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How to Fix Your Water Pressure Problem: An Interview with Greg Chick of Ramona's Plumber

By Greg Chick

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

As a plumber I offer online consulting. People ask questions, I answer them. When they have something they cannot explain, they send me a picture to my email, if they prefer they send to my cell phone, and then call me and ask the question. On my site home page there is a tool on the top of page having choices of what and where the site has features. About me is one, Do it yourself is another, that tab actually takes them to my DIYPlumbing stie. There are 40 something videos that actually are in a YouTube page. As of recently 4 million people have viewed the videos. They are free and worth it. The comments following the videos are in the thousands, the videos cause common questions mostly answered many times. There is a Tip Jar that is PayPal sort of thing and people donate tips for the help. Comments range from wow you saved hundreds to other plumbers cursing me for helping out. I allow all comments. I have even apologized more than once. I have even been corrected and caught making a mistake! Many other things exist on my site: a blog and copies of 1/4 page ads that I have run in local newspapers, some ads were full page and in color! All were seriously not serious. Curious to some as to why, and what do they mean. Some have local humor in them or are connected to local issues and events.

Can you briefly describe what proper water pressure is and what it should "feel" like?

Proper water pressure as per the California Plumbing Code, is less than 80 psi. min. 15 psi, except commercial where a flushometer valve is installed and there the pressure min. is 45 psi. Velocity of water from a faucet or shower head driven by pressure. Pressure however is only part of the feel of the flow. Volume is one aspect as well as the velocity caused by HET. HET is High Efficiency Technology, not to be confused with low flow, or ultra low flow. HET nozzles are designed to improve the feel of the water, for the most part they are better.

Water pressure if too high can cause wasted water consumption. Conservation efforts suggest 50 psi or so is fine. Too high pressure will cause a blowout of a pipe and flood a house, happens every day. Shower heads are usually the point of concern. To insure best performance, remove the head from the are coming out of wall and clean the inlet to the head out if debris is blocking the water flow into the head. Do not remove the flow restrictor permanently for a better spray, only to clean the screen or inlet, then return the assembly and screw the head back on the arm. Getting a new head once and a while is ok but read up online and get smart.

What are some of the most common water pressure problems that you've seen in Northern California home? And what are the usual causes of those problems?

Most leaks are caused by too high pressure. Thermal expansion is a source of pressure that is caused by water heater heating up the cold incoming water and the water expands when it heats. Water can be locked or piping can be considered a closed system that does not allow pressure to escape. Granted there is a pressure and temp. relief valve on the water heater, but that only works at 150 psi and many times before that blows off, a flood is caused inside by a weaker point in the system. That valve is not designed or intended to reduce pressure or stop leaks in house, it is to prevent the tank from exploding into a steam bomb.

Too low pressure is as well a problem in some areas, or just in some fixtures that have plugged up aerators. If only hot or cold separately are slow to flow, it is not the aerator, as that is common to both sides. If one faucet and not the others has a flow problem, that would suggest the aerator. Replacing aerators every few years is a good thing. They get corroded and crusty from hard water deposits.

How do you make an accurate diagnosis of a water pressure issue?

Buy a water pressure gauge at the hardware store. They are around $12, and they have a hose thread swivel on them and they screw onto any faucet having hose threads, including the water heater drain. This gauge will tell you what your pressure is. Test the pressure with no water running, then test it with water running somewhere. The difference should not be more than 20 psi, if it is the regulator is not modulating and needs replacing. I have videos on my YouTube page that can be accessed directly there or from my site. The four videos are free as are all my videos.

Is there anything that homeowners can do to help prevent problems or improve the water pressure in their house?

Get a gauge, but get a gauge with two dial hands on the one gauge. The normal one goes up and down with the pressure; the second one is not connected to the pressure but is moved up or down by the other needle. Watts brand and Orbit brand sell them at hardware stores.

What's the best way for people to contact your company? or 760-788-2889, that is my only number, it is a cell. I am not selling anything here because my plumbing services are limited to Ramona, CA 92065, a suburb of San Diego. My consulting is free to a point. There is also a tip jar on the DIY site home page. I do this because I have a passion for water conservation and plumbing and I learn from the many different needs people have. I get pictures of these and sometimes use them in classes I teach, as well.

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