We’ve all been in the shower, desperate for a hot blast of water with soap in your eyes. And yet it’s always at that moment that the water pressure fails you, and it dribbles out of the showerhead.
It could be a simple problem to resolve, and there are things you can check before you start shelling out serious amounts of money. So what’s the solution? We show you how to increase water pressure in a shower.
Reasons for Low Water Pressure
What are the main culprits that could cause a sudden drop in your water pressure? Let’s take a look.
The Water Meter Valve
Often, two main water shut-off valves control the flow of water. The water meter valve is located next to the main supply pipe that feeds your home.
You wouldn’t normally touch this valve as it belongs to the water supplier, but this valve may be only partially open, causing a pressure drop. This could be true if you have just had some maintenance work carried out by that water company.
Check The Main Shut-Off Valve
The main shut-off valve is located inside the house where the supply enters the home. If you have wheel control, turn it fully counterclockwise.
If yours is a lever-type control, turn it so it is parallel with the water pipe. Again, it could be partially closed after some maintenance work.
Start by unscrewing the showerhead and checking for limescale build-up. This is common in areas with hard water with chalky soil.
Narrow pipes can be a reason why your water pressure is so weak. If water gets channeled through thinner pipes, it restricts the amount of water it can carry. Wider diameter pipeworks funnel greater volumes of water, which improves pressure.
The downside is that you are likely to have the same diameter pipes throughout the house, so fixing this problem could cost an eye-watering sum.
Old steel pipes corrode and could cause a drop in water pressure. Leaks and a build-up of debris might be causing the water pressure to dip.
Broken Pressure Regulator
The pressure regulator maintains a steady pressure within your home, and when it fails, you experience dips in supply.
If you live in a densely populated area or an apartment block, there are demands placed on the water supply, so when many people decide to take a shower at the same time as you, you might experience a drop in water pressure.
It’s the same principle of broadband processing slowly in peak demand times.
How To Test For Low Water Pressure
We know some of the reasons why you might get low water pressure, but how do you know you have the issue in the first place?
Here is a simple technique:
Place a liter measuring jug under the shower or faucet that you suspect is the problem.
Turn on the problem tap or shower, so it is in full flow.
Time how long it takes to fill the jug.
If it takes more than 6 seconds for the jug to fill, you have low water pressure as a rule of thumb.
20 Ways How to Increase Water Pressure In The Shower
Clean the showerhead
The most obvious cause of a pressure drop is if the showerhead is dirty. Water creates gunk, which blocks the holes in the head, restricting the flow of water. This is a simple fix.
Unscrew the showerhead and squirt some detergent into a bowl with hot water. Submerge the showerhead and leave it to soak for a couple of hours to allow the detergent to get to work.
When you see the water change color, give the head a shake to loosen any stubborn debris and lift it out to dry. Grab a pin and insert it into the small water outlets in the head to clear away any gunk.
Top Tip: If you don’t want to use detergent, vinegar is equally as effective.
Check for a flow restrictor and remove it
The flow restrictor is fitted to the shower to conserve water usage. You can set the number of gallons per minute, but sometimes this reduces the water pressure you get from the shower.
It’s a simple fix of removing the water restrictor and the pressure returns.
Check for kinks
Check the pipe that connects to the showerhead for twists and kinks. If there are any sharp corners or tangled water pipes, the channel gets narrowed, which restricts the water flow.
You might also find that the number of fittings attached to your water supply pipe makes a difference. The more elbows and stop taps, as well as meters, all seriously slow down the flow of water.
Check that the valve is fully open
The mains water valve is located inside the home where the supply enters the house. It is the main way to disconnect the water supply when you spring a leak or you need to perform maintenance tasks.
The valve may be partially closed, especially if you have been performing some DIY plumbing tasks. Twist it counterclockwise for wheel-type valves and if you have the lever, make sure it is parallel with the water pipe.
Check Both Hot and Cold Supplies
If you have a mixer shower that takes its supply from both hot and cold water, try running the shower on the cold setting and then on the hot setting to see if there is a change in the pressure.
If the hot supply is weak, it could indicate an issue with the water heater.
Check for leaks
A drop in pressure could be because you have a leak in the pipework. The first thing to check is for damp patches, especially where the pipework meets the walls and floor. A tell-tale sign is corrosion and limescale build-up on joints and bends.
It is more likely that you will experience a leak where there is a point of weakness, so you are unlikely to spring a leak in a section of continuous pipework rather than areas with lots of fittings.
Check out the basement to see if any pools of water are visible. This could be a leak in the main water supply pipe. Check out the area outside the home, where the mains pipe meets the local supply.
If it is a dry day and the area around the supply is wet, it could be an indicator of a water leak.
Top Tip: Take a look at the water meter, and see if the dial is turning, even with all the faucets turned off. Some meters have a leak indicator, which is a small triangle-shaped dial that turns when water flows even if the domestic supply is switched off.
Clean out water heater
Just like other fixtures, your water heater could be furred with limescale and gunk. Using a solution of water and vinegar should clear it of any debris. To do this, you must first drain it of the old sediment.
Make sure the water heater is switched off and open a faucet in the home. Attach a hose to the drain valve and turn off the cold water supply. Remove the anode and fill the tank with between one and three gallons of vinegar and refill with water.
Let it sit for a good few hours before draining it using the drain valve. Refill the tank by closing off the faucet and turning the water supply back on. Make sure you switch on the hot water.
Open the water heater shut-off valve
If you have been performing some essential maintenance on the water heater, it could be that the pressure has dropped because the water heater shut-off valve is closed. Turn it counterclockwise all the way so that it is fully open.
