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Poor Water Pressure

Dave Judd on Sep 26, 2016

This is a common complaint in our business.  My first question to a client who states they have poor water pressure is:   “Are you finding this everywhere – or just at one fixture, like at a sink only?”  If it’s only at a sink, is it on BOTH the hot and cold?  A lone sink faucet that has no pressure on both sides could have a clogged aerator.  Simple fix!  Remove it and see if pressure is restored.  Aerators are readily available for replacement.  Or a single fixture with poor pressure on one side only (let’s say the hot side barely runs) probably has a clog very close to the outlet, often in the faucet itself.  That scenario may take a professional to remedy the problem.

Homeowners commonly confuse the difference between pressure and volume.  Great pressure to your home might be 80 pounds or 80psi.   But even great supplied pressure can’t provide usable volume if that pressure has to go through a clogged pipe.  You can try to push 80 psi of water thru  an opening as large as a pencil lead.  It is still coming through with 80 psi, but it can’t provide volume.  This is perceived as “I have bad water pressure” when it’s actually a volume problem, caused by defective piping.

We have many cues we look for, when you don’t get the volume of water you’d like.  Sometimes we’ll take a reading as the water enters your home to give us a baseline.  Static pressure, or the pressure built up in the piping when nothing is being used, tells us the potential if everything in the home is in great shape.  If the home is problem-free and the pressure being delivered to your home is low, no amount of changes inside the home will help, other than a pressure booster pump.

Some basic things to look for:
Piping is sized by inside diameter, not outside.  Current code mandates a main pipe serving a home to be one inch inside diameter.  Some older homes have a pipe that is half of that.  This is fine for one fixture, but won’t be adequate if you want to take a shower while the washing machine is running.
Galvanized iron piping has a tendency to corrode and get ‘hardening of the arteries’ inside.  The hot piping always clogs first, for reasons discussed in another blog.  The sole remedy for clogged iron piping is replacement.
Does the home have a water softener?  Softeners are notorious for being a ‘pressure robber’, if not sized correctly.  Bypass the softener and check for improvement.
Determine if there is good pressure somewhere in the house.  If so, work backwards from the poor pressure to the good pressure section of piping, to find a potential problem area.
For long runs, piping needs to be larger to compensate for pressure loss incurred in the piping as it travels.  Think of what happens to your outlet pressure when you string four garden hoses together.  Distance eats pressure.
The newer materials such as copper and plastic (the most commonly used plastic is pex) don’t clog like iron.  But they still have to be sized properly for the connected load, so that multiple fixtures can be used at once.

We’re always here for assistance should you need additional help.  Call anytime, day or night at (319) – PLUMBER and we’ll ask “Is TODAY soon enough?”

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