One of the most common plumbing complaints homeowners have—especially in older homes—is sluggish or low water pressure coming from faucets and showerheads. There can be a number of reasons for this symptom, which must be investigated in order to fix the problem and get the water flowing freely again.
Some typical culprits that cause low water pressure include partially closed or malfunctioning shut-off valves, crimped water lines, or mineral and/or sediment deposits that gather in older pipes. Ask your neighbors if they have strong water pressure; if they do, the cause of your trouble is likely somewhere between the water meter and your home.
Slowing to a Trickle
The first and most obvious clue that you have low water pressure is when water that should normally gush from a faucet or showerhead only trickles out. This could be potentially caused by the municipal water supply, as with instances where there’s a rare line break, or if the system is being flushed temporarily. More likely, though, the problem is being caused by built-up deposits or sediment on faucet aerators, especially if you live in an area with hard water, like the Northeast.
It’s kind of an inevitable issue: Water entering pipes carries dissolved minerals, which eventually become deposited on metal surfaces. If your house has a filtration system, the deposits are removed, however without filtration, minerals collect on inner surfaces of aerators and shower heads, clogging screens and slowing water flow.
As you investigate, keep in mind the following list of common causes of low water pressure:
- Your faucets or showerhead aerator screens might be clogged.
Most modern faucets and showerheads have an aerator at the tip, which saves water, filters out debris and prevents splashing. As mentioned above, mineral deposits in the water produce sediment buildup, which limits water pressure.
- You may need to replace your showerhead.
If it has been many years since you installed a new showerhead, or if you’ve installed a low-flow showerhead, these could be reasons for low water pressure. You may want to find a new showerhead, particularly one with a high-pressure design.
- There may be a leak somewhere in your home.
A major leak in a home can result in both reduced water pressure and higher water bills. Water leaks are difficult to diagnose and locate, and may not even be noticed until larger problems occur in the home. You may want to call in a professional if you suspect there’s an undetected leak.
- The pipes may be corroded.
Over a span of decades, corrosion and sediment buildup can occur within old pipes, especially if they’re galvanized. Replacing old and corroded pipes—which again, is something you may want to hire a professional plumber to perform—can significantly improve water pressure.
A Simple Solution
If your low pressure is isolated to one sink or shower head, it’s probably just the aerator is clogged,” advises Upstate New York plumbing expert Tom Darling of Empire State Plumbing. “You can take those and you can soak them in white vinegar overnight and that would clean out the minerals in there. The aerator typically you can just take apart and rinse out the screen and put it back together, or you can buy a new one for $5 at Home Depot if you can find the right size.”
Once you’ve cleaned the aerators and showerheads, if you still notice low water pressure, there may be a more difficult issue in play. For example, when a leak or breach in pipes leading into the home occurs, it’s an emergency situation that can damage the home’s infrastructure and/or foundation. Whenever you experience a sudden and significant reduction in water pressure with no known cause, always call a licensed plumber for help.