While private well ownership does come with its financial and overall health advantages over municipal city water, well owners are well aware that private well systems aren’t without their own problems.
One of the most common issues a private well owner might encounter is low water pressure.
And while the solution for fixing a low water pressure problem is a fairly straightforward process, uncovering the reason for slow, weakened water pressure from within the household may require some investigation.
We will explain the different causes for why a household might experience low water pressure and provide effective methods for increasing it.
This article will discuss the following:
- What Causes Low Water Pressure?
- Low Water Pressure Troubleshooting
- How to Increase Water Pressure from a Well
- Reviews on the Best Water Pressure Booster Pumps, Constant Pressure Valves, and Constant Pressure Systems
Editor's Choice for Best Water Pressure Booster Pump
- For 10-50 Incoming PSI
- Up to 50 PSI Pressure Boost
Davey Water Products features a stainless steel, durable, high-powered booster pump for increasing PSI within a well system. Read our review at the end of the article.
- What Causes Low Water Pressure?
- Low Water Pressure Troubleshooting
- How to Increase Water Pressure From a Well
- Best Water Pressure Booster Pumps
- Best Constant Pressure Valves
- Best Variable Frequency Drive for a Constant Pressure System
What Causes Low Water Pressure?
Low water pressure is characterized by slow or weakened water flow as it exits any home fixture such as a faucet, shower head, or garden hose. While the effects of low water pressure are easy to recognize, it is not uncommon for home owners to confuse the term water pressure with other well-related terms such as flow rate and volume.
Before explaining the different possible causes for low water pressure, it is important to understand the differences between water pressure, flow rate, and volume.
Water Pressure is the amount of pressure, measured in PSI (pounds per square inch), that is exerted within the piping system and out of the fixtures. In a standard pressure system, water pressure is regulated through a working relationship between the pressure tank, well pump, and the pressure switch.
Flow Rate, measured in GPM (gallons per minute), refers to the amount water and speed at which the entire well system can provide the household with. For example, a well system with a flow rate of 8 GPM can provide a household with 8 gallons of water per minute. Flow rate is dependent on a number of factors including the strength of the well pump and the capacity of the well.
The Volume of the well, refers to the actual quantity of groundwater within the aquifer itself. Even if a well system has a large enough flow rate, it is still dependent on the volume of water under the earth’s surface. The volume of water in the well is dependent on a number of factors including the size of the aquifer, the rate at which water is being pumped, and the rate at which groundwater is being recovered from the surface.
Pressure Tank and Well Pump Problems
A well system relies on a functioning relationship between the well pump, the pressure tank, and the pressure switch. One of the most common causes of poor water pressure is due to a problem from within the system itself. If any of the components of a well system fail, it may result in an immediate drop in water pressure or very inconsistent pressure.
Short Cycling is a term used to describe when the well pumping is turning on and off too frequently. These rapid intervals may not allow the pressure tank to fill completely which may result in very inconsistent water pressure, varying from high to low within a short amount of time.
Perforated or Leaking Pressure Tank - A damaged pressure tank will certainly not be able to contain the amount of pressure required to run the well system. Damages such as a perforated diaphragm or excessive leaking are better resolved by replacing the tank rather than attempting to repair them.
Blockage or Narrow Pipes
When water pipes are too narrow to provide enough water due to build-up or insufficient structural width, the problem being experienced isn’t a cause of poor pressure but poor flow rate. The PSI of the well system may very well read adequately but water just isn’t moving freely enough.
High concentrations of minerals in well water such as iron, calcium, and magnesium can build up within the water pipes causing lower water pressure. This is often the case when the system pressure is within normal range but the water coming out of the fixtures is slow. Prevention of pipe blockage can be done by installing a water softener or iron filter to reduce hard water.
A well system’s water pressure may suffer if the water pipes themselves are too narrow to provide an adequate enough flow rate for the household. Similar to having clogged pipes, the system PSI would read as expected, however, water from the faucets and fixtures will be flowing at too weak a rate. In this case, finding the choke point at which the pipes are too narrow for water to flow and replacing them with wider pipes would be the best solution.
Clogged Aerators or Shower Heads
Just as is the case with blocked pipes, poor water pressure isn’t always a result of the system failing to provide enough PSI. Poor water pressure may be experienced right at the point of exit due to clogged faucet aerators or calcified shower heads.
Hard water can cause build up at the point of exit just as easily as it can calcify within the pipes themselves. It is important to check the aerators and shower heads for calcification as it might very well be the source of poor water flow. Aerators and shower heads are fairly inexpensive to replace and may be an easy solution to a low-pressure problem.
Greater Demand than Flow Rate Will Provide
A well system’s flow rate is the amount of water that can be supplied to the household within a certain amount of time. Usually measured in gallons per minute, a well system’s GPM is dependent on the speed of the well pump and the capacity of the well itself. For example, a well pump with a GPM of 8 is able to provide 8 gallons of water to the household every minute.
