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Ever been in the shower and suddenly, your shower loses pressure and the water drops down to a trickle? We’ve been there.
From water pressure dropping when flushing the toilet, washing in the sink, or even turning on a second shower in cases of multiple showerheads. It can ruin your showering experience.
To solve the problem, you want to start by testing the water pressure around your home, even if your home has a pressure regulator or pressure-reducing valve (PRV) on the main water supply line.
This is a good idea because occasionally, you can catch a problem of low pressure or with the regulator before any high pressure can damage your plumbing.
How to Test Your Home’s Water Pressure
A common scenario in homes is having issues with low water pressure in one shower while every other shower or faucet in the home has good water pressure.
If only one fixture has low pressure, it’s likely that you can solve the issue by just focusing on that fixture. However, if you’re getting low water pressure throughout your home, you might solve your issue by adjusting your Pressure-Reducing Valve.
If you’re getting good water pressure throughout your home, you might not have to test your water pressure. Only test with a water pressure test gauge if the pressure is low throughout your home.
If your water is supplied by a city or municipal water utility, test the pressure of an outdoor hose spigot that is closest to where the home’s main water supply line enters the house but if you get your water from a well, use a faucet that is closest to the well’s pressure tank.
Also, for the most accurate water pressure reading, choose a faucet that is fed by a supply pipe that is the largest size inside the house and not one that has been reduced like the lines to bathroom plumbing fixtures.
Ideally, these lines should be 3/4 to 1 inch wide, although some can also be 1/2 inch wide.
When testing for the water pressure, turn off all other faucets and water-using appliances (sprinklers, washing machines e.t.c) before checking the pressure to get a baseline reading.
Otherwise, it may result in a false low reading if water is moving anywhere in your plumbing system.
Next, screw the pressure gauge onto the faucet after removing the hose. In general, you want the pressure for your household plumbing to be between 40 and 80 psi depending on your local code.
What Causes Water Pressure To Drop In The Shower?
There are so many reasons why your shower loses pressure and in this article, we’ll point them out and give you solutions. Read on…
1. General Low Pressure In Your Neighbourhood
If you just moved into a neighborhood and your home is plagued with low water pressure, start by consulting with neighbors to find out whether they experience low pressure in their homes as well.
2. A Problem with the Water Pressure Regulator Valve
In a situation where your neighbors have good pressure throughout their homes but you don’t, the problem may be with the water pressure regulator, also known as the water pressure reducing valve.
Most homes have adopted plumbing systems that require a water pressure regulator to reduce the high pressure from the water coming into your home to a level that’s more suitable for household use.
In some cases, the pressure could be in excess of 80 psi, therefore, considered potentially harmful to your home’s plumbing systems. It can cause dripping faucets in your bathroom, damaged pipes, and in extreme cases, the explosion of the water heater.
Some cases of low pressure in the shower are because a previous owner may have adjusted their regulator to limit the force of water diverted from the municipal supply line. Therefore, adjusting it will help with the water pressure.
If indeed the water pressure reducing valve is causing your problem, call in a licensed plumber to adjust the setting to allow for a higher flow rate.
3. A Leak In Your Household Plumbing
A leak somewhere in your household plumbing allows water to escape before it reaches your faucet.
Yes, you want a lot of water pressure in your shower, but your pipes can only take so much. Usually, standard pipes used in a home can withstand a maximum of 60 psi of water pressure. Excessive pressure can, therefore, cause pipes to break or start leaking.
Leaks in your household plumbing could also be because of broken seals, broken pipe joints, rusted pipes, or loose water connectors.
Since water will escape through the leaks, there will be low pressure in the shower.
4. A Build-up in your Pipes
You could also have buildup in your pipes i.e. from mineral deposits that are blocking the flow of water. Therefore, the water reaching your showerhead comes at such low pressure.
In areas with hard water, this problem will happen faster. However, for most people, this problem develops so slowly that it is hardly noticeable until seriously low pressure starts ruining your enjoyment of your plumbing utilities.
When pipes clog, pressure also builds up behind the blockage, potentially leading to structural damage in your plumbing system. And if a clog consists of corrosive substances like household chemicals, it can speed up the damage to your pipes.
