Low water pressure can be irritating — especially if you’re not sure what’s causing it. In some cases, the answer actually rests in your water itself. That’s right: Hard water can cause reduced pressure from your home’s faucets.
If you want to fix a low water pressure issue, you might just have to start by addressing your water’s hardness levels. But what does that mean, and why does it make such a difference? Here’s everything you need to know.
How Hard Water Impacts Water Pressure
The story of water hardness begins at the source. Regardless of whether you use a municipal system or a private well, your water likely has a chance to pick up minerals from its environment as it heads to your tap. Calcium and magnesium are the main culprits — and although they’re invisible, they cause problems that are definitely noticeable.
For example, if you have hard water, you’ve likely noticed an unpleasant buildup on your faucets, shower doors and bathtubs. These are actually mineral deposits — and they’re not just unsightly and difficult to clean. Unfortunately, they can also live in your home’s plumbing system. As the mineral deposits get thicker, they restrict the available space in each water pipe, and you’re left with low water pressure.
If you have lead or galvanized steel pipes, this problem may be even more pronounced. That’s because these plumbing materials could break down over time, and corroded pipes have uneven surfaces that make it easier for minerals to build up. You may be able to tell what kind of piping your house has based on its age and certain markings, but in other cases, you might need support from an expert plumbing service.
Is It Always Hard Water?
Although hard water may frequently be the cause of low water pressure, it’s not the only possible explanation. Anything from water supplier issues and cracks in the city line to a single clogged pipe could be to blame. That’s why it’s smart to know the signs and symptoms of various water problems before you choose a solution.
Signs of Low Water Pressure
It’s generally easy to tell when your faucet has a low flow rate or your showerhead doesn’t seem quite as effective at getting the shampoo out of your hair. However, when these problems are caused by mineral buildup, the core problem may be a bit more difficult to spot. That’s because you can’t “see” water hardness the way you might see discoloration or other water quality issues.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to identify a water pressure problem:
Signs of Water Pressure Problems
You’ll notice low pressure at just about any water-using appliance. For example, your toilet might not refill after flushing, your kitchen faucet may run slowly or your bathtub may take longer to fill. You might even notice that your water hose doesn’t have the pressure you need to spray and clean effectively.
These signs are all especially noticeable when you run two or more taps at the same time. If you have low water flow, even when running just a single tap, you may have a seriously clogged pipe (or multiple).
Signs of Water Hardness Problems
Hard water is a little more difficult to spot. However, it leaves significant signs if you know where to look. Here are just a few examples:
- Soap scum: Soap scum may build up anywhere you use soap, including showers and sinks, and it’s difficult to clean away.
- Spotty dishes: If dishes just don’t come out clean after washing, hard water minerals are likely to blame.
- Dry skin: You may get cracked, irritated, dry skin if you wash your hands or bathe in hard water.
- Brittle hair: Your hair may feel dry and unhealthy, and it might be harder to style and care for.
- Stiff clothes: Clothes come out of the washing machine feeling rough and uncomfortable.
- Plumbing/appliance problems: Low water pressure is just one potential issue; you may also notice impacted performance and lifetime for your water-using appliances.
- Reduced soap lathering: It may be difficult to get soap and other products to lather appropriately.
- Increased costs: Lowered plumbing, cleaner and appliance efficiency can increase all kinds of bills.
Noticing these hard water symptoms and other potential issues with your water?
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Identifying Water Issues
If you suspect that you have some kind of water problem, the best way to get the facts is to have the right water tests.
To test your home’s water pressure, you can purchase an inexpensive DIY gauge. If you use city water, choose an outdoor spigot near your main supply line; if you use a well, find a fixture close to the pressure tank. Make sure no one is running any water on your property, then place the gauge on the faucet. A good range is between 40 and 60 pounds per square inch (psi); if your water pressure is lower than that, you have a problem somewhere.
Testing for hard water is a different process. The best way to get the results you need is to have a professional water test and consultation. A water expert will come to your home and perform this test for free. In 30 minutes or less, you’ll have results on everything from potential contaminants like chlorine and iron to total hardness levels.* Generally, results between 3.5 and 10.5 grains per gallon (gpg) are considered hard, while anything above 10.5 is considered very hard.
Solving Hard Water Problems
Sometimes, fixing a low water pressure problem requires fixing a hard water problem first. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: water softening.
Water softening refers to the process of removing dissolved minerals from your water. Of course, you can’t do this by hand; water softening generally occurs at the ionic level, which means it’s not something you could do with a simple filtration system.
In fact, it’s important to note that water softening and water filtration are two different things. Although they’re both water treatment solutions, a water softener works by attracting positively charged calcium and magnesium ions, while filtration systems remove other contaminants in a variety of different ways. For example, a reverse osmosis drinking water system forces water through a semipermeable membrane that leaves contaminants on one side and treated water on the other. Simply put, this means you may need both a water softener and a filtration system, depending on what your professional water test results uncover.
You should also keep in mind that there’s technically no such thing as a “salt-free water softener.” Sodium is a key component in the complete water softening process, and without it, water can be conditioned but not softened. There are some situations where a water conditioner is preferable — for example, living in an area with brine restrictions — but this system won’t completely solve water hardness problems such as mineral buildup in your plumbing system.
How Do You Choose Hard Water Solutions?
The best hard water solutions depend on a few factors:
- The hardness level of your water supply (which differs across locations)
- The amount of water you use
- Additional water issues you may have
- Additional features, like WiFi connectivity and control via an app
- Your budget
There are softening systems to fit every need — but you won’t know exactly what those needs are until you have a professional water test. That’s because many DIY water tests can’t tell you much of anything about water hardness levels. Your local water expert, on the other hand, knows all about water conditions in your area and may be able to explain hardness levels based on the source and journey of your water supply. They can also recommend a softening system that will align with your water usage habits and water pressure needs — and if you choose to take advantage of the latest smart features, they’ll teach you how to hook up your smartphone and get even more from your investment.
Address Your Hard Water and Water Pressure Concerns
Even if hard water isn’t the only cause of a low water pressure problem in your home, it’s a good place to start. After all, dissolved hardness minerals can cause a lot of headaches, from spotty dishes and soap scum to dry skin and hair.
The best place to start is always a professional water test and consultation. You’ll learn all about your water’s hardness and potential contaminants, too. Plus, you’ll have someone on hand to recommend the perfect combination of softening and filtration systems for your needs.
Get started today. Schedule your free, in-home water test and consultation.
*Contaminants may not be present in your water.
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