Pressure Reducing Valves
Everything Homeowners Need to Know About Pressure Reducing Valves
High water pressure may sound like a good thing when it comes to taking a shower or washing dishes, but in some cases, it’s not something you want straining your pipes and fixtures. Don’t get us wrong—nobody wants to take a shower under low water pressure. However, there’s a difference between decent pressure and high pressure.
High water pressure can do a lot of damage to your plumbing system and the structural integrity of your home. Not to mention, your bank account. Luckily, there are pressure reducing valves to contend with that issue.
You may not even know if you have or need a water pressure reducing valve installed. That’s why we’ve put together a straight forward and simple guide revealing everything a homeowner needs to know about pressure reducing valves. Keep reading to learn more about what a pressure reducing valve does and why you want your home to have one.
What Is a Pressure Reducing Valve?
A pressure reducing valve (PRV) is exactly what it sounds like—a mechanism that reduces the pressure of your home’s water flow. Pressure reducing valves are set up next to the shut-off valve on the main water line, but not every home comes with one pre-installed. Their primary purpose is to regulate your home’s water flow to a specific and consistent pressure, regardless of any fluctuations in your municipal system pressure. We’ll get to water pressure fluctuations later.
Pressure reducing valves work by causing resistance. When you turn your water on from whichever fixture in your home, the water from the main line gets sent through a valve with a spring diaphragm. That spring diaphragm tightens when it senses high pressure which is what causes the resistance that lowers your water pressure to a safe and desired level.
The “perfect level” of water pressure averages between 40 and 60 psi, depending on the area you live in. In some cases, the average level ranges up to 70 psi. A pressure of 80 psi or above violates code and becomes a danger to your pipes. The sweet spot for most homeowners is at 50 psi.
In areas of high elevation or that have a large number of high-rise buildings often have municipal water system that pump water at extremely high pressures. The purpose of pumping out higher water pressures—often at or above 100 psi—is to ensure that the water reaches these higher elevations with a decent level of pressure.
Why Pressure Matters
There are quite a few reasons why your water pressure matters. If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that no one enjoys a low-pressure shower—especially in the wintertime. Additionally, the use of every fixture and appliance in your home from your water heater to your faucets depends on their ability to put out a certain level of pressure. They’re also designed to withstand a certain amount of pressure over time.
The level of pressure your fixtures and appliances can handle is between 60 and 80 psi. That goes for your pipes and pipe joints, showerheads, faucets, toilets, washing machine, water heater—and anything else that pulls water from the main line. Over time, all of these fixtures and appliances become worn down. However, they’ll become worn down much quicker by consistently high water pressure.
High water pressure is expensive to manage. It can cause all sorts of problems from small leaks to black mold and serious structural damage. These problems aren’t usually noticeable until it’s too late, for example, when a pipe bursts or a hose rips open. They’re even worse when they happen while you’re at work or on vacation.
Having high water pressure also means that more water is being used for your normal, everyday water-related tasks. Not only will this inflate your water bill, but it’s also damaging to the environment. Plus, it’s expensive to replace your pipes, fixtures, and appliances.
How High Water Pressure Affects Your Home
As mentioned above, there are quite a few fixtures, appliances, and so on that allow water to either flow freely or that use it for a specific purpose. Each water-related function is different. That means the water pressure needed will vary upon use and function, as will the temperature.
Let’s take a closure look at the water-based appliances and fixtures in your home and how high water pressure affects them differently:
Most homes have a conventional tank-type water heater run by either gas or electricity. The thing about water is that we often forget it’s a molecule very much affected by the elements. When water heats up, like all molecules, it expands. Water heater tanks are designed with science in mind, therefore, they’re able to accommodate this expansion via an expansion tank.
However, if your water pressure is too high, your water heater tank is at risk of filling up with too much water. If your water heater is filling up beyond capacity due to high water pressure, it won’t be able to accommodate the water’s expansion when it heats up. Eventually, you’ll end up with a leak, or worse—a burst water tank.
A burst water tank equates to thousands of dollars worth of damage from flooding. Plus, the cost of a new water heater tank.
Toilets and Other Plumbing Fixtures
All of your plumbing fixtures are designed to handle a maximum water pressure of 80 psi. Keeping in mind that 80 psi is already considered too high, exceeding that amount of pressure is asking for all kinds of trouble.
Consistent high water pressure can cause your toilet to run non-stop, leading to gallons and gallons of costly water wasted. It’ll also damage all of the flushing components in your tank. Additionally, your other plumbing fixtures like faucets and showerheads tend to cave under consistent high pressure.
The cartridges within these fixtures aren’t designed for consistent high water pressure. You’ll notice the damage in time when there are leaks, cracks, spitting, and banging noises (water hammer). If you let these symptoms go on for too long, you may end up with a burst pipe—another extremely costly fix.
