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Low Pressure in Faucets

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Residential water pressure problems are far more common today than they were in the past. Part of the problem has to do with the internal design of many modern faucet valves and another issue is directly related to natural resource conservation measures.

Years ago standard kitchen, bath and shower faucets had rubber and plastic washers that contacted a circular valve seat inside the faucet. As you turned on a faucet the washer would pull away from the valve seat creating a large pathway for water to flow through. In many faucets the pathway was so large that a small, round BB could easily pass though the faucet and into the sink or a glass of water. This older design allowed a lot of water to flow through a faucet and this is not good when there is a growing population and a limited fresh water supply.

Many of today’s modern faucets have cartridges without washers inside the body of the faucet. The modern cartridge replaces the old washer and valve seat design that controls water flow. The pathway through which water goes through these cartridges is much smaller than old faucets. Many of today’s faucets have an aerator at the end of the faucet. These aerators are often made up of several small parts. They have extremely small holes in round disks made of plastic or metal. The water flowing from the faucet must pass through these tiny holes.

In order to meet federal and state guidelines for water conservation, most modern faucets and fixtures have flow restrictors. These restrictors limit the amount of water that can pass through the faucet in a given amount of time. They often have tiny holes that limit the amount of water flow.

An extremely common problem for many homeowners is that small pieces of sediment or some other debris clogs a passageway within the valve cartridge and/or the tiny holes within the aerator or a flow restrictor. Sediment sometimes forms within a faucet or its parts depending upon the hardness of the water. Sediment can also form as a scale on the inside of municipal water supply pipes and the water lines in the home. Pieces of sediment can break off and flow through the water lines as water moves towards a faucet. Small pieces of sand and rock can often enter a private well water system. These can block pathways within your faucets.

Low water pressure and flow problems are common after a water main break in a municipal water system. Debris can enter municipal piping systems when a water main breaks. After the water main is repaired, the debris is transported through the water system and can end up in your house.

When repairs are made to your plumbing system or new piping is added at your home, small shavings of piping, soldering flux, sediment, etc. can be carried through your own pipes. Problems can also happen by turning on or off a main or secondary water control valve in your home by a plumber when installing a new faucet or performing a repair.

If a water main or water line inside your home is drained and then refilled with water, the incoming water can break off sediment from the inside of the line and carry it through the water system. This happens when a surge of water rushes into the empty. Correcting the problem is not expensive to fix. The first thing to look at is the aerators in any faucet that is having problems. Carefully remove the aerator paying close attention to how the different parts are assembled. Check the parts, including the screening at the tip of the aerator, to ensure all pathways are clear and all parts are free of debris. Use a tiny straight pin to open up closed holes in these parts. You may need to soak the parts in warm white vinegar overnight to removed caked, hard-water deposits that build up within the aerator.

After reassembling the aerator, if the water pressure and volume are still low, this means the problem is likely in the valve cartridge. The owner’s manual that came with the faucet will explain how to remove and replace this part. If you do not have the manual, try to visit the manufacturer’s website for a technical bulletin that shows an exploded view of the faucet and its parts.

In order to stop sediment from ending up inside the faucets in your home after you have completed a plumbing repair on your own home, it is best to open up an outside faucet or two to allow water to flow through them. These faucets often have the old-fashioned rubber or plastic washers. It is also a good idea to remove all faucet aerators before water is turned back on after a repair.

You should turn on the main water valve very slowly after a plumbing repair. Be sure you have the outdoor faucets open before you do this. This will allow the pressure within the piping system to build up slowly and a majority of the sediment might be carried outdoors if the repair was made between the location of the outside faucet and the main water inlet to the home. If you notice a water main break near your home and there is no water in your home, follow the same procedure. While the water is off, turn on one or two outside faucets. Also remove faucet aerators. Since the water will probably be turned on without notification, you may not get a warning. The idea is for the sediments to be carried to the outside faucets or bypass faucet aerators if at all possible.

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