Low water pressure

The Plumber’s Guide to Fixing Low Water Pressure

Fed up with waiting hours to fill a bathtub? The morning shower lacking any real pressure? Or maybe you’re dissatisfied with inadequate performance from your combi boiler? Then you, like millions of others across the UK, may be experiencing low water pressure.

The good news is that you don’t have to continue living this way. The cause of low water pressure issues can range from the simple to the complex and quite often you may not even require a plumber to fix the problem.

So how do you diagnose low water pressure issues? What are the solutions to these problems? And, most importantly, when should you call a plumber?

Well, here at Anchor Pumps pump systems are our forte and we’ve spoken to our most experienced in-house engineers to help us create this guide. Find out how you can diagnose and fix all your low water pressure problems below.

What is Low Water Pressure?

In the UK, the standard measurement unit for water pressure is the bar. A plumber will classify a home plumbing system as experiencing low water pressure if the pressure in a home’s system is less than one bar. One bar is equivalent to one atmosphere, the standard atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level.

In standard circumstances, the amount of water pressure we experience in our supply depends on a variety of factors.

These include:

The height of the home’s water supply inlet relative to the water mains supply. Water pressure will fall the higher it has to flow through a pipe.

• The proximity of the house to pumps installed along the water mains. Water pressure will be higher the closer a property is to the pumping station.

• Geographical elevation of the property. Low lying areas generally have a high water pressure, while pressures are lower in high lying regions.

• Geographical location of the property. Cities like London with a vast amount of people and old pipework (small and potentially damaged) will experience poor water pressure when demand is high.

• Usage and the time of day. Water pressures are often lower in the morning when a large part of the population is using water over a short period.

• Leaks in the water supply system. If water is being lost from the mains or any connecting supply pipe, the final water pressure will inevitably fall.

Now, even if the mains and supply pipes are in good working order and the property is located in a low lying region, not far from a pumping station, you may still experience low water pressure due to household causes. These causes are explained further in the next section.

What’s Causing Low Water Pressure?

Before you go buying a pump, messing around with any pipes or unscrewing taps, it’s important that you identify what is causing the low water pressure. If you believe you may have a low water pressure issue in your home, even if it is just in one area e.g. in one tap or only in the shower, then use the exercise below to test the quality of your water flow.

If you think you may have water problems then you can easily test your flow in three simple steps. All you need for the test is: a measuring jug, a timer and a calculator (or excellent maths skills!).

graphic showing the three steps to checking if you have low water pressure

If you are experiencing low water pressure throughout your home then you may have one of the problems outlined below. Do the checks below to help diagnose your issue.

Obstructed valves

Perhaps you’ve just bought a new home, or maybe you’ve had building work conducted that required shutting off your water valves. Whatever the reason, there is a chance that your water valves were not fully opened. If the water valve is only semi-open then you may be restricting the amount of water entering your home, so make sure that the valve is open the full way. If the valve seems fully open but you are still encountering water pressure issues, then the valve may be broken. If this is the case do not under any circumstances try to fix it without proper training.

Often found under your kitchen sink, a water valve in most British homes will look like the below. Again, if you believe the water valve to be broken, contact a plumber immediately.

image showing the user what a water valve looks like and how to operate a water valve

Leaks

Leaks are the worst case scenario when it comes to low water pressure. If the water pipes are damaged then this will cause low water pressure, as not all the water will make it to your taps. After you’ve checked to see if the valve is fully open, you can conduct a leak check of your home. Now, this may seem scary but it is actually quite simple. After checking that the kids don’t need an immediate shower, close your main water valve and take a reading from the water meter. Check back in two hours and if the figure on the meter has increased, then this is a sign that your pipes have a leak.

Your water meter will look something like the below.

image showing the user what a water meter looks like

You will usually find it in one of these places:

– In the path outside your home

– In a box on an outside wall

– Inside your home: either under the sink, in a cellar or in a downstairs toilet

Clogging

Not to be confused with clogged drains, water pipe clogging is generally one of the most common causes of low water pressure in British homes. These clogs usually build-up when iron pipes are present. Iron is particularly vulnerable to rusting which can then break off and cause an obstruction within your system. With this issue, you also face the problem of things like dirt, gravel or sand entering your pipes through the mains water supply.

