Does My Home Really Need a Water Pressure Reducing Valve?
“I can’t stand how high the water pressure is in my home!” Said no one ever.
Let’s face it. Most people are of the opinion that the more water pressure, the better. A warm cascading shower certainly feels more gratifying than a light, misty trickle and a hearty stream coming out of the sink makes life easier in numerous ways.
Without a doubt, we would be hard-pressed to think of a time we’ve heard someone complain about having too much water pressure in their home. Taking steps to reduce water pressure is probably the last thing on your mind as a homeowner.
However, at times, the water coming onto our homes is under so much pressure it puts our plumbing system at risk.
Before we go any further, let’s illustrate exactly what we mean by water pressure.
When a plumbing fixture in a home is opened, and water flows from it, it’s because the water is “pushed.” This “push” is pressure. The speed at which water flows from the opened outlet depends on the amount of “push” or pressure that occurs at that time in the system. In short, the higher the pressure, the stronger the “push” behind the water.
So, what can be so wrong with high water pressure?
High water pressure, which is generally anything above 60 psi (pounds per square inch), has some benefits, such as in firefighting systems. However, in the home plumbing system, it can be damaging because water with this strong “push” behind it can erode or wear away materials and trigger water heaters to leak, banging water pipes, dripping faucets, needless dishwasher and clothes washer noise, and the subsequent breakdown and leaking water pipes.
Put simply, while it may not happen immediately, water flowing at a rate in excess of that necessary to fulfill routine fixture or appliance demands can become damaging, wasteful, and reduce the life expectancy of equipment in the system.
Do you really want to have to worry about replacing fixtures and appliances more often and run the risk of small leaks forming in hard-to-detect places? Those small leaks can lead to structural water damage and black mold.
On the other hand, you could end up with a sudden, massive leak if a pipe burst or your washing machine hose rips open. Envision something like that occurring soon after you leave for work or while you’re away for the weekend.
Even putting aside any such catastrophic events, high water pressure is generally expensive. When water pressure is high, there is a lot more water flowing through your fixtures that gets unused.
In the same amount of time it takes for water at 50 psi to accumulate to 30 gallons, water flowing at 150 psi builds up to 56 gallons. If you hate math, that’s 26 gallons of wasted water that will show up on your water bill.
Water facts: Water covers about 71 percent of the Earth. 96.5 percent of that is ocean water. 2.5 percent of all the water on the planet is fresh water and is drinkable. Only 1 percent of all freshwater is easily accessible in rivers, lakes, and streams. This rest of it is stuck in glaciers and snowfields.
What causes high water pressure?
It might come as a bit of a surprise, but the main culprit for having water pressure that is too high is your municipal water supplier. Depending on the area where you live, the city or company that controls water pressure doesn’t always have you, the homeowner, in mind.
Rather, they’re making sure that the water pressure is robust enough to reach every tall building level, buildings that are on high elevation and devices such as fire hydrants, water towers, and the like.
In order to get water to these locations, the water pressure can often be set anywhere from 100 to over 200 psi. To give you an idea of how high that is, the recommended water pressure for residential buildings is 50 psi, with 80 psi being the maximum.
Water facts: 663 million people in the world lack access to clean water. That is 1 person without safe water out of every 10 people with it. Over 80 percent of the disease in developing countries is related to poor drinking water and lack of sanitation.
How do I know if I have high water pressure?
A rule of thumb: If you hear banging pipes in your home or observe water splashing in your sink, you probably have excessive pressure. However, your local plumbing contractor or utility can test your pressure with a gauge for a precise reading.
This banging of your pipes is the result of water hammer. Water hammer is simply the noise caused by the shock of high-speed water flowing in a pipe when a fixture is suddenly closed. This abrupt stoppage causes a “bounceback” of the water, causing banging pipes, noisy systems, and possible damage to appliances.
Let’s briefly demonstrate how water hammer occurs. First, walk around a sharp corner and then run around the same corner. We can compare walking around the corner to a lower, more functional, controlled water pressure. However, when you run around the same corner, the momentum forces your body to swing in a wider, uncontrolled arc.
This is based on the fact that moving objects, including water, tend to move in a straight line. They resist changes in direction. Thus, in a home where the piping has numerous changes in direction, water hammer shock can be limited by reducing the water pressure.
