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.
• 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!).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.