The larger the household, the more fixtures which release water, thus the demand for water increases. When the demand for water exceeds the flow rate that the well pump can provide, the strength at which the water exits the fixtures can suffer. This isn’t necessarily an issue of water pressure in terms of low PSI, but more of an issue of the flow rate not meeting the demands of the household.
In cases as these, the well pump might not be powerful enough to provide the household with the flow rate it needs especially during peak hours.
Reduced Volume of Aquifer
Not all causes of low water pressure come from within the well system but may be due to the conditions of the groundwater itself. Well systems draw their water from aquifers, underground porous rock formations which groundwater flows freely through. While it’s often difficult to accurately determine the volume of groundwater within an aquifer, the groundwater is actually finite and can be used up if pumped excessively.
Depending on the size of the aquifer, the number of years the well system has been withdrawing water, and the quantity of water being pumped, groundwater depletion is a reality that a well owner may have to, at some point, come to terms with.
Fortunately, the earth has a natural system for replenishing the aquifers with groundwater through the hydrologic cycle. As rainwater seeps into the earth, the aquifers naturally recover their volume of water. In fact, it is not uncommon for aquifers to fluctuate in volume depending on the season.
Consequently, an aquifer with a low volume of water, whether it be due to seasonal drought or excessive pumping, may result in the well system having low pressure simply because volume isn’t meeting the demand. Problems of low volume are typically remedied by reducing the daily amount of water use and implementing a more conservative regimen.
Low Water Pressure Troubleshooting
Before attempting to implement a means to increase water pressure, it is important to identify the source of the problem and address it accordingly. As discussed previously, a decrease in perceived water pressure may be a result of low PSI due to incorrect pressure settings, but it may also be due to inadequate flow rate or even well capacity. Attempting to solve the problem with an incorrect solution might not fix the pressure and may even complicate it further.
Check the Pressure Tank
One of the first troubleshooting tasks that can be performed is to check that the pressure tank is functioning properly and to take note of the system’s current pressure setting.
- Make sure to switch off the power supply to the well pump then drain all the water from the tank by opening a faucet until the water stops flowing.
- Locate and remove the air valve on top of the pressure tank. If water is leaking through the valve, this may be an indicator of a ruptured bladder and thus the tank will need to be replaced.
- Read the air pressure within the tank by attaching the pressure gauge to the air valve. The pressure should be about 2 PSI lower than the system’s cut-in pressure. For example, a system on a 30/50 pressure setting should have 28 PSI of pressure in the tank.
- If the pressure in the tank reads lower than what it should be, air needs to be added via an air compressor. Test the pressure once again after several minutes to ensure there is no air leak.
Check Pipes, Shower Heads, and Aerators
If the pressure reading is as it should be, the problem may be of low flow rate rather than low pressure. Be sure to check showerheads and aerators on the all the fixtures to make sure there is no blockage or sediment at the exit point. Replace clogged aerators and showerheads as needed or clean them with vinegar and baking soda.
It may be necessary to have a plumber inspect the integrity of the pipes to determine if blockage has accumulated within them, preventing water from flowing fully. Replacing blocked or poorly sized pipes can allow water to flow more freely, increasing the flow rate.
Check Additional Appliances
Additional appliances such as carbon filters, iron filters, or water softeners can often become clogged which can certainly impede the flow rate. Be sure to inspect the filters and make sure cartridges are replaced timely and accordingly.
Incorrectly sized appliances can also negatively affect the flow rate of the well system. Be sure additional applications are properly sized before installing them into the well system.
How to Increase Water Pressure From a Well
If it’s been determined that the pressure tank and well pump are working correctly, and there isn’t any blockage within the pipes or faucets, then the problem may just be that the household demands more than what the system can provide. In this case, it may be necessary to make adjustments to the pressure setting or install additional components to improve flow rate.
Increase Pressure Setting on the Pressure Switch
Standard pressure systems rely on a set pressure setting to determine when the well pump turns on and off. With the low number representing the PSI which turns the pump on and the high number representing the PSI which turns the pump off, typical pressure settings on a standard pressure system are 20/40, 30/50, or 40/60.
As expected, the higher the pressure setting, the more pressure used throughout the well system. By increasing the pressure setting on the pressure switch, one could expect to have better water pressure flowing through the faucets. For example, a system set to 30/50 could improve upon water pressure if it were increased to a 40/60 setting, provided that the well pump is sized to sustain a 40/60 setting.
In order to increase the pressure setting, first shut off the power supply to the pressure switch to avoid any potential electrical injury. Use a screwdriver or wrench to turn the dial clockwise incrementally toward the desired setting. Most pressure switch manufacturers will indicate where and how to adjust the pressure setting on the pressure switch.
