If you’ve spent any amount of time in the lawn or garden then you know how annoying low water pressure can be. Your outdoor water pressure is ultimately controlled by the water source, be it a municipal water supply, a holding tank, or even a well, but there are some things you can do as a homeowner to increase your water pressure at the end of your line.
Low outdoor water pressure is usually caused by either a water line getting split too many times, by low flow, or by water being forced to flow up an incline. You should be able to maximize your water pressure to your hose or sprinkler system by ensuring there are no leaks in the plumbing leading to the spigot, repairing any leaks at the spigot or hose end connection, and by switching your leader hose to a wider 3/4″ hose.
Most hoses used in domestic settings have a 5/8″ inch inside diameter while the pipes running to your spigot or hydrant can accommodate a larger flow rate. Usually switching to a 3/4″ hose you can increase the amount of water running through your line by a little more than 60%.
This is only going to make a difference however if you split the line further down to route the water to a few above ground sprinklers so let’s dig a little deeper and talk more about where else (and why) water flow is decreased and what we can do about it.
Why Outdoor Water Flow Decreases & How It Affects Pressure
Having low flow can make routine gardening and watering tasks an absolute chore and it drastically slow down your progress outside. Low water pressure can make your indoor activities more frustrating too. Repairs to indoor pressure however can require the help of a skilled plumber and a remapping of a plumbing system.
On the exterior of your house however the “map” of water flow is usually a lot simpler. There are plenty of ways that water pressure can drop, but thankfully there are also ways to increase your outdoor water pressure and save your garden.
Check Where You Water Comes From First
Water usually comes directly from it’s source to your outdoor spigots and irrigation systems so the first thing you should do is check the size of pipe that is run from the source to your outdoor taps and irrigation control box.
In some cases the source pipe is simply to narrow.
By starting the outdoor line with a narrow pipe you are starting your entire system with a lot less water than you could have. Simply switching from a 3/4-inch hose to a 5/8-inch hose will decrease the volume of water flow by around 30%, now imagine that your supply line to your hose bib is only a 1/2-inch PVC pipe. If this is the case then your water flow will be even more drastically decreased and your pressure will be minimal until you replace the source pipe to something at least 3/4″ if not a full inch wide.
Low water pressure is the result of not enough water reaching your targeted outlet with the necessary speed and force. Assuming your supply line is the correct size and not leaking then you have to start looking at all connections for leaks, splits, or bottlenecks.
Splits & Bottlenecks That Decrease Water Pressure
Once you know for sure that the water pipe delivering to your outdoor system is big enough to supply enough water then we need to inspect the areas where bottlenecks can occur.
Once you take a 3/4″ water supply and reduce it to anything smaller the water flow will decrease. You may experience good water pressure at the spigot but once you run a hose from that spigot and try to fill a bucket or run a set of sprinklers then you’ll find that the flow cannot support your needs and pressure at the sprinkler head will be noticeably low.
Make Sure Your Hose Bib Is Full Sized
Some people don’t realize it but hose bibs come in different sizes. 3/4″ bibs are normal and they can supply a larger volume of water but some homes have bibs that are a smaller 1/2″ in size. This will greatly decrease the flow of water from the source pipe to your garden hose, even if you have a larger, high capacity hose connected.
Swapping out a hose bib isn’t the easiest thing to do but it is well within the realm of possibility for most home owners.
Here’s a quick video on how to disconnect your hose bib to repair or replace it.
If you do indeed have a “full sized” 3/4 hose bib or outdoor faucet and you are running 3/4 hoses from the faucet to your garden or irrigation system then the next point of bottleneck that can occur is at the junction between hoses or at the splitters used to route water to different nozzles or sprinklers.
Check Your Hose Splitters: Many Will Decrease Water Flow & Pressure
In my yard I have a high flow water hydrant that I use to route my water supply to three different areas of my upper yard. I use a commercial grade hose for 15 feet from the hydrant to my first splitter which will direct water in one of two different ways.
I feel like this is common among a lot of people, the trick however is to split your hose with full flow splitters which usually cost a bit more to buy and may be a bit harder to find. I bought mine at my local farm & ranch supply store in town but you can always find things like this online so long as you are willing to wait a few days for shipping.
The average two way hose splitter may have a 3/4″ inlet and outlet but the ball valve on the inside usually doesn’t allow for water to pass beyond a 3/8″ to 5/8″ opening. Naturally this will result in a lower flow beyond the split.
For my main splitter I use this style Y-Connection that allows the full 3/4″ flow of water to pass in both directions. For the hose shutt-off valves I install mine further up my lines.
Your Sprinkler System May Need To Be Split Into Sections
With high enough water pressure you can usually reach any single part of your lawn easily no matter what your irrigation system looks like, but that’s easier said than done.