Unfortunately, if you suspect that clogged pipes may be restricting your water supply then you will need to contact a plumber. In this situation, the best scenario will mean that you will only need to have your pipes removed and cleaned, with the more serious scenario meaning that you could need your water pipes completely replaced.

Designer Taps

OK, we get it, designer taps look fantastic. But are they built to be efficient in your plumbing system? Modern taps are built for modern homes and they often have lower flow rates that are specifically designed for use within high-pressure systems. Our advice is to weigh up the pros and cons. What do you value more, a stylish shower head or a long, refreshing morning shower?

Low Pump Power

Regular maintenance checks are advised to make sure your pump is working at optimum capacity, so if you suspect that your pump is over two years old then one of two things may be happening. Either your pump is malfunctioning or it simply isn’t manufactured to be powerful enough for your needs.

With millions of people right across the UK complaining about water pressure issues, we suspect that most homes are simply using malfunctioning or improper pumps.

How to Boost Low Water Pressure in Your Home

Note: It is illegal to add a booster pump directly to mains water pressure. The added pressure created by a booster pump can damage mains pipework. In most cases you will need to insert a break tank.

In many cases, the issue is simply that the mains water pressure supply is too low. The simplest solution to your water supply issues lies in a booster pump. Found in homes of all shapes and sizes, booster pumps are a relatively cheap option to add extra pressure to your water system.

Booster pumps are designed to increase water pressure by passing water into the pump from your mains supply and then ejecting it into your home water system at a higher pressure. Don’t worry though, most quality pumps will be fitted with a pressure switch which creates a pressure setting that cannot be exceeded. Not only are you getting a long, stimulating shower, but you can relax in the knowledge that your pump is keeping you safe.

See our booster pump recommendations below.

What type of booster pump do you need?

If you’re considering purchasing a booster pump there really is only a handful of pump brands worthy of your time. These are Grundfos, Salamander and Stuart Turner.

Here is the top pump from each brand:

Salamander Home Boost 1.6 Bar Mains Water Pressure Booster Pump 240V

One of the leading options for correcting low water pressure is the Home Boost range from Salamander pumps. These are able to raise your water pressure to around 1.5 bar whilst still ensuring you stay compliant with water-use and installation regulations. They are compact and easy to install and quiet in operation too, so they won’t disrupt your home with extra noise.

Image Showing the Salamander Home Boost 1.6 Bar Mains Water Pressure Booster Pump 240V

Find the Salamander Home Boost 1.6 Bar Mains Water Pressure Booster Pump 240V here

Grundfos Scala2 3-45 Variable Speed Home Booster

Another leading option is the Variable Speed Home Booster range from Grundos. The SCALA 2 is a fully integrated, self-priming system that is ideal for boosting water pressure in domestic applications. Integrated speed control also means that the pump will only operate when it’s needed, so it won’t hit your energy bills either. This pump must be used in conjunction with a break tank.

Image showing the Grundfos Scala2 3-45 Variable Speed Domestic Home Booster Pump Set

Find the Grundfos Scala2 3-45 Variable Speed Home Booster here

Stuart Turner Flomate Mains Boost Extra 200

Stuart Turner’s Flomate range is one of the finest pump collections on the market. Designed to be connected directly to the incoming mains, Flomate Mains Boost Extra is fully compliant with UK water regulations. The 3 bar of pressure will give a deserved boost to your water supply while the tech also comes with an integrated break tank which removes the need for inserting a separate cold water break tank.

Image showing the Stuart Turner Flomate Mains Boost 3 Bar (Combi-Boiler) Pressure Booster Pump

Find the Stuart Turner Flomate Mains Boost Extra 200 here.

How and Where to Fit a Booster Pump

While a booster pump can be fitted by yourself, we suspect that the majority of people reading this article may want to contact a plumber.

Saying that, booster pump installation is much simpler and quicker than most would think. All of the fittings you need for installation are included in the pump kit. Included are: washers, a filter washer, a straight connector, an isolation valve connector and some adapters to cope with either 15mm or 22mm pipe connections. Full instructions are also included, so you’re ready to start installing as soon as you get the kit.

Installation should take approximately an hour and you only need a few tools to get started. As mentioned above, if you’re not confident doing it yourself, you can get a qualified plumber to carry out the work for you.

Depending on your area, it should only cost about £50 to £100 to install a booster pump.

If you are feeling confident and you’re ready to install, then watch this excellent video from Salamander Pumps for guidance.