Keep in mind, increasing the cut-out pressure past 60 psi may cause damage and leakage to fixtures, thus it is best not to set it any higher than 40/60.
Video: How to Adjust a Pressure Switch
Watch this instructional video by RC Worst about how to adjust a pressure switch.
Install Additional or Larger Pressure Tank
Because a standard pressure system relies on the regular filling and dispensing of the pressure tank, there will be noticeable fluctuations in water pressure during pump cycling as water comes out of the faucets, especially during peak hours.
Replacing the pressure tank with a larger tank or installing an additional pressure tank can increase the drawdown capacity of the well system, accommodating a greater demand during peak usage and providing steadier water pressure for longer periods of time.
For example, if most of the water in the household is used between 6pm and 9pm, a larger drawdown capacity will provide more pressurized water before the pump needs to kick back in. This will limit the amount of cycles during peak hours. Less cycling means less fluctuation in pressure.
Keep in mind that a larger or additional pressure tank will not increase pressure past the setting on the pressure switch.
Install Constant Pressure Valve
A constant pressure valve, also known as a cycle stop valve or pressure reducing valve, is a mechanical device designed to maintained a constant flow of water by reducing the number of pump cycles.
A typical standard pressure system relies on the well pump and pressure tank to provide water pressure through a series of on and off cycles. While the pressure tank is designed to save the pump from unnecessary usage by storing pressurized water, the wear on the pump is more likely to come from frequent starting and stopping rather than constant usage.
In addition, fluctuations in water pressure are caused by pump cycling and the continuous filling and dispensing of the water tank.
The constant pressure valve provides two main advantages.
First, it reduces wear on the pump by reducing the number of cycles. It does this by bypassing the pressure tank during peak hours of usage, eliminating the need for the pump to keep cycling on and off when water is being used for an extended period of time.
For example, in a standard pressure system, when a washing machine, shower, or dishwasher is being used, the pump will need to cycle on and off several times to accommodate the water need. The constant pressure valve avoids this by bypassing the pressure tank, allowing the pump to remain on the entire the entire duration of usage. This significantly reduces the number of times the pump cycles on and off and can significantly prolong the life of the pump.
The second advantage of the constant pressure valve is its ability to maintain a constant stream of pressure without fluctuations. In a standard pressure system of 40/60, significant fluctuations in pressure can be felt as the pressure drops from 60 to 40 PSI during cycling. A constant pressure valve forces the system to remain at a constant pressure in the middle of the pressure setting (in this case, 50 PSI), so that a constant stream of pressure will be felt throughout the duration of usage.
Constant pressure valves are fairly easy to install and require no electronics to power it.
Install a Water Pressure Booster Pump
In certain cases, the cause for low pressure may be due to there being an extended distance between the well pump and the point of exit. In homes or buildings with multiple stories, the well pump must contend with gravity in order to supply the top floors with enough water. This can often cause a drop in flow rate for upper floor fixtures.
Similarly, some neighborhoods rely on a community well which supplies several different households with water. In these cases, homes which are at the end of the supply line typically experience lower water pressure than those which are at the front.
For situations where gravity and distance from the pump create a drop in water pressure, installing a booster pump may aid in increasing water pressure. A booster pump is a machine which uses a motor and impellers to increase water flow.
When installing a water pressure booster pump into a well system with a submersible pump, it is advised to have a pressure regulator valve so as not to over-pressurize the system. In addition, it is important that the total PSI which enters the home doesn't exceed building regulation code.
A typical set up would be to have the pressure regulator installed after the pressure tank, which then leads to the pressure booster. From there, the water line leads to the home.
Install a Constant Pressure System
A traditional standard pressure system relies on the well pump, pressure tank, and pressure switch to regulate the ebb and flow of the system’s PSI, and the well pump has only two settings: on and off. Because of the large fluctuations between high and low pressures, noticeable changes in pressure can be felt as water is being used.
A constant pressure system involves different components: a variable speed pump which adjusts speed according to usage and a variable frequency drive which controls the speed of the pump.
Because a constant pressure system is able to recognize how much water is needed at each given moment, a more constant stream of pressure is achieved during water usage. For example, when a shower is being used, the variable speed pump will turn on at a speed that is necessary to provide enough water pressure for the shower and will remain on until the shower is no longer used. This eliminates the fluctuations in pressure caused by the constant filling and dispensing of the pressure tank used in a standard pressure system.
Similarly, when a simple faucet is turned on, the variable speed pump will turn on at a much slower speed, providing the necessary amount of water for the faucet. When a larger fixture such as a dishwasher is used, the pump will run much faster.
There are several major benefits to using a constant pressure system versus a standard pressure system.
