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High Water Pressure and How It Makes a Difference

High water pressure is a concern for every homeowner. Here is a picture of a pressure gauge, which like its name, measures the pressure of the water coming into your house.

We once bought a house that the pressure from the utility company was 110 pounds per square inch (PSI) at the hose bib (another name for it is outside faucet). This high water pressure would have been great if I wanted to water my lawn or wash my car.

The faucets inside the house were not as happy. Most of them are designed to work at pressures up to 50 PSI. That is where it is easy to turn on and off the faucet and they is no water splashing out of the sink when it is on. Also, your faucets and plumbing have a much longer life.

This house was built with copper pipe and PVC drains. This is a good combination. This particular house had a leak somewhere. One of the first things I do when we buy a house is turn off the water and the electricity until I check everything out and satisfy myself that everything works okay.

When I turned the water on, the water meter showed we were losing approximately a gallon of water every 40 seconds.

All the shutoff valves were closed so nothing should be running.

This meant there was a leak somewhere!

Finding the Leak

After some investigation on my part, I found out that when the house was built, a 3/4 inch PVC line was run from the meter to the footer of the house. Then the PVC line was converted to 1/2 inch copper. The problem was that where the line ran across the concrete footer, the line was not straight and the pipe was stressed.

The plumber who originally worked on the house evidently knew something was wrong as he placed some duct tape around the joint. When I dug the line up, water came spraying out of the hole. Okay, we found that leak. Here is a picture of the pipe after I cut out the damaged section.

I wound up digging up several feet of PVC and placing two 45° fittings to eliminate the stress and running the 3/4 inch PVC all the way through the foundation and into the crawl space. I then turned the water back on and the leak was “almost” gone.

We were now down to leaking a gallon a day. This one was going to be harder to find. I turns out someone had installed a saddle tap for an ice maker line on a cold water pipe in the crawl space.

To the right is a picture of the saddle tap as it looked when I found it.

I cut out the bad parts and ran a new 1/2 inch copper line to the back of the refrigerator and placed a shut off valve there.

The shut off valve went from 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch compression for the ice maker line. The actual line used was a braided stainless line designed for ice maker connections. It is very flexible and not easily damaged. I never use plain plastic lines. I’ve had too many leaks.

As a point of reference: The water supply line usually runs in a straight line from the meter to the base of the closest outside faucet. This is not always, but most of the time.

OK! This leak has been identified and repaired.

 

Now Let’s Resolve the High Water Pressure Problem.

I was off to the plumbing store to purchase a pressure regulator. Since the house had high water pressure, I used two together in series. That way they should have a longer life. The best place for a pressure regulator to measure high water pressure is right behind the water meter. Since there was PVC pipe and there was not enough room in the meter housing, I decided to put the regulators under the house in the crawl space.

The original copper pipe crossed the footer, turned up toward the floor joist and hit the bottom of the floor joist with a T. One side of the T fed the hose bib (faucet) at the front of the house and the other side of the T ran to the area of the water heater. This was a good 30 foot run with no space problems.

Since I was using two regulators, here is what I did:

  • I put the first regulator at the entrance point in the crawl space before the T fitting. I also replaced the original copper pipe with a 3/4 inch PVC pipe through the foundation and into the crawl space to the first regulator.
  • I put the second regulator in the line feeding the rest of the house. This way I could attach the pressure gauge to the front hose bib and measure if there was high water pressure

The picture to the right is one of the pressure regulators I installed.

If first regulator failed, I could determine the status without crawling under the house. By measuring if there was high water pressure at the rear hose bib, I could determine the operational status of the second regulator.

I then cut the pipes and soldered them in line.

When you are checking the house water pressure, measure at two different points.
In this case the front faucet had 110 PSI and the rear had 50 PSI.

In our own house we actually ran two different sets of pipes from the main feed.

  • One feeds the four outside hose bibs at 90 PSI and the second goes through a high water pressure reducer and a Diaphragm Pressure Tank. This is to keep the pipes from “banging” or “hammering” when something like our ice maker, toilet or washing machine cuts off abruptly. The water surges when the water is abruptly shut off causing the noise.
  • The second feed has a pressure reducer to keep the internal house pressure to 50 PSI.

Keeping the pressure at the working limit of 50 PSI is good because it adds life to the hardware, pipes and faucets and reduces maintenance.

The pressure reducer does not reduce the water flow. It is not a water conservation device. It just regulates the pressure.

Remember – plumbing is one of the constant problem areas that must be controlled to remain reliable.

 

Dave Altman