Home water pressure problems may present themselves in different ways, all of which can be quite frustrating. Faucets may take forever to fill a sink or bathtub, or a shower head may not give you that strong spray you want. Your dishwasher or washing machine may take much longer to run a cycle than it should. When only one fixture has low water pressure, it's likely that the problem can be remedied if you just focus on fixing that one fixture. However, there are various broader plumbing issues that can affect the water pressure to your entire house. If your home water pressure seems low, then the first thing to do is to narrow down the cause.
Here are five places to consider as reasons for low water pressure throughout your home.
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Is the Water Meter Valve Fully Open?
In many homes, there are two major shut-off valves controlling water to the home. The first is the water meter valve, found on the street-side of your water meter. Normally you will not be using this valve, as technically it belongs to the city and it's usually only city utility workers who handle it. But if your water pressure is low throughout your house, especially after some work has been done on your plumbing system, it's possible this first valve is not fully opened.
If you have recently had a repair done and are now noticing a reduction in the whole home water pressure check the meter valve, the first place where water to the entire house may have been shut off.
The water meter valve will usually be located on an outside wall of the house, though in colder climates it may be found in an interior utility area, such as a basement or attached garage.
If this valve seems to be fully open, proceed to the next major shut-off location. . . .
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Is the Main Shut-Off Valve Open?
. . . On the homeowner side of the water meter, there is a main shut-off valve. It usually will be located on an outside wall where the main water line enters your home, or sometimes in a utility area like a garage or basement. Often it enters the home near where the water heater is located. Make sure this valve is fully open. If this is a gate valve, make sure the handle is turned fully in the counterclockwise direction. If it is a ball valve with a lever handle, the handle should be parallel to the pipe direction to be fully open.
As with the water meter valve, this main shut-off valve is sometimes left partially closed after some kind of repair has been done to the system. If your water pressure has mysteriously lessened after a recent repair, there is a very good chance that the valve hasn't been fully opened again after the repair was completed.
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Is the Pressure Regulator Failing?
Another common cause for home water pressure problems can be the pressure regulator--if your home plumbing system is equipped with one. A pressure regulator is a control valve that reduces the input pressure in your plumbing system to a safe level that will not damage your pipes. Not all homes have them, but for those that do, a failing pressure regulator can cause a serious upward spike in water pressure--but it can also have the opposite effect: a sudden reduction in your water pressure.
When the pressure regulator fails, you will notice the effect on all fixtures in your home, and it will happen rather suddenly. Although a pressure regulator can sometimes be replaced yourself with the same brand and size, in most cases is it better to call a professional to take care of it. Call around and get some price estimates for having it changed out. Many times you can find the brand and size printed on the side of the regulator, which will let you solicit price quotes over the phone.
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Does Your Plumbing System Need to Be Replaced?
The most serious and potentially expensive reason for low water pressure occurs when old plumbing pipes finally have become too corroded and filled with scale for water to run freely anymore. This is especially true if the pipes are old galvanized iron pipes. Over the years, the insides of pipes gradually accumulate buildup that eventually closes off the water flow until it is almost non-existent.
The key here is the very gradual reduction in water flow: you will not notice a sudden reduction but eventually realize that your water flow is much, much slower than it is in other people's homes--and it has been for quite a while.
The solution here is to re-pipe the system with new copper or plastic water supply piping. It is the only way to solve the problem. Since a re-pipe job is a major plumbing repair that requires a permit it is best to call in a professional plumber for this work--and be prepared for costs approaching $10,000 or more depending on the size of your house and the complexity of the work.
If new water supply lines are needed, comparison shop carefully and consider what materials you want. Copper pipe is both the most durable and also the most expensive, but flexible PEX piping can cut the costs nearly in half.