When it comes to household water pressure, there’s a pretty generous range for what’s considered not too low, not too high, but “just right”. But there are still all sorts of circumstances that can push your pressure out of that range — and in either direction.
It’s annoying to have a low pressure problem, but the underlying causes could be much worse. And if your problem is high pressure, it could be doing serious damage to your household plumbing. It’s worth taking the time test your water pressure, investigate the causes of your problem and take action to bring your pressure within the desired range.
How Low Can You Go?
Low water pressure is often noticed in the shower, where dribbling water makes it difficult to rinse away soap, and at the kitchen sink, where pots of water take agonizingly long to fill. It’s sometimes accompanied by a faint whistling sound coming from your faucets.
Using a water pressure gauge from any hardware store, you can test your water pressure right at your hose spigot. Anything under 30 psi is considered problematically low.
There are several possible causes of low pressure, and a few are truly troubling. A leaky pipe could explain the pressure drop, but that would mean you’re wasting water, running up your bill and possibly enduring damage to your home.
To check for a leak, turn off all water-using appliances and check your water meter reading. Don’t use any water in your home for two hours, then read the meter again. If the reading increased, you have a leak.
The problem could also be caused by a restriction in your pipes, such as mineral buildup from hard water. Buried pipes can sometimes cave in, causing an even worse blockage. A plumber can usually diagnose these issues with a camera inspection.
If your low pressure is due to your local water municipality, there’s still a way to fix it. With a system called a pressure tank, you can automatically raise the pressure of all the water coming from your fixtures. Pressure tanks are usually used with well systems, but they can work anywhere more pressure is needed.
If you feel that water is coming out of your fixtures too hard, or if you regularly hear a loud thumping sound when you turn off a faucet, you may have excessive water pressure. Use a pressure gauge to be sure — anything over 80 psi is too high.
When your pressure is too high, there’s too much strain on your pipes, fittings and fixtures. This may cause no problems for several years, but on a long enough timeline, it will cause pipes to crack and fittings to fail.
Some homes have high water pressure because they’re located right at the bottom of a hill, and water traveling through the municipal pipes has the added pressure of gravity. In other cases, a home may have excessive pressure if it’s located near a large building with major water needs.
Having a plumber install a pressure regulator on your main line is the best way to fight back against high pressure and save your pipes.