Is your morning shower a damp squib? Perhaps, if you’re a homeowner or landlord, you or your tenants are putting up with a trickle rather than a refreshing blast? More often than not, our homes suffer from disappointingly low water pressure rather than overly high, so we’ve put together a guide to how to test yours, and then address the problems if your reading is lower, or higher than you want it to be. After all, we all need a decent shower in the morning to kick-start our day.
So, if you’re wondering what your water pressure should be ideally, how you should test it and how to increase or reduce it, keep reading!
What is water pressure?
Water pressure measures how quickly the water flows through the pipes in your home and then through your taps or shower. Water pressure is measured in bars and pounds per square inch (psi), just like the air in your car tyres.
If the water pressure in your household pipes is low, water will flow slowly out of your taps or shower and take longer to fill up a sink, bath or shower. This is especially true for an upstairs bathroom (after all, the water may need to travel upwards against gravity to get to the taps).
If you’re bountifully blessed with higher water pressure, your sinks, bath and shower will fill up quickly and you’ll experience a proper power shower every day. At the furthest end of the spectrum, if your water pressure is too high, you risk damaging your home’s plumbing system every time you turn on a tap.
Interested in knowing more about your home’s water system? Check out our Home water systems explained article.
What should my water pressure be?
The magic number for household water pressure is over 15 litres of water per minute. Anything between 10 to 15 litres per minute is acceptable.
If your water pressure is below 10 litres per minute, it’s going to be frustratingly slow to run. This is the kind of low water pressure you can feel when you’re trying to shower, fill a bath or are washing up.
How high is too high?
If you suspect your water pressure is too high, it’s actually quite tricky to measure. There’s only so much water that can come out of a tap, so plumbers use a water pressure gauge, which they hook up to a tap to measure it. Ideally, your home water pressure shouldn’t exceed 60 psi on this gauge.
How to check the water flow rate
How do you measure your water flow rate at home? You can do a simple test by timing how long it takes to fill a 1-litre water jug.
What you’ll need:
- A measuring jug (preferably 1 litre, but if you have a smaller jug you can still calculate it)
- A stopwatch (there’s bound to be one on your phone)
Make sure all of the taps in the house are turned off completely and your washing machine and dishwasher aren’t switched on (these will affect your water flow rate if you’re using them all at once).
Put your measuring jug under the tap.
Turn the tap on full – it’s crucial that you make sure the tap is fully on.
Start your stopwatch exactly when you turn the tap on and measure the time it takes to fill the jug.
If filling your jug takes longer than 6 seconds, then you have a low water flow rate. This is because the sweet spot is 10 litres per minute. If you multiply your 6 seconds by 10 you have 60 seconds – so you’d be able to fill your jug 10 times in that 60 seconds, therefore you’d have 10 litres per minute.
What to do if you don’t have a 1-litre jug
If you don’t have a 1-litre jug, you can calculate the water flow rate slightly differently. Simply, take the amount of water you can fill in 6 seconds and multiply this by 10 – giving you the amount that your tap would fill in 60 seconds (litres per minute).
For example, if you can fill a 500ml jug in 6 seconds, that would be 0.5 litres x 10 = 5 litres per minute.
Ideally, your water flow rate should be at least 10 litres per minute.
How to test the water flow rate for a shower
It’s a similar test for a shower. Get your measuring jug (with a wide enough rim so you catch all the water) and a timer. Place your jug directly under the shower head and switch on your shower. Use your stopwatch to measure how long it takes to fill the jug. Longer than 6 seconds? That means your shower is running below 10 litres per minute, and therefore at a lower flow rate.
How can I improve my shower’s water pressure?
Everyone deserves a decent shower in the morning, so check out How to fix low water pressure in the shower for some tips.
What to do if the pressure’s fine but the temperature’s not
If you have a passable amount of pressure, but your shower’s not consistently giving you enough hot water, check out our article on What to check if you’ve lost hot water.
What to do if think your water pressure is too high
This is a much less common issue in households, but a problem nonetheless. This is because the excessive water pressure in your taps and pipes can cause damage to your pipework and appliances.
Symptoms of excessive water pressure:
- Banging pipes
- Running toilet
- Dripping taps
- Running out of hot water too soon
If you’ve got any of these symptoms, it’s best to test your water pressure with a water pressure gauge. You can buy one at any DIY shop.
