Poor water pressure is a common cause of complaint amongst homeowners, as it can lead to inadequate flows from showers or taking too long to fill a bath. On the other hand, too high a pressure can lead to problems with noisy pipework and water hammer as well as causing damage to appliances like washing machines and dishwashers or causing the toilet cistern to constantly run.
It’s possible to measure your water pressure yourself using a low-cost meter. These attach to a threaded outlet, so you’ll usually need an outside tap in order to use one. They’re easy to use: all you need to do is screw on the meter, turn on the tap and read the pressure.
It’s worth checking the pressure at different times of day, as there may be variations caused by other properties nearby using water. Pressure may be slightly higher at night, for example, when usage is less.
For domestic conditions, the pressure should generally be between 40 and 60 psi. If your pressure is below this, you may need to look at boosting it. This can be achieved by installing something like a home booster pump to provide improved flow when required.
If the pressure is too high, you may need to have a water pressure regulator in order to control it. This is a device that has a bell-like shape; it will usually be installed close to where the mains water supply enters the building, or near the water meter if you have one.
A pressure regulator is essentially a valve that brings down the pressure of water entering the house before it can reach, and cause damage too, any equipment or appliances. It uses a spring-loaded diaphragm to restrict the flow entering the valve and reduce it at a lower pressure. Some regulators have a gauge attached so that you can see and adjust it easily.
Fitting a pressure regulator isn’t a particularly difficult task, but it needs to be installed after the main stop tap that controls water flow into the house. It’s a good idea to fit isolator valves above and below it so that it’s easy to change in future should there be any problems.
Adjusting a Regulator
Water pressure regulators are adjustable, allowing the flow of water to be fine-tuned. On top of the regulator there will be an adjustment screw, secured in place by a lock nut to prevent accidental movement.
To adjust the pressure, use a spanner or pair of pliers to loosen the lock nut. You can then turn the screw to adjust the pressure. Turning the screw clockwise will increase the pressure, while turning it anti-clockwise will reduce pressure.
You should make adjustments in small steps and check using your meter to see the results. You can also check your taps and shower to see what difference the adjustment has made. When you’re happy with the setting, re-tighten the lock nut to keep the screw from slipping out of adjustment.
Like any other fitting, pressure regulators don’t last forever and may begin to fail over time. If you notice a drop or increase in water pressure, it may be a sign that your regulator needs attention. Should you suspect that there’s a problem, you can check the pressure using your gauge. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to check it about once a year anyway.
If your regulator isn’t working as it should, replacement with a similar type is usually a straightforward task, but consult an experienced plumber if you’re in any doubt.