A common question that clients ask during home inspections is: “Does this house have good water pressure?” When you’re searching the housing market and touring homes, it’s important to look for a few key indicators of the home’s water pressure and how those systems are functioning.
What you usually want to know is whether the flow from the showerhead will be strong enough for a quality shower and whether someone flushing a toilet will interrupt that shower. Inadequate pressure can also affect other home appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, as well as sprinklers and other exterior landscaping systems that use water. These questions can’t be answered by examining water pressure on its own. Instead, we have to look at both water pressure and the resulting functional flow.
What is water pressure?
Water pressure is the amount of force from the water main into your home. It is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and normal water pressure is typically between 30 and 80 PSI.
What is functional flow?
Functional flow is the volume of water flowing through your pipes and arriving at individual fixtures. Poor functional flow may be due to buildups in the pipes or poor plumbing.
How to Test a Home’s Water Pressure
To determine whether a home has enough functional flow, go to the bathroom and turn on the sink and the shower. Wait for satisfactory water temperature in the shower and then flush the toilet. See if the flow diminishes. You can go to other fixtures and run the water too, but at some point, every system will experience diminished flow if you open too many fixtures at once. One sure way to kill the flow is to open up an exterior hose bib during testing. Keep it simple and test flow by opening up every fixture in a given bathroom.
You can also test your water pressure using the cold water supply faucet at your washing machine. To do this, screw a pressure gauge onto the faucet behind the washing machine (you’ll need to disconnect the hose before doing this). Turn on the faucet all the way and observe the pressure gauge to determine if the home is at the sweet spot.
How to Obtain Perfect Water Pressure
You don’t want your home to have water pressure that is too low, but water pressure can also be too high. Piping systems are designed to have no more than 80 PSI. When you exceed this pressure it can cause problems. High pressure will rarely cause pipes to burst, but it stresses the weak links in your piping system such as rubber hoses and gaskets, making them vulnerable to leaks and failure.
You can correct high residential water pressure by installing a pressure reducing valve. This is a bell-shaped device that reduces water pressure. Aim for water pressure that is 60-70 PSI.
If the house has low pressure, you first want to determine if the house is on a public water supply system or a private well system. Most public systems are required to deliver a minimum of 30 PSI to your house, so inadequate pressure on public water systems is rare.
If the house is on public water supply and the utility cannot improve your pressure, the solution involves installing a pressure tank and a pump. This gives your supply piping system a pressurized boost. Your local plumbing expert
If the house is on a private well, poor pressure could indicate a problem with the captive storage tank and/or the pump and you should have the well system serviced by a qualified well expert.
Flaws in the Functional Flow
Poor functional flow can be an issue in old houses with galvanized steel pipe. This type of pipe was commonly installed until the late 1960s and early 1970s. This pipe was manufactured with a coating of galvanization that was designed to prevent corrosion of the steel pipes. When this galvanization wears off, the pipes occlude with rust. The result is a restricted piping system that will not deliver adequate water to the fixtures even with all the pressure in the world. To fix the problem, you’ll need to replace the pipes.
Another common cause of poor functional flow is unprofessional water piping systems. Good plumbers know how to size the pipes correctly so that adequate water is delivered to each fixture. An amateur mistake is running too many fixtures off of pipes that have too small a diameter. The result is inadequate water supply to fixtures or poor functional flow. This can be difficult to repair without piping replacement.
Just because a fixture has poor flow, don’t assume anything about the pipes yet. Other factors in the piping system can result in poor flow. Sometimes an angle stop (one of those shutoffs below the sink) may be partly closed. Fixture aerators (the little screens inside the faucets) can become restricted. The main water shutoff to the house could be party closed or restricted. Supply connector hoses could be kinked or restricted.
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Ryan SmithRyan is on the marketing team at Redfin and loves writing data-driven articles about all things real estate. Ryan's dream home would be a Cape Cod-style house near the ocean and the mountains.
The average American spends over $1300 per year in residential energy bills, which calculates to almost $100,000 over the course of your lifetime. With advances in energy efficient building design, homeowners and commercial property owners alike are able to save money and reduce their carbon footprints over time through sustainable construction methods.
HVAC Maintenance and Upgrades
Your HVAC system is one of the most important things to consider when making upgrades to your home. In an old, leaking, or outdated HVAC system, it is estimated that up to 40% of the conditioned air in your ducts is leaking elsewhere, like the attic or behind walls. Regular duct cleaning and sealing will keep your HVAC system working efficiently, saving you money on energy bills while also prolonging the life of your HVAC system.
It is important to recognize that maintaining an efficient HVAC system is a tedious and involved process; many components of your HVAC system, like the ductwork inside of your walls, cannot be cleaned or repaired using DIY methods. It is imperative that property owners enlist the help of a professional HVAC company when seeking to clean air ducts or seal leaking air ducts.
Upgraded House Siding
Your house siding is your home’s first defense. The siding on your home should be durable enough to withstand rain, snow, ice, and other elements. Upgrading your home’s siding to a sustainable material like Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) will not only make your home resistant to pests and rot, but will help to insulate your home and reduce your energy costs. ICF construction helps keep the conditioned air in, preventing your HVAC system from working too hard.
Another perk of using sustainable home siding like ICF is the safety and security that ICF siding provides. ICF siding is often used in climates that endure high winds. The strength and durability of ICF siding makes it the top choice for home builders in climates that are prone to hurricanes and tornadoes.
Smart appliances are great additions to homes of people looking to not only reduce their energy bills, but their carbon footprint. Smart dishwashers, thermostats, televisions, and washers and dryers use the minimal amount of energy to get the job done, saving money and energy. When upgrading your old appliances to modern, new ones - look for the Energy Star rating to ensure that your appliances meet the highest standards of energy usage.
Smart appliances can often be controlled by apps on your smartphone or other device, giving homeowners control of the appliances in their homes even when they are away.
Installing solar panels is not only eco-friendly, but money saving! Installing solar panels reduces or completely removes the need for conventional electricity, cutting your energy bills down. Installing solar panels on your home can also save you money on taxes; there are many federal and state incentives to solar panel installation, including tax breaks and rebates. If you are interested in investing in solar energy for your home, check with your local government to find out what programs are available to you!
Reduced Energy Costs for Commercial Businesses
Many commercial buildings are looking to reduce their emissions and carbon footprint as well as their energy bills. Advances in sustainable construction, from natural building materials to energy-efficient appliances allow many businesses to achieve net zero building status. Commercial building owners can benefit from many of the same upgrades and installations as residential homes, such as ICF construction, upgraded HVAC systems, and solar panels. Additionally, there are many federal government programs that provide incentives to businesses who reduce their emissions and install environmentally-friendly appliances.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Construction and Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.
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I am a licensed Master Plumber, and the president of Admiral Plumbing, Heating and Cooling. Admiral Plumbing began in April of 2001. We have now been in business for over 10 years. We added heating and cooling to the business in July of 2004. I have been plumbing for more than 17 years. I love meeting new people and solving problems. I've made some great new friends in both the people I work with and the people I work for. Admiral's customers are great. My highest goal each day is to create lasting customers. Most of our calls come from repeat customers with whom we have built a relationship of trust. I'm not satisfied sitting in an office all day, but enjoy going out and getting my hands dirty. For this reason, I continue to work as a technician in the field. This keeps me in touch personally with our customers. I love to hear what they like about Admiral as well as suggestions on how we can improve.