If you are experiencing low water pressure in your shower, don’t worry! You are certainly not alone. There are essentially 6 causes for this common problem, and while some of the solutions can fix it in just a few minutes, if it is a larger issue, you may need to contact a professional plumber.
The most likely causes of low pressures in a shower head include an accidental shut off of main control valves, mineral deposits in the shower head or pipes, you have an old shower head, the mixing valve being damaged, or there are problems with your water heater or water pressure regulator.
What Should the Water Pressure Be in My Home?
Before we dig a little deeper into the 6 causes of low water pressure in a shower head, and the tactics you need to try to solve the problem, you first need to understand what the water pressure should be in your home.
And in order to do so, you need to understand the concept of PSI. PSI, or pounds per square inch, is the measurement for water pressure, and most shower heads or faucets provide a PSI of 45-55.
Although anything under 30 PSI is considered low water pressure, which you will certainly notice and want to fix.
Luckily, you can very easily test if the PSI on your shower head is lower than 30 with just an empty liter jug! Simply place the jug under the shower head (or faucet) and turn on the water. If it takes more than 6 seconds to fill, you have low water pressure.
Many people wonder how to determine if low water pressure is a single issue, i.e., in your shower water head, or a widespread issue throughout your home.
To understand what the problem is, you should be able to answer these questions:
- Are all the sinks or showerheads in your home producing low water pressure?
- Is it localized to just one room or bathroom?
- Is the low water pressure only present when using the hot or cold taps?
Now that you know how to test the water pressure in your shower head, as well as what questions you should answer before diving into the solutions, let’s find out how to fix the problem!
6 Common Reasons for Low Water Pressure in Shower Heads
As you now know, there are 6 common reasons for low water pressure in shower heads. And as with most home improvement issues, it can be a challenge to understand what issue you’re facing until trying to fix it.
So we created a list that goes from easiest-to-fix to the most difficult. Therefore, you can start at number one and work your way down. Who knows, you might fix it in just a few moments!
1. Accidental Shutoff of Your Home’s Main Water Control Valves
One of the most common reasons why there is low water pressure in your shower head is that you or someone else accidentally shut off your home’s main water control valves.
Usually, the valves are located outside the home under the sidewalk or ground, and sometimes they can be found in the basement.
How to Fix It:
Luckily, fixing this issue couldn’t be easier, and you may not even need any tools to do so.
First, you need to locate the main valves, such as the main shut-off valve, the inline valves, and the water meter valve. (If you live in an apartment building, you should contact your apartment manager to find out where the valves are and if they can help.)
Then you should make sure they are switched to the “ON” position, which means the handle runs parallel to the pipe.
If the handle is too tight to turn, you might need to use a pair of pliers instead of just your hand.
2. Mineral Deposits in Shower Head or Inside Pipes
The next problem that many people encounter is that there are mineral deposits in the shower head or inside the pipes, which is affecting the low water pressure.
Over the years, mineral deposits, sediment, and debris from water gets stuck in the pipes or shower head. This build-up causes the water to get stuck and decreases your water pressure.
It’s important to note that although this occurs everywhere, if you live somewhere with hard or mineral-filled water, it can happen far more frequently.
One way to know if mineral build-up is the problem is If the low water pressure is localized to your shower head as opposed to throughout the bathroom or the house.
How to Fix It:
The first thing to do is to clean the shower head with low water pressure.
You can do so by removing the shower head with your hands or a wrench and then cleaning it with a small brush and diluted vinegar. If it’s extremely dirty, you may want to consider buying a new showerhead. However, soaking it overnight in diluted vinegar usually does the trick.
If the problem is not solved after cleaning the shower head, there may be mineral build-up in your pipes, which means you will have to call a professional plumber.
3. Older, Low-Flow Shower Head
Next on the list is that your shower head might simply be old or a low-flow option.
The easiest way to tell if this is the problem you’re facing is to check the water pressure in the sink in the bathroom.
If the sink isn’t experiencing low pressure, but the shower head is (and you’ve already cleaned the shower head, and it didn’t fix the problem), the solution is probably that you need a different shower head.
How to Fix It:
For this cause, the answer is quite simple: You just need to buy a new showerhead.
However, you should do a little research first to ensure you get the best possible shower head for your bathroom. If you struggle with low water pressure, a low-pressure shower head is not a good option.
Most shower heads on the market will be labeled as high-pressure or low-pressure items, and many even state the PSI they deliver. Just remember, you want a shower head with 45-55 PSI.
4. Damaged Mixing Valve
Here is where the solutions for fixing a low-pressure shower head get a little more complex.
If tactics 1-3 didn’t do the trick, there may be a problem with your mixing valve. Often, when the mixing valve is damaged, not only will the shower be experiencing low water pressure, but also the hot and cold water will be affected differently.
Therefore, if the hot water is too hot or the cold has less pressure than the hot tap, you can safely assume that your mixing valve is damaged or malfunctioning in some way.
How to Fix It:
Unless you have plumbing experience, finding, identifying, and replacing the mixing valve can be quite challenging.
So realistically, it’s probably time to call a professional plumber for help.
5. Problems With Water Heater
Another extremely common cause of low water pressure in a shower head is that there is a problem with the water heater.
To assess whether or not the low pressure in the shower head is being affected by a faulty, malfunctioning, or old water heater, you first check around the heater for leaks.
Then, assess if the hot water is running out more quickly than normal, if the water temperature is inconsistent, or if the water from your shower head or faucets is discolored.
Also, you should know the age of your water heater as if it’s more than 8 years old, it’s very likely your problem.
How to Fix It:
If you think that the water heater is having problems and that is why the water pressure is low in your shower, the very best thing to do is call a professional plumber to assess the situation.
Again, even if you know a bit about plumbing, water heaters are complicated machines. And you probably won’t be able to understand if that really is the issue or know for sure if you need to purchase an entirely new water heater or just get it serviced.
6. Issues with Water Pressure Regulator Device
Finally, if you have low water pressure in your shower head, you may have issues with the water pressure regulator device.
A water pressure regulator, also known as the pressure-reducing valve (PRV), is used to maintain safe water pressure range from incoming water from your municipal supply line.
Essentially, the water that arrives at your home is too forceful to safely come through your pipes, and the PRV or pressure regulator slows it down. However, if the device is malfunctioning or faulty, you might not be getting enough pressure or PSI in your shower head.
Although you can usually find the water pressure regulator next to the main valve shut off, it can be difficult to ensure you set it at the correct pressure level yourself.
How to Fix It:
If you want to try to fix it, you can try turning the PRV a quarter turn in the clockwise direction and see if that does the trick.
However, while most home water pressure regulators are usually set to keep water pressure at 45-60 PSI, it’s impossible to tell the water pressure when turning the regulator device, and you can easily overdo it.
The bottom line is that if the regulator is malfunctioning, you will most likely need to contact a plumber to install a new regulator or repair the old one.
When to Call a Plumber for Low-Water Pressure
When it comes to low water pressure, there are certainly some solutions you can try and aspects of your plumbing that you can check by yourself that could solve the problem.
As you now know, you can check your shower head and clean it, purchase a new one, check for leaks, and even locate the main valves and make sure they are turned on all on your own.
However, certain issues are simply too tricky for DIY attempts. If you cannot find the valves or have tried the easy cleaning solutions listed above and the problem of low water pressure in your shower persists, you really should call a professional plumber for help.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.