Many simple household tasks become difficult without sufficient water pressure. A good plumber must know the many potential culprits of weak water pressure and all their corresponding solutions.
Here are seven of the most common causes of low water pressure, and how you can address them for your clients:
1. Corroded Pipes
“[One] low-pressure problem in the house, especially if the house is older, can come from old fixtures or plumbing that is corroding to the point of closing itself off,” says Zane Satterfield, engineering specialist at National Environmental Services Center at West Virginia University. Corrosion deposits in aging plumbing can clog pipes to the point where water is only able to pass through a pencil-sized hole.
Solution: Clean and/or replace old pipes.
Satterfield says sometimes disassembly and cleaning can fix the problems, but replacement is usually needed. Tommy O’Grady, president of Effective Plumbing in New York, says copper piping is ideal because it doesn’t deteriorate inside.
2. Bad Pressure Regulator
Satterfield says many homes that rely on city water have a regulator either at the meter or where the service line enters the house. When a regulator goes bad, the pressure will gradually drop.
Solution: Replace or re-set the pressure regulator.
If the regulator appears to be in good shape, Satterfield says the amount of pressure it regulates can be increased because most are adjustable. Otherwise, he says it should be replaced.
3. A House Built High Above the Water Source
If city water has to travel up the length of a hill, the pressure might become too low once it reaches the second floor, Satterfield says.
Solution: Install a pressure booster pump.
Satterfield recommends installing a pump that will draw the water up the hill. These run on a home’s electricity and initially cost between $150 and $350, he says.
4. Clogged Screen in the Water Line
“Some water meters have a little inlet screen where the pipe connects on the inlet [city] side,” Satterfield says. “The screen is to keep small particles out that may harm the meter.” However, in the case of a water line break, Satterfield says that particulates can plug up the screen.
Solution: Clean or replace the screen.
It’s best to call the local water company to take care of the problem. They can clean the screen or even remove it if it isn’t necessary, Satterfield says.
5. Clogged Faucet
Many times, the water pressure problem isn’t too far in the pipes, O'Grady says. Faucet fixtures can become clogged with sediment or mineral deposits, especially when drawing from a nearby well.
Solution: Clean or replace the faucet.
O’Grady says the faucet can be flushed out with running water or sticking a stem wire into the spout. If that’s unsuccessful, he recommends replacing the faucet.
6. Clogged Supply Valve or Broken Control Valve
Like the faucet, the supply valve could also be clogged up with sediment, O’Grady says. It’s also possible for a control valve to be in the closed position unintentionally, or even broken in that position. Either scenario will cause low or no water pressure, he says.
Solution: Clean or replace the control valve
A clogged valve can be cleaned, but it typically needs to be replaced, O'Grady says. If the valve is in the closed position, it simply needs to be opened up. If broken, the valve must be replaced.
7. Broken or Clogged Water Pump
If weak water pressure is due to an inefficient water pump, O’Grady says it might be broken internally or clogged.
Solution: Clean or replace the water pump.
If broken, the pump needs to be replaced, O’Grady says. However, if it’s clogged, its pipes and valves can usually be blown out with either water or air pressure.
Weak water pressure is probably one of the top five most common reasons homeowners call plumbers, Satterfield says. So, it’s critical to know the most common causes. Educating yourself is especially important for troubleshooting purposes, O’Grady says. Failing to pinpoint the exact problem will sometimes lead you to do more work than necessary. So before you jump to replace an expensive fixture, check to make sure it doesn’t just need to be unclogged.
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