If low water pressure has you down, you’re not alone. It’s an issue too many well owners face.
But the good news is that there are a dozen ways to increase water pressure from a well if you can diagnose common problems. Join us as we review what to look for and how to finally fix low water pressure.
How Does a Well Work?
Let’s review how well water systems work before moving on to low pressure issues.
Wells are a hole in the ground equipped with a pump and pressure tank that stores water until it’s needed. Pressure decreases by a half-pound per square inch for every foot water rises above the ground floor, so without a water pressure tank to act as an air compressor, pressure on your home’s higher floors would be negligible.
What Is the Ideal Water Pressure for a Well System?
Reasons for Low Well Water Pressure
Reasons for water pressure drops range from equipment failure to low water flow from your well. Let’s begin by eliminating mechanical and plumbing system issues as the cause of your water pressure woes.
How Do I Fix Low Well Water Pressure?
The first step to fixing low water pressure is to check each part of your well system for malfunctions or improper settings.
A submersible pump last 15 years or more. Above-ground jet pumps average 8-12 years. If it’s been at least 10 years since your pump was replaced, low water pressure may signal it’s failing.
Signs of an ailing well pump include:
- Clicking noises from the tank
- Pump turns on too often
- Higher-than-average power bills
- No water or muddy water
- Low water pressure
- Tripped circuit breaker
Pressure tanks are rarely located in climate-controlled environments. Moisture in your garage or basement will eventually cause most tanks to rust.
A tiny pinhole is all it takes to cause a loss of water pressure, so inspect the pressure tank first. If the air pressure gauge reads zero, chances are the problem is within the pressure system, even if the tank is intact.
Air Fill Valve
The air fill valve controls the airflow in and out of your water pressure tank. It’s a vulnerable part of the system and prone to deterioration. Check it for moisture. If it’s leaking, the bladder in the tank isn’t holding pressure and needs to be replaced. Replacing an air valve is something most homeowners can do.
The electronic pressure switch keeps the air pressure in your well system between 40-60 PSI. When it senses a drop below the cut-in setting, usually 2-4 PSI lower than the lowest setting, it clicks on automatically to keep pressure in the tank within the normal range.
If you’re new to your home, check the pressure settings first before assuming the pressure switch has failed. Settings below 40 PSI could be causing low water pressure. If your well’s water output has changed over the years, the original default setting may no longer provide adequate pressure.
If that’s the case, adjust the pressure tank settings up incrementally, monitoring for increased water pressure at the tap with each change. Repeat the process until you reach the desired setting.
If you adjust the pressure in the tank to the maximum with little increase in the overall system pressure, the pressure switch may be bad. You can also try changing the cut-on pressure by adding or releasing air.
To check the pressure switch, turn off the power, remove the cover and inspect the contacts for pitting or rust. If they look dirty, the electrical circuit may be incomplete. Pressure switch failure is a common cause of low water pressure, but it’s an easy fix.
Among the first parts of a well system to go, it costs less than $25 to replace. Most pressure switch manufacturers include DIY instructions in the box.
The pump controller supplies power to the well pump. Most are wall-mounted near the pressure tank. Others are located inside the well pump and require professional evaluation.
If yours is on the wall, there’s no way to test it. But you can replace it for less than $100 if you have basic wiring skills. It might be worth a try before buying a new pump.
If you have hard water but don’t have a water softener, limescale buildup could be restricting water flow through your plumbing system, reducing water pressure.
Have your pipes inspected. If they’re lined with a crusty white film, it’s time to consider a softener or a salt-free water conditioner. Both can prevent further limescale and treat existing buildup, restoring water flow through clogged pipes.
It’s also possible that you have a plumbing leak. Small drips near a water heater or a garden house outlet can easily go unnoticed yet cause a significant decrease in water pressure.
Filter or Water Softener
Water filters and softeners can be responsible for pressure loss. If the problem began soon after installing a new system, it’s possible the flow rate is too low.
