Water pressure tends to be something we don’t think about unless there’s something obviously wrong, such as when the water comes dribbling out of your shower or kitchen faucet, or blasts through like it’s a fire hose.
In reality, high water pressure doesn’t always look like that scene from “Seinfeld,” when the water pressure practically knocked Kramer out of the shower. Instead, it shows itself in a dripping faucet, constantly running toilet, or myriad other ways. What’s more, it causes a variety of plumbing issues, not to mention gallons of wasted water (and dollars).
The U.S. Congress knows the dangers of high water pressure; they included water pressure standards in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (page 51, paragraph j). The main goal was conservation, but the guidelines also offer a good helping of common sense, since they help protect your appliances and plumbing. The Act sets maximum rates, including 2.5 gallons per minute for showerheads and 1.6 gallons per flush for toilets.
Of course, water pressure varies according to your location and the company supplying your water. So, how do you meet these guidelines, save your plumbing, and control water pressure in your home? With a water pressure regulator.
What is a Water Pressure Regulator?
A water pressure regulator is exactly what it sounds like – it regulates the flow of water coming into your home from the main water line. It’s a valve that helps reduce water pressure before it reaches any of your plumbing fixtures or appliances, since excess pressure leads to a variety of plumbing issues, all of which cost you money eventually.
Water pressure can be tricky. Too low, and you’re taking a shower in what feels like light rain. Too high, and water comes rocketing out of your fixtures, eventually damaging them. A regulator lets you control the water pressure entering your home via an adjustable, spring-loaded diaphragm. The valve works by constricting water as it enters and then releasing it according to your settings.
Know the Symptoms of High Water Pressure
Unfortunately, diagnosing high water pressure isn’t as simple as opening the tap and observing how fast the water flows. In fact, even if your plumbing displays every one of the signs listed below, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your water pressure’s too high. This is because pressure changes throughout the day, as water usage in your area fluctuates. Your best bet is to hire a plumber to check it, but you can also buy a pressure gauge to perform your own test (make sure nobody is running water anywhere in the home at the time, including the dishwasher and washing machine). You need the pressure gauge to consistently register between 40 and 60 psi and, because flow varies, you need to run tests at different times of the day. Your water company may also be able to tell you whether they recommend a water pressure regulator for your area.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, it may be time to call in a plumber.
- Do the gaskets and seals in your plumbing fixtures rupture frequently?
- Do you have to replace water heaters more frequently than the manufacturer recommends? How about your washing machine or dishwasher?
- Do you hear a banging or hammering sound when you run water, particularly when showering or doing laundry?
- Do your faucets leak?
- Do your toilets run?
- Does water spit from the faucet aerator when you turn it on?
- Does the water rush out of your faucets or shower?
What Are the Benefits of Using a Water Pressure Regulator?
A good water pressure regulator helps alleviate the plumbing issues that follow when water pressure is too high. In addition, you also save money by saving water – a win for both your wallet and the planet.
- Save your plumbing fixtures: Water rushing through your pipes and into your faucets puts a lot of stress on them. That’s why you have to replace gaskets and seals more frequently; those little guys can only take so much pressure. Of course, nobody wants the water coming out in a slow trickle, either. A regulator helps you set the ideal pressure that both extends the life of your fixtures and ensures your showers don’t feel like you’re standing under a watering can.
- Save your appliances: Your washing machine, water heater, and dishwasher are not minor investments. When water rushes through them too quickly, it inflicts the same kind of stress and strain as it places on your plumbing fixtures. Regulating water flow helps protect those appliances, reduce repairs and expensive replacement parts, and extend their lifespan. You may also be saving your warranty, since appliance warranties often include guidelines around water pressure. If yours is too high, you may have voided the warranty without even knowing it.
- Reduce flood risk: Cities occasionally make changes without homeowners or renters realizing the potential impact of those changes. This includes switching to a new water main, which may have significantly higher water pressure. If you linked to your washing machine via rubber hoses you picked up at your local hardware store and there’s a change to your area’s water supply, you may be looking at a burst washing machine hose. Compare it to crimping the hose when watering the lawn or washing your car, and then loosening that crimp. The built-up water came rushing out, right? The same thing happens with your washing machine hoses.
The Bottom Line
There is an easy fix to all of these issues: a water pressure regulator. This is the type of simple solution that has the potential to save you hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars in repairs, appliance replacement, and wasted water.
Of course, if your home was built after 2002, it likely has one installed, since regulations required all new homes built from 2002 onward to include a water pressure regulator. Even so, the lifespan of a regulator is only around 10 years, so if it hasn’t been replaced yet, it probably should be.