No one wants to take a shower with water pressure that feels like a hydro-jetting session, but it also shouldn’t be so weak that you wonder if water is even coming out. Perhaps even worse is trying to hand-wash dishes when just a trickle of water is coming from the tap! So what causes poor water pressure?
Poor water pressure can happen for a number of reasons, but locating the problem may be a frustrating task. If you are receiving low water pressure in one area of your home or commercial building, it’s easier to inspect where the issue might be. However, if you have low water pressure throughout your entire home or building, it could be an indicator of a bigger plumbing problem.
15 Common Causes of Low Water Pressure
While one of the most common causes of low water pressure is due to clogs or other drain obstructions, there are more reasons as to why you may be seeing lower water pressure:
1. Municipal Water Probems
A problem with your water pressure may not have anything to do with your home or its pipes; it could be a municipal water problem. If you're friendly with neighbors, ask if they're experiencing the same issue; if so, it's a good bet this is the problem.
The fix: Contact your water supplier. By contacting them, you may make them aware of the problem or learn that they're in the process of fixing it already.
2. Changing City Regulations
Although you should've been notified, it's possible that the city has changed its water pressure regulations (if this is the case, your water supplier's hands are tied).
The fix: Your only option is to deal with it or purchase a water booster system. It's a good idea to have a plumber install one of these for you.
3. House Shutoff Valve Isn't Fully Open
Have you had some plumbing work done recently? Perhaps the house shutoff valve, or stop cock, was closed temporarily shut off while work was performed and then never fully reopened again. The water shutoff valve must be open all the way to provide good water pressure. This value may be located outside your home or inside where the main city supply pipe enters your home. The handle will look similar to the one you use to turn on the hose.
The fix: To make sure the valve is fully open, turn it counterclockwise as far as it can go; if the handle looks like a lever, make sure it is parallel to the pipe.
4. Water Meter Shutoff Valve Isn't Fully Open
Have you recently had work done on your house? It's possible that the water meter valve, which belongs to the water company, was not opened all the way following the completion of the project.
The fix: Call the water company and ask them to check the meter shutoff value. These valves can be difficult to reach and may even be located underground so we don't recommend making this a DIY project.
5. Failing Pressure Regulator
Pressure regulators manage the input pressure of your plumbing system to keep it at a safe level so your piping isn’t damaged. A failing regulator can cause both a spike and a reduction in water pressure and will affect all the fixtures in your home or building.
The fix: Check the PSI (pounds per square inch) setting. Most should be set to 50 PSI, but if yours is set lower your water pressure will feel low as well (remember, however, that just as too little water isn’t a good thing, so is having too much water; water pressure that is above 80 PSI will wear out the washers on your plumbing fixtures). If the PSI is correct, contact a plumber for a replacement regulator.
6. Using Old Steel Pipes
Old galvanized pipes are an expensive issue to have fixed. Certain piping materials corrode quicker over time and that gradual mineral buildup can restrict water flow. If you are unsure of how old your plumbing system is, or what kind of material your pipes are made of, it’s important to have an inspection as soon as possible. Certain piping material no longer matches U.S. building codes and have become obsolete.
The fix: Contact a plumber for an inspection of your pipes and ask for recommendations on how to fix the problem.
7. Clogged Pipes
Even if you don't have a clog just beneath the drain, which you can clear on your own, there could be one deep down in the depths of your pipes that is difficult to get to. These deep clogs can negatively impact water pressure.
The fix: You can use a drain cleaning solution (check out safe alternatives to chemical drain cleaners here) and a drain snake to help break up and remove obstructions. If that fails, contact a plumber that can access these difficult-to-reach clogs without the use of dangerous chemicals that can damage pipes.
8. Peak Time Use
Yep, the guy singing off-key in his shower next door may be the cause of low water pressure. More specifically, if you shower during peak times of the day, like the early morning or late at night, the low water pressure issue could be due to high water use by your entire neighborhood because of shared pipelines.
The fix: Check your water pressure during low-use periods. If it's better at these times, consider altering your shower schedule!
9. Leaky Pipes
If none of these reasons seem to be contributing to low water pressure, it may be happening because of a simple leak issue. Water that is escaping your pipes causes less water to reach your showerhead or other home and building fixtures.
The fix: Contact your plumber for a video drain inspection to locate the source of the leaks.
10. Aerator Buildup
Low water pressure can occur when the aerator (which reduces the volume of water coming from your faucet without changing pressure) has mineral or rust buildup.
The fix: Remove the aerator to see if it needs cleaning. Give it a good scrub and then replace it to determine if it was the cause of your problem.
11. Faulty Fixtures
It's not uncommon for fixtures themselves can also become clogged due to debris or mineral buildup.
The fix: Remove the fixture and attempt to clean it. Since fixtures are relatively cheap, you may want to simply replace them.
12. Frozen Pipes
While this is unlikely in California (freezing temperatures in Sacramento are rare, although traces of freezing precipitation have been recorded as recently as 2009), we'd be remiss not to include it. Frozen pipes can slow water pressure or stop water flow altogether.
The fix: Wait for them to warm up or heat them up manually, and then consider pipe insulation to reduce the chances of freezing in the future.
13. Water Conserving Devices
While great for the environment, water-conserving devices like low-flow faucets and showerheads are not so great for water pressure.
The fix: If you have one installed and can't deal with the low water pressure, you may simply need to replace it with a regular faucet or showerhead.
14. Poor or Malfunctioning Water Filters and Softeners
Water filters can greatly lower household water pressure when not working at peak performance. The same goes for water softeners, which many local homes use due to Sacramento's hard water.
The fix: Replace whatever filter or softener the unit uses (sometimes, the entire unit may need to be replaced, but you'll probably want to try getting a new filter or softener first).
Last but not least, good ol' gravity may be the problem. Water contends with the force of gravity as it travels upwards, so the higher the elevation water must flow, the lower the water pressure will be. If your home has multiple stories, or if you're in a high-rise apartment, condo, or commercial business, you may experience low water pressure due to gravity.
The fix: There's no fighting gravity, although a professionally installed water booster system may help improve water pressure.
How Express Sewer & Drain Can Help in Sacramento
Some water pressure issues are easy to fix with a simple DIY project, such as checking valves and using drain snakes, but this heavily depends on the source of the low water pressure and the cause behind it. However, if low water pressure affects your entire home or building, it may require a professional service to determine if there is a problem with your whole plumbing system. If your plumbing system is outdated or you’re using older pipes, you may find you need to replace the entire system. Congested or damaged water lines can cause more problems than just low water pressure.
If you experience constant plumbing issues on a regular basis, a full pipe replacement will be the most effective solution. In this case, you are going to need to hire a professional plumber to replace your outdated piping. A trained professional knows what issues to look for, has the proper tools to fix the issue, and can safely inspect and renovate without causing excess damage to your plumbing system. Need to find a professional plumbing service at a great price? Express Sewer & Drain performs pipe replacement and other plumbing services for any commercial property, single-family, or multi-family home. Our plumbers are trained to fix a wide variety of plumbing problems, all at a low cost. Contact us today to get a free quote on your next plumbing job!