You may notice a drop in the water pressure in your plumbing system, especially during cold seasons like winter. It can be annoying since you need more pressure in the winter for better heating. You shouldn’t worry too much about this since you can easily thaw your pipes to restore the water pressure in your home.
Cold weather can cause low water pressure due to frozen pipes, burst pipes, leaking pipes, and increased water demand by users within your water supply line. You should maintain your plumbing system to maintain its functioning during cold conditions, including thawing frozen pipes.
This post will explain why cold weather can cause low water pressure and other plumbing problems, giving you a suitable approach to maintaining the functionality of your plumbing system in cold conditions. Read on!
Can Cold Weather Cause Low Water Pressure?
Ice may form in your pipes and alter the water pressure if temperatures are too low (below 0°C/32°F) during the cold season. Water will pass through the pipes but at low pressure.
Also, a lack of water pressure can occur when the weather is below freezing, and the water hasn’t flowed for a while. This can, in turn, burst the valve and cause flooding in the house since water expands when it turns into ice.
How Does Cold Weather Affect Your Plumbing System?
As previously mentioned, cold weather can alter your plumbing system. Here are various ways that cold weather can affect your plumbing fixtures:
1. Clogs and Bursts Pipes
If your plumbing pipes get too cold, the water inside will likely become ice. The ice accumulation inside the pipes will affect the water flow rate and lower the overall water pressure.
If the pipes are filled with ice, you won’t have any water in your shower and other fixtures. Additionally, your pipes can burst due to the excess pressure from the ice.
It is scientifically proven that water expands when it freezes. This expansion can cause unnecessary pressure on your pipes and make them burst. Burst pipes can also cause flood in your home.
2. Strains Water Heaters
Water heaters are more likely to wear and tear when they struggle to release the required hot water. Stressing water heaters also exposes them to problems needing repair or replacement.
Typically, during cold weather, the supply pipes deliver less water to the water heater due to low pressure. This can strain your water heater, and you can easily notice signs such as a rusty water heater, high energy bills, low water temperature from the heater, and a leaking water heater.
3. Clogs Drains
Grease and oil can easily solidify and clog your drain during cold weather. To solve this problem, you must pour hot water into the drain to break down the grease clogs. Alternatively, you can avoid disposing of oils and fats in your sink during cold seasons.
Signs That Your Pipes are Frozen and How to Thaw Them
Here are the most common signs you can use to identify frozen pipes:
Sewage has a distinctive unpleasant smell when there is something wrong. If you realize a strong odor from your sinks, drains, and toilets, this can indicate broken or frozen pipes.
Pay close attention to toilets, sinks, and drains on the lower side of your home or building to identify such problems.
2. Unusual Sounds
After flushing your toilet or using your sink, blocked air in the sewer line will cause a bubbling noise, often a sign of a broken pipe. You can observe other noises, such as whistling, rattling, or banging.
If a pipe is damaged or dented, there will be a small portion of the pipe that will allow water to flow, making it emit a whistling sound.
If your pipe produces a whistling sound, it is under high pressure, which can make them burst. All these may occur in cold weather due to the high pressure exerted by ice on frozen pipes. You may also have low toilet flush power.
3. Frequent Plumbing Problems
If you try turning on your water, nothing comes out of the faucet; something is wrong. Discolored water and water with odor can also signal a plumbing problem. The pipe can clog or break if the water is released at low pressure or in an uneven stream.
Consistent clogs are a sign of a plumbing problem. Broken pipes are not the main reason such problems exist but should also be addressed. If these problems repeatedly happen during a cold season, your pipes are frozen with ice.
4. Damp Drywall
Leaking pipes will dampen drywall and wet some surfaces of your ceiling. If this happens in cold weather, then your pipes are likely frozen. You can also observe water drops on a ceiling not close to the roofing.
Also, investigate any water puddles on surfaces where there should be no water. In addition, if you notice sinkholes in your yard, there is a broken pipe in the main underground pipes.
5. Iced or Wet Pipes
For pipes within the surface, it is easy to identify frost buildup, and there is condensation on the pipes. If you observe such signs, you should not turn on your faucet.
Bulging pipes may also signal freezing inside them. You should check for all pipes within your property since one frozen pipe may mean others are frozen too. After identifying frozen pipes, there are various effective steps for thawing the pipes to minimize any possible damage.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
You can successfully thaw your frozen pipes to prevent water damage with the help of the following step-by-step procedure:
1. Locate the frozen pipe
Open all faucets within your home to identify any signs of frozen pipes. Follow the plumbing line from the faucet some distance away to find the coldest part, likely the frozen region. Note that if one pipe is frozen, chances are that others are frozen as well.
2. Control the water running out
Shut down the water supply towards the frozen pipes. If the frozen pipe doesn’t thaw, allow some water to flow, then turn on your faucet for a surprise leak. Be prepared with a bucket and towels to wipe any icy water that splashes out.
3. Open the faucets
You must remove all water in your house by opening each shower, sink, and tub faucet and flushing every toilet at least once.
4. Heat things up
Apply heat to the pipe’s frozen areas using a hair dryer, electric heating pad, or portable space heater until you acquire an optimum water pressure. Ensure you warm the edge close to your plumbing outlet to allow steam to escape easily.
A space heater can also be good to supply warmth where necessary. However, never attempt to use a propane heater, blowtorch, or other open flames to heat your plumbing system.
As a word of caution, don’t heat plastic or other non-metal pipes for too long, as they’ll burn and cause leaks.
5. Gently restore water everywhere
As you turn on your water supply valve to supply water within your house, be careful to observe any leaks, and if you notice any, ensure you close the water supply and provide a possible fix.
