Water Pressure: Why Is It Important In Your Home?

Date Published: March 31, 2023

Having a consistent and reliable water supply is an essential component in modern day homes. In the ideal scenario, water enters your home, and travels evenly to all faucets, spigots, sprinklers, etc. But how do we achieve such an optimal distribution of H2O? The answer, of course, is through water pressure.

We’ve all enjoyed the benefits of good water pressure – comfortable showers, sufficiently washed clothing, properly functioning sprinkler systems, and so on. However, what happens when your water supply isn’t quite right?

What is Water Pressure?

First of all, let’s define water pressure. Simply put, it is the force that pushes water through pipes and out of faucets. We measure it in pounds per square inch (PSI), and the ideal pressure for a residential setting is between 40-60 PSI (although it can sometimes range from 30 to 80 PSI).

Bathroom faucet with proper water pressure.

Water pressure is something that most of us tend to take for granted, yet it plays a crucial role in our homes. Ideal water pressure is not only responsible for making your day more convenient, but it also optimizes the performance of water-based appliances and preserves the longevity of your plumbing.

Bad Water Pressure

Too Low?

When your water pressure is too low, you’ll most likely know it. Depending on how low it is, you may not be able to use multiple water sources at once. For instance, if the dishwasher is running, your shower faucet may be producing water at a mere trickle. If the pressure is low enough, you may even experience inadequate force when turning on just one source at a time.

With low water pressure, you may also notice that your dishes or clothes are coming out insufficiently washed. Or it might take an abnormal amount of time for the toilet tank to fill up after flushing.

Too High?

On the other hand, you might find that water is rushing too forcefully through your piping. Your home may be experiencing symptoms such as leaking pipes or faucets, running toilets, an abnormally high water utility bill, overworked or damaged appliances.

Sometimes you may even hear a banging sound coming from the pipes. This loud noise (often called a “water hammer”) is the sound of pipes banging into each other or surrounding framing components, caused when high pressure water is turned on and off abruptly. This constant banging has been known to loosen pipe connections or even cause breaks in the plumbing. This is obviously something no homeowner wants to deal with!

faucet with low water pressure

Image sourced from: https://www.wjhg.com

What Causes Low Pressure?

There can be a number of causes attributing to water pressure issues. Sometimes the issue is a simple fix, sometimes it’s a big problem.

If you are experiencing low pressure at just one source, it might be a faulty faucet or fixture. In some cases, a faucet might be defective and a replacement will fix the problem. In other scenarios, it could be affected by clogs or mineral buildup.

When you have a particularly hard water source with significant levels of calcium or magnesium, deposits of these minerals can build up, eventually affecting water flow.  The solution to this type of problem may be as simple as replacing or cleaning a faucet, fixture or the surrounding connections.

Calcium buildup on shower head. Image sourced from: https://rocketplumbingnow.com

However, what if water pressure issues are present in the whole house or at multiple sources?

If your whole household water pressure is too low, a good place to start is at your main water shutoff. Make sure that it is not partially closed or leaking. If there are apparent issues occurring at your main water shutoff, you should hire a qualified plumbing professional to make the necessary repairs.

On rare occasions, the city water valve may be defective or partially closed. If you are having trouble pinpointing the pressure issues, sometimes it’s a good idea to contact your local water municipality.

On the other hand, sometimes the issue goes even deeper. Leaks, clogs, or corrosion occurring in the house’s water lines can certainly affect pressure. As stated above, if your water is particularly hard, mineral deposits can build up in the water lines, or even in your water heater. If your water supply is significantly hard, consider installing a water softener to remedy the issue.

Curious what is in your water? Consider a water quality test from Scott Home Inspection!

Depending on the type of piping material, corrosion could also be a culprit. Newer pipe materials, such as PVC and PEX, are much less susceptible to corrosion from acidic water. However, if you live in an old home, you may have galvanized pipes, which are likely to incur corrosion and/or damage over time.

Unfortunately, in many situations, most of a house’s plumbing is inaccessible. So it is often tough to properly diagnose the cause of pressure problems. If you are having difficulty determining the issue, it is often best to consult with a plumbing specialist for further evaluation.

What Causes High Pressure?

Sometimes water pressure will be significantly high because of the source from which it originates. You may be located at the the bottom of a hill, which could cause gravity to increase your water’s pressure as it enters your home. Or in some cases, the local water municipality purposely sets its water output at a higher pressure.

The standard way to compensate in this scenario is to utilize a water pressure regulator (shown below). As water passes through this regulator from its original source, this devices adjusts the pressure to a safe level before it enters your home.

Water pressure regulator

Water pressure regulator. Image sourced from: https://www.1tomplumber.com

If your water pressure is high and you do not have a pressure regulator, it is a wise investment to get one installed. This can end up helping you avoid some costly repairs down the road. Conversely, if you do have a pressure regulator, and the pressure is still too high, then the device will need to be adjusted or replaced. (Note that a pressure regulator can also be used to adjust your pressure if it is too low).

Changes in water temperature lead to thermal expansion, which can also cause high pressure in your pipes. This is why you will commonly see expansion tanks (pictured below) installed on water heaters. These apparatuses are meant to relieve any excess pressure that occurs when water is heated. They work in conjunction with TPR Valves. This is another relatively affordable piece of equipment that can help you avoid costly pressure-related issues down the road.

Expansion tank

Expansion tank. Image sourced from: https://www.thespruce.com

Check Your Water Pressure!

It’s always a good idea to periodically monitor your water pressure. You can always take the DIY approach and check the pressure on you own, using a pressure gauge, which can purchased at you local hardware store. Or there are plenty of professionals that can help you with the monitoring process.

At Scott Home Inspection, inspecting the water pressure and overall status of the plumbing is one of the primary aspects of our standard inspection. Our inspectors utilize pressure gauges, examine piping, test faucets, drains and sprinkler systems, run dishwashers and washing machines, etc. Essentially, we examine every plumbing and water-based component of the home, as we know how important these aspects are.

So whether you are a prospective buyer in need of a home inspection, or a home owner curious about the current state of your home (including its water pressure), we hope that you will consider Scott Home Inspection! For more details about our services, visit us online or contact us to schedule your inspection today.

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About the Author: Chris Kimmel

Chris Kimmel worked as an Associate Home Inspector for two years, handling numerous services including sewer scope inspections, pest inspections, mold air sample testing, radon testing, and water quality testing. Chris now works with Scott Home Inspection as a Content Writing Specialist.

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