Fixing Poor Shower Water Pressure

November 7, 2011


Wimpy water pressure at the shower can be frustrating and baffling. At times the pressure may seem adequate but other times the pressure may barely ooze from the shower head. While you cannot adjust the water pressure to the shower directly, you can adjust the water pressure for the entire house, check for impediments in the shower water supply and install an aerator to improve shower water pressure.

Understanding Water Pressure
Water pressure is measured by “pounds per square inch,” or “psi.” For most plumbing systems, optimum pressure is 50 to 80 psi. Pressure lower than 50 will seem too weak for most people, but psi higher than 80 may cause damage to pipe joints, seals and fixtures. Pressure throughout the building waxes and wanes as the plumbing fixtures are used. For example, the shower pressure may seem fine at the moment but may dip to an anemic trickle when the washing machine fills or the toilet is flushed. This happens because other fixtures draw on the supply and water is diverted across the plumbing system. Additionally, a fixture loses one pound of water pressure for every 2.31 vertical feet in the system. A shower on the second floor would thus lose 10 or more pounds.

The Pressure Regulator
The water supply pressure regulator is located in the basement, where the underground water supply pipes enter the basement. Some regulators sport a pressure gauge that measures the psi for the entire water supply system. Adjusting the regulator is a simple task. To reduce pressure, use an adjustable wrench to loosen the locknut, usually located on the top of a small, metal bell-shaped device. Slowly turn the small screw on top of the locknut in a counter-clockwise direction. To raise water pressure, turn the screw in a clockwise direction.

Shower Water Pressure
Water pressure in the shower depends on a combination of things: distance from the main supply, the size of plumbing pipes and plumbing system additions such as a water softener or filtration tank. Generally, if the other fixtures in the building have good water pressure but the shower water pressure is consistently weak, the shower head or shower water supply pipes are clogged. Debris and mineral deposits from the water sometimes form inside the pipes, developing into clots that impede water pressure.

Adjusting Shower Water Pressure
In a case where the pressure to the shower is consistently low, the supply line to the shower should be inspected and impediments removed. The culprit is usually at the shower head. A small screen, called an aerator, may be filled with debris such as rust or small particles of sand …. Soaking the shower head in vinegar removes the mineral deposits. A water-saver shower head often exacerbates low pressure problems; replacement of this type of shower head will boost pressure immediately.

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One Response to “Fixing Poor Shower Water Pressure”

  1. Marg Says:

    That is pretty interesting about the pressure. I am going to take a look at my shower head. I bet it is full of rust etc. Thanks.