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Home water pressure

The highs and lows of water pressure

Water flowing from a mixer tap

There's nothing like a hot power shower first thing in the morning, even if it's just to help you wake up. But if your shower is more of a drizzle than a blast, it may be something to do with your water pressure. This is the force that pushes water through outside pipes and into your home’s taps and showers when you turn them on. Different things can affect the water pressure in your home, but there are things you can do to give your plumbing a bit more punch.

What can cause no or low water pressure?

  • If there’s a plumbing problem in your property. This could include a partly closed internal tap or a leaky pipe or toilet.
  • There could be reduced pressure from the water supply network. This could be due to a leak, an equipment failure or a blocked pipe.
  • Water mains that are too small can also limit pressure.
  • At times in the day when demand for water is high (normally in the morning or early evenings), pressure can be lower.
  • The location and height of a property can also affect water pressure. A property further away from a reservoir or on higher ground may suffer from lower pressure. Loft converted bathrooms can sometimes suffer from low pressure water due to their position in a house. 
  • There may also be low pressure issues in dry weather spells, as there’ll be more use of hosepipes and sprinklers.

What to check if your water pressure is low

  • Try your cold kitchen tap. The main water supply gets into your home from there or from a utility room tap. If water comes out of here and not another utility such as your shower, the problem is with your home’s plumbing.
  • Check your water meter to see if it’s operating at full strength. A way to test if there’s a leak that may be affecting your water pressure is to shut off all the water from the mains. You can do this by turning the stopcock, also called a 'stop tap', which can usually be found under the kitchen sink. Test everything is shut off correctly by running a tap to make sure nothing comes out. You'll then need to check your water meter, which will probably be outside of your property. If the dial in the water meter is still spinning, then water is still flowing and you have a leak.
  • See if your neighbours are also affected. If they are, it's likely a problem with the area’s supply.
  • Check your post for a warning letter from your water company that is notifying you of any repairs or updates with your area system.
  • Calling your water company directly is the best way to check if there’s a larger issue with your area’s mains water pressure or if it’s a domestic water pressure problem.

Ways to increase water pressure?

If the thought of another low water pressure shower is too much to bear, there are ways to increase the strength of your domestic water flow.

  • Check to see if your water meter is operating at full strength. Turn it up if it’s not.
  • See if your home’s internal stopcock if fully open as this is the main control of water into your home.
  • If you’ve had work done in your home, there’s a chance that the main shut off valve in the street has been turned off or lowered and left that way. You'll need to locate this valve, which should be close to the boundary of your property. Once you've found it, you'll need to turn the valve to increase the flow of water.
  • If you home is high up or far from a reservoir and naturally suffers from low water pressure, it may be worth investing in a water pressure booster pump. There are many types available for different types of water/heating systems and house sizes. It works by being attached to your mains water entry point and giving the incoming water an extra thrust around your house.
  • Check your taps. Sometimes it may just be one tap that has a water pressure problem. Try taking off and cleaning the aerator as it may be clogged with lime scale. If the problem continues, it may be further into the system and may be worth calling a plumber to inspect it.
  • Change the pipes. If you live in a hard water area, there's a chance your pipes may become clogged with limescale. If your waste water drains away slowly or your taps are covered in limescale, the same problem might affect your home’s water pressure. Talk to a plumber about what the cost might be and how likely it is to help with your water pressure problem.

What can cause high water pressure?

Water pressure that is too high is problematic as it can damage plumbing parts, that may then leak and cause flooding. Here are some of the main causes of high water pressure:

  • There might be trapped air in your home’s water pipes that can temporarily increase water pressure. To release this air, simply turn your taps on for a few minutes. You should hear the air coming out in bursts.
  • Sometimes, the water supply network needs to be rearranged to get water to new homes, which may temporarily cause some issues. This is usually returned to normal very quickly.
  • If you’ve moved into a new home and area, it may just be that your water pressure is stronger than what you were used to before.

If you think that your home’s water pressure is too high, then it may be worth calling your water company and letting them know about it. They can arrange to take pressure and flow measurements to see whether the problem is in the system or your home and can then advise you.

What are the official standards for water pressure?

Pressure is measured by PSI or pound per square inch (the force of one pound applied to one square inch). The water pressure from your supplier will be around 100 PSI. Something called a pressure regulator in your house will then lower the water pressure. The ideal water meter reading for a home is between 45-55 PSI.

The official standards for water pressure are protected by the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS) from Ofwat – the Water Services Regulation Authority. It states that water companies maintain a minimum pressure of water in the communication pipe that serves the property.

If you're unhappy with your water company’s response to an issue, you can get in touch with the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) for further advice on the matter.

 

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