Reposition the Water Tank
Some homes have a water tank, typically located at the top of the property because most water systems rely on gravity to create pressure. The advantage of this system is you don’t need a water pump to increase pressure.
However, it works well while the water in the tank falls downwards through your showerhead, but you will experience a pressure drop while the tank refills, thanks to the height the water has to travel.
Repositioning the tank could solve this, or fitting a pump will sort the issue.
Install a shower pump or similar
Apartment blocks with high water usage peaks and drops typically use shower pumps to counteract the problem. You also find them in big houses where the water supply has many bends, kinks, and heights to navigate.
If you notice a pressure drop after a power outage, it could be you need to reset your shower or booster pump.
Take showers during off-peak hours
This is a simple fix to the problem. It’s a bit like driving during rush hour. If you hate the slow pace of travel, take your car journey in off-peak times. The same is true of showers when the demand is high, water pressure drops.
Choosing when to take a shower can make a dramatic improvement to your experience. The biggest demand comes between 7 am and 9 am on weekday mornings.
Turn off other appliances
You would be surprised how much of a difference other appliances can make to your water pressure. When demand increases, the water pressure drops. Every time you turn on your washing machine and dishwasher, more water gets diverted from your shower.
When you take your shower, make sure the other appliances in the house are switched off.
Investigate drips and dribbles
Drips and dribbles may seem harmless, and in the main, they are. However, what starts small could develop into a major leak, so it’s worth getting it sorted early to avoid any significant costs later.
You are most likely to find small dribbles where there are joints and elbows in the pipework. Wherever there are sections of pipework joined by connectors, this creates weak spots that increase the chances of water leakage.
Inspect diverter valves
Some showers rely on a diverter valve fed from the bathtub faucet. Make sure the connections are secure and that the tap is attached properly. Also, check the valve to ensure there are no blockages.
Check your water main valve
You could have a blockage in the main water valve. Check it is fully open and that it hasn’t been turned to the off position after some repair or maintenance work. Also, some people are ultra-cautious and turn the valve off when they leave the house for extended periods.
If this is you, make sure you turn it back on when you get home from your time away.
Also, check that the pipework that enters the valve is free from corrosion, and keep an eye out for a wet valve, indicating a leak.
Replacing the main valve will set you back about $30 to $40 for the parts and an additional $130 to $140 for the labor.
Adjust pressure regulator
Sometimes the pressure regulator gets set incorrectly, which could cause issues with the water pressure in your shower. Some pressure regulators are located at the base of the water pipes that feed the shower.
Mostly, all it takes is a flat-head screwdriver to twist the nut. As you turn it clockwise, the pressure increases. Turn it counterclockwise, and the pressure drops. These regulators are handy when you want to isolate a particular part of your plumbing for repairs.
Try the curb-side water main
Water mains valves are typically located in a cavity below the sidewalk, accessed via a cast-iron cover. The main valve is usually in the same spot as the water meter, but the location can vary depending on your local district’s requirements.
The cut-off valve sits to the left of the meter. You are responsible for the plumbing on the house’s side of the meter, with the water company responsible for the pipework on the meter’s off-side.
Ideally, you should only attempt to adjust the main valve if:
- If the valve fails and you have a water emergency like a leak.
- You have a leak between the street and your inside valve.
- You are replacing the main water valve.
Although each main valve varies, the principle remains the same. Turn the valve clockwise to close, and the opposite way to open. You might need a pentagonal wrench or a pair of channel locks to do this.
If the main valve is closed or partially shut, it could be because you have had some repair work done or the water company has been making inspections.
Buy a pressure amplifying shower head
Replacing the showerhead with a high-pressure option is a simple fix for low pressure. The good news is they are relatively inexpensive and easy to fit.
They work by increasing the water pressure either by decreasing the flow rate or using a compression chamber. A standard shower should deliver 2.5 gallons of water every minute, equating to 25 gallons for a 10-minute shower.
Some water-saving shower heads reduce this flow to 1.5 or 1.75 GPM. So, before you look at expensive options, check what sort of fixture you have, as it might be something as simple as a straight swap for a more powerful option.
Take Note: Replacing a water-saving showerhead with a high-pressure model could increase your water usage by as much as 3,000 gallons a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Purchase a pressure booster pump
Some booster pumps fit directly to the shower and provide a higher GPM rate, while others attach to the water supply, either where the water enters the home or near a boiler to push hot water around the system with more force.
You are most likely to benefit from a booster pump if you live in an apartment block, mobile home, or rural property.
Install a Power-Shower
Power showers are similar to a booster pump, except the pump is contained inside the shower unit, making it easier to fit as it only requires a straight swap with your old shower.
The downside is that power showers are more expensive, potentially doubling your costs.
Speak To Your Neighbors
You may not be alone with your trickling water. Speak to your neighbors to find out if anyone else is suffering from the same problem. This indicates that the issue may not be yours alone to deal with.
If they are experiencing a drop in water pressure, call the water company and ask if there are any reported leaks or maintenance works ongoing that might affect it. A clear signal could be that the drop in pressure has only just occurred.
Call a professional and repair issues
Once you have exhausted the list above, it may be time to break out the cell phone and call in the professionals. This list is designed to save you money, with some cheaper options than others.
However, when all else fails, a professional could have the problem fixed in a matter of hours rather than you suffering in silence for days or weeks. The good news is their work is certified and guaranteed against difficulties or issues that occur later.
So, if you do spring a leak, you have an expert on call to come and sort the issue.
Water pressure is affected by so many variables. Gravity, demand, old pipework, and other factors severely hamper the water flow rate of your shower.
The good news is that most of these issues can be resolved with a few simple fixes, costing next to nothing. So, if you do suffer from weak water pressure, consider the simple solutions first before breaking out the dollars to get a resolution.