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Nothing soothes tired eyes and evaporates the stresses of a hard day quite like a hot, soothing shower.
But when the water pressure in your shower is too low, it can be hard to enjoy what should be a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.
Are you currently experiencing low water pressure in your apartment? What can you do to make your shower go from dribbling and flat to streaming and steamy?
Let’s talk about the causes of low water pressure and how to increase your shower pressure!
What Causes Low Water Pressure in the Shower?
Low water pressure is not only inconvenient but can be indicative of underlying plumbing problems, and there’s no shortage of possibilities.
Did you know every American uses an average of 88 gallons of water per day?
When you’re taking that average into account for all the residents in your apartment shared pipeline, it’s no wonder you may be experiencing low water pressure. That’s because most apartment buildings have a shared pipeline, and with the demand for water so high, the pipeline cannot provide an adequate supply of streaming water to every apartment all at once.
You may notice the water pressure in your shower gets lower every time you hear a neighbor flush the toilet. You may even notice the water pressure drop while running the faucet at the same time someone else is running their dishwasher or taking a shower.
Low water pressure can be an occasional inconvenience when only one or two dwellers reside in a building. However, low water pressure can be an ongoing issue in apartments with multiple units or in buildings with older and corroded pipelines.
Old Main Water Line
Older main water lines may also be to blame for low water pressure. If you live in an older apartment building or an area with older buildings and structures, the chances are higher the main water line is outdated.
Unfortunately, replacing and upgrading these older water lines and pipes can require major construction, which can disrupt everyday life for residents, daily operations for businesses, and the area’s flow of traffic.
Because the logistics of replacing these main water lines can be so demanding and complex, municipalities are reluctant to begin such projects and decide to leave the water lines as is.
Pipe Leaks & Blockages
The pressure in your shower may be low because of a leak somewhere in the apartment’s plumbing system.
When there’s a leak, less water can reach the showerhead, causing the water pressure to feel low. Issues like broken appliance seals, invasive tree roots, and extreme outdoor temperature fluctuations can lead to pipe leaks. Rusted, corroded pipes are also more susceptible to leaking.
By a similar token, if there’s a blockage somewhere in a pipe, the shower receives less water, resulting in low water pressure. From hair, lodged objects, and hygiene products to corroding, sloping, or undersized pipes, blockages can take many forms and cause a noticeable disruption in your system’s water pressure.
The Water Valves Aren’t Open All the Way
The main water shutoff valve and water meter valve can both affect the water pressure in your apartment. When these are only partially open, the valves can cut off your apartment’s water intake supply and subsequently result in low water pressure.
Apartment dwellers will rarely find the need to touch these valves themselves. If the property recently had plumbing work done, the plumber may have not fully opened the valves after completing the job.
A Failing Pressure Regulator
Your apartment’s plumbing system may feature a water pressure regulator. This piece of equipment provides a reading of the system’s current water pressure levels.
Untreated blockages accumulating over time can cause the pressure regulator to fail. An apartment with a failing pressure regulator may experience little to no water pressure, as well as a diminished supply of hot water. A failing pressure regulator can also cause hammering or banging sounds in the walls.
Hard Water & Mineral Buildup
All tap water contains some degree of dissolved minerals, like calcium and magnesium. Water containing high dissolved mineral levels is known as hard water, which can cause low water pressure when a significant buildup of it causes a pipe’s diameter to shrink.
Hard water exists in most places and isn’t always a cause for concern. However, it can become problematic when it interferes with a plumbing system and leads to issues like lower water pressure, poor water quality, and damage to fixtures and appliances.
Hard water and mineral buildup can also affect fixtures like showerheads and faucets before causing the pipeline to clog.
Do you live in a region with high hard water levels? Here’s a glimpse into which areas of the United States experience the highest and lowest levels of hard water:
How do you know if your apartment has hard water? A DIY tap water testing kit can determine the hardness of your water, but you may be able to tell if you have hard water if you:
- Notice white or yellow residue on freshly-cleaned clothes.
- Have spots or stains on newly-washed silverware and dishes.
- Have a white film around your hands after washing them.
If you are currently experiencing these issues, in addition to low water pressure, hard water buildup is likely to blame.
How to Increase Low Shower Pressure
Now that we understand the causes of low water pressure, what can we do to restore your shower’s strength and supply of streaming water?
Some issues, like a failing pressure regulator or severe mineral buildup in the piles, require the work of a professional plumber. But when it comes to addressing water pressure issues with the shower specifically, here are some DIY ways to increase low shower pressure.
Remove Mineral Buildup on the Showerhead
Mineral buildup on showerheads, and nearly all other plumbing fixtures, is common and a likely source for low water pressure. Luckily, a scaly and grimy showerhead is also easy to clean, which can help restore your shower’s water pressure to normal.
