Low water pressure is frustrating. It takes a long time to run the washing machine. The dishwasher takes hours, instead of minutes to run a cycle and your morning shower isn’t that refreshing.
If you don’t have access to a pressure gauge, we’ll go through some steps to instruct you on how to test water pressure without one.
A water pressure test inspection doesn’t require an expert or a lot of expensive tools. You can become quite adept at learning how to measure pressure of water with little or no outside help.
The procedures given here are for municipal systems only, since the water pressure on a private well is easy to maintain with the pressure switch.
What is Water Pressure?
It might seem like an obvious question, but water pressure is a key component of modern living. Just what is water pressure in common terms? More importantly, how to test water pressure?
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Water pressure is the amount of water that can run through an outlet, whether it’s a hose spigot, shower, toilet, or sink. The higher the pressure, the faster the water flows.
In extreme pressure situations, people have had dishes knocked out of their hands when they’ve turned on a faucet with high pressure. If that happens it is important that you learn how to measure pressure of water
You don’t want fire hydrant-style water pressure, but then again, you don’t want a trickle when you’re trying to take a shower.
Municipal Water Pressure
If you are connected to a water supply from your town or city, the water pressure is maintained by the public works department of that municipality. Generally, municipal water reaches a home at between 50 and 60 psi.
That’s enough to run a lawn sprinkler, wash a load of clothes quickly, and take a brisk shower.
Cities have a few methods of providing this pressure.
The easiest to see is the local water tower. Pumps fill that huge free-standing tank 24-hours a day. Residents drain the tank as they need water and gravity provides the pressure. The initial opening is huge at the top of the tank. It is gradually reduced, increasing the pressure while lowering the volume of water to each home.
The second method in areas with hills or nearby mountains is to let gravity do the work again from an upstream storage facility, often a reservoir. As the reservoir drains it enters progressively smaller pipes until it reaches homes with the desired PSI.
The final method is providing water pressure from large municipal pumps.
How to Test Water Pressure Without a Pressure Gauge
There are a few methods to follow in how to test water pressure.
We’ll start with the simplest method then go from there to the most complex.
1. Fill that Bucket
The first method of water pressure test inspection is similar to taking your pulse. You’ll need a stopwatch or the timer function on your Smartphone for this method, along with a one-gallon bucket.
The location of where you’re going to run water for this test is important. You should find a hose spigot, kitchen sink faucet, or tub faucet closest to where the municipal water supply enters your home.
Turn off all the water connections in your home. That includes closing the fill valve on all the toilets in the house.
With everything else turned off, turn the valve nearest the water supply wide open. Start your timer as you place the one-gallon bucket under the water flow.
When the bucket is full, stop the timer. Now divide the time in seconds it took to fill the bucket into 60. The answer will indicate how much water is flowing into your home in gallons per minute terms.
This is one method you can share with your friends in how to measure pressure of water.
Ideally, around 5 to 6 gallons per minute is perfect. Lower than five means lower water pressure, and higher than six gallons per minute can damage pipes and even break the seals on dishwashers, ice makers, and washing machines.
2. Four-quart Measuring Cup
This is similar to the first method, but instead of measure the time it takes to fill a bucket, we’re going to measure the water that flows into a measuring cup.
Shut off all the other spigots as outlined in the first measurement procedure, put the measuring cup under the faucet closest to the water supply with the water running as open as the valve allows.
Start your timer as you place the measuring cup under the flow of water. Let it fill for 10 seconds, then pull the measuring cup out of the flow.
Read how much water is in the cup, then multiply by six. That will give you the gallons per minute. Once again, the target is five to six gallons in this water pressure test inspection.
3. Old School Garden Hose
The final method comes to us from long ago. It requires a garden hose connected to the lowest faucet in the house.
You’ll need a ladder for this measurement, and you might end up on top of your roof so be prepared.
Turn the faucet on full with the garden hose attached.
Allow the water to run out of the end of the hose.
As the water flows begin to raise the hose off the ground. You may end up on top of a step ladder or even higher before the water stops flowing.
The concept here is for gravity to overcome the water pressure. Once you raised the hose high enough the water will eventually stop flowing. When that happens, get a partner to measure how high the hose is above the spigot.
Measure the height the hose was at when the water flow stopped in feet, measure in fractions of a foot for more accuracy.
When you have the measurement, divide the height by 2.31. This formula will convert water feet in PSI. This will give you an approximate water pressure. Not quite as accurate as a pressure gauge, but it will be close.
Causes of Bad Water Pressure
1. Corroded Steel/iron Pipes
Aging steel or cast iron water pipes can reduce water pressure. As ferric constructed pipes age they often fill with rust and corrosion. The inside diameter of the pipes gradually closes as the walls inside the pipe fill with rust and corrosion.
When this happens, water flow is impeded, reducing water pressure.
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2. Water Supplier Issue
Your municipality may have changed the PSI allotted for each home. Many cities have different water pressure based on the season. It is common in winter for cities to reduce water pressure since there is no demand for running lawn sprinklers.
3. Pressure Regulator is Failing
Some city water systems have pressure regulators attached to the water meter. If the regulator fails due to age, corrosion, or damage, your water pressure can drop.
If you suspect this is the case, you’ll need to contact the city engineer’s office and request a regulator check. If it’s damaged, or non-functioning, they will replace it.
How Can I Improve Water Pressure?
- Reduce demand
- Change showerheads
- Upgrade internal plumbing to Pex
1. Reduce Demand
Water pressure works like a highway. When there is light traffic you can fly down the road. When you hit rush hour the traffic slows as the highway fills with vehicles.
Water pressure is shared between homes in a city. Doing your laundry late at night or early in the morning will provide greater water pressure since everyone else is asleep.
2. Change Showerheads
A shower head can impede water pressure if the head is one of the conservation, water-saving varieties.
Get a showerhead that allows more water to flow through it and you’ll notice a positive change in the water pressure as you shower.
3. Upgrade Internal Plumbing to Pex
Pex is the new standard in modern residential plumbing. The easy-to-connect, banded plastic connections have less friction than iron or galvanized steel pipes and are more durable than copper.
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If you switch out to Pex plumbing you’ll notice an increase in water pressure since the water is flowing faster with less friction
Water Pressure Related Questions
Where is my Water Pressure Regulator?
Most homes do not have a water pressure regulator. But, if your home does, it will be inside the home where the water line enters from the street.
What is the Average Water Pressure in a House?
The average water pressure in a home on a municipal system is between 50 and 80 PSI. The pressure varies greatly between communities and may vary at different times throughout the year.
Water pressure is akin to traffic on a highway, or bandwidth on a shared internet connection. More demand means lower pressure.
How do you Adjust a Water Pressure Regulator?
There is a small dial on top of the pressure regulator that indicates PSI. There is an adjustment setting next to the dial, usually with direction arrows indicating more or less pressure.
To set the pressure, insert a flat blade screwdriver into the setting knob and turn. Other regulators have a valve handle, that you can adjust.
Regulators can’t increase water pressure, they can only reduce what is coming from the city.
Taking a little time to measure the water pressure in your home is good insurance in keeping your appliances protected from damaging high water pressure.
You may be able to regulate the pressure with a regulator, or you may have to contact your local city engineer’s office and have them adjust the pressure for you.
To do this you won’t need any tools, or extra equipment if you just follow one of the procedures we’ve outlined above.