Less Fluctuations in Pressure - The most obvious benefit is the consistency in water pressure despite the amount of water being used. A standard pressure system’s well pump can only turn on or off and is unable to recognize the actual demand, thus a large pressure tank is necessary to store the excess water and dispense it as needed. As the pressure tank’s volume empties, water pressure drops along with it.
The variable speed pump of a constant pressure system adjusts according to the need and doesn’t rely on a large pressure tank to regulate pressure. Thus, more consistent, city-like water pressure is experienced whenever any fixture is turned on.
Less Wear on the Pump - Similar to a car’s engine or a computer’s hard drive, most of the wear doesn’t happen during steady usage but during frequent on and off cycles. A well pump’s lifespan is significantly shortened the more it cycles on and off.
Because of the nature of a constant pressure system, a variable speed pump is able to remain on for longer due to its ability to adjust speeds as necessary, avoiding unnecessary on and off cycling. Variable speed pumps are known to have longer pump life as compared to standard pressure well pumps.
Best Water Pressure Booster Pumps
Water pressure booster pumps can significantly improve upon water pressure especially in upper floors of multi-story homes and buildings or in units at the end of a supply line. The following reviews offer details on the best water pressure booster pumps for improving water pressure.
- For 10-50 Incoming PSI
- Up to 50 PSI Pressure Boost
The BT20-30 pressure booster pump by Davey Water Products is ideal for well owners whose incoming pressure ranges between 10-50 PSI. When installed after the pressure tank, just before the water line enters the home, the Davey pressure booster can improve upon water pressure up to 50 PSI.
It features a 120 degree temperature rating for heat resistance and stainless steel impellers for durability and rust-resistance when transferring water through the system. The durable motor is designed to withstand frequent starts and stops and is resistant to dust and dirt.
The electronic controller features power surge protection, an LED check light, and corrosion and scale resistance.
Davey Water Products is an Australian company who has provided the world with quality water products for over 80 years.
More sizes in this series:
Grundfos is a long-time trusted manufacturer in the well pumping industry. The MQ3-35 pressure booster is a quiet, self-priming pump which is able to increase water pressure to the home. It features automatic pressure adjustment which adjusts according to the amount of incoming pressure from the well. The dry run safety feature automatically shuts the pump off when no water is being used.
More Sizes in this Series:
The Simer pressure booster pump is a durable, corrosion-resistant, stainless steel pump which adds up to 40 PSI of water pressure.
Best Constant Pressure Valves
For those who wish to avoid installing an additional pressure booster pump or replacing the entire system with a variable speed pump, a simple installation of a constant pressure valve may solve the low pressure problem without having to reconfigure the entire system.
The CSV1A is the premier product for constant pressure valves and attachments. The simple and effective design allows for automatic adjustments to match the variable demand. Requiring no outside power, the CSV1A is the most effective valve for maintaining constant pressure without requiring a variable speed pump.
- Complete System with Tank
With a cycle stop valve, the need for a large pressure tank becomes null since most of the water pressure will be come directly from the pump. A smaller, more compact pressure tank which sits directly underneath the valve is much more practical.
Th Pside-Kick features the complete system with the cycle stop valve, pressure switch, and 2 gallon pressure tank.
Best Variable Frequency Drive for a Constant Pressure System
Installing a constant pressure system is major decision usually made prior to implementing a well system in the first place. Unless the previously installed submersible pump already features variable speed capability, changing from a standard pressure system to a constant pressure system may require the complete reconfiguration of the well pump, pressure tank, and pump controller.
Should the decision to switch to a constant pressure system be made, a variable frequency drive with a compatible variable speed pump will be required. Variable frequency drives may be retrofitted to existing well systems but compatibility between pump and drive must first be established.
- 3 Phase
- 1 Year Warranty
Goulds, a trusted company in well water pump manufacturing, features the Aquavar SOLO 2, a variable frequency pump controller able to provide constant pressure via a variable speed pump.
The Aquavar SOLO 2 features simple wiring and menu set-up for easy operation. Perhaps the most valuable feature of the Aquavar SOLO 2 is its retrofitting capability, recognizing compatibility with a large number of pump manufacturers. This reduces the need for replacing a previously installed pump.
More sizes in this series:
For those who have moved from the city to a rural home which relies on well water, a change in water pressure is often noticed. Causes for low water pressure can be related to pressure tank or well pump problems, blockage of pipes, clogged aerators, high demand, and depleted aquifers.
When diagnosing the problem, it is important to recognize the difference between water pressure, flow rate, and volume or capacity of the well. Be sure to check the pressure tank, pipes, and any other additional appliance integrated into the system such as a water softener.
Some of the most effective ways of increasing water pressure is to raise the setting on the pressure switch, install an additional pressure tank, install a constant pressure valve, install a pressure booster, or change to a constant pressure system.
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