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Here's How You Can Figure Out Why You Have Low Water Pressure

Hand under faucet with low pressure water stream - Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing

Low water pressure at home creates discomfort, hassle, and frustration. There are a number of plumbing issues that cause pressure problems in homes throughout the Cincinnati area. Some are resolved with quick troubleshooting while others need professional assistance.

The Cincinnati plumbers of Thomas & Galbraith review common causes that lead to low water pressure as well as what to do to fix them. If you find yourself in need of plumbing repairs, please contact us to schedule plumbing service for your home.

About Water Pressure

Before water makes its way into your home and out your taps, it is pressurized. Pressure allows the water to flow from the source, to your home, and through your plumbing system. If your water comes from a municipal supply, water may be pressurized in a water tower, where the higher altitude helps create pressure. If your Cincinnati area home is supplied by a private well, your home is also outfitted with a pressure tank – its job is to add pressure in order to move water through your plumbing lines.

Residential water supply is kept at an ideal pressure of 45 to 55 pounds per square inch (psi), although it commonly ranges as high as 80 psi safely. The difference in pressure depends on water demand, how far away your home is from the water source, and other factors.

Low water pressure starts at 40 psi. As water pressure drops to 30 psi or below, you are certainly able to notice low water pressure problems at home. When water pressure is low, it feels like there is an inadequate supply of water trickling from your taps – it may not be comfortable to take a shower or do other tasks when you have low water pressure. On the other hand, water pressure that is too high causes its own issues, like leaks and damage to your pipes.

Why Do I Have Low Water Pressure?

Sometimes, low water pressure is the result of a problem somewhere within the water distribution system before it reaches your home. Water main breaks and other problems with your municipal water supply lower pressure, and you simply have to wait until your provider has resolved the issue.

Low water pressure also results from issues within your home’s plumbing system. These issues are the ones you are able to either troubleshoot or work with a plumber to correct.

The most common reasons for low water pressure in Cincinnati homes include:

  • Too much simultaneous water use
  • Shut-off valves are closed
  • Problems with plumbing fixtures
  • Bad pressure regulator
  • Branch lines are too small
  • Clogs in plumbing lines
  • Corroded plumbing lines

Water Demand Is Too High

Have you noticed that water pressure seems fine when only one water-consuming application runs, but when you turn on another tap or appliance, you have low water pressure? Some homes just don’t have the water supply to accommodate multiple applications in use at one time. The more applications in use, the more likely it is that pressure drops below a level you are comfortable with.

Only so much water is available and when you use it in multiple ways at the same time, the supply must be divided across all applications in use. The result is low water pressure across all applications. Luckily, once appliances and taps turn off to reduce the number of applications in play, water pressure improves.

If you notice low water pressure when multiple applications run, the best way to fix the issue is to rethink how your household uses water. Try to stagger showers so no two showers run at the same time. Save running the washing machine or dishwasher until a time when no one is likely to bathe.

Shut-off Valves are Closed

Shut-off valves control the flow of water into your home and into fixtures for use. Shut-off valves have to be completely open or else they impede water flow and therefore, water pressure. When shut-off valves are slightly or fully closed, water pressure drops.

If this is the cause of low water pressure in your home, adjusting your shut-off valves should fix the issue. Check the main shut-off valve (usually located outside your home by the hose bib where a garden hose attaches or indoors in a utility closet) to ensure it is fully open. If you notice low water pressure from a particular fixture, check its shut-off valve (located behind or below the fixture). If you notice the valves appear damaged or are stuck, call your plumber for repairs.

Problems with Plumbing Fixtures

The water supply carries minerals through your plumbing lines. As time goes on, they are deposited within your home’s fixtures and build up. Significant buildup restricts water movement through the fixture, which causes low water pressure. Mineral buildup is possibly to blame for low water pressure if the problem is isolated to specific fixtures in your home.

To troubleshoot this cause of low water pressure, cleaning your fixtures does the trick.

  • Take off the showerhead and scrub out mineral deposits with a soft brush. If the showerhead has a filter, be sure to take it out and clean as well.
  • Soak the showerhead entirely in white vinegar overnight. Rinse with clean water before reinstalling.
  • Take aerators off sink faucets and clean away mineral deposits with a soft brush.

Some showerheads are equipped with a component called a flow restrictor. This component helps the fixture use less water. In areas with low water pressure, this becomes a problem – the flow restrictor restricts an already low flow, making it so barely any water comes out at all. 

Luckily, flow restrictors are able to be removed from the showerhead in most cases, so you don’t need to replace the fixture. Check the user manual for instructions that tell you how to remove the flow restrictor.

Another issue that causes low water pressure is malfunctioning water-consuming appliances such as a water softener or filtration system. When these systems malfunction, they can impede water flow, causing poor water pressure. Bypass the system to avoid low water pressure until repairs are made – follow the instructions listed in the equipment user manual.

Bad Pressure Regulator

The pressure regulator maintains stable water pressure in your home. If a malfunction occurs with this component, high and low water pressure may occur. When you experience both ends of the extreme but no middle ground, this is indicative of a pressure regulator issue. If you used to have good pressure but now it’s too low or too high, this is also a symptom of a bad pressure regulator.

If your home is equipped with a pressure regulator, you’ll see a bell-shaped piece of equipment below the hose connection on the front of your home. There is a screw on its tip – tighten it to raise water pressure, loosen it to lower pressure. After you make adjustments, if the water pressure does not come up, it’s time to call a plumber to have the component replaced.

Branch Lines are Too Small

Your plumbing system’s branch lines extend off the vertical supply lines, bringing water supply to other areas of the home. As time goes on, new fixtures and appliances are added to the home – this increases water demand and your branch lines may not be large enough to accommodate, which results in low water pressure. 

Your plumber is able to evaluate your plumbing system and recommend if branch lines should be upgraded to improve water pressure issues.

Clogs in Plumbing Lines

Just like in fixtures, mineral deposits also settle in your plumbing supply pipes. Buildup restricts the area available for water to move, inhibiting flow to create low water pressure. If water pressure suddenly drops after starting normal when a tap turns on, this may be the issue.

When clogs in the plumbing lines are an issue, a plumber is able to help. Sometimes, these deposits are able to be cleaned out to remove the obstruction and restore good pressure. If cleaning is not possible, your plumber may recommend replacement, especially if your home is equipped with older galvanized steel pipes that are prone to clogs.

Corrosion in Plumbing Lines

Metal piping is prone to corrosion over time, which builds up and restricts water flow. This issue may impact just a section of plumbing or be a whole-house issue. A plumber is able to examine your system for corrosion. This may be able to be cleaned, or replacement may be necessary. Sometimes it is possible to only replace certain sections of piping, but in other cases the whole home needs to be replumbed to eliminate issues caused by corrosion.

Call Thomas & Galbraith to Solve Low Water Pressure Problems

When low water pressure plagues your Cincinnati area home, you don’t have to suffer. Call Thomas & Galbraith to schedule plumbing service. Our licensed plumbers are available to assess the situation and make the needed repairs that restore proper water pressure in your home.

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