Feeling like the water coming out of your faucet or shower isn’t strong enough? Most of the time, you can fix low water pressure problems yourself. Here’s how.
Getting a good stream of hot or cold water when we turn on a faucet is something we tend to take for granted. That is until you turn on a tap, and what comes out is a mere trickle. If your water pressure seems low, you may be able to solve the problem yourself. Below are some common reasons for low water pressure and easy fixes.
Find and Fix Low Water Pressure Problems in Your Home
Check the Neighborhood
Before you start looking for the cause of low water pressure in your home, check with your neighbors. If they’re having problems, too, there’s likely a major water main break at the city level. Contact your municipal water service or local utility and have them come out to look. It’s the city or utility company’s job to fix problems with pipes that are not within your property line. Good news: they’re also the ones who have to pay for that repair.
If only your home has lost water pressure, you’ve got some detective work to do to find the cause. Your next steps depend on whether you’re having low water pressure only on occasion, or all the time.
Occasional Low Water Pressure Throughout Your Home?
Do all your faucets and appliances usually run fine, but now and then the water pressure drops? Intermittent whole-home low water pressure is a sign you’ve got too much going at once. The water main can only provide so much water to your home at one time. If you’ve got laundry, showers, and sprinklers all going, you’ll overwhelm the supply.
Consider staggering your water needs. If you’ve got to water the lawn in the morning, hold off on laundry until later in the day. If the dishwasher’s filling, wait until the wash cycle starts before running a bath. By staggering your demands, especially in an older home, you can keep your water pressure stable.
Only One Faucet or Shower Has Low Water Pressure?
Most household water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. You don’t always notice this in the water — it usually looks clear. But your faucets and showerheads will let you know if this is a problem. Sometimes, you’ll notice green crusty buildup around faucet taps. Or you’ll see a white or green scale on the holes in your showerhead. Over time, this buildup can lead to low water pressure but it’s easy to fix.
- For slow faucets, use a wrench to remove the aerator at the end of the spigot. Wrap a towel around the tap first to protect the faucet’s finish. Once you’ve got the end off, separate the parts and rinse them. Use a toothbrush to loosen any mineral buildup you find. Give that faucet a try before you reassemble it. If the water’s flowing well, you know the issue is the aerator or screen. Put it back together, and you’re done.
- For slow showerheads, use an old toothbrush to scrub the holes then run the shower again. If it’s still running slow, use a wrench to take the showerhead off and clean it in hot, soapy water. You may need to soak the parts in a 50:50 mix of water and white vinegar to remove stubborn buildup. (Related: How to Deep Clean a Showerhead.)
Constant Low Water Pressure Throughout Your Home?
When the water pressure is low everywhere in your home all the time, you’ve got more detective work to do. You’ll first need to make sure water’s coming in properly, and then make sure it’s not escaping through leaks.
Is Your Main Water Valve Fully Open?
If you’ve done some plumbing work lately or had appliances installed, you probably shut off your home’s water in the process. If the valve didn’t get re-opened all the way, it’ll reduce water flow. You’d be surprised how often a half-shut main valve is the cause of low water pressure. Fortunately, that’s an easy fix.
To find the valve, you need to know where your water supply enters your house. Go to the lowest floor of your home. The main shut off valve is usually on or near the exterior wall that your water meter is on. For lever-style main water valves, move the handle until it’s in line with the pipe. For handle-style main water valves, turn them clockwise all the way. Then, to keep the handle from getting stuck open, give it a quarter-turn clockwise. Voila, you’ve fixed your low water pressure!
Rule Out Hidden Leaks
Here’s an easy way to determine if you have a hidden water leak. Turn off all water-using appliances and faucets. Check your water meter. If it’s moving, you likely have a leak. But, some leaks are so slow they’re not visible when you glance at the meter. So, take a reading and write it down. Go an hour without using any water, then take another reading. If the numbers changed, you’ve got a sneaky leak somewhere.
If there’s a hidden leak, your next step is to find it. Things like a failing toilet flapper or dripping faucet won’t cause a drop in water pressure. Any leak that causes low water pressure everywhere in your home is going to be a bigger one. Look for damp spots on your basement floor and walls. Also, make sure you’ve shut off all outdoor faucets. If you have a lawn irrigation system, walk through your yard, looking for soggy areas. Fix any broken pipes or hoses you discover, and you’ll solve your low water pressure problem.
Low Hot Water Pressure Only?
If the pressure is only low when you’re running hot water, your water heater may be to blame. Before you call a plumber, try draining sediment out of your water heater and see if fixes your low water pressure.
- Shut off gas or electricity to your water heater.
- Shut off the cold water valve and wait an hour for the water to cool.
- Attach a hose to the spigot at the base of your water heater. Run the other end of your hose outside.
- Turn on a hot water faucet at the lowest level of your home to prevent a vacuum.
- Open the water heater’s spigot, let it drain 5-10 minutes, and then turn on the cold water supply to flush it.
- Wait until the water coming out of your water heater is clear then shut off the cold water supply valve.
- Turn off the drainage spigot, disconnect the hose, and shut off the faucet you’ve had running.
- Turn the water supply to your water heater back on and let it refill, then restore the power to it. Wait about a half-hour, then test the hot water at a sink faucet. If the pressure is back, you’ve solved the problem.
When to Call the Professionals
If steps above don’t fix the low water pressure in your home, you may have a faulty pressure regulator. (Also known as a pressure-reducing valve, or PRV.) These devices keep the municipal water supply pressure from damaging your fixtures.
If the PRV is failing, you’ll experience low water pressure and may hear hammering pipes. Getting the PRV calibrated right is critical to protecting your appliances and plumbing. So, if you’ve narrowed it down to a failing pressure regulator, give the professionals a call.