MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS - CONTENTS: How to increase municipal water pressure & flow at a building. How to boost water pressure by adjusting the pressure regulator. How to boost water pressure by installing larger diameter piping. How to boost water pressure by installing a water pressure booster pump. How to diagnose loss of water pressure or loss of water in a building - both municipal water supply and private well systems are addressed
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How to improve bad city water pressure:
This article describes how to boost or improve poor city water pressure or flow in a building by adjusting the pressure regulator, replacing small or clogged piping, or installing a water pressure booster pump.
or at MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS to be sure that there is not something to fix in the building water supply piping, water service entry piping, or simply a leak or a valve that is partly shut.
Check and Adjust the Water Pressure Regulator
Before adjusting the water pressure regulator (center of our sketch at left, changing building piping, or considering installing a water pressure booster pump , it is essential to understand what the incoming water pressure is and exactly why the building water pressure is not satisfactory.
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Sometimes, even when residential water supply equipment is working normally, building occupants want higher water pressure.
Don't confuse water quantity (how much before we run out), water flow (how many gallons per minute we can get at a faucet) and water pressure (what is the delivery pressure or the maximum pressure that the system can provide). Water pressure is measured most accurately with the water turned off, at a hose faucet or washer hookup, using a pressure gauge.
But in common language, people consider the strength of flow at the faucet as their "water pressure". Actually what is being observed is a water flow rate, determined by both the pressure from the water source and the diameter of the building piping, including the effects of any obstructions.
Definitions of Water Pressure, Water Flow Rate, & Water Quantity
Water quantity is the total amount of water that is available at a building. For most city water supply systems the water quantity at a home is not limited, though in some areas of limited municipal water quantity, water may be provided by the city water mains only during certain hours of the day, or city water pressure may vary during some times of the day such as during periods of heavy usage. For people whose buildings are served by a private well system, water quantity is a local and significant question. (See WELL FLOW RATE).
Definition of Building Water Pressure - Static Water Pressure
The Home Reference Book points out that people like to have lots of water flow and pressure at faucets. Water flow (in gallons per minute) is a function of several things, including the size and shape of the faucet opening, and the pressure at the faucet. The pressure at the faucet is a function of the pressure available from the source, and the pressure lost moving the water through the pipe to the faucet. Typically, city water
supplies are at 40 to 70 psi (static pressure).
Psi means Pounds per square inch, and is a common way of measuring water pressure. Pressure loss in the home is due to elevation (we lose pressure when we push water up from one story to the next) and friction as water flows through piping. Larger pipes lose less pressure due to friction.
Static pressure is exerted by the water against the pipe walls with no water flowing. Here’s a simplified (and not 100% accurate) way to look at it. A 100-foot long horizontal pipe
connected to a 60 psi supply will have a pressure of 60 psi anywhere along the pipe, with no flow.
As water begins to flow, the pressure drops. This is a result of friction loss along the pipe walls. If gauges were put on the pipe every ten feet, the gauge at the source would still read 60 psi, and (depending on the pipe diameter and the amount of water flowing), the gauge ten feet from the source might read 58 psi; the gauge twenty feet down would read 56 psi, the next gauge 54 psi, et cetera. At the faucet, the pressure might be 40 psi.
As the water flow increases, the pressure drops more at each point along the pipe. The water pressure at the source (city water main) will remain at 60 psi. The amount of pressure lost due to friction as water flows depends on the pipe diameter and the amount of water flowing. With several faucets open, the flow at each faucet may be weak and there may not be enough pressure for a shower, for example.
Diagnose & Fix Clogged Water Piping or Closed Water Valves
Before changing building water piping diameter or adding a water pressure booster pump (solutions discussed below), check that you don't have a repairable problem with the present water supply piping and or valves in the building.
Here are some things to check:
Water supply valve partly closed: a partly-shut water control valve anywhere in the system will reduce the water flow rate (which folks describe as "water pressure" at the fixtures downstream from that point. If you have no idea what types of valves may be in your building see PLUMBING CONTROLS & VALVES.
Follow the water piping from its entry point at the building through each component or control to look for valves that may be partly closed.
Clogged water piping: a clog due to debris, a damaged or crimped pipe, crud clogging a single valve or piping elbow, or more serious, mineral-clogged water supply piping will all reduce the flow rate at fixtures in the building. See WATER PIPE CLOG DIAGNOSIS
If both hot and cold flow are poor everywhere in the building mineral deposits may have clogged the supply main or cold water piping.
Install Larger Diameter Water Supply Piping
A common "fix" for poor building water "pressure" (really flow) where the piping is blamed, is to install larger diameter water supply piping wherever the piping is readily accessible, such as in a basement or crawl area.
As the sketch at left, courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates shows, installing larger diameter water supply piping helps regardless of where in the piping sequence it is installed - so you don't have to rip out all of the building water piping to make this water flow rate improvement.
As more plumbing fixtures flow, the pressure and flow drops more at each fixture.
If we replace any ten-foot section of pipe with a larger pipe, the pressure drop across that section will be reduced.
Replacing any section of pipe improves pressure (and flow) throughout the system.
Add a Water Pressure Booster Pump
Adding a local municipal water pressure booster pump and a larger water pressure tank in a building with poor municipal water supply pressure will improve local water pressure in the building give a longer water draw-down time between booster pump "on" cycles, which means if your pressure normally ranges between 30 and 50, it will fall from 50 down to 30 more slowly.
It won't boost system pressure beyond the control setting.
If you set the control too high the pump will not reach cutoff temp and will burn up, or if you put in a more powerful pump and boost much over 70 psi you risk plumbing leaks.
Adding a booster pump can improve building water pressure where incoming municipal pressure is low (MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS), where the private pump and well system can't get enough pressure or quantity (WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS) or where the building height impacts water pressure on its upper floors.
The process of diagnosis and the costs of the repair when municipal water supply, quantity, or flow are poor are explained here.
Separately we also provide a WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE in table format listing nearly every cause of water pressure loss or well pump problem identification, diagnosis, and repair. Our sketch at page top, courtesy of Carson Dunlop, shows the key components found where municipal water supply enters a building.
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Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Jeneral Sewer Service - George - 845-297-2285, a New York Hudson Valley drain and sewer cleaning and de-clogging expert for technical details and consulting on drain clog diagnosis and repair, including proper use of the Kinetic Water Ram for drain clearing - 3/14/2009
Thanks to our reader, Carole Cimitile, 2/17/2009, for reminding us that small problems like faucet o-rings, clogged faucet strainers and similar local plumbing fixture defects can have a big impact on hot water flow, cold water flow, or both hot and cold water flow and pressure problems.
Thanks to reader EK Woodard, Boise State University, Boise ID, for assistance in diagnosing poor water pressure following an electrical power loss.
Thanks to reader Regina Craig for discussing water pressure loss diagnosed as due to water filter clogging 6/25/2009
Thanks to reader Carole Cimitile, for pointing out that bad water pressure and flow can occur at multiple fixtures at once when multiple fixture repairs are needed - it's not necessarily a clogged pipe or other water system problem. Feb 2009.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
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TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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