Do you need a water pressure regulator? It all depends on where your water comes from. If your water comes from a high-pressure municipal line, then you may very likely have one already.
But before we can determine if you need a water pressure regulator, let’s discuss what it’s used for.
What a water pressure regulator does for your home
A water pressure regular reduces the pressure of the water coming into your pipes. It takes high-pressure municipal water, which can come in at up to 150 psi (pounds per square inch), and reduces it to 50 to 80 psi—a much safer pressure for your home’s plumbing. But wait—don’t you want strong water pressure so you can have the best shower experience? Not exactly.
Anything over 80 psi is too high for most residential uses, and can hurt your plumbing and appliances.
“Without it, the pressure would blast through all of your appliances and fixtures,” says Don Glovan, a franchise consultant for Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Asheville, NC. Some experts even suggest not going over 50 psi to save on your water bills and reduce water waste.
High water pressure can cause some problems, including the following:
- Broken or burst pipes
- Continual sound of running water
- Running toilets
- Damage to water heaters, dishwashers, refrigerators, ice makers, and washing machines
- Banging pipe sounds (aka water hammer)
- Leaking sprinkler valves
- High water bills
- Dripping faucets
Yikes, right? If these issues sound familiar, it might be time to check your home’s water pressure.
How to check your home’s water pressure
“If you suspect your home’s water pressure is too high, you can easily measure the pressure yourself using a store-bought pressure gauge or ask your plumber to take a measurement,” Glovan says.
Anything over 80 psi needs to be reduced by installing or adjusting the water pressure regulator. Lower water pressure will cut water, wastewater, and even energy bills, according to experts, because you will be heating less water.
The Department of Energy calculates that water heating accounts for 12% of the average family’s electric bill, so you could be looking at significant savings. Plus, if you live in an area where droughts are an issue, this is a great way to reduce your water usage.
Installing a water pressure regulator
“A new installation of a water pressure regulator should be performed by a plumbing professional,” says Glovan. But replacing or adjusting an existing pressure-reducing valve is doable for someone with a bit of DIY plumbing expertise.
He suggests asking your plumber to check the water pressure regulator when doing routine maintenance. The plumber should readjust the pressure, make sure it’s working properly, and give you a heads-up if it looks like your regulator is coming to the end of its life span.
Adjusting a pressure regulator
To adjust the water pressure regulator yourself, you’ll need a partner to test the pressure as you adjust it. Here’s how to do it:
- Find the regulator. The regulator might be in or around your home near the main water cutoff valve, or it could be near the water main, closer to the street. “On the unit, you will find an external bolt that generally has a locking nut,” says Glovan. “Loosening the locking nut will allow you to turn the bolt to adjust the pressure.”
- Adjust the pressure. Slowly turn the pressure nut or bolt—clockwise to increase pressure and counterclockwise to decrease it. Have your partner monitor the pressure while you’re doing this. Once your partner reports you’re at 50 psi, tighten the locking nut back up against the bolt and you’re all set.
Having the right water pressure coming into your home is good for your faucets, the plumbing, your appliances, your wallet, and the environment. And with just some small adjusting, a water pressure regulator should last for a long time.
“These devices will last in place for many years, but should be checked periodically to ensure they are still working properly,” says Glovan.
So if you’re not sure if you have a water pressure regulator but suspect your pressure might be too high, grab your pressure gauge or call your plumber. In the long run, it’ll save you money.