on the block. Ask your neighbors if they’re experiencing the same thing. If they are, the problem may be with the local water supply. At times, things like maintenance can disrupt water pressure and supply. Call the water company to see if they’re aware of the problem, and what they’re doing to do fix it.
If your cold water pressure is fine, but your hot water pressure is low, focus on your hot water heater. Start by checking the shut-off valve. You’ll find it either next to or on the heater itself. This fail-safe allows you to easily turn off the water in case of emergencies, or for maintenance and repairs. Sometimes, it can be left slightly closed, decreasing water pressure. Check to make sure the valve is completely open.
If the shut-off valve isn’t to blame, sediment buildup is the next probable cause. Mineral and sediment buildup within the tank can cause low water pressure. This is especially true in Arizona, where hard water causes much faster rates of buildup. In this case, flushing the tank may be in order.
If you have a tankless water heater, you may experience low water pressure during times of high demand, especially if you have a larger family. You can troubleshoot this problem with a plumber, but the solution may be to install a second heater.
A water pressure regulator is also known as a pressure-reducing valve or PRV. It works to bring water pressure down to an optimal level before it reaches the plumbing fixtures in your home. Not all homes have pressure regulators, but those that do can experience low water pressure when the regulator is broken. This tends to happen suddenly. Replacing a regulator can be complicated, and it’s best to leave that job to the professionals.
Even if your home is providing enough water, that water isn’t all going to make it to the fixture if there’s a leak along the way. Leaks can be tricky to spot, with both obvious and not so obvious signs.
The easiest way to confirm a leak is to check the leak indicator located on your water meter. Generally, you’ll find your water meter in front of your house near the front curb, in a concrete box marked “water”. The leak indicator may look like a small triangular dial. If the dial is moving, there’s a leak. If you don’t have a leak indicator, there’s another easy way to figure out if the leak is located in your main water line. First shut off the water in your home, and make note of the reading shown on your water meter. Wait two hours and read the meter again. If the meter reading increased, you’re dealing with a leak.
Once you confirm that you either do, or don’t, have a leak, you can start trying to narrow down its location. If the leak is minor, you can buy some time with quick fixes while you wait for a plumber to arrive.
These leaks can go unnoticed since they come from the very back of the cabinet. The only signs you might notice are puddles or water stains under the sink, or water stains on the ceiling of the room below. A strong sewer gas smell around the sink can also indicate a leak.
If you suspect you have a plumbing supply leak, locate the shutoffs and connections under your sink. Since the leaks are likely too small for your eyes to see, take a paper towel and wipe each fixture under the sink. If you notice a wet spot on the towel, you’ve located your leak.
In kitchen and bathroom sinks, leaks can occur either in the drain itself or in the slip joints in the drain pipe. To locate the leak, turn the sink on and let it fill with water. Then, as it drains, check for leaks by wiping all parts of the pipe under your sink with a dry paper towel.
To identify other types of water leaks, look out for things like warping and discoloration on your ceilings, floors, and walls. Places like the bottom of your sink cabinet or the base of your bathtub are a good place to start. The presence of a musty odor, or the growth of mold and mildew, can also indicate that a leak is present nearby. The only way to know for sure is to cut into the walls, which is a job best left to a professional plumber.
Whether you’re tired of dealing with low water pressure or have other plumbing questions, turn to Chas Roberts for expert service you can trust. We’ve served families throughout the Valley for over 75 years, and we’d love the opportunity to help with any and all of your plumbing needs. Contact us and count on our knowledgeable technicians to make things right.