Few plumbing problems are more frustrating than low water pressure. Fortunately, several common causes of low water pressure can be identified and fixed with ease, without an expensive plumbing repair job. Here are a few questions to ask when you’re faced with low water pressure to help narrow down the problem, along with several effective solutions.
If the low water pressure seems restricted to a single faucet or shower head, the problem may not be with your pipes or water supply, but with the fixture itself.
If you have low water pressure in your shower, the problem may be due to hard water deposits—otherwise known as the white clumps and cloudy spots you may see all over the shower head. Over time, calcium and limescale buildup caused by hard water can clog the shower head and reduce water pressure. All you have to do to fix the problem is clean or replace the shower head. To clean a shower head, unscrew it and soak it in a bowl of vinegar-water solution overnight. Wipe away any remaining deposits with a soft cloth and then reattach the shower head. You should notice an improvement in water pressure.
If hard water isn’t the culprit, the problem may be with the shower head itself. Many homes have low-flow and water conserving shower heads installed. This is particularly true in regions prone to drought, including Arizona. While conserving water is important, older models of these shower heads often result in low water pressure and an overall dissatisfying shower. If you replace your old shower head with a new one, you’ll likely be rewarded with much higher water pressure and a much better shower experience.
Clogged aerators and clogged cartridges are two of the most common causes of low water pressure in a sink. The aerator is the tip of the faucet that the water comes out of, while the cartridge is found underneath the sink handle and enables you to stop and start the flow of water. Both are easy to fix with no special plumbing tools or skills needed.
Begin by removing the aerator from the faucet by twisting it to the left. If it won’t budge, use a pair of slip-joint pliers to carefully loosen it. You can clean the aerator by using a toothbrush that has been dipped in water and vinegar to help remove limescale buildup. Once everything looks clear, twist the aerator back onto the faucet.
Start by turning off the supply valves to stop the flow of water into the sink. The supply valves are usually located underneath the sink itself. Next, use a small flat screwdriver to loosen the handle cap, and then remove it from the sink assembly. Remove the remaining nut using a pair of water pump pliers, and then remove the retaining clip using needle nose pliers.
Before removing the cartridge, you’ll need to remove the O-ring. To accomplish this, use either your fingers or a screwdriver to slip the O-ring from its groove. Finally, grip the cartridge with pliers and pull straight up to remove it.
If there is a considerable amount of lime scale on the cartridge, you can clean it by soaking it in a bowl of water and vinegar for a few hours. After drying the cartridge thoroughly, reinstall it by reversing the steps you took to remove it.
Some leaks may be obvious, but others may be impossible to locate without a plumber. One way to confirm there’s a leak in your plumbing system is to check your home’s water meter. Your water meter is likely located outside, near the curb or sidewalk in front of your home. The box containing the meter has a metal lid that may read “water meter”. A long screwdriver is all you need to remove the lid and reveal the meter inside.
Most meters have a leak indicator—this can be either a separate dial or a rotating disk on the meter that clearly shows if there’s a leak or not. If your meter doesn’t have a leak indicator, you can check for leaks yourself by taking a reading, waiting two hours, and then taking another reading. A significant difference between the two indicates that you’re dealing with a leak.
If all of your sinks, showers, and other fixtures have low water pressure, it’s safe to assume the problem has to do your home’s plumbing as a whole. In this case, the cause could be anything from problems with the water shut-off valve to issues with aging pipes.
Sometimes, the main shut-off valve isn’t opened completely following a repair job. If you recently had a plumber come out and fix a leak, repair a burst pipe, or inspect a slow drain, check your main shut-off valve to make sure it isn’t still 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.
The problem may be due to your home’s pressure regulator. 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, rather than gradually. Replacing a pressure regulator on your own can be complicated, as you have to make sure you use the same brand and size as the old one. It’s generally a better option to call a plumber and have them handle the replacement.
Low water pressure 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. The only true and permanent fix for this is to have a plumber re-pipe your home with modern copper or PVC pipes. This is a major repair job that requires a permit, and can be very expensive. Depending on how low your water pressure is, you’ll need to determine if it’s manageable or if a full re-piping makes financial sense.
If your neighbors have low water pressure too, the problem may not be with your home but with the entire community. In this case, one course of action is installing a water pressure booster. Like the name suggests, a water pressure booster increases the pressure of water as it travels from the main water line to your bathroom and kitchen fixtures.
If you recently bought your home, another possible solution is to check if the previous resident had a water pressure reducing valve installed. This regulator is often added to limit the force of the water that comes from the municipal supply lines. To determine if your home has one, you can either look for it yourself by inspecting your home’s main water supply or contact a plumber and have them investigate.
If the tips in this article didn’t solve your water pressure woes, call in the experts at Chas Roberts. There’s no problem too big or too small for our experience plumbers, and our attention to detail is unmatched. Contact us today for all your plumbing needs.