How to improve water pressure
Are taps running at a weak trickle? Or maybe the washing machine is taking an age to fill? Low water pressure is a frustrating problem for many homeowners, and can be an indicator of other issues in a property. That’s why it’s important to know how to diagnose the cause of low water pressure and…
Are taps running at a weak trickle? Or maybe the washing machine is taking an age to fill? Low water pressure is a frustrating problem for many homeowners, and can be an indicator of other issues in a property. That’s why it’s important to know how to diagnose the cause of low water pressure and be aware of the solutions available.
This guide will help you understand why a clients’ home plumbing system is underperforming and explain how to get better water pressure so appliances can be fed sufficiently for all daily household tasks.
Why is my water pressure so low?
There are several reasons why a property’s water pressure could be low, so you’ll need to consider the different causes to find the right solution for its water pressure system.
Leaking or burst pipes are the most serious incident of low water pressure as it can cause considerable damage to a property. As such, checking for leaks should be one of the first things you do. You can check a pipe by turning off the water supply for a couple of hours and keeping an eye on the water meter to see if it increases during this time. If so, there’s probably a water leak that needs urgent attention.
Natural salts and minerals in the water supply can solidify over time and form deposits in pipes which will block water from flowing through. Leaky faucets or clogged toilets are tell-tale signs that the pipes are blocked.
Partially closed valve
Sometimes, low water pressure could simply be due to a partially closed valve limiting the water supply. Check all valves in the property including the mains to make sure they’re fully open for water to flow through properly.
During the winter, colder temperatures can cause pipes to freeze up to the point that most water won’t travel through. In some cases, piping can completely freeze and result in no water altogether.
There could be fault with the mains water supply in the area. You can tell if the drop in water pressure is due to water supply issues by calling the local water company and checking if neighbours are experiencing similar issues.
This is likely to happen with older piping or pipes made out of galvanised steel and iron as they’re prone to rust. The pipes degrade with rust flaking off and creating build ups of sediment. These deposits eventually block water flow and result in low water pressure. In some instances, the piping can corrode to the point that it starts leaking water.
The pressure regulator could be reducing the home’s water pressure too much and need adjusting.
How to make water pressure stronger
Once you’ve worked out why the water pressure is low, you can start to look at ways to increase it. Here’s a breakdown of the different solutions to consider.
Open the valve
Finding out a water valve is partially closed is an easy fix — you’ll just need to open the valve up. Go around the property and check all water valves including the mains stop tap to make sure they’re fully open. If you find any that aren’t, slowly twist the handle clockwise until it won’t turn anymore. This should ensure the valve is fully open for the water supply to flow through.
Flush out the pipes
If the problem keeps reoccurring, you could install a water softener for the home to stop mineral build-up in the pipes.
Thaw the pipes
If the home’s pipes have frozen due to cold winter temperatures, you’ll have to thaw them. There are different ways to go about this depending on whether the pipe is inside a wall or exposed. For internal pipes, you can try turning up the heating and see if this warms the pipe enough. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to cut out a section of the wall to reach the frozen pipe and then use an infrared lamp or heat lamp to thaw it.
Exposed frozen pipes, on the other hand, should be directly heated from the faucet down to the frozen area. This can be carried out with a hairdryer, heat lamp or portable heater.
Adjust the regulator
If you find the regulator is set too high, making the right adjustment will increase the water pressure coming into the property. Here’s how:
- Turn off the water mains valve
- Loosen the locking nut on the regulator using a wrench
- Use a screwdriver to turn the screw on the regulator clockwise in small increments. This will increase the water pressure coming through
- Test the water pressure to see if it’s improved. If it still needs a boost, adjust the regulator again
- Once you’ve increased the water pressure, re-secure the lock nut on the regulator
- Turn the water mains valve back on
How to increase water pressure on a gravity fed system
If it’s an older property you’re working on, chances are it has a gravity fed water system. These use a cold-water storage tank and a hot water cylinder for supply, so they tend to operate at a low level of water pressure.
To improve gravity-fed water pressure, you can install a booster pump in the home. Booster pumps draw water from the mains supply and feed it through the pipes at a higher level.
Keep in mind there are different types of water pumps to choose from:
- Positive pumps – Fed by gravity. They need a fall distance of at least one metre to operate properly
- Single impeller pumps – Can only be installed into one water supply
- Twin impeller pumps – Can be implemented into hot and cold-water supplies
- Universal pumps – Suitable for showers, these will work if the showerhead is level with or above the cold-water tank
How to increase water pressure without a pump
There are other ways you can improve the water pressure in a home without purchasing a booster pump. One method is to make sure the property has the right taps and showers for its water pressure system. Pressure is measured in bars, and these appliances are labelled according to the bar rating they need to provide adequate water pressure. For instance, if you install a tap that needs two bars of pressure to work properly but the water system runs at one bar, you’re likely to receive only a trickling flow of water.
Here’s a guideline for the bar rating you’ll need based on the water pressure system:
- Gravity fed – You’ll want to buy taps and showers with a bar rating between 0.1 and 0.5
- Combi boiler – Purchase appliances that have a bar rating around 1 to 1.5
- Unvented – Look for taps and showers that run at 2 bars of water pressure
If all appliances are running at the correct bar rating but a particular tap still seems like it’s providing water at a lower pressure, it could be due to a faulty valve. That’s why it’s a good idea to test all the valves in the home to make sure they are working properly.
A faulty valve is pretty easy to fix, you’ll just need to replace it. Here’s how:
- Turn off the water supply from the mains
- Remove the tap handle. Different handles remove in different ways, so you’ll need to work out which type you’re dealing with
- Use the correct size spanner or an adjustable one to remove the cartridge. This will undo by turning the wrench anti-clockwise
- Install a replacement cartridge by screwing it in clockwise, making sure it’s tight enough to seal
- Now, re-fit the handle and tighten the screw. Try opening and closing the handle afterwards to make sure you have positioned it correctly
How do I increase water pressure for a tap?
As mentioned earlier, you should check for the possible causes and act accordingly. It could be a case of:
- Replacing a faulty valve
- Unclogging the pipe
- Repairing the pipe
- Checking the valve is fully open
- Making sure the tap is an appropriate bar rating
How do I increase hot water pressure in a kitchen sink?
Along with the previous solutions mentioned, there are some quick fixes you can try first to increase hot water pressure in a kitchen sink:
- Turn off the water supply, take out the faucet cartridge and give it a clean before putting it back in
- Ensure the plug is in the sink then remove the aerator to give it a clean before replacing it
How to increase water pressure in showers?
If the solutions listed in this article haven’t solved water pressure problems in the shower, the unit may be faulty. Qualified plumbers should always seek the advice of a professional electrician before opening anything up.