If it’s an older filter, clogged filtration media may be decreasing your home’s water pressure. Regular maintenance is a must. Changing the filters could make all the difference in pressure.
Faucets and Shower Heads
If you have sediment in your water supply, dirt and rust can collect in aerators, affecting water pressure at multiple fixtures. Just cleaning the aerator screens could improve your flow rate.
If the decrease in water pressure is only noticeable in the shower, a low-flow head could be the culprit. The shower heads in most new homes save water, but they’re miserly. A new fixture with a higher flow capacity might improve water pressure.
If you have untreated hard water, the same limescale in your water pipes ends up in the shower head spray nozzles. You can remove the scale by soaking it in a solution of baking soda and vinegar. If you don’t notice more pressure immediately, you may have clogged pipes. Treat two birds with one stone with a softener.
Is Water Pressure Still Too Low?
If you’ve eliminated broken equipment and plumbing problems as the source of low water pressure, the next step is to evaluate your well system. If you added an in-law apartment to your home without upgrading your well pump, for example, demand on it may be too high to maintain pressure.
Older well water systems weren’t designed to keep up with water-heavy lifestyles. An aging pump system may be mechanically sound and still not produce enough water pressure. An upgrade may be necessary.
It’s also possible that your water supply is drying up. In persistent drought conditions, it may be necessary to drill a deeper well. Fluctuating pressure or a change in water quality can signal a permanent drop in the water table.
But before calculating how many weekends you’ll have to work to pay for a new well system, let’s look at some less costly solutions that can improve your water pressure without breaking the bank.
How to Increase Water Pressure
One or more of these steps may help increase your water pressure.
Upgrade Your Well Pump
If your water usage has increased, upgrading to a more powerful well pump could amp up your water pressure. This is an especially cost-effective option if your current pump is over ten years old.
A stronger pump alone, however, won’t solve pressure problems if the well has a low flow rate. We recommend consulting with a contractor on what size pump is best for your well water system.
Get A Bigger Pressure Tank
Installing a larger pressure tank means you can draw more water without forcing the pump to replenish the tank during use. Water pressure is always lower when the tank is filling, so a larger model will maximize flow during peak usage. A bigger pressure tank may not help increase water pressure, however, if you have a low-pressure well.
Install a Constant Pressure System
Conventional well pumps operate at a fixed speed — they only turn and off. But a constant pressure system has a variable speed motor that speeds up or slows down depending on your water usage. You can take a shower, fill the washing machine and run the dishwasher without a cut in pressure.
Because they work without needing additional water, constant pressure systems are a better option than a new well pump when the well’s output is questionable. Even if it doesn’t increase water pressure, it should eliminate annoying fluctuations.
In some cases, an existing well system can be converted to a constant pressure system by replacing the air fill valve, pressure switch and pressure tank. But if your system is older, it may be more cost-effective to install a new constant pressure system altogether.
Homeowners with plumbing skills can install a constant pressure system, but we recommend consulting a professional. Depending on your existing equipment, the process can be complicated. The cost to install a constant pressure system ranges from $1200-2500, including materials.
Try a Water Pressure Booster Pump
Low-flow wells don’t produce enough water pressure to keep pace with demand. In that case, you likely have an auxiliary water tank to help meet your needs. But gravity alone rarely produces sufficient pressure to fill your pressure tank, so you need a water pressure booster pump to pull water out of storage faster, so your pressure tank stays full.
The price of water pressure booster pumps rises exponentially with horsepower. You can save on installation by doing it yourself with a few precautions. Water pressure above 75 pounds per square inch is rough on pipes, so check the current pressure reading first. If it’s 50 PSI, buy a booster pump that produces no more than 25 PSI. You’ll save money and avoid putting too much pressure on your water system.
Also, check the size of your main water line. You can adapt the supply line up or down to match any size pump fitting, but plumbing size changes can impact pressure. Systems work more efficiently if the booster pump fitting size matches the incoming water line.
Low water pressure puts a damper on modern homes, but the solutions are often simpler than they seem. Don’t give up on increasing water pressure until you’ve explored every option.