If you find that your outdoor hoses or sprinkler zones don’t have very pressure and aren’t reaching your all parts of your lawn or garden then you might feel at a loss even though there are simple things you can do to fix the problem.
First you need to assess the kind of sprinklers you use and then figure out how to cover your area with reasonably sized zones.
What Kind of Sprinkler System Do You Have?
How exactly do your sprinklers work right now? Are you using a small localized sprinkler that only hits a small area or does your home have a large-scale underground sprinkler system that works completely on its own?
Do your sprinklers get water from a connected garden hose or does it have its own water source? Is the water source shared with the rest of the house (bathrooms and kitchens), or is it separate?
If you’re using a small, simple sprinkler connected to a garden hose or something similar, then figuring out why you don’t have good water pressure will be pretty easy; there are only a couple of places you need to check, like the main water line’s branch-off for your house and your hose itself. Even though it might not be as convenient as having a full sprinkler system, doing maintenance should be relatively easy, even without professional help.
On the other hand, if you have a more complex sprinkler system, you’ll still need to check the main water line and such, but you’ll also have to inspect the entire system itself for any irregularities, blockages or leaks, so it may be a slightly more complex process. Don’t worry we’ll cover how to do all that a little further into this article.
Next You Should Measure How Big The Area Is That You Need to Cover
The other thing you should take into consideration when looking into ways to increase your sprinkler system’s pressure is to simply measure how big of an area you need to cover and think about whether it should realistically be split up?
Do you only use your sprinkler to irrigate a small front-yard garden, or do you need to cover a front garden, a back garden, a lawn on both sides, and surrounding land? The more space you need to cover the more zones you will need to setup.
You may also need to re-look at the sprinkler units you use too. Maybe switching to hardware designed for low flow or low pressure may make sense.
This impact sprinkler by Rain Bird is a perfect example of an option that works really well for low water pressure.
You can also see the following pages where I compare the various low pressure sprinkler options on the market:
Next You Should Measure Your Properties Full Demand for Water
In order to start figuring out your home’s personal low water pressure problem, you’ll need to measure the demand for water across all the different faucets and outlets both inside and outside the house.
The first step is to record when you experience low water pressure since this might give you an idea as to the root of the problem. For instance, if you only experience low water pressure at the beginning of the day when you’re using a lot of water for showers and coffee, you may need to only make a few minor adjustments to restore your water pressure to normal.
On the other hand, you may be experiencing low water pressure all the time. This is probably indicative of a larger issue at work and you’ll likely need to undertake a greater repair effort to fix everything.
Go outside and try watering your plants at different times of the day to determine whether or not over-use is the root cause of low water pressure for your outdoor activities.
You should also test various hoses and faucets and see if everywhere experiences low water pressure to the same degree. If only a single hose or faucet is having trouble, then the issue is likely localized and you don’t have to fix your water pressure as a whole across your water system.
What to Test
To test water pressure’s PSI, you can purchase a cheap pressure tester online that you attach to an outdoor or indoor faucet. These devices read back to you your system’s pressure via a dial on its face.
This is a simple option available on Amazon but a local garden center at a big box store will likely have what you need as well.
There are many things you should test to determine the specifics of your water pressure. Let’s go through them one by one.
Check the Garden Faucet
First off, examine your garden faucet or any other faucets that you frequently use for outdoor watering and maintenance. If your garden faucets are the only places experiencing low water pressure, then your problem is probably a leaky or blocked pipe system that might need to be cleaned out or replaced.
You should also test run in your garden faucet with the indoor kitchen sink running at the same time. This can give you an idea as to whether or not your water system can’t handle too many outlets running water at the same time.
Check Your Hose/Sprinklers
You should also check your garden hose and sprinkler system for low water pressure specifically. Both of these outlets are often run throughout the day or in the morning or evening when water use is at its highest and most households.
If your garden hose is experiencing low water pressure, make sure that the hose isn’t kinked anywhere or being blocked at some point along its length.
You should also check its fitting and make sure that it isn’t leaking excessively.
Your sprinkler system should be examined to maintain the hydration of your lawn; if your sprinklers are having trouble but nothing else in your house is, then you may have to replace the piping beneath the ground.
On the other hand, if only one or two sprinklers are acting up, it’s likely that only those affected units need to be cleaned or replaced.
Check Your Pipes
Pipes as a whole should be checked if you experience widespread low water pressure. The best way to tell whether or not the issue is affecting your pipes is if many different connected outlets which all use the pipes to get water are experiencing low water pressure.
To test, simply run some water sources indoors and check that water pressure against the water pressure of outlets outside. If only the outdoor faucets and hoses are experiencing low water pressure, then it’s likely an issue with the pipes and not your water source as a whole.
