How to Measure Your Home’s Water Pressure

Have you ever noticed changes in the water pressure in your home? These variations—some subtle, some not-so-subtle—can be caused by various factors. While measuring your home's water pressure isn't necessarily a common practice, it can be a proactive step to detect issues. Homeowners often consider measuring it if they notice changes in their plumbing, such as inconveniently low water pressure levels, or if they suspect leaks or blockages in their plumbing lines. Additionally, it can be helpful to measure water pressure when installing new appliances or irrigation systems to be sure that the systems receive the necessary water flow for expected performance.

Common Causes of Water Pressure Fluctuations

  1. Distance and elevation from the water source. The farther a system is from the water source, the lower the water pressure might be due to friction and resistance in the pipes. Water pressure issues are also caused by height, which is important to keep in mind if you're installing a second-story laundry room.

  2. The water system design, including pipe size and material. The design and layout of the water supply system, including the placement of valves, pumps, and reservoirs, can affect water pressure distribution. Smaller pipes or those made from materials like galvanized steel or lead may restrict water flow, leading to lower pressure.

  3. Demand fluctuations. High demand during peak times, such as in the morning or evening, can lead to temporary drops in water pressure as the system struggles to meet the increased demand. Excessive or simultaneous usage of water appliances (such as showers and washing machines) in a property or neighborhood can strain the water supply system, causing pressure fluctuations. Additionally, if the water source (such as a well or reservoir) has limited capacity, it may struggle to maintain adequate pressure during periods of high demand.

  4. Leaks or blockages. Damage to pipes or blockages can disrupt the flow and reduce water pressure.

  5. Broken water pressure regulators. Malfunctioning or inadequate pressure regulation equipment can result in fluctuations throughout the system.

  6. Seasonal changes. While you never want to deal with freezing pipes inside your house, it is important to note that changes in temperature can cause water pipes to contract or freeze.

Has your water pressure suddenly increased?<p>Photo by Dan Watson on Unsplash</p>
Has your water pressure suddenly increased?

Photo by Dan Watson on Unsplash

7 Steps to Test Your Home's Water Pressure

Step 1. Buy or Borrow a Water Pressure Gauge

  • First and foremost, you'll need a water pressure gauge. Inexpensive pressure gauges with female hose threads are available at most hardware stores and online.

  • Make sure to choose a gauge that is easy to read.

Step 2. Locate the Cold Water Supply Valve in Your Home

  • Locate the main water supply valve in your home. This is usually located near your water meter or where the main water line enters your home.

  • Turn off the valve to temporarily stop the flow of water.

Step 3. Attach the Gauge to a Water Source

  • Thread the water pressure gauge to a water source, such as an outdoor faucet or the laundry room faucet.

  • Make sure the gauge is securely attached to prevent any leaks, which would negatively affect the accuracy of the reading.

Step 4. Turn on the Water

  • Once the gauge is attached, turn on the source.

  • Allow the incoming water flow to run for a few minutes to stabilize the pressure.

Step 5. Get an Accurate Reading

  • After the water pressure has stabilized, check the gauge.

  • Normal pressure for most homes is between 40-60 psi (pounds per square inch), but this can vary depending on your location and system. Ideal water pressure is 60 psi. 80 psi is too high.

Step 6. Repeat — Over the Course of One Week

  • Repeat the test a couple of times over the next few days. Vary the time of the reading to see if other factors, such as demand fluctuations, play a role.

Step 7. Take Note of Any Issues

  • If your pressure is consistently too high or too low, you may need to address any potential issues.

  • Low water pressure can indicate a clog in the system or leaking rubber gasket. High water pressure can put a strain on your plumbing fixtures and appliances. In both cases, you can start by adjusting the pressure-reducing valve to see if you can adjust the flow. From there, continue to perform diagnostics to rule out major issues, or call a plumber.

Related: How to Stop Your Water Pipes from Rattling

Do you need a pressure regulator?

"If you have city water you may need a pressure regulator," notes Joseph Wade who is the vice president of operations at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. "Water pressure in your home should be between 50 and 70 pounds per square inch (psi). City water reaches your home at a pressure that’s often too high for your plumbing to handle, moving through the municipal pipes at times well above 100 psi so it can reach every home in the system."

He adds, "A water pressure regulator valve lowers the pressure of city water to levels that are manageable for your home’s plumbing system. Maintaining a steady water pressure helps your appliances, showers, and sinks get enough water without wasting water from a too-high flow."

Can you check the water pressure without using a gauge?

Yes, the bucket test is a simple DIY method that can help you check if your home's water pressure is within an acceptable range. Keep in mind that it won't be as precise as a gauge.

  • Fill a standard-sized bucket with a known volume, such as a gallon, and time how long it takes to fill.

  • Then, divide the volume of water by the time it took to fill the bucket.

  • This will give you a rough estimate of the flow rate in gallons per minute (GPM).

How can you increase the water pressure in your home?

If your water pressure reading was low, start by checking the pressure-reducing valve. Make slight adjustments, and then do another read to see if the flow of water coming into the gauge has changed. Check the water pressure again at a later time to see if you still have a consistent water pressure level.

Related: Have You Prepared Your Hot Water Heater for Wintertime?