Washing Machines and Other Appliances
High water pressure will also take its toll on your washing machine and dishwasher. Much like your plumbing fixtures and toilets, your water-using appliances are only built to withstand water pressure up to 80 psi.
The worst-case scenario is that the inlet hoses attached to these appliances will crack or completely separate. This can cause a considerable amount of flooding, and once again, a costly fix. Of course, even if you don’t end up with a broken hose or a leak, your appliances will have a shorter life span due to the constant pressure. Those machines aren’t cheap either!
How To Check Your Home’s Water Pressure
It’s typical for most homes built after the 1980s to have water pressure reducing valves. However, pressure reducing valves are mechanical mechanisms—they don’t last forever. Regardless of whether your home has one or not, you may notice some high-pressure water symptoms from your fixtures or appliances. In that case, you’ll want to check your home’s water pressure just to be sure.
To check your home’s water pressure, you’ll need a pressure gauge. Water pressure gauges are designed to fit onto your outdoor spigot. You can find them at most home improvement stores, and they typically screw right on as a fixture. For an accurate reading, all you have to do is open the spigot and the sensors within the gauge will measure your water pressure and pick up on any fluctuations.
Of course, if you are noticing any high-pressure water symptoms, your best bet is to call a professional who can assess your water pressure and any potential damage.
Pipe Leaks, Bursts, and Pressure Fluctuations
Pipe leaks, bursts, and pressure fluctuations are among the symptoms of have a high water pressure problem. If there’s an issue, your pipes will be very vocal about it, which is good if you’re paying attention. For example, you may notice fluctuations in your water pressure while you’re showering. You may also notice a leaky faucet, or as we previously mentioned, a toilet that constantly runs. Those are all symptoms of a high water pressure issue.
If you’ve ever shut your water off and subsequently heard a loud banging noise, that’s another symptom of high water pressure. That loud banging noise is commonly called “water hammer,” and it’s the sound of very fast-moving water coming to a sudden halt within your plumbing system.
The consistent high water pressure running through your pipes will most likely weaken your pipe joints before anything else. Worn down pipe joints are precisely what leads to small, invisible leaks. Small invisible leaks eventually become larger leaks, which lead to toxic black mold and cracks within your walls and around your fixtures.
Once these invisible leaks become visible, it’s already too late. Small leaks can turn into burst pipes, causing flooding and extensive water damage to your home. It’s also important to note that water pressure fluctuations alone aren’t always a direct symptom of high water pressure. Water pressure may fluctuate depending on your proximity to your municipal water system, the size of your water main, valve issues, pipeline blockages, and so on.
How Much Do Pressure Reducing Valves Cost?
Pressure reducing valves can cost as low as $50 or as high as $500, depending on whether you have it done professionally or do it yourself. The job can be done without professional help, but it’s a rather detailed project. Installing your own pressure reducing valve involves cutting out a section of your water main line and soldering on the valve. This may require purchasing more materials if you don’t already have the proper tools.
Your pressure reducing valve must be installed correctly—there’s no margin for error. So, aside from doing the job right, you also must keep up with maintenance. Your water pressure reducing valve should be tested every twelve months and will likely need minor repairs every three to five years. If you keep up with the proper maintenance measures, your pressure reducing valve will last you a good ten to twenty years before it needs to be replaced completely.
$400 may sound like a lot of money to shell out at once, but having a pressure reducing valve installed by a professional is much cheaper than replacing an entire basement and water heater tank or a cracked and soaked ceiling caked in toxic black mold.
Does My Home Need a Pressure Reducing Valve?
If you’re unsure of whether or not you need a pressure reducing valve, or if the one you have needs to be replaced, the first thing you want to do is check your water pressure. As mentioned, you can do this by purchasing and installing a gauge from your local home improvement store or scheduling a maintenance checkup with a plumbing professional.
You’ll also what to look out for any of the signs and symptoms of high water pressure. Here’s a recap:
- You’re experiencing a significant loss of water pressure
- Your water pressure fluctuates consistently
- You’ve completely lost all water pressure
- There’s a hammering or vibrating noise coming from your walls
- Your fixtures are constantly leaking
- Your toilet is constantly running
- You notice that your water bill is inflated
- You notice cracks around your fixtures, in your walls or tiles
- Your toilets, fixtures, and appliances need constant repairs or replacing
Keep in mind that many of these symptoms alone don’t always equate to high water pressure. For example, if your faucet starts dripping, it could mean that cartridge needs to be replaced. However, if your faucet is leaking in conjunction with a hammering noise and a constantly running toilet, it’s a safe bet that you have a high water pressure issue.
Don’t Hesitate With High Water Pressure
If we said it once, we’ll say it again—high water pressure is a danger to your home. If you’re experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, don’t wait to call in a professional—especially if you don’t already have a high pressure reducing valve. High pressure reducing valves can save you a lot of time, money, and energy on damages and losses.
If you’re facing a high water pressure emergency or have any questions about our services, we’re here for you 24/7. Contact us today to see how we can help you.