Low Water Pressure in the House: 10 Causes and Solutions
Clogging is something that we’ve all experienced once or twice. Leaking is another common issue among American households, and, usually, you can fix that if you’re good with your hands. Or, there’s always the option of calling a plumber. But what if the issue is much bigger than that? What if you’re not getting a proper water pressure level because you’re sharing the pipeline with a neighbor?
Or maybe your borough/city has changed its regulations? These are just some of the potential causes, and today, we’ll talk about it all in great detail. We made a list of the ten most common reasons for abnormally low water pressure and the best solutions. So, if you’re ready to learn what causes low water pressure in the whole house, get it back up and enjoy wholesome showers, let’s dive right in!
The 10 Most Likely Causes of Low Water Pressure in Your House
1. Your Water Supplier is to Blame
If you feel like the water pressure isn’t the same as it used to be, you should do some “detective work”. Ask your closest neighbors whether they’re experiencing the same problems or not. If they are, and it’s been going on for a while, that means the problem is not on your side. That is good news, of course, because you won’t have to spend any time, energy, or money trying to fix it.
2. City Regulations Have Changed
Sometimes, it’s not the supplier to blame, but city regulations. If that’s the case, the water provider will have to follow these new rules. This happens rarely, and city officials always send out emails or use other means to let the population know about these changes. They control the citywide piping network from the center (the municipal water system) and the lowered water pressure applies to every single household in the area.
Yes, pipelines in densely populated areas rarely (if ever) supply water to one single house. Instead, they run it into multiple households, and that can be a problem. Say, your neighbor decided to wash their truck this morning, or someone’s watering the flowers with a garden hose. That will immediately drop your water pressure, as you’re all on a joint pipeline.
4. You Have a Faulty Pressure Regulator
Alright, so, with the water supplier, city regulator, and water-hungry neighbors out of the way, let’s talk about situations when the problem is on your side. You might not have a pressure regulator per se, but if you do, it could be faulty. Here’s how you check this: grab a standard water pressure gauge and attach it to your outside hose plug/spigot. Next, turn the water on, and the gauge should give you an accurate read on the pressure.
If the pressure regulator claims a higher pressure, but you see that it’s much lower on the gauge, that means the regular if malfunctioning. The #1 job of any pressure-reducing valve is to control the water pressure coming from the supplier and set it to a level that’s safe for your pipes, faucets, and appliances. So, when the regulator is faulty and not getting accurate readings, you end up with lower water pressure, as the PRV isn’t doing anything to boost it.
5. The Pipes are Clogged/Congested
You’ve probably thought of this first, as clogging is a very common issue with pipes. It tends to build up in the depth of tubes and pipes. The worst thing about this—even when it’s not a gigantic clog, you’ll still have problems with water pressure. And no, the water, sand, and minerals won’t go away if you crank the faucet up and switch to hot water. Besides, clogging makes it harder for water to heat up.
6. The Pipes Are Corroded
Rust is arguably the #1 enemy of any metallic surfaces and parts, including water pipes. But can this really be an issue for your house? It depends on how long the pipes have been in service. The material quality also plays a role here. For example, galvanized steel (a popular material for pipes back in the day) begins to corrode in +/- two decades. Copper is a better material, as it lasts for up to five decades or even more.
Brass sits on top of the ‘food chain”, and will serve for up to seven decades. Older houses are usually equipped with galvanized steel pipes, and that’s why low water pressure is generally a problem with homes from the previous century. This is important: if you added a new, fancy washing machine, or, say, an extra shower or bathtub, that will make old pipes corrode sooner because of the extra pressure.
7. The Main Shutoff Valve is Half-Closed
For starters, you need to find this valve. Usually, it’s located on the outside; or, it could be attached to the main pipe that runs into your house. As the name suggests, it’s the main valve that allows you to quickly block the water flow in case of an emergency.
8. The Water Meter Valve is Only Half-Open
Yes, there’s another big valve out there, and it’s just as important. There’s a catch, though: this one’s hard to reach, especially when it’s located on an outside wall or buried underground. Technically, the water meter valve is company property, and they hide it from residents’ eyes to avoid potential issues. Have you been doing some renovation in your house lately (like maybe replacing old pipes)?
It could very well be that the plumbers that worked on this project and shut the valve off didn’t fully reopen it before leaving.
9. You’ve Got a Leaking Pipe
No matter how strong the water pressure from the main supply is, if there’s a leak, you won’t get to enjoy it. Even if it’s a tiny leak, it will still have a negative effect. Moreover, leaky pipes are known to lead to water contamination. Do you have easy access to your pipes? Then go ahead and check them all, looking for any signs of a leak. You won’t need any expensive tools: wet spots around the pipes will help you pinpoint the culprit.
We’re talking about temporary solutions here, of course. To fix the leakage for good, call in a plumber.
10. Malfunctioning/Clogged Fixtures
What if the pipes are doing just fine, and your pressure regulator and valves are operating like clockwork? Then you probably have a faulty faucet or two. These devices tend to become clogged almost as often as pipes. The same is true for aerators that we install in fixtures to control water volumes. Dirt and rust accumulate there quickly.
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On average, US households use 300 gallons (~1350 liters) of water per day. We’re talking about doing the dishes, cooking a meal, taking a shower, and having some water. Now, healthy water pressure is 45–50 PSI (and most home appliances work at 50 PSI). If you’re used to it, you’ll instantly feel it when the pressure drops below 35. Before raising the alarm and calling out city officials, do inspect your house thoroughly first.
It could be that the issue is with fixtures, leaking pipes, or clogging. Don’t do anything illegal, check what the neighbors have to say about this, and give it a day or two. Who knows, maybe the pressure will go back to normal tomorrow. And if not, use our guides on how to fix the most common issues, and save the day!
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Featured Image Credit: kurhan, Shutterstock