Check Main Water Valve Indoors
Most main water valves are located under the sink. Before settling on a reason for your low water pressure, do a quick check and make sure that the main water valve is fully turned on. Many people either never adjust this when they move in or aren’t aware of its presence at all. But the main water valve is oftentimes partly closed by maintenance workers or previous homeowners.
If your main water valve isn’t fully opened and that solves your problem, you’re all set. On the other hand, if your main water valve is already open and you’re still experiencing low water pressure then you’ll need to continue investigating.
You may also contact the plumber and have them investigate your main water valve to check for damage. If the main water valve has been damaged from physical cracks or blockage, this may cause low water pressure throughout your water system.
Check Your Water Pressure Regulator
Checking the water pressure regulator is another great idea. These are usually found next to your home’s main stopcock, either beneath the sink, outside, or sometimes in the garage. Try to see what the PSI, or pressure rating, is according to your regulator. Anything below 30 PSI is probably too low for most gardens or yards.
If this is extremely low, you may want to call a plumber and have them increase the water pressure manually. We recommend calling an expert for this adjustment to avoid causing widespread damage to your piping and water system. A plumber’s advice may also help you identify other potential mistakes you may be making regarding your water system.
How to Boost Water Pressure to Your Sprinklers and Hoses
Now let’s go over the best ways you can increase your water pressure outside for gardening and watering purposes.
Clean or Repair Faucets/Hoses/Sprinklers That Leak or Are Clogged
If the problem is localized in one or more faucets, then you can easily clean the faucets manually using soap and water or a bleach solution. If you use either of these methods, be sure to run some water through the faucet before attaching a hose or other transportation system to avoid contaminating your lawn or plants with synthetic chemicals.
If your faucets are cracked or are constantly leaking, you may need to replace the faucet units by visiting a home improvement store or calling a plumber. Either of these options can help you replace your faucets with new models that won’t leak.
The same principle follows for hoses and sprinkler systems. Hoses are easy to replace at any home improvement store; just be sure that you get a hose with the right size fitting for your faucets. For a sprinkler system, you can usually find new individual units at most home improvement stores or online gardening stores.
Clean or Repair Pipes
Pipes may be broken or dirty in the same way that faucets or other outlets might. If this is the case, you’ll need to try to identify whether or not the entire piping system is busted or clogged or if it’s just a small section. You can tell by checking to see if the entire faucet or sprinkler system is suffering or if it’s just one localized area.
In the latter case, you can usually dig up the damaged pipe after turning your water system off to avoid further damage and hurting yourself. Once dug up, the pipe can be cleaned or replaced based on its needs. Most replacement pipes can be found at home improvement stores or online marketplaces.
But if the entire piping system needs to be replaced, be sure to shut your water system off immediately and take to manual watering of your lawn and flowers while you replace the piping system one section at a time.
Install a Booster to Improve Pressure to Your Sprinkler System
If you have overall low water pressure as a result of a valve issue or your home’s water source, you can install a water pressure booster.
These units are a bit expensive and are attached to your main water system. The machine will artificially boost your overall pressure up the past 30 PSI, and can even go as high at 50 PSI or so depending on the model.
Here’s a popular booster for sale on Amazon. You may also want to check with a local irrigation company or plumber for their recommendations if this is the way you think you should go.
Water pressure boosters can be permanent solutions if your low water pressure problems aren’t something that you can fix in the short term.
Move Sprinklers to Lower Elevations If Possible
It’s easy to forget, but water pressure drops easily, by .43 psi/ft. This means that even a small change in elevation between your water line and the sprinklers it serves could cause a big change in the water pressure available to your sprinkler system. Make sure that your water line elevated above the sprinkler system itself.
If it’s not, raising it a little bit in comparison the sprinkler system (or lowering the pipes feeding the sprinklers) is one of the simplest ways to increase water pressure. It might not be an easy fix, but if you leave your water line below the level of your sprinkler system, you’ll end up having to deal with it later when you can’t get the water pressure you want no matter how many improvements you make.
Install Rainwater Harvesting System to Lighten the Load
On the other hand, if your low water pressure problems are coming from your home and outdoor gardening habits using too much water at the same time, you might consider installing a rainwater harvesting system. By installing this on the surface of your house or in areas around your property which frequently get a lot of rainfall, you can collect this water and use it for either human consumption or for watering your garden.
These collection systems basically reduce the amount of water that your system uses for its various outlets. It artificially increases your overall water supply, letting your water pressure remain high since you won’t use all of your stored water in the morning or evening.
However, you will need to contact a plumber in most cases to efficiently install the rainwater collection system unless you have prior experience installing similar systems.
Outdoor water pressure is a problem that you shouldn’t have to worry too much about. If you do have a problem with pressure however there are a number of different potential solutions to the problem that are easily achievable and aren’t too costly for most homeowners.
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