Poor Water Pressure: Possible Causes
LESLIE: Well, something’s keeping Denny in Missouri up at night and it’s not the noisy neighbors. It’s the creakin’ pipes. What’s going on?
DENNY: Well, I travel a bit and I get home every other weekend. And lately, when I come in, I turn the water on in the bathroom or kitchen sink or flush the toilet and the pipes start hammering and water squirts out and coughs and sputters and then comes out. And it’s at a reduced flow. And then, as it runs, it will slow down to just a bare trickle.
DENNY: And it seems like month after month it keeps reducing further and further to where I can barely get some of the faucets to flow at all, right now.
LESLIE: (very low audio) What kind of pipes do you have there?
DENNY: They’re copper.
TOM: Have you taken the aerators off of the … off of the faucets to see if there’s any obstruction there, Denny?
DENNY: No, I haven’t tried that. Since it was happening in the toilet as well – it doesn’t have an aerator on it –
TOM: Well, that’s true.
DENNY: The pipes just bang and get almost like a garden hose –
DENNY: – that you have coiled up outside.
DENNY: You turn the water on and as the water shoots through the hose, you can hear it coming out the other end. And it starts sputtering –
DENNY: – and here comes the blast –
DENNY: – and then some air and then another blast and finally it starts coming out.
TOM: And, Denny, that’s normal when you’ve had your water off. When the pipes bang like that, when you’ve had the water off, that’s normal. What concerns me is that you’re having this reduction of flow. I’m wondering if you have a problem with a valve or an aerator. Now, if you’re saying that it’s happening … for example, if it’s happening in the tub faucet where there is no aerator in addition to, say, the vanity faucet where there is an aerator, then maybe we’re not talking about a blocked aerator. We could be talking about a different problem.
So I would say, first of all, the banging is normal when you’ve had your water off. That’s always going to happen. If it happens when the water is on and using all the time, you shut your pipes off and the pipes bang, that is a different condition called water hammer. And it’s caused by the centrifugal force of the water moving through the pipes and then stopping suddenly. That could be corrected with something called a water hammer arrester.
If you’re having a reduced flow, then mostly likely, since you have copper pipes that you – like you said to Leslie’s question – the reason that’s probably happening is one of your valves is not fully open. Even though it may be unscrewed, it may not be completely open. I get the feeling that when you go away, are you turning the water off in the house?
DENNY: No, I’m not.
TOM: So you’re not turning the water off. You’re just, when it comes back on the … you’re still getting a lot of air in the lines. Is that correct?
TOM: Alright. Well, I would suggest that you take your main water valve, turn it all the way off and turn it all the way back up again. Because it may not be fully open. And also, unscrew all of the aerators on all of the faucets that you can. And check for debris behind them. Because you’ll be amazed that sometimes you’ll get just the smallest piece of say, copper solder that broke off inside the pipe, and can absolutely close down an entire line.
DENNY: Okay. I’ve got the faucet that has the single knob that you turn left or right –
DENNY: – for hot or cold. And if you pull up on it to –
TOM: Yeah, and the aerator is the tip of that faucet. It unscrews. Do you have city water or do you have well water?
DENNY: It’s city water.
TOM: Okay. Well, why don’t you have your water pressure checked to see what kind of flow is being delivered. Somewhere, Denny, it’s being reduced. And if it’s not being reduced at the aerator, it’s got to be being reduced at a valve. And we’ve got to find out where that is and once you know where that is, this problem’s going to go away very quickly. It sounds like it’s a problem with a valve, Denny.
TOM: But we’ve got to get to the bottom of that. So I would call the utility company, have them check the pressure at the street to see what kind of water pressure you’re getting out there. And if you’re not getting 50 or 60 pounds of pressure, that could be it. From there, you’ve got to check your valves going forward. It sounds to me like something is not opened up all the way and that’s why you’re having that issue.
TOM: Alright, Denny?
DENNY: Thank you.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.