Many homeowners have water pressure that is too high, but they don’t know it.
Q: I recently heard about the dangers of high water pressure and am now giving myself anxiety about creating leaks in my own home. How do I check for this, and what can I do to alleviate the situation if my pressure is too high?
A: Many homeowners have water pressure that is too high, but they don’t know it.
Standard code for water pressure is typically a maximum of 80 pounds per square inch (psi) with a lower end of around 40 psi. Though 80 psi is the standard max, many homes tend to have much higher pressure. This can be due to many reasons, like failed pressure-reducing valves, but can also be a result of the utility company. For example, as new construction arises in neighborhoods, existing homeowners can have their pressures raised at the main to accommodate these added buildings.
Consequently, during low-demand periods, houses may see pressures well above 100 psi. Pressures this high can lead to costly damage and leaks in a home’s plumbing system.
Most toilets, faucets and other plumbing fixtures are not designed to handle sustained high pressures. Many other appliances can be affected as well, such as your fridge’s icemaker or the water heater. In fact, leaky icemakers are one of the biggest sources of insurance claims for water damage. Running toilets do not usually cause water damage, but do account for a great deal of annual water loss.
Many additional sources of waste can result from abnormally high water pressures. Outside the home, hose bibs will begin leaking and dripping as water forces its way past the valve seat. Even a small drip can waste thousands of gallons of water per year.
Want higher pressures for tasks like washing your deck? Use a pressure washer designed for the job. Using a typical garden-hose nozzle at pressures above 100 psi will convert a lot of usable water spray into unused water vapor, leaving much to waste.
How do you know if your home’s water pressure is set to code? It is easy and inexpensive to check your household water pressure. Any larger hardware store will have pressure gauges (for around $10) that thread on directly to your hose bib.
If you find that your water pressure is above code, you can add a pressure-reducing valve. The reducer is designed to restrict pressure to a lower threshold. This is done manually by adjusting the screw in the top of the valve to deliver the desired pressure. Pressure-reducing valves are available at plumbing supply houses and usually cost less than $50. The valve is best placed between the main and your house, as you want to stay at code or below even when using water outside of the home.
There are also many good online sites that offer step-by-step tutorials on how to add a pressure reducer yourself. If you decide to hire a plumber for the job, rest assured that it is a common job for them — and all their work is done outside at the main.
Kamil Slusarski is co-founder of Aquor Water Systems and is a member of the Master Builders Association (MBA) of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.