Low Water Pressure and When to Call a Plumber…

So if you read this article thoroughly you should be able to take the first major steps to diagnosing why you have low water pressure. If you’ve found the issue then you should also know how to go about fixing that issue. If you are still unsure then scan the following list of issues to see if you can identify your problem. Please note that all of the below problems will require the attention of a qualified professional.

1. Dripping Taps

At first glance, it might not seem like a massive issue, but a dripping tap can have a major impact on your bank account. Over the course of a year, a dripping tap can cause you to flush hundreds of gallons of water down the drain, along with a sizeable amount of money.

It may seem like a simple, easy task to replace a washer or two, to create a water-tight seal, but due to the technical requirements of each tap, the job is best left to a trained professional.

2. Clogged Pipes

Be it your sink, toilet, bathtub or drain – if it has a pipe connected to it, it can get blocked. Not only is determining if a water pipe is clogged a complex job for a plumber but so is fixing the issue. In the best case scenario a plumber may have to go through and remove all the piping before cleaning and making small repairs. In the worst case, they may need to replace all of your water piping. Again, due to technical aspects of ensuring your pipes are safely removed and re-fitted, the job is best left to a trained professional.

3. Broken Water Valve

A broken water valve is another common plumbing problem that may be causing low water pressure in your home. Now it may seem like an easy fix; replace the old valve with a shiny new one and you’re done, right? No. Water valves are connected to the mains water and removing them can be a complicated job with disastrous consequences if you get it wrong. Definitely leave this job to a professional.

4. Leaking Pipes

Water leaks can be costly, so looking after your water system correctly should be a priority. Even if a leak is relatively minor, it may still cause serious damage over time, along with a costly impact on your bank balance. To save yourself from damaging your property further, ensure that finding and repairing leaking pipes is left to a professional.

Looking for a plumber in your region? Check out our average price for a plumber article here.

Common Plumbing Problems and When to Call a Professional

plumbing problems

Plumbing is necessary for many aspects of modern life; however, if it is doing its job correctly, it should not even be noticed. This often means that plumbing is not thought about until something has already gone wrong. While you may be able to remedy a lightly-blocked toilet or slow-draining sink with a common domestic plunger, attempting to fix certain common plumbing problems yourself carries the risk of simply making them worse.

The following issues usually require the attention of a qualified professional…

1. Dripping taps

This is probably the most common plumbing problem and one that is often dismissed, as it progresses very gradually. Although each drip might not seem like an issue, over the course of a year you could be flushing hundreds of gallons of water down the drain, along with a sizeable amount of money.

A dripping tap is technically a leak. Water enters your home from the mains system under pressure, with taps containing rubber washers designed to create a water-tight seal to hold back the flow. Through use, these washers can deform or even become unseated, allowing through a minute trickle of water that drips out of the tap.

Replacing a washer yourself is feasible but will be significantly easier with specialist tools. Depending on the length of the leak, the valve seat itself may have been corroded, which will need to be replaced. More modern sinks may not contain washers, instead using ceramic discs that slot together to form a more durable seal. In all these circumstances, the job is best left to a trained professional.

2. Inconsistent water pressure

Low water pressure is another very common plumbing problem. There are a range of possible causes, including some related to the wider water mains supply that are out of your control; however, the most frequent cause is a build-up of mineral deposits within the fixture itself.

Unless you have a water filtration system installed, the minerals dissolved in the water entering your house gradually accumulate along the piping and on the interior of your taps and shower heads. Some taps and shower heads can be unscrewed and soaked in vinegar overnight to remove deposits, while installing a domestic shower booster pump could offer a partial remedy.

Only a trained plumber can diagnose the cause of the problem and work out how to fix it; indeed, a sudden drop in pressure points to more serious issues, including a possible leak in the pipe before it enters your house. This could lead to flooding that damages your home’s foundations. Here are Five ways to improve water pressure in the home, if these steps don’t lead to an improvement, then it is time to call in a professional.

3. Blockages of all sorts

Be it your sink, toilet, bathtub or drain – if it has a pipe connected to it, it can get blocked. The first sign of a blockage is usually slow draining. If you manage to catch the issue here, then a trusty plunger may be sufficient to shift the blockage. Plungers don’t remove the clog entirely, however; they do dislodge it.

