How to Fix and Diagnose High Water Pressure at Home
When we think about water pressure being a problem, we usually think about low water pressure. There’s nothing like a low-pressure shower in the morning to ensure you have a horrible day at the office.
But while low water pressure presents us with an immediate inconvenience, high water pressure can lead to huge amounts of wasted water and thousands of dollars in repairs. And worst of all, it often goes undetected until the damage is done.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to pinpoint and address high water pressure. We’ll talk about the common signs of having high water pressure and what you can do about it. But first, let’s go over why this whole pressure thing is such a big deal.
Why Should I Care About High Water Pressure?
The issues that arise when we have high water pressure have a tendency of creeping up on us. Think of it like blood pressure. When you go to the doctor for a checkup, it’s standard practice to measure your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a red flag for possible disasters down the road.
Water pressure is the same way. Early detection is key. Here’s a few reasons to think about high water pressure in your home:
It’s hurting your pipes. Water is deceptively powerful. It does its damage over long periods of time and by the time we notice something’s wrong, the damage is already done. High water pressure flowing and stopping in the pipes causes long-term damage, leading to small leaks (which can mean black mold and structural damage) and even pipe bursts.
Wear and tear on appliances and fixtures. You know that state-of-the-art washing machine you just traded your last paycheck for? High water pressure is an appliance killer. It’ll cut the lifespan of expensive appliances and you’ll be replacing them sooner than you think. And this wear and tear applies to smaller fixtures like faucets, shower heads and toilets.
It can damage your water heater. When water heats up, it expands. Most water heaters have a thermal expansion tank to help take on that extra volume. But if your water pressure is consistently high, your water heater might run out of space for that expanding water to go. You can imagine what happens next ﹘ it’s not pretty (or cheap).
Wasted water and higher utility bills. When your water pressure is too high, you’re letting out more water every time you turn on a faucet. All of that adds up in the long run. If you live in a place where you have to pay for the water you use, high pressure could end up costing you.
What Causes High Water Pressure?
The most common source of high water pressure is actually the municipal water supplier. If you live in an area with a lot of hills or tall buildings, the utility companies need to pump the water at higher pressure levels to reach all their customers. It’s not uncommon for local water suppliers to pump water at 100 psi or more.
Living near a fire hydrant can also cause the water main going into your home to run at a higher pressure, since hydrants need much higher pressure than homes. It’s also possible that you have a faulty expansion tank on your water heater.
At the end of the day, the cause of high water pressure is usually something outside of your control. The only thing you can do is identify it and take the next steps to regulate the pressure as the water passes from the main line into your home.
So what signs of high water pressure should you be on the lookout for?
How to Diagnose High Water Pressure
Nothing is going to tell you more about your home’s water pressure than an actual pressure gauge, which we’ll talk about later. But your home will give you some hints and clues to let you know it’s time to go and get an accurate reading.
Check up on Your Faucets
The faucets in your home can show you telltale signs of high water pressure. Faucets have a lot of small parts like washers and aerators that can wear down quickly if they’re under the constant stress of high water pressure.
The first thing to look out for is leaking faucets ﹘especially faucets that leak when another fixture like your shower is being used. Another common symptom you might notice is spitting or bursting when you first turn a faucet on. Or, you might notice that when your faucet is turned all the way on, there is excess water spraying out an angle apart from the typical steady stream.
Listen to Your Pipes
Do you ever notice a “banging” sound in your plumbing? It’s called water hammer, and it’s a major sign that you have some serious water pressure problems.
Water hammer happens when a fast, powerful flow of water suddenly stops moving. When you have high water pressure and you suddenly turn off a faucet, all that water bangs into your pipes like a little freight train. Sometimes we forget just how much of a force of nature water can actually be.
Pay Attention to Your Appliances
Appliances can tip you off to pressure problems in a number of ways. The most obvious thing to look out for is leaking. Washing machines, water heaters and automatic dishwashers can all start leaking if they’re subjected to extreme water pressures over a long period of time.
Sometimes they won’t leak at all. They’ll just wear out an need to be replaced far sooner than they’re meant to be. If you feel like you’ve only had half the time you thought you would with an appliance, if could be the wear and tear of high water pressure.
Running around the house turning on faucets and listening for water hammer is a good start, but if you really want to know exactly what is going on with your home’s plumbing, you’re going to need some tools.
Tools to Diagnose and Control Water Pressure
This handy little tool is easy to use and can be picked up at most home improvement or hardware stores. It has an attachment very much like the end of a garden hose and hooks up to your faucet the same way.
Look for the faucet that’s closest to the water main ﹘ this might be in your basement or on the outside of your house. Make sure you have all your water fixtures and appliances turned off. Attach the pressure gauge to the faucet (make sure it’s on tight) and turn the water all the way on.
Give it a few seconds and take a look at the gauge. Ideally, you want your water pressure to be between 40 and 60 psi. Anything over 80 psi and you’re in the danger zone.
Pressure Reduction Valve
A pressure reduction valve, or pressure regulator is a device that is installed on the water main that slows down the water going into your home. The International Plumbing Code requires every home built after 2002 to have one of these installed. These valves have a lifespan of 7 to 12 years, so depending on when your home was built you might be due for an upgrade.
Older homes may not have a pressure reduction valve, and if you have high water pressure, getting one installed could solve your pressure problem almost immediately. It’s not a job for beginners, so if you’re not comfortable cutting pipes and working with some tools you might want to leave it to a professional. Here’s an installation video to get an idea of what the process looks like.
Flo by Moen
Nothing saves you more money in life than preventative maintenance. After all, you can’t solve a problem if you don’t know it’s happening. Water waste, water damage and appliance replacements are all major consequences for what often begins as small problems.
At Flo, we realized there was a need for a smarter home water management system. We created the Flo by Moen, a smart home monitoring and leak detection system that not only monitors water pressure, but water flow and temperature.
The Flo by Moen runs constant checks on the health of your home’s plumbing system, detects leaks, and delivers real-time diagnostics right to your smartphone. It’ll even shut off your water automatically if there’s a dangerous spike in pressure or flow in order to protect your home.
It usually takes time for high water pressure to do serious damage to your home. So stay on top of your plumbing system. Taking care of issues before they turn into something bigger and badder is the best way to protect your home and save money.
When was the last time you checked your home’s water pressure? Was it high? Low? What made you realize you might have a pressure problem? Let us know!