The ideal well water pressure for a home falls between 40 and 60 psi.
This will vary from home to home, of course, but here are some general rules of thumb to guide you:
How to Test Water Pressure for a Well Water System
Water pressure fluctuation is common in rural households that depend on a private well as the primary water source. Sometimes, opening multiple faucets slows the flow of water and may even stop it entirely.
While these are the telltale signs of reduced water pressure in your plumbing system, you don’t need to work on intuition alone. You can check the water pressure yourself to confirm it’s below the desired limit.
Get a pressure gauge. You can buy one from a supermarket or online marketplace. They are fairly cheap and will last a long time. Be sure to match the size to your outdoor faucet or hose bib. You may require a multi-adapter fitting if the sizes don’t match.
Turn off all faucets, taps, shower heads, and water sprinklers in the house. In short, stop the flow of water everywhere in the house.
Attach the gauge to the outermost faucet, closest to the well system (pressure tank). In most cases, it’s the hose bib.
Leave it there for a few minutes and keep an eye on the readings. You’re looking for a pressure reading greater than 35 psi and lower than 70 psi. Anything lower than 30 psi needs attention. Most pressure tanks have pressure switch factory settings of either 30/50 or 40/60 psi. If the pressure is lower than expected, click here for possible solutions.
A 30/50 psi system means that when the pressure drops to 30 psi, the pressure switch sends a signal, and the well pump kicks on. The well pump continues to extract water until the pressure in the tank reaches 50 psi, also known as cut-off pressure.
What Causes Low Pressure in a Well Water System?
Sudden pressure drop in well water could be due to a variety of causes, but the following circumstances are the most common issues faced by homeowners.
Your pressure well tank is faulty.
Most of the time, a faulty pressure tank is what causes a drop in water pressure. Check the air pressure in the tank but first turn off the power. A typical tire pressure gauge would do just fine for this job. Keep in mind the pressure should be 2 psi less than the cut-on pressure of the tank.
So, a standard 40/60 psi pressure tank should have at least 38 psi of air pressure. Anything less than that would result in low water pressure.
Suppose low air pressure is the actual problem. All you have to do is hook the pressure tank with an air compressor and charge the compressed air until it reaches the required pressure. Once done, your water system will be good as new.
Sometimes, aging or damaged diaphragms (also called bladders), which regulate the pressure within the well pump, can weaken water pressure.
Damaged pressure switches, as well, might give false readings and disrupt the system. If that’s the case, replace the pressure switch, which is fairly cheap and can be found at any hardware store.
Your pressure tank settings are inaccurate.
Most tanks have a 30/50 psi setting, but sometimes this pressure is not enough for adequate flow around the house. Luckily, you can change the default settings if you have pressure that is too low.
Maintaining water pressure between 40–60 psi is recommended for well water systems. It’s important to periodically test the water pressure to ensure it falls within this range and detect any issues early on. Developing the skill of checking water pressure can prevent further problems with your well water system.
To change the setting, remove the cap and find a nut attached to a spring. By tightening (clockwise) or loosening (anticlockwise) the nut, you can increase and decrease the operating pressure.
A rule of thumb is that one complete turn equals 2–3 psi. So, to change from a 30/50 to 40/60 psi system, simply rotate the net 3½ times in a clockwise direction. This will increase water pressure in the house.
If changing the pressure setting doesn’t solve the issue, the problem might be in the pressure switch, pressure tank, or blockage in pipes.
You have a leaky air fill valve.
Another quick diagnostic you can do is check for any leakages. Even the smallest leak may drop the water pressure. The main areas to look out for are joints, bents, and valves. The air fill valve, which is used to charge air in the tank, is a perfect place to start. Use soapy water to check for any air leakages within that region.
If water starts leaking through the air fill valve, you’re out of luck. Most probably, the diaphragm in the pressure tank is ruptured and needs replacement. This usually happens when the tank is too old.
Your pipes are clogged.
Groundwater is full of sediment and minerals that are otherwise not present in city water. If water quality is not kept under check, it can easily build debris and limescale in the pipes, obstructing water supply.
To check if this might be the case, examine faucets and showerheads. Usually, a showerhead clogged by limescale is a telltale sign of similar deposits inside the piping system.
Taps and faucets can be easily cleaned, sometimes fixing the problem. Cleaning the whole piping system is rather difficult, and I recommend having your pipes inspected by a licensed local plumber for this.
Use a water softener treatment system to prevent hard water from blocking your system. This also brings us to the next problem.
Water treatment systems and filters are installed in the home.
Water treatment and filter systems make water safe and healthy, but they require routine maintenance. Most filters can clog up, requiring frequent replacement. Irregular replacement can seriously hinder the flow of water.
Water treatment systems are more complex but need less maintenance than simple filters. They are usually installed at the entrance point of water systems and can directly affect the flow of water.
Regular inspection of your systems as well as proper filter replacement will alert you of any sediment buildup or other faults in the water treatment system, filter, or adjacent pipe system that may be causing a drop in water pressure.
How Do You Fix Low Pressure in a Well Water System?
If adjusting the settings on the pressure tank doesn’t solve your problem, you may have to look into additional solutions.
Install booster pumps.
Sometimes the problem isn’t in the system. Rather, the water consumption has gone up. This might happen if the family gets bigger or the weather gets too hot.
At times, low water pressure only occurs on the second floor, which is a good indicator that the well pump struggles to work against gravity.
All of this can be solved by installing a water pressure booster pump. They are easy to install and affordable. Look out for a pump that has a built-in pressurized tank. It’s more convenient and gives stabilized pressure.
Install a constant pressure system.
Constant pressure systems are also becoming a popular choice among homeowners. It’s a system attached at the point of entry of the water system. Its job is to maintain constant pressure in the tank, just below 1–2 psi of cut-off pressure.
As soon as you open a faucet and water pressure drops the slightest, generally 2 psi, this constant pressure system sends a signal to the well pump, which turns on and starts the flow.
However, this system is not as energy efficient. The well pump has to work continuously to maintain pressure during usage and runs for higher pump cycles. They cost around $1,000 to replace.
Get a bigger well submersible pump.
Okay, this is a last resort if all else fails. Replacing the smaller well pump with a larger well pump simply means more flow rate (gallons per minute) and an increase in pressure. Submersible pumps are actually quite expensive, and you may need to contact your local well contractor for this.
High Pressure in Well Water
Having too much pressure is rare and can be due to faulty pressure settings. Make sure to keep the cut-off value of the pressure tank below 80 psi.
High pressure can seriously harm appliances and burst the plumbing system. It’ll also overwork the well pump and make it run for a continuous cycle.
Keep in Mind: Water Flow Rate and Water Pressure
Two common plumbing terms that are often confused are water pressure and flow rate, also flow capacity.
Water pressure refers to the absolute pressure in the pressure tank and is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). You can adjust water pressure settings at the tank. Flow rate is the volume of water pumped by the submersible motor and is measured in gallons per minute (gpm). It’s an intrinsic property of the well pump, and you can’t adjust it.
In other words, flow rate is the volume of water coming out of a single faucet over a small chunk of time, and water pressure is the force pushing that water toward the faucet. Think of the flow rate as the water coming out of a single faucet and the water pressure as the water in the entire property.
The ideal pressure for an average family of three to four people is 40–60 psi, with an average flow rate of 5–8 gpm.
Low water pressure can be a real bummer. Now that you are well aware of the possible problems that could cause low pressure in the well system, you can identify the culprit and find a solution.
Be sure to go through all the diagnostic checks I pointed out above before buying new pumps and pressure tanks. Sometimes a simple fix goes a long way and saves you tons of money.