So, what happens if I let this water hammer persist? This endless stress of high pressure running through your pipes is particularly hard on the pipe joints. You might end up with a tiny leak in your pipe that goes undetected for a period of time. Those small, invisible leaks can actually be quite dangerous, compromising your home’s structural integrity and encouraging the growth of toxic black mold.
Water facts: Every day, more than 800 children under age 5 die from diarrhea attributed to poor water and sanitation.
So how do I fix high water pressure?
You can inquire about installing a water pressure reducing valve (PRV) in your water system.
A PRV is a device installed on the main water line, which actively reduces the pressure or “push” of the water traveling into your home. The device has an internal spring and diaphragm that the water much passes through, producing resistance and, as a result, reducing the pressure to a more favorable level before flowing into your water system.
The leading feature of the PRV is its ability to adjust to sudden pressure changes. As they are set to regulate your water flow to specific water pressure, the spring and diaphragm will automatically limit the flow when pressure unexpectedly builds up.
True, clothes washers, dishwashers, and some other household appliances have built-in pressure regulators. However, a whole-house PRV still offers protection to those appliances, plus it protects all the pipes and fixtures throughout the house.
Does my house already have a PRV in the water system? If your home was built after the 1980s, it will most likely already have a PRV installed. However, these devices only have a lifespan of about 10 years, so it’s worth calling your J&A professionals to inspect and replace the valve if necessary.
It goes without saying that you should call in a plumbing expert to offer their advice on installing a PRV if your home was built prior to the ’80s.
Water facts: By 2050, at least 1 in 4 people will likely live in a country affected by chronic or recurring fresh-water shortages.
How can I tell if I need a PRV?
You can purchase a simple, yet effective pressure gauge at local hardware or home improvement stores. Screw the gauge onto any hose bib or washing machine faucet and turn on the cold water tap to measure the water pressure. If it’s between 40 and 60 psi, you should be okay. But water pressure that’s generally above 80 psi is more likely triggering unnecessary stress on your pipes, fittings, and fixtures.
City water pressure can fluctuate considerably, often increasing at night when the overall load goes down, so make sure to test at different times of the day. And during a test, be sure the water isn’t being used anywhere else in the house, such as at a garden spigot or appliances.
You can also inquire at your local water company, who will likely be able to tell you if a pressure regulator is recommended in your neighborhood.
How about installing a PRV? Is it a DIY project?
A PRV isn’t tricky to install, but a professional plumber should install it unless the homeowner has some plumbing and soldering skills.
Okay, let’s say I have installed a PRV in my water system.
How can I tell if it’s gone bad?
With time, the PRV will need to be replaced because the rubber parts will deteriorate.
Low-pressure water or no pressure are a few of the signs a PRV has gone bad. Other signs include water hammer, thumping, or chattering in the pipes. Extra high pressure is another sign the pressure reducer has failed. A leak outdoors near the PRV may also indicate the valve itself is leaking. It could also be something as benign as noticing you have more plumbing repairs than usual.
Water facts: Every dollar spent on better access to water and sanitation systems generate about 8 more dollars in costs avoided and productivity gained.
How else can a PRV help save money?
When we can save on the amount of water being consumed, this also represents a similar saving on handling wastewater. Many sewer bill surcharges are based on the amount of water used, assuming that this water is going into the wastewater system. This is billed to you as a sewer surcharge.
So, if a PRV can save, let’s say, 1/3 of the metered water, it can also contribute to saving up to 1/3 of the wastewater load. This is important since it benefits both the homeowner, by a lower sewer bill, and the community, as this is water they don’t have to treat.
Should I consider using other water and energy conservation devices?
Most certainly. The PRV is the heart of a conservation program, but you should consider such things as flow control devices, low-flush toilets, improved water heating equipment, and better, more disciplined habits by the users. However, even if none of these were installed, the PRV would still serve to contribute important savings in energy and water.
Water facts: The UN estimates that it would cost an additional $30 billion to provide access to safe water to the entire planet. That’s a third of what the world spends in a year on bottled water.
Just like having a healthy blood pressure is vital to your health, having normal water pressure is key to maintaining healthy plumbing in your home.
Left unchecked, high water pressure will wear out just about everything that comes into contact with your plumbing system.
If you think a water pressure reducing valve could benefit your plumbing, contact J&A South Park today.
Our skilled plumbers can properly size and fit a PRV for your home to give the outstanding performance that preserves and protects your plumbing system.