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Low Water Pressure: Common Causes


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Low water pressure can be nearly as frustrating as no hot water at all! In fact, your water pressure may drop so gradually that you may not even notice. However, sometimes beyond the inconvenience of the reduced water pressure, there are underlying issues that need to be addressed in order to prevent a larger problem that may occur in the future.

The most common cause of low hot water pressure is sediment. Sediment and other debris, such as rust and calcium deposits enter and collect within your plumbing, and eventually reduce your water pressure. However, there are other causes to this annoying problem. Below are our best suggestions of things to check before hiring a professional plumber.

Low Hot Water Pressure

If you find that your cold water pressure is strong, but your hot water is not, the issue could likely be your water heater. Here are three things to check:

Cold Water Shut-off Valve

Check the cold water shut-off valve on your water heater. The valve should be fully open. It's not uncommon for the valve handle to partially close, especially if it's a ball valve. Somehting can easily catch or hit the handle of the valve and cause it to close.

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Drain the Tank

If the shut-off valve was already fully open, try draining the tank to remove the sediment from within the water heater. A build-up of sediment can impact your hot water pressure. Water heaters need to be drained on a regular basis to prevent a build-up of sediment. So, if you can't remember the last time you performed this routine mainenance task, there's a good chance that this is your low water problem.

Pipe Size is Too Small

Another possible low hot water pressure problem is the incoming and outgoing water supply pipes to your water heater. Sometimes 1/2" pipe is used for the plumbing to and from the water heater. If this is the case, the water pressure leaving the water heater will be reduced. It's usually best to contact a plumber to increase the pipe size.

Low Water Pressure Throughout the Entire House

If your entire house experiences low water pressure there are a few things that could be causing the problem:

Neighborhood Issue

Check with your neighbors. It's possible that they're experiencing the same problem. If this is the case, you can install a water pressure booster pump. The booster will increase the water pressure between the main water line and your faucets.

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Water Pressure Regulator

If your neighbors aren't having water pressure issues, check to see if your house has a water pressure regulator valve installed. The water pressure regulator valve is designed to adjust the water pressure from the municipal water supply before it reaches your house.

Water companies set the pressure much higher (sometimes over 150 psi) than necessary for residential homes (maximum 80 psi) in order to deliver adequate pressure to fire hydrants and tall buildings. As new homes and buildings are built in your area the incoming water pressure may need to be increased by adjusting the regulator setting. It's possible to increase the setting yourself if you are comfortable doing these types of projects, or you can contact a plumber to make the adjustments for you.

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Water Main

Check the main water shut-off valve from the municipal water supply line. It's always possible that the valve was not fully opened the last time you had plumbing work done that required shutting your water off. If the valve is only partially open it will restrict the amount of water that enters your home plumbing. The valve should be fully open to allow maximum water flow to your house. 

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Water Main Leak

There could be a leak in the water main that's causing the low water pressure in your house. Check the ground near the water main, and your garage or basement, look for evidence of a leak. You can also look for clues for a leak on your water bill. If your water usage has been gradually increasing, it's possible that you have a leak that's growing over time.

If you noticed a big jump in your water usage from one month to another, there may be a broken pipe or a large leak that suddenly occurred. Depending upon where the leak originates, the water company may repair the problem at no cost to you. We recommend first contacting your water company to learn how your area handles these issues, then if necessary call a professional plumber.

Clogged Pipes

If your house was built with galvanized plumbing, corrosion and rust will build-up within the pipes. Eventually, the build-up will create a noticeable difference in your water pressure and could clog your pipes entirely. If this is your problem, the only real solution is to replace the plumbing, which is definitely a job for a professional.

Low Water Pressure in the Shower

If you notice low water pressure in the shower but not anywhere else, the problem could be as simple as the shower head. Shower heads have small spray holes that are prone to clogging with mineral build-up.

Frequently, you can fix the low water pressure issue by removing the shower head and either replacing it with a new one, or soaking it overnight in vinegar or a deliming solution. However, it's important to point out that some shower head finishes may be damaged, so be sure to check with the manufacturer first.

Low Water Pressure at a Sink

If your sink has low water pressure you can determine the source of the problem by removing the faucet aerator and turning the faucet on. If you have a strong water flow, your aerator has mineral build-up. You can replace it with a new aerator or soak it overnight in vinegar or a deliming solution.

If the water pressure does not improve with the aerator off, the problem could be the water line to the sink. Many older homes were plumbed with galvanized pipes which tend to develop mineral deposits over time in this case, it's best to contact a plumber to make the necessary repairs.

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