Have your showers become like a light sprinkle of rain? Or are they bruising your skin with hurricane-like force? If your water is running too weak or too soft, you probably have a water pressure issue.
The shower may be one of the most obvious tell-tale signs of water pressure problems, but your entire plumbing system can be affected by inconsistent water pressure. So what causes water pressure to go up and down? Keep reading to learn how water pressure is regulated, what causes fluctuations, and what to do if you can’t fix it yourself.
What Regulates Water Pressure?
Several systems regulate water pressure in a building. From the entire home to a single appliance, it’s possible to manipulate the water pressure in several ways. Here are the most common water pressure regulators in your home.
- Municipal Water Supply – Unless you have a well-water, rain-water-or other natural water solution, your water likely comes from a municipal water supply. If so, this utility company or local agency is responsible for water pressure in your entire neighborhood or apartment building.
- Main Shut-Off Valve – In case of a water emergency, the shut-off valve can stop all flow of water to your home. If left partially opened, your water pressure can be affected. If you live in a house, the valve is usually located in an easily accessible location like in the yard or near the sidewalk.
- Water Pressure Regulator – The water pressure regulator, also known as the water pressure reducing valve (PRV), controls the pressure in your entire house. It can be found in many places throughout the house or yard, but in warm climates it is commonly located near the main shut-off valve. Check out this video for more great info on finding and adjusting the Water Pressure Regulator.
- Stop Valves – The under-sink shutoff valves control the flow of water to your faucets and most appliances. If left partially opened, you may experience reduced water pressure.
These may be the top regulators of water pressure, but lots more devices, systems, and issues cause water pressure to go up and down.
What Causes Water Pressure to go up and Down?
There are lots of different scenarios where your water pressure is permanently too weak or too strong, but there are NOT that many where your water pressure fluctuates. Here is what could be causing your water pressure to go up and down:
1. Your Water Company
If you are experiencing inconsistent water pressure, your water company could be to blame. Sometimes it is intentional, like rerouting water supplies, and sometimes it is not, like a leak or clog in the main water supply pipes.
HOW TO FIX
Call your water provider and let them know about your issues. If they don’t already know the cause, they will likely send out a professional to diagnose if the issue is in the main supply line or your home plumbing system.
2. Malfunctioning Water Pressure Regulator (PRV)
As mentioned before, the PRV controls water pressure to the entire home. A faulty PRV can cause fluctuations that abnormally strengthen or weaken water pressure throughout the plumbing system.
HOW TO FIX
You’ll have to locate the water pressure regulator and hit the test lever (Below is a video that details how to do this). If the device proves to be faulty, or you don’t feel comfortable testing it yourself, you’ll need to call a plumber.
3. An Issue With Your Pipes
There are lots of issues that can go wrong with your pipes. Problems like leaks, clogs, and trapped air can definitely contribute to the water pressure going up and down. Some of these issues are easy to identify. Some of the most common and easily resolved pipe problems include…
- Bad or Corroded Connection – The connection at the stop valve can weaken or corrode.
- Hole in a Visible Pipe – Some pipes, like galvanized steel pipes used in older homes, can corrode to the point that they break or leak.
It is also possible that there is a leak or clog hidden deep within your plumbing system. A clog can grow, shrink, or move within a pipe causing a fluctuation in pressure. A leak can enlarge over time causing the water pressure to weaken.
HOW TO FIX
If you are experiencing water pressure issues in only a single plumbing fixture in your home, then a localized pipe issue could be to blame. Make sure to check the connection at the stop valve, as well as the area around the fixture for water damage.
- If the Stop Valve Connection is Bad – Remove the connector and re-attach. Check the valve for debris. Utilize teflon tape (also known as plumber’s tape) to create a more secure connection.
- If the Stop Valve is not Dispensing Water at all – You may need to replace that valve. Make sure to shut off the water to your house before replacing any valve, then simply remove the old valve and screw on a new one. TIP: remove the old valve, take it to the hardware store, and use it as a reference for buying a new one.
- If There is Visible Water Damage – If there are visible signs of water in your walls, ceilings, or cabinets, you’ll want to find and replace the pipe that is leaking. This can be done by a homeowner, but as we recommended in our list of residential plumbing services you shouldn’t DIY, it’s recommended to call a professional.
4. Your Neighbors’ Water Usage
High water usage on the same water line can contribute to drops in your water pressure. If a close neighbor just installed a pool, jacuzzi, sprinkle system, or new bathroom, you may notice more inconsistent water pressure than what you’re used to.
HOW TO FIX
You will need to speak with the neighbor directly about their water usage, or call the water company to discuss the situation. If the drop is permanent, you may need to increase your house’s water pressure to compensate.
5. Bad Plumbing Fixture
An issue with your plumbing fixtures could contribute to inconsistent water pressure. This includes dirty shower heads, faulty fridge water dispensers, and faulty faucets.
HOW TO FIX
If you are only experiencing inconsistent water pressure in one fixture, try cleaning the fixture. Start by removing all debris, then clean thoroughly. If that doesn’t work, you may need to replace the entire fixture.
What to do if Water Pressure Still Doesn’t Work Properly
If you’ve done all you can and still can’t figure out how to diagnose or fix your water pressure, then it’s time to call a plumber. Leaving the issue unresolved can lead to much larger and more costly problems like burst pipes, flooding, and broken appliances.
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