GIMME SHELTER-Shower power: When the flow goes slow

John Fitch, Fitch Services

Q: When I take a shower, there's barely a trickle of water. How can I increase the power of my shower?

A: If the water flow in the rest of the house is great, the answer is simple– buy a better showerhead! If that doesn't solve the problem, there are several things that can be affecting water pressure.

It may be the showerhead itself. Some showerheads, particularly newer ones, contain a government-required metering devise designed to conserve water, regardless of your water pressure. This can restrict the flow of water through your showerhead. Your water pressure may be 80 pound per square inch (psi), which is actually too much, but if you have one of these flow restrictors to conserve water you won't have good pressure coming out of the shower. A lot of homeowners simply remove that little washer inside the showerhead.

You may also have low pressure coming into the house. For example, anything below 30 psi is too low. If you have a well, the pump or its controls may be functioning improperly. In this case, you'll need to repair or replace the pump to get your water pressure at least above 30 psi. Ideally, your water pressure should be about 50 psi.

Also, if your property is on high ground relative to your water source/provider, as is the case with some neighborhoods, you may need a booster pump to fight gravity.

A more common problem is old pipes. If you have 40-year-old galvanized steel pipes inside or outside, corrosion inside the pipes might be restricting the water flow. In this case, I recommend you replace the old pipes.

Also, some houses in the City and the County, particularly newer ones, come equipped with water pressure regulators. That's because the City and County water sources can be delivered at over 100 psi. These regulators allow homeowners to control the flow of water coming into their homes. Unfortunately, some people don't realize their houses are equipped with these regulators, which can be easily adjusted.

Many houses are also equipped with water filtration systems. If the filters are dirty, that can restrict water flow. It's a good idea to clean filters regularly.

Lastly, if you have a well, you have minerals in your water that can clog the showerhead over time. Although you can try to clean the showerhead (some people recommend soaking it in vinegar), I recommend just buying another one.

Of course, limiting the flow of water through your showerhead sometimes has advantages. For families with teenagers (or other guilty parties) who use up all the hot water, secretly installing a flow restrictor– which you can buy at Lowe's or Bed, Bath & Beyond– will make cold showers a thing of the past or the rest of the family!

John Fitch