For this problem, you can have a plumber repair or replace parts of your plumbing system to alleviate the issue.
5. An Old/Outdated/Faulty Showerhead
How old is your shower head? If yours has been hanging around the stall for a while or if your old showerhead is too stingy with water, it’s time for an upgrade.
Also, if you may have gotten a faulty showerhead from a manufacturer, that could be the reason for the low pressure. A swap would be necessary.
6. A Build-up in the Showerhead
Low water pressure in the shower can be caused by the accumulation of mineral deposits in the long run.
Particularly if your home has hard water, the minerals from that water get left behind on your showerhead. As they harden and accumulate over time, they clog the holes in your showerhead where water comes out, resulting in lower water pressure.
7. A Faulty Hot Water Heater
A bad hot water heater can affect the pressure of water in the shower.
Commonly, due to sediment build-up in the tank and in the pipes leading from the tank. This restricts how much water can pass through the pipe and to the rest of your home.
Also, if the shut-off valve on your hot water heater isn’t open all of the way, it will restrict the flow of water from the pipe. Have a plumber open it all the way to solve this problem.
8. A Worn-out Mixing Valve
A shower mixing valve automatically mixes hot and cold water to deliver a comfortable temperature for the water in showers and baths.
Typically, a shower mixing valve is behind the shower wall and is permanently connected to the plumbing but its trim/cover is attached directly to the shower faucet.
The hot water mixing valve can stop working properly or wear out due to corrosion or clog. Therefore, your hot shower will be coming at such a low pressure. Also, instead of hot showers, cold water will be all that’s coming out at you.
This can happen at any time of the year but is most common in homes once temperatures have dropped outdoors as they do come in the dead of winter.
A replacement is necessary so you can have your hot shower blasting out of your showerhead. What a luxury that many of us simply take for granted – until it isn’t working!
9. An Issue with the Pressure-Balancing Valve
If you notice that the shower drastically loses water pressure the very moment you flush the toilet, there’s most likely an issue with the pressure-balancing valve.
Here’s how it works: when someone flushes the toilet while you’re busy rinsing in the shower, cold water is sent to the toilet tank, reducing the cold water pressure arriving at the shower valve.
With a faulty valve, you will experience more hot water that can be uncomfortable.
In cases where you were only showering with cold water and someone flushes, the cold water is still sent to the toilet tank, reducing the cold water pressure arriving at the shower valve.
Homeowners can replace the pressure-balancing valve in an older home, but it will likely require the assistance of a certified plumber.
10. A Problem with your Municipal Water Supply
There could also be a problem with your municipal water supply, which could indicate a water main break somewhere.
If you suffer from chronically low pressure due to municipal issues, you can install a pressure tank and pump in your home.
Make sure to install a pressure regulator on the main water line coming into your home to help combat cases of high water pressure from your municipal water line, especially, if you live at the bottom of the hill. This should also help you save some money on your water bill.
How To Improve The Water Pressure In The Shower
If you’re looking for ways to stop your shower from losing pressure, it is important to fix the above problems. Read on to learn how you can improve the water pressure in the shower:
1. Install a Water Pressure Booster
If the issue of low water pressure affects the entire community, you want to install a water pressure booster, that increases the pressure of water as it moves from the main water line to your bathroom fixtures, and even kitchen fixtures whilst keeping the pressure steady.
If there is ongoing low pressure in your shower, this is a relatively straightforward fix.
2. Adjust the Water Pressure Regulator
It’s likely that your water pressure regulator is found near where the main water supply enters your home. It’s usually just past the water meter.
Check the plate on the regulator to find its water pressure range, think 25-75 psi.
Attach the pressure gauge to an outside faucet that is downstream of your water pressure regulator, or the one that comes before the pressure regulator.
Turn on the faucet all the way and use a water pressure test gauge to take the pressure reading, ensuring the pressure is somewhere between 40 psi and 80 psi depending on your local code.
To increase the pressure, the adjustment is made with the adjusting screw on the pressure regulator. To make the adjustment, you must loosen the locking nut on this screw.
After removing the lock nut using an adjustable wrench, use a flat-head screwdriver or the adjustable wrench to spin the adjustment screw, depending on the type of adjustment screw used by the manufacturer.