On the other hand, chemical drain cleaners containing powerful acids to dissolve the blockage will remove it; however, these chemicals cannot be used too frequently without the risk of damaging the lining of the pipe itself. If you start having to deal with blockages regularly, then it is time to get in touch with your plumber.

Spotting an obstruction

If you are experiencing slow drainage, as opposed to a total blockage, it is worth having a quick look with a torch into the drain or plughole. See if you can spot the obstructive object – it could be as simple as a clump of hair. If you can’t see anything obvious, consult a professional.

5 ways to improve water pressure in the home

Pipeline leaks, new buildings and high occupation densities in homes and commercial buildings all contribute to a decrease in mains water pressure. The team at Anchor Pumps often receive numerous phone calls from customers asking questions about improving water pressure, therefore our expert team have put together the 5 ways we suggest improving your water pressure at home, along with the products we would also recommend to do so.

water pressure

The first step is to check pipes in the home for any leaks and corrosion. This is a common occurrence in an older home. In hard-water areas lime-scale deposits will clog up inside pipes.

If there is no serious breakage or corrosion, the problem can be solved by cleaning out the pipe with a solution of vinegar and sodium carbonate. Don’t use shop-bought chemical cleaners, as these can aggravate the problem. In the case of breakages, call a plumber to replace the pipes.

Check all the water outlets in the home, such as interior and exterior taps, shower heads and the like, and clean out any dirt or lime scale. Sometimes deposits can accumulate around a tap, allowing only a pin prick of water flow.

The next step is to check the pressure of water from the mains if the house has a water meter. (Some older properties in Britain do not have water meters.) Replace or reset the regulator to allow for a higher water pressure.

If these steps do not solve the problem, then it’s time to install a booster pump. However, building regulations in Britain expressly forbid the installation of a booster pump directly to the mains. The solution lies in the installation of a break tank. This should be installed next to the stop tap and as low as possible so that it can fill faster without having to work against gravity. Make sure that the outlet from the break tank is at least 22 mm in diameter. The outlet should be located as far as possible away from the filling ball valve.

Then choose a booster pump – here at Anchor Pumps, we have a wide range of booster pump sets that can help boost the water mains pressure to 1.4 bar and work on a 240-volt electric mains. Some pumps such as the Grundfos Max-E are capable of boosting water pressures to 5.0 bar. There is also a wide range of accessories for Grundfos, Lowara, Salamander and Calpeda, along with other well-known pump brands, to help you solve the problem.

Low Water Pressure Explained

Pressure is the force by which water moves through a pipe and the measurement unit for pressure is the bar. One bar is equivalent to one atmosphere, the standard atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level.

This is also defined as the force needed to lift water to a height of 10 metres through a pipe.

Structural factors
The water pressure any household receives from the water mains depends on a number of factors:

• The height of the home’s water supply inlet relative to the water mains supply whether from a mains pipeline or from a water tower. Water pressure will fall the higher it has to flow through a pipe.

• The proximity of the house to pumps installed along the water mains by the water supply utility. Water pressures are higher the closer a property is to the pumping station and decrease with increasing distance.

• Geographical elevation of the property. Low lying areas generally have a high water pressure while pressures are lower in high lying regions

• Usage and the time of day. Water pressures are often lower in the morning when a large part of the population is using water over a short period.

• Water supply pipe diameter. Water supply pipes link the water mains pipeline with the inlet to the home’s plumbing system. If these pipes are old and made of iron or lead, they often have a small diameter. As a result, smaller volumes of water are able to flow through with a resultant lowering of water pressure.

• Leaks in the water supply system. If water is being lost from the mains or any connecting supply pipe, the final water pressure will inevitably fall.

Household causes
Water pressures can fall even if the mains and supply pipes are in good working order and the property is located in a low lying region not far from a pumping station.

One possible cause is that a water mains valve has not been opened fully and this reduces the domestic water pressure. Lime scale and other mineral deposits can also accumulate inside pipes and around taps and shower heads, reducing the flow. This is a common problem in hard water areas.

Such deposits can be removed by installing water softening system between the cold water tap that is connected to the main water supply and the remaining plumbing system in the property.

A quick solution would be to soak the taps and shower heads in white vinegar to dissolve the lime scale.

If none of these problems exists and you still have a low water pressure problem, then it’s time to install a Home Booster Pump to increase the water pressure from showers and taps.

Click here to view the range of Home Booster pumps from Anchor Pumps, from leading brands including Grundfos, Salamander and Stuart Turner.