Water Pressure Regulators – Uses, Installation, and Troubleshooting
Worried about your plumbing health? You’ve probably ran into articles about the dangers of high water pressure. Besides the headache of banging pipes, high pressure puts stress on fixtures like your sink and toilets, leading to expensive repairs down the line.
One solution is to test pressure regularly. But let’s face it, you have enough on your plate when it comes to home maintenance. At the end of the day, water pressure is something you want to automate.
That’s where a water pressure regulator comes in handy. It’s the simplest way to keep your water pressure where it needs to be.
What is a Water Pressure Regulator?
Your water pressure regulator, also known as a water pressure-reducing valve (PRV), has a huge influence on strength and longevity of your pipes. Located near your home’s water main and meter, this valve moderates the flow of water from the city to your home and protects your plumbing from water surges and high pressure.
How high is too high, exactly? Well, most faucets and appliances are built to withstand water pressure of 50 psi. However, your municipal water line could be pumping water to your home at a rate as high as 150 psi. This puts a big amount of wear and tear on normally high-functioning devices.
The pressure regulator is what swoops in to save the day. When water passes through the regulator at high pressures, a spring and diaphragm inside the valve react to narrow the flow area, reducing pressure to 50-80 psi.
Live in a Big City? Why You Need a Pressure Regulator Anyway
You’re probably wondering about the consequences of not installing a pressure reducing valve. After all, most developed cities regulate pressure at healthy levels.
But even in a city, your water company may be keeping pressure high in certain areas to meet the demands of fire hydrants and high rise buildings. Not to mention, thermal expansion can cause irregularities in water pressure throughout the year.
One way to keep tabs on your water pressure (without constantly running outside to test it) is with a smart water leak detection system. The Flo by Moen leak detection system keeps tabs on your home’s water pressure and temperature, and flow 24/7, sending your phone an alert and shutting off your water main if anything ever looks suspicious.
Leak detection systems and PRVs work together. One helps you avoid catastrophe, while the other will control for the mildest fluctuations in pressure. Here’s why you may want to invest in both:
To Reduce the Chances of Leaks and Pipe Bursts
Ignore high water pressure long enough, you’re on the road to burst pipes and damaged appliances, which will set you back thousands of dollars.
How does this happen?
Over time, high water pressure creates small pinhole leaks in your plumbing system. And while these don’t seem catastrophic in the short term, they actually build over time, eventually causing costly damage.
Some particularly sensitive spots are the inlet valves that bring water from your pipes to your appliances. The connecting joints there are fragile, and high pressure easily leads to pipe bursts. Not something you want to deal with.
Your fixtures will be happier, healthier and last longer if your home maintains the appropriate water pressure.
To conserve water and save money on utility bills
Just 5 drips per minute in 3 spots leads to over 500 gallons of water wasted per year.
And while in some parts of the world people can exist on 3 gallons of water per day, the average American home uses 100 gallons per day and wastes about 180 gallons per week! For tenants and homeowners who pay their own water bills, the importance of conserving water quickly becomes apparent.
Most likely, you won’t even notice a difference in the function of your fixtures after installing a pressure regulator. You’ll be able to maintain the same lifestyle but use less water.
To adjust your water pressure manually
As water pressure shifts throughout the year, you may want to adjust it to keep it within the 50-80 psi range. Water pressure regulators give you this ability. They have a screw on top that you can turn to raise and lower your household water pressure as needed.
How to Install a Water Pressure Regulator
Curious if this is something you can handle on your own? Water pressure regulators can be a fun project to DIY if you have the know-how. The part usually costs around $50, while hiring a professional plumber to install one ranges from $250-350.
Here’s an overview of how it’s done:
- Find the proper location.
Usually, water pressure regulators are installed where your main water line comes into your house, after the main shutoff valve.
- Measure your current pressure to get a baseline.
Get a pressure gauge (available at most hardware and home improvement stores) and screw it onto one of your outdoor spigots. Opening the spigot will give you a reading of your home’s water pressure.
- Turn off all the water.
Shut off your water main and make sure your pipes are completely drained by running your faucets until water flow stops. To draw water away from the area you’re working, run the faucets that are farthest from your water main.
- Check the position of the valve.
Most valves are embossed with an arrow pointing in the direction of water flow. It’s essential that you install the valve facing the right direction. If you don’t, the device won’t reduce pressure when it needs to.
- Install the pressure regulator.
Most water pressure regulators come with a set of instructions on how to install. Installation involves cutting away 6 inches of pipe after your main shutoff valve, soldering on fittings around the exposed ends of pipe, and then inserting your PRV into the gap and tightening it onto each fitting with pliers.
- Adjust to desired pressure.
Turn your water back on and take another pressure reading. You can now adjust the default pressure by tightening or loosening the screw at the top of your new water pressure regulator.
But remember, if you’re not comfortable with the above steps, we always recommend hiring a professional plumber instead. Better to be safe than sorry!
Water Pressure Regulator Lifespan and Troubleshooting
Water pressure regulators are advertised to last 5 years before they need repair. But like any technology, this varies based on use. If you maintain a large pool or use a sprinkler network, that will be more taxing on your device.
Here are some signs that something’s gone wrong with your PRV and the actions you should take.
The Problem: Fluctuating Water Pressure
If you notice your water pressure is suddenly higher or lower than normal, it could be a sign that something is off with your water pressure regulator. Common symptoms are changing shower pressure, leaks, water hammer, and vibrating noises in your walls.
The Fix: Clean Out Your PRV
The culprit is usually mineral buildup in your PRV. To restore normal flow, turn off your water main, remove your PRV, and soak it in a calcium lime remover for several hours. This will dissolve the most common deposits.
Then, inspect your pressure regulator and its parts. If you see any cracks or nicks, that’s a sign you should get a pressure regulator repair kit at your local hardware store and replace any broken parts before reinstalling.
The Problem: Your PRV is Leaking
A puddle of water under your water main is a cause for concern. But if the leak is coming from your water pressure regulator, the repair is usually a quick one-two.
The Fix: Replace the gaskets
Remove your water pressure regulator. Inside, you’ll find a spring, a movable shaft, and some rubber gaskets. The gaskets are responsible for keeping an airtight seal between the metal parts of your PRV, but they also degrade over time. If you notice cuts, warping, or a brittle texture, it’s time to make a trip to the hardware store and buy replacements. A new set of gaskets should restore the seal and contain the water that passes through.
With so many aspects of your plumbing needing constant attention and maintenance, it can be hard to keep up. Devices like water pressure regulators function as fix-all solutions to prevent the most common plumbing problems. Coupled with the Flo by Moen leak detection system, you ensure your home is always monitored and protected.