How to Fix Low Water Pressure During Winter
Low water pressure during winter can be very frustrating. Luckily, you can easily fix it using the following methods:
1. Determine the Main Cause of Low Water Pressure
Before fixing the low water pressure, determine its main cause. During winter, water supply pipes may get frozen and prevent water from flowing to the faucets or shower heads. If pipes are partly blocked, this can affect the water flowing into your house and cause low water pressure in cold weather.
Additionally, low water pressure can be caused by increased demand for water. This can generally happen during winter since most people prefer taking long, warm showers to resist the cold. Also, more people are at home in winter than in other warmer seasons.
Additional reasons may include recently installing other plumbing fixtures in the bathroom or kitchen. This extra demand on the water supply can lead to lower water pressure.
2. Fix the Low Water Flow Problem
You may mistake a low water pressure for a low water volume. These two problems are unique. A low water flow indicates less water gets into the pipes than before.
Low water flow can be caused by hard water, iron, or sediments in your water supply. It can also occur due to clogged pipes resulting from the buildup of sediments and minerals.
It’s important to fix a low water flow issue before addressing your low water pressure problem. This can be done by cleaning the sediments from the pipes.
3. Identify if Low Water Pressure is Within all Parts of Your House
You should check for signs of low water pressure within every faucet and water outlet in your house. Allow water to run in all outlets simultaneously to discover if this problem occurs within one area or all parts of your house. Ensure you check all your plumbing fixtures available in your bathroom, kitchen, outdoors, and basement.
Your faucet or aerator is clogged if the low water pressure occurs within a certain region. If this is the case, remove this system and clean it intensively. Inspect to ensure that your aerator has no debris or buildup. If cleaning doesn’t solve your problem, consider getting a replacement.
Also, you should consider running hot and cold water through all faucets. If you notice low water pressure with only hot water, then your water heater has a problem that needs to be solved.
4. Inspect the Water Shut Off Valves
If you cannot solve the problem within one or two points, you have an overall low water pressure problem. You must inspect your Pressure Reducing Valves (PRV) and water shut-off valves within your home. They are the leading problems for low water pressure, especially during winter.
The PRV resembles a bell at your home’s water supply entry point. You can adjust it to observe a variation in the water pressure. To enhance the water pressure, turn the screw clockwise to tighten it.
Similarly, you should turn the screw counter-clockwise to lower the water pressure. If this doesn’t work, your valve is broken and needs a replacement.
5. Inspect Your Water Heater’s Shut-off Valve
If you notice low water pressure only when using hot water, your water heater’s shut-off valve has a problem. You can fix it by draining the water in the water supply valve.
Next, turn off the power and drain all water to prevent spills as you remove the shut-off valve. Remove the power line from the heater as you conduct this procedure for increased safety.
Next, ensure the sensor is functioning appropriately. If it is damaged, you will need to replace it. Later, use a wrench or an adjustable pair of pliers to loosen the shut-off valve. I noticed that most of them can’t be loosened by hand.
Inspect the O-ring and ensure it doesn’t have cracks or has become brittle. Clean the existing sealant and apply a fresh one. Lastly, plug in the sensor and reconnect the power line. You can turn on the water supply to identify if you have fixed the problem.
6. Invest in a Constant Pressure System
Other times, the water pressure will decrease at one faucet when another is turned on. To curb this problem, you can install a constant pressure system. You can connect this device to your basement at the point where water enters your house.
Its purpose is to maintain constant water pressure within all appliances and faucets. Typically, the constant pressure system will adjust the water pressure suitably depending on the demand for water in your house.
I had this issue between the upper floors and the lower floors in my house, such that opening faucets on the lower floors reduced the pressure in the faucets on the upper floors. I installed a constant pressure system and never had the issue again.
7. Find and Repair Leaks
Any leak within your plumbing line can cause low water pressure. Leaks mainly occur in the water supply line, toilets, and anywhere on the distribution line.
However, you can use a sticking compound to fix tiny leaks. You must apply the compound stick-on cracks within the pipe to stop the leaking.
A sticking compound can seal small cracks even when water flows through the pipe. You can also apply the epoxy paste to seal leaks on dry pipes but ensure you turn off the water before applying it.
Copper pipes often rust and produce green water in the taps in your house. Such rust is not only a health hazard but can also lead to leaks and high water bills and should, therefore, be replaced.
How to Prepare Your Plumbing for the Winter
Before the onset of winter, you can prepare your plumbing pipes from freezing using the following recommendations:
- Empty water from the water sprinkler supply and the swimming pool lines using the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not use antifreeze in any line unless directed by the manufacturer. Antifreeze is an environmentally harmful compound and can cause problems to pets, humans, landscaping, and wildlife.
- Withdraw, empty, and store hoses that you use outdoors. Shut off the valves supplying water to outdoor pipes. Then, open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Also, keep the outside valve on to allow any water residue in the pipe to expand without breaking the pipe.
- Add insulators to basements, attics, and crawl spaces. Insulators will maintain a high temperature within those areas.
- Consider moving exposed pipes to enhance protection from freezing.
- Identify areas within your home where water supply lines are situated in unheated areas. Check within the garage and under the bathroom and kitchen cabinets. Then, insulate cold and hot water pipes within these areas.
- Consider insulating pipe products such as pipe sleeves, UL-listed heat tapes, and heat cables on exposed pipes. Also, you can use newspapers as an insulator on exposed pipes as they can provide substantive protection within areas lacking prolonged or frequent temperatures below freezing.
With these tips, the changing temperatures outdoors won’t affect your home plumbing system much.
Cold weather can cause low water pressure in your plumbing system. However, you should be careful to determine the main culprit of low water pressure, as low water volume can also act as a sign.
Fortunately, you can successfully control the low water pressure problem on frozen pipes by thawing them. In addition, you can use preventive measures to prevent frozen pipes at the onset of winter to evade this problem.