When you turn on your shower, does the water sputter languidly, in no real hurry to exit the faucet? Or is it like a pent-up fire hose, pinning you to the back wall in a tile-cracking torrent? Do your plumbing pipes rattle and clang or groan and gripe? None of those issues are normal and if this sounds like a day in the life at your home; it’s time to investigate. Left unchecked, you could be in for dire consequences.
Water pressure woes
Some people yearn for fire hydrant-like water pressure in their homes but in this case, is more always better? Excess water pressure has the potential to cause a whole host of costly and long-term damage in the form of leaks, ruptured pipes, and untold gallons of wasted water. Let’s look closer at some of the risks associated with high water pressure:
Water pressure risks
With much of the country on red alert in terms of drought warnings, it is more critical than ever to be aware of and avoid wasting water. If your home’s water pressure is too high it will eventually start to drip from faucets and showerheads and leaky toilet drains. Drips here and there all add up to a great deal of cost and thousands of gallons lost every year. High pressure can also erode pipes and leave you with a very wet basement, or far worse. At the same time, water changing in pressure causes those mysterious and irritating banging noises from the pipes far below in the basement or between the walls.
The high-low dance
Let’s say you live in a charming old farmhouse loaded with elegant accoutrements on the main floors, but in the depths below lurks trouble. Old galvanized plumbing is notorious for building up rust and clogging the lines, causing low water pressure and subsequently low volume. However, if the home’s water pressure is too high, it often results in intermittent blasts of high pressure followed by a dramatic dip in both pressure and volume.
Replacing all of that old galvanized pipe with copper solves water supply issues but in the case of high pressure, you can install a pressure-reducing valve (PRV) and accompanying expansion tank to handle pressure from heating. A key element in keeping your entire plumbing system’s wear and tear at a minimum is controlling excess pressure by monitoring the supply pressure. Readings at the hose gauge should hover around 55 to 60 PSI; higher than (90) creates excess pressure that can rapidly shorten the lifespan (and potentially cause failure) of your home’s critical plumbing fixtures such as:
Toilet tank fill valve
Dishwasher and washing machine valves
Flexible water supply connections
Faucets throughout the house
Emergency shutoff valves
Every one of these are expensive to repair and in all cases the risk of severe water damage from a ruptured line is serious business. Remember that fixing a leak is easy compared to an extensive cleanup project.
High pressure symptoms
You can head off water damage at the pass by staying aware of common precursors to liquid disaster like these:
If a faucet anywhere in the house is off but still dripping water, check the water pressure immediately. Typical home water gaskets and cartridges are not designed to handle high pressure and can fail suddenly.
Eternally running toilet
We’ve all heard the sound of a continually burbling toilet long after flushing. If this happens in your house, remove the tank lid, flush the toilet, and monitor the filling of water inside the tank. You should hear a gentle but steady flow. It’s loud or filling too fast, your pressure might be too high.
What to do with high water pressure
The good news with water pressure issues is that there is almost always opportunity to resolve them. If you notice leaky pipes or hear odd noises from them, investigate to confirm the presence of high pressure. If you have it, you will likely need to replace select pipes and/or repair leaks. While you’re at it, this will be a good time to install a valve to regulate water pressure and reduce potential future damage.
Keep in mind that some plumbing fixes are DIY-friendly but if you suspect a complex problem, call in the help of a pro.