Turn the screw clockwise to raise the pressure or counterclockwise to lessen the pressure in gradual increments.
A plumber can help you adjust the water pressure regulator.
3. Replace Parts of your Plumbing System
If your faucets leak chronically causing the problem of low water pressure in your shower, it is time to replace them. Especially if the repairs don’t help for long, or the cost of repairs will be more than one-third the cost of replacement.
A good handyman may be qualified to replace simple plumbing replacements, like putting in a new faucet but a licensed plumber can handle more complex jobs.
In cases of a worn-out hot water mixing valve, your best bet is to start over with a brand new hot water mixing valve. A cut into the shower wall is necessary to access this valve.
4. Replace an Old Showerhead
Sometimes, replacing an old showerhead in your shower head can solve the issue of low water pressure.
This is mostly in cases of old low-flow showerheads. They can be too stingy with water and make it feel like the pressure is lacking. Simply replacing it with a new model that can still conserve water can help. This is, in fact, an easy do-it-yourself task.
5. Remove the Restrictor Valve in the Showerhead
The restrictor valve within the showerhead allows it to conserve water by reducing the flow rate to standard, for instance, it can only remove 2.0 gallons per minute and if this is low, you can remove it to increase the amount of water.
Using a flat-tip screwdriver, you can remove it after loosening the showerhead from the shower hose.
Once you put the showerhead back and realize that the flow rate is still the same, then the issue of low pressure in the shower is most likely not due to the restrictor valve in the showerhead.
6. Clean Your Showerhead to Unclog It
Low water pressure in the shower due to a mineral build-up inside the small holes of the showerhead can limit the flow rate. Therefore, clean your showerhead to prevent this.
An easy way to remove the build-up is by removing the showerhead and letting it sit in a bucket filled with vinegar (or one with a part vinegar-part water mixture) overnight.
If removing the showerhead seems like too much work, fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with the vinegar solution and secure it around the neck of the showerhead with a rubber band.
Just ensure that all of the holes in the showerhead are completely submerged in the vinegar solution overnight.
When your showerhead has finished soaking, scour the holes thoroughly with a scrub brush to ensure that all of those bothersome mineral buildups have dissolved or become dislodged.
If the holes are still clogged, mix a new paste with baking soda and vinegar (1:1) and scrub it into the holes with a toothbrush, letting it sit for an hour before washing it away with a clean damp rag. You can use a sewing needle or a paperclip to remove particularly stubborn particles of dirt.
7. Adjust Your Valves
There are numerous valves throughout your entire plumbing system that when not well open could be causing the issue of low pressure in the shower.
If any of them are partly closed– frequently done by mishap– you could experience low water pressure. Therefore, check the water meter valve, primary shutoff valve, the water heater’s shut-off valve, and all inline valves to ensure they are completely open.
Your plumber can help you do this too. All they need to do is open the valves all of the way to restore full pressure to your plumbing.
8. Replace the Pressure-Balancing Valve
A sudden loss in water pressure in the shower after a few minutes once the toilet is flushed can be disappointing. Fix this problem by having a plumbing expert replace the pressure-balancing valve.
Let’s assume a situation where you’re showering with warm water and someone flushes the toilet, thereby, diverting more cold water into the toilet tank.
The mechanism inside the pressure-balance valve will move to reduce (or cut off) the hot water, maintaining the balance between hot and cold flows: temperature should not fluctuate more than a few degrees.
Always remember that a pressure-balance valve does not pay attention to temperature, so if you set the valve to maximum temperature and turn the lever all the way to “hot,” the water coming out of the shower will be as hot as the water heater can provide (which could be even higher than the setting on the thermostat).
For the ultimate in-shower comfort, homeowners can also consider installing a thermostatic valve as they provide much better water temperature control.
Don’t put up with low water pressure in the shower. Instead, get a plumber to fix the issue. We also recommend performing scheduled inspections of your plumbing systems to check whether there’s a broader issue that’s causing low pressure.
Also, install a modern showerhead, clean it often if your water is hard, and check the valves.
Irregular servicing of your plumbing system is a significant contributor to drastic pressure drops. Unforeseen leakages can also be considerable troublemakers in the long haul.
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