Here’s how to remove mineral buildup from your showerhead:
- First, unscrew and disconnect the showerhead from the fixture.
- Rinse the showerhead under a high-pressure water faucet (if the water pressure is low there as well, then mineral buildup in the shower may NOT be the root problem.)
- With severe mineral buildup, you can also use an old toothbrush to scrub away the debris.
- For stubborn buildup, use a toothpick to poke out remaining deposits.
- Thoroughly clean the fixture’s joint nut, or soak it if it has significant scale buildup.
- Soak the showerhead in a tub of white vinegar overnight. You can also mix in a couple of tablespoons of baking soda to better loosen stubborn mineral deposits.
Avoid using bleach and hard-bristled brushes, as they can cause damage and premature wear-and-tear to the showerhead.
After the showerhead has soaked for up to eight hours, give it a thorough rinsing before reassembling it back on the fixture. Once you’ve reinstalled the showerhead to the fixture, turn the shower on full-blast and examine the water pressure. If the flow is still low, there may be another issue at large.
Replace the Showerhead
Some showerheads are more outdated than others, and as a result, the water pressure may feel less than ideal. Or, you might have a low-flow showerhead, which you may be able to adjust by changing the filter.
If you’re unable to adjust your showerhead, or if it is older, consider replacing it with a high-flow model.
Have the Landlord Check the Valves & Main Water Shutoff
If you rent an apartment and are experiencing low water pressure, it’s a good idea to run the issue by your landlord or property manager. Do this before inspecting and opening up the property’s main water shutoff and valves yourself.
Some landlords and property managers purposely turn down the main water valve to reduce water volume use. It’s also possible a recent construction project in the area required shutting these valves. Your landlord or property manager can address the issue with a simple request to check and open up the valves.
Your landlord or property may have even installed a water flow restrictor to your showerhead. Again, they may be able to remove the water flow restrictor with a simple request. It’s not recommended to remove this yourself if you’re a renter.
Other Ways to Increase Water Pressure in Your Apartment
Does your kitchen sink frequently experience low water pressure? Does it seem like your washing machine takes a long time to fill? Do you hear whistling noises coming from the water pipes in your walls every time you flush the toilet or turn on the dishwasher?
When every fixture and appliance in your apartment only produces meager amounts of water, it’s time to explore ways to increase water pressure throughout your apartment! Some of these tips will require getting your landlord or property manager involved, so make sure you don’t pursue them alone.
Check for Water Leaks
Low water pressure is usually a telltale sign of a leak somewhere in the plumbing system. If you have access to the property’s basement, you may be able to check for leaks yourself.
It’s also fair to suspect a water leak if you experience the following, in addition to low water pressure:
- Higher-than-usual water bill
- Damp floors
- Unpleasant odors
- Cracks in the walls
- Mold or mildew growth
A water leak in the plumbing system can also cause wet spots in the lawn of your apartment. Fixing a water leak will require the assistance of the property’s handyman or a professional plumber.
Install a Water Softener
Does your apartment test positive for hard water?
A water softener removes minerals, like calcium and magnesium, often found in water.
Once you can verify that your apartment does have hard water, request your landlord or property manager to install a water softener. If mineral buildup is a continuing issue, you can make the case to the property owner that installing a water softener will reduce the need and cost for future, ongoing repairs.
What if the property owner doesn’t get on board with installing a water softener for the building? While it may not improve low water pressure, an attachable water filter can help remove minerals and improve the quality and taste of your drinking water.
It can also help to weigh the benefits of water filters vs. water softeners so you can better understand what your apartment needs for an adequate supply of good quality water.
Use Water During Off-Peak Hours & Monitor Appliance Use
A shared pipeline in an apartment building is less than ideal. But by using water when it’s in less demand, you may be able to improve your apartment’s water pressure.
Chances are, most residents in your apartment building are showering in the mornings before work and school, as well as washing dishes and laundry in the evenings. Try optimizing your water pressure by showering in the evenings and washing dishes and dirty clothes in the mornings.
You should also avoid running multiple appliances at once. Doing so can make all the difference for your apartment’s water supply. So, for example, wait to run the dishwasher after you take a shower, or wash your laundry after you’ve hand-washed the dishes.
Understanding How to Increase Your Water Pressure
The inconvenience of low water pressure doesn’t have to damper your next shower. By understanding the root cause of low water pressure in your apartment and trying out different ways to increase your water pressure, you’ll find you rarely encounter this inconvenience.
Should low water pressure be a recurring issue in your apartment, make sure you get your property manager or landlord involved. Remember: Low water pressure can be indicative of plumbing problems at play.