Many people enjoy a good shower to start their day off right, but when the water pressure drops, it can be a real annoyance. Sometimes, this is a short, sharp disruption when a nearby toilet is flushed, and other times it seems impossible to get enough water to shower. This can make it difficult to wash and rinse the soap and shampoo. This is a complex plumbing issue, and there could be several reasons why this is happening. How the water pressure is restored will vary a great deal, depending on the root cause.
A Clogged Showerhead
This is probably the best case scenario in terms of a water pressure problem that’s cheap and easy to fix. The showerhead could be dirty and clogged up with material that’s affecting the water flow. If you can, unscrew the shower head and examine the nozzles where the water comes out. If you have hard water issues, you may notice dried white material around the nozzles from the minerals that have dried there. Over time, scale can build up inside a shower head, and the nozzle apertures will become narrow and clogged. This can be cleaned by soaking the showerhead in a commercial cleaning solution for a few minutes and then cleaning the shower head with a scrubbing brush or an old toothbrush. If you want to use a less abrasive cleaning product, white vinegar works well if you soak the showerhead overnight. Cleaning the shower head in this way will loosen and remove the clogs to restore the water pressure. If this fails, you can repeat the process, but you may need to buy a new shower head instead. If you choose to go this route, look out for a showerhead that can provide the water pressure that you need and go for that unit.
The Pressure Balancing Valve
Your shower may have a pressure balancing valve; this is a handle or knob that used to control the flow of water and the temperature. If this sounds like your shower, then you may be at some risk from a water pressure loss due to nearby plumbing fixtures. A common example: a nearby toilet is flushed, and the shower suffers from a sudden loss in water pressure and an unwanted temperature change.
A pressure balancing valve mixes the cold and hot water together at a predefined pressure level. When the nearby toilet is flushed, some cold water from this mix is diverted to refill the toilet flush tank. This causes a drop in pressure in the cold water line, and it takes a couple of seconds for the pressure balancing valve to adjust. During this short period, the water can become very hot very quickly because the valve cannot get the cold water to add to the mix. The valve will adjust by reducing the pressure from the hot water line to compensate, and this will result in a drop in water pressure.
For these reasons, many homeowners now use a different type of shower valve in this setup. This is known as a thermostatic mixing valve, and it uses separate controls for water pressure and temperature. Your local certified plumber will be able to upgrade your pressure balancing valve to a better thermostatic mixing valve.
The Water Pressure Reduction Valve
If you have a water pressure problem that affects every plumbing fixture in your home the cause of the problem could be located close to your incoming water source. Some homes have a water pressure reduction valve connected to the main water line. This is often located at the point where the water line enters your home. This valve can break or malfunction just like any other plumbing fixture. But, in many cases, it simply needs to be adjusted to restore the correct water pressure to your home. Adjusting, fixing and repairing a water pressure reduction valve is a job for a professional plumber.
The Diverter Valve
If you have a shower and bathtub combo, you will probably have a diverter valve fitted. This is a switch or knob that’s used to divert water away from the bathtub faucet up to the showerhead. These valves can break or malfunction at any time, and when this happens, you won’t get adequate water pressure to the showerhead. This is easy to check; if the bathtub faucet is providing water at full pressure and the showerhead isn’t, then the diverter valve is the culprit. A certified plumber can confirm this for you, and a new diverter valve can be fitted to restore the showerhead water pressure.
A Clogged Pipe
If you live in a hard water area, you could have accumulated deposits of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, inside your plumbing pipes. Over time the material will form scale, and it will grow thicker on the inner surface of the pipe. The pipe will become narrower, and as a result, the water pressure will drop. The root cause here is the hard water itself; a water softening system can be installed to remove the dissolved minerals that cause hard water before they enter your home. But, if you already have badly clogged pipes, you will need to contact a local certified plumber to get them professionally cleaned or replaced.
A Broken Pipe
We have saved the worst possible cause of a loss in water pressure for last. If a water supply pipe in your home has become obstructed or broken it could cause a great deal of damage to your home. Water damage can be hidden for a long time, and it can be extremely expensive to repair. There are some signs that you can look out for to confirm your fears. If you hear water dripping or running where there shouldn’t be any, such as behind a wall, then there could be a water leak there. If you notice any water stains or any drips of water in odd locations, there may be a water leak. If you suspect that you have a water leak, go to the main valve and turn off the water supply. Contact a local certified plumber
straight away to locate the leak and fix quickly before you turn the water supply back on.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.