Decreasing Water Pressure

Dear NH,
My wife and I have noticed that the water pressure in our house is sometimes very poor. Is this something we should be concerned about? Or is it just due to too many people in our neighborhood taking showers/using water at the same time?
RI in Pasadena, CA

It is unlikely that your neighbors' water use would affect your water flow. The size of the pipes used for municipal water supplies is large enough to keep the flow even to all homes, even if everyone turned their taps on at once. I would contact the company that manages your public water supply to see what experience they have with this problem.

Generally speaking, a draw on your water system in one part of your home will affect the pressure elsewhere, depending of course on the size of your home's pipes, the starting pressure and the volume of water flow. A garden hose, for example, will have a more dramatic effect than a toilet, since the volume of moving water is greater. Also, there are "automatic" systems that might cause temporary draws you might not be aware of at the time the pressure drops, such as self-cleaning water softening systems, sprinkler systems or automatic refilling of a heating system.

If you happen to be on a well system, variations of water pressure are normal. Some folks who are accustomed to the constant pressure of "city water" are astounded at the difference! Showers have to be carefully planned around toilet flushes, dishwashing and, of course, the laundry. Or else there may be lots of screaming!

Residential well systems operate within a range of pressures. Keeping the pressure absolutely constant would require the pump to cycle on every time you drew water, increasing the wear on the pump dramatically. This would also cause you to experience a "pulsing" in the water as each cycle of the pump moves water.

You should also investigate whether your home has an automatic pressure adjusting system. Some municipal water supplies have such high pressure that residents install pressure-reducing equipment. A malfunction with this system could possibly cause unwanted pressure variations.

Of course, there could be other hidden factors I have missed. In which case you might want to have a plumber inspect your system for other pressure "bottlenecks".

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