dripping faucetYour household water pressure is something most people never think about. You turn on a faucet and water comes out. What is there to be concerned about? Well, quite a bit.

How your household water system works

Water comes into your home from a municipal water system (or possibly a well). This water is pressurized so that is can travel through the water pipes. The pressure coming into your home can be as low as 40PSI (pounds per square inch) or as high as 150PSI (this will vary by location and time of day).

To keep the pressure in your home from getting too high, a water pressure regulator (or pressure reducing valve) is used. This device limits the water pressure in your home and is adjustable. Most come preset to about 50PSI.

Expansion Tank
Expansion Tank
After the water pressure is reduced it enters your home’s water system going to your toilets, the cold side of your faucets or entering your hot water heater. The heated water from the hot water heater, then proceeds to the hot water side of your faucets and your dishwasher. Since water expands slightly when heated, an expansion tank may have been added to the hot water side of the hot water heater to help prevent these pressure fluctuations (more on this later).

Testing Your Household Water Pressure

You should test your household water pressure monthly or whenever you notice changes in water pressure. These changes may only be caused by high demand for water in your house or neighborhood during certain times of the day but it is always a good idea to check just in case. It is easy to test your household water pressure with a water pressure gauge. These are available at most home improvement/hardware stores for less than $20.

Water Pressure Gauge
Water Pressure Gauge
Simply attach the water pressure gauge to an outdoor faucet or an indoor faucet that is threaded like an outdoor faucet and then turn on the water. The water pressure gauge will let you know what the pressure is reading (in PSI) for your home’s water system. If possible, test your household water pressure at several different faucets around your home to be sure you get the same reading from all of them.

Typically, you want your household water pressure to be between 45PSI and 65PSI but this is a matter of option. If you see pressures as low as 40PSI or as high as 70PSI, don’t panic.

What if my household water pressure is too low?

Low household water pressure can be caused by several things. Many are simple fixes and some can be quite costly.

Clogged Faucet

AeratorIf you are seeing low household water pressure only on a single faucet, that faucet or water line may be clogged. If you can, remove the end of the faucet and turn the water on. These may flush out the clog. Also, check the screen/aerator in the end of the faucet (if so equipped), they may need to be cleaned or replaced. If this doesn’t work, check for a water shutoff value nearby (under a sink) to make sure it is turned all the way on.

Clogged Water Pressure Regulator

Watts Pressure Reducing ValveIt isn’t unheard of for sediment to clog the water pressure regulator in your house over time especially if you have had construction nearby. You might try adjusting the water pressure regulator to see if that will help but many time it will not and the water pressure regulator will need to be replaced.



Water Heater Valve

If you are seeing low water pressure only from the hot water in your house, the water valve supplying the water heater might not be on all the way. Try adjusting it.

pressure relief valveMost water heaters are equipped with a pressure relief valve that opens up if the water pressure or temperature inside the water heater gets too high for safe operation. This valve can become stuck open from sediment inside the water heater if it is opened or it could weaken over time. Check to make sure you don’t see any water leaking from this valve. If you do, replace it immediately.

Main Water Valve or Meter

Most houses are equipped with a main water shutoff valve. This allows you to turn the water off for your entire house if something drastic happens (like a burst pipe) or if you need to do maintenance (like replace a water heater). Check this valve to make sure it is on all the way.

Although not a common cause for low household water pressure in your house, water meters do fail. Check your water bill, if it has been changing, have your water company test the water pressure on both sides of the meter.

Broken Water Line

Finally, and probably the worst possible problem is a broken pipe. Typically, a broken pipe inside your house is very easy to notice but sometimes very difficult to locate. If you see water leaking in your house, turn off the main water shutoff valve and have the leak repaired immediately. If the leak is outside your house, look for a wet spot in your lawn leading to the water meter.

Water MeterIf you still think you have a leak but can’t find one, check your water meter. Turn off all of your water-using appliances and check your water meter’s reading. If the reading has changed, you may have a leak somewhere and should have a plumber check it out for you. If the reading hasn’t changed, take note of the reading and check back in 10-20 minutes. If it hasn’t changed, you don’t have a leak.

Your water provider is typically not responsible for any water leaks beyond their water meter. Repairing leaks quickly could save you a lot of money. Also, some water providers will overlook one month’s water usage if you do have a leak and repair it. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

What if my household water pressure is too high?

The main cause of high household water pressure is your water pressure regulator. If your house doesn’t have one, have one installed immediately. If it does have one, try adjusting it to see if the pressure goes down to a something reasonable. If so, you may have fixed your problem (but continue to check your pressure periodically for the next few days to be sure). If this doesn’t help, have the water pressure regulator replaced immediately.

Having high household water pressure for extended periods of time can cause major issues and expense. High household water pressure could…

  • Burst water lines or cause leaks
  • Weaken water heaters and cause them to leak or fail completely (if leaking, replace immediately)
  • Overwhelm expansion tanks and cause water hammers (the thud you hear when you turn your hot water on)
  • Overwhelm and/or break valves in dishwashers and refrigerators
  • Overwhelm and/or break water filters/softeners

Conclusion

Keep an eye on your household water pressure. It is a simple, inexpensive task that could save you tons of headaches and cash in the future.

Tools Required:

  • Water pressure gauge