How to do a high water pressure test
You will need a water pressure gauge.
Ensure all taps in and outside of your home are turned off.
Secure the pressure gauge to your outside tap. If you don’t have an outside tap, use the tap in your kitchen sink.
Turn the tap on full (it must be operating on full to help you take an accurate reading).
Check the gauge reading. You want to see a range between 40 to 60 psi. Anything over 60 psi should be looked at by a plumber. Anything below 30 and it sounds like you might have a leak.
Why is my water pressure so low?
So, let’s have a look at the causes of low water pressure. If your water pressure drops, it could be for the following reasons:
This is a common one. If everyone has a shower between 7 and 8am in the morning, every day while they’re getting ready for work or school, the general water pressure available in your area could be reduced.
Did you know that older properties have much narrower pipes than modern homes? This may be the reason you have low pressure when you try to renovate and put in a power shower, or use a couple of appliances at the same time.
Pipes can be blocked by limescale, clogged by dirt or the wrong sort of kitchen waste going down, rust, or they can freeze in the winter when the temperature drops.
Your taps and shower head can get a build-up of limescale that stops the full amount of water from getting through. Make sure you thoroughly clean these a few months – you can do it with a natural vinegar and baking soda solution.
The ‘head of water’
The higher your head of water, the greater your water pressure. The head of water is the height between the shower head and the water level in your property’s water tank (usually found in the loft). Showers won’t give good water pressure unless there’s at least one metre between the shower head and the tank.
If your stop tap or shut-off valve is obstructed (or it might even have been knocked closed), your water pressure will be low. Take a look under your kitchen sink and check that it’s fully open – sometimes it’s obstructed by debris.
How to increase water pressure
If you did the pressure test and came out with a dribble, fear not! You’re not cursed with low water pressure forever. Here are a few ways to increase the water pressure at home:
Clean your taps and shower heads
The pervasiveness of limescale build-up is real. And if you don’t clean your tap outlets and shower head thoroughly every few months, this could be your problem. You’ll need to remove your shower head to give it a good clean, and while you’re there, make sure you check the shower hose isn’t kinked or worn out, as this can cause problems too.
Replace your shower head
If your shower head looks pretty limescale-free and you still suspect it’s part of the reason for your low water pressure, you can always replace it. You’d be amazed how much cleaner, limescale-free insides, a new hose and an unclogged handset will affect the pressure.
Fit a shower pump
If you want to put your shower on steroids, get a shower pump fitted to your existing system. The water then gets a big boost by the shower pump before it gets to your shower head. If you have an older property and therefore narrower pipes, this could be the answer for you.
Install a power shower
This is basically an electric pump as well, but you could see 3 times as much water pressure. Those big gains do require you to fit a whole new shower, rather than a shower pump that can be integrated into your existing set-up, so it depends how much you need that power shower wake-up every morning.
Here’s wishing you a stronger flow!
We hope we’ve given you enough expert advice to take your water pressure to the next level. While we’re on the subject, you might also be interested in how to save water at home. There are some great money-savers in there! Another great way to save on unexpected plumbing issues is with our Plumbing and Drainage cover. Our expert plumbers are available nationwide and are always on hand, ready to save the day.
How do I check my water flow rate without a gauge?
1. Get an empty 1-litre bottle or jug and time how long it takes to fill it with your tap
2. If it takes longer than 6 seconds to fill, you have a low water flow rate. Ideally, you want it to be done in 6 seconds or less.
What is the normal water flow rate for a house?
The ideal water pressure for an average-sized house is 10-15 litres per minute.
Any less than 10 litres per minute and you have low water pressure.
Any higher than 15 litres per minute and your water pressure is too high and could be causing damage to your pipes. In this case, call a plumber to come and fix things.
Why is my shower water pressure suddenly low?
1. Has the demand for water gone up in your area? Perhaps there are new builds around you?
2. Do you have blocked or clogged pipes anywhere? This could mean your shower hose or any of your household plumbing pipes.
3. Do you have a clogged shower head? Limescale build-up can seriously affect your shower head, so make sure you clean it regularly inside and out.
4. Has your stop tap been accidentally knocked? This would reduce the water pressure in your taps as well as your shower.