High water pressure—it feels great in the shower, but it may be costing more than you think. High-pressure water can cause serious problems like pinhole leaks in your plumbing and severely shorten the life of your water heater, dishwasher, boiler system, and washing machine and increase your water bills.
Is My Water Pressure Too High?
The signs are well known—banging pipes, running toilets, dripping faucets, and running out of hot water very quickly all indicate that the pressure is too high in your system. Test your system with a water pressure gauge, available at any home store for around $10. Simply attach the gauge to any male threaded faucet such as your laundry tub or water heater drain connection and turn on the water. The ideal pressure for the health of your plumbing system and appliances is between 40 and 60 PSI, and building codes in most areas specify that water pressure be under 80. If yours measures over 80 PSI on the gauge, it is definitely time to lower the pressure.
Water Pressure Regulators
To get your pressure to the recommended levels, you will need a water pressure regulator. This is a common plumbing valve installed right after the water meter enters the house. If you already have one installed and you still have high pressure, chances are it needs to be repaired or replaced. If you do not already have one installed, it may be time to call the pros. It is an inexpensive and easy job for a trained plumber but may require adjusting the height of the water main and other advanced tasks.
Making an adjustment to your water pressure regulator is quick and easy.
Turn Off the Water
Locate the water main and slowly turn the main shutoff valve into the off position.
Adjust the Pressure
The regulator will have a screw or bolt and a locking nut system. Loosen the locking nut and using quarter-turn increments, turn the screw counter-clockwise (to the left) to decrease water pressure, and clockwise (to the right) to increase water pressure.
Re-test the System
Go back to the water pressure gauge and re-test the system (remember: keep pressure between 40 and 60 PSI).
Secure the Lock Nut
Once the pressure is where you want it, secure the lock nut on the regulator using a wrench to ensure the adjustment screw does not move.
Turn the Water Back On
Go to the water main and slowly turn the main water valve back on. You may want to run a faucet for a few seconds to clear any air out of the system.
If the above steps don't work and your pressure is still above recommended PSI, you likely need to replace your regulator. They do wear out over time, just like any other plumbing part. Most replacements are DIY friendly and you don't need much plumbing experience to handle it.
What You'll Need
- Safety goggles
- A bucket
- Two wrenches
- Plastic sheeting
- New water pressure regulator valve
Locate Your Water Pressure Regulator
They are typically installed right after the water enters the home, near the water main. Once you locate it, write down the specifications. Purchase your new one as close to the same specifications as possible so you can use the connections that are already installed.
Turn Off the Water at the Main
Locate the water main and slowly turn the shut-off valve to the off position.
Drain the Water From the Plumbing System
Drain the water from the system by opening the highest and lowest faucets in the house. Doing both will eliminate a vacuum and ensure as much of the water drains out as possible.
Set up Your Plastic Sheeting and Bucket
Even though you have drained the water, some water will be trapped inside the old valve. Set up plastic sheeting underneath and behind your work area, then create a path for the water to empty into the bucket by draping the plastic sheeting into the bucket.
Prep the New Valve
Since you are using the existing connections, you need to remove those from the new valve. They are the nuts on either side of the valve. Pay attention and save the O-rings that come with the new valve—you will need these, so take care not to lose them.
Remove the Old Regulator
Loosen the nuts on each union with a wrench. Hold the regulator in place with a wrench while you finish unscrewing the nuts by hand, ensuring it doesn't twist and bend the plumbing or compromise the threads. Remove the old regulator carefully - this is the step where the water will come out, and you'll be glad you set up that bucket.
Install the New Regulator
Seat the O-rings and install the new regulator. The valve is directional and must be installed right side up. This means the water should flow in through the bottom and out through the top. There will be an arrow on the side of the valve indicating the proper direction. Hand tighten each union, taking time to make sure the O-rings are in the proper position.
Finish Tightening the Nuts
Use a wrench to finish tightening the nuts. Do not over-tighten, but make sure they are snug.
Test for Leaks
Dry off the pipes and the new regulator. Slowly open the main water line, and allow the faucets to run until all of the air is bled from the lines. Turn the faucets off. Return to the work area and inspect for leaks. Some leaks can be slow, so take your time and be thorough in this process. If you see a slow leak, try re-seating the O-rings.
Adjust to Desired Pressure
Using the steps in the adjustment list above, adjust your new regulator to the desired water pressure. The regulator is now ready to use.