The Homeowner’s Guide to Troubleshooting Low Water Pressure Problems

There are few things more frustrating than trying to take a shower or fill a sink and realizing the water isn’t really flowing. The culprit? You can probably blame it on your water pressure being low. Water pressure is, most simply, the amount of force generated by water flowing from treatment facilities to storage tanks, and finally to your home. Measured in PSI (pounds per square inch), water pressure should remain within certain levels to maintain peak performance.

A city’s water systems is very complicated, and many moving parts are necessary to keep your home supplied with clean water at the right pressure. If you notice a sudden drop in water pressure in any part of your home, you’ll want to verify that the water entering your home at the water main is at the correct pressure.

Checking for the Source of Low Water Pressure

If your shower suddenly seems to lose pressure, the first step is to see if there is low pressure anywhere else in your home. Check by turning each faucet on individually and allowing it to run for a few moments. Be sure to check both hot and cold water (low hot water pressure may indicate a problem with your hot water heater if the cold water flows as usual). If the stream seems normal everywhere else, the problem is most likely a simple fix right at your shower head.

However, if you’re experiencing low water pressure elsewhere in your home, it’s time to investigate at the water main. Most homes have a shut-off valve where the public water supply enters the house, as well as somewhere near the water meter. The valve near the meter is typically only used by city utility crews during maintenance, but it is worth checking to make sure it’s turned fully on – especially if work was done recently.

Next, check the main shut-off valve on the house to ensure that it is open to the correct position. These valves are usually located on the outside of the building close to where the water enters, or in a utility area such as a garage or basement.

Quick Fixes for Localized Pressure Problems

Once you’ve determined where the water pressure problem is, and you’re certain that both main valves are open, it’s time to fix the problem.

If your water pressure issue is located at a single fixture, take a few moments to troubleshoot possible problems.

Hard Water

Look carefully at your shower head. If it has developed a “crusty” look, you probably have hard water. It isn’t harmful. Hard water is just a higher concentration of minerals such as magnesium or calcium in your water that can build up in pipes and fixtures, choking off the water flow.

This problem can usually be remedied by removing the shower head and soaking it in a solution of vinegar and water for a few hours. After the vinegar has a chance to loosen the hard water deposits, give it a good scrub and replace it. Chances are, your water flow will return to normal.

Diverter Valve Issues

A shower/bathtub combo typically means there is diverter valve. This valve is a knob or switch that shifts the flow of water from the lower faucet to the shower head. If water flow is normal at the faucet, but slow at the showerhead, you may have a broken or malfunctioning diverter.

Replacing the diverter valve is typically a job for a plumber, but a DIY homeowner can change the valve if you are certain it’s the issue.

More Serious Problems

If your water pressure is reduced everywhere in your home, and you’ve verified that the main valves are open and functioning properly, you may have a more complicated problem on your hands.

Check for Leaks

Broken pipes can cause sudden drops in water pressure, so if you can’t find another explanation, start looking for signs of leaks. Listen for water running after all faucets are shut off, check for dampness or stains, and examine your accessible pipes to see if you can see dripping. If any of the signs are present, shut off your main valve right away and call a professional plumber for an evaluation.

Pressure Relief Valve

Many homes are equipped with a device that monitors water pressure and helps to prevent wasted water. If the Pressure Relief Valve has worn out, it may no longer work properly, leading to dramatic reductions in water pressure.

Try adjusting the valve slightly to see if this affects your overall water pressure. That may be all that’s needed. However, if the valve is broken, it should be replaced. You can do this yourself, but don’t hesitate to call a plumber if you’re not confident in your ability to properly replace the valve.

Don’t Just Wait Around

Water pressure problems may seem like only a slight inconvenience, but they are often caused by a bigger problem. Left unaddressed, they only get worse. If you can’t identify and fix your water pressure issue on your own, don’t just let it go! Small leaks or chronically clogged pipes will grow worse over time and may cause extensive damage.

Call Home Angels and we can send one of our professional plumbers to complete a thorough investigation and help you resolve your water pressure problems.