Water Pressure UK

Household Water Pressure UK

By  Enda McLarnon

Water pressure is probably the most important factor to consider when it comes to understanding your home’s plumbing system. That is because it affects the flow of water from your taps and shower, and can have a significant impact on your daily life.  If you have you ever experienced a frustratingly slow shower, or struggled to fill your bathtub, then this is down to poor water pressure.

These type of everyday problems are often caused by fluctuations in household water pressure. Water pressure, simply put, is the force that drives water through your pipes and out of your taps, showers, and appliances. Maintaining ideal water pressure is important for ensuring a comfortable and efficient home environment.

In this article, we’ll explain what household water pressure is, how to measure it, and what you should know about the official standards for household water pressure in the UK. All of this information will help inform you, give you a better understanding, and may also help to improve the water pressure in your home. We like to keep our information well structured and easy to understand.

What is Household Water Pressure?

This is the actual force (pressure) at which water is sent to your home’s plumbing system. It’s measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) or bars. The larger the PSI or bar is, the greater the water pressure will be. Low water pressure can result in a weak stream of water from your taps and shower, while high water pressure can cause damage to your plumbing system. Getting the right balance makes your plumbing system a great deal simpler to use and manage.

How does water get into your home?

Almost every home in the UK will have hot and cold water. Water pressure has nothing to do with the hot water in your home. When thinking about water pressure, this really means the cold water that brings in clean, drinkable water from the mains supply.

This water is pressurised. It is this force that pushes the water through your pipes. This same pressure also determines the flow of water from the cold tap. The amount of pressure at your tap will depend on how high the service reservoir or water tank is above your home, or how much water other customers are using in your area.

Most importantly, it is water supplier’s responsibility to make sure the water pressure is high enough to get around your entire home.

Two Types of Water System

In the UK there are two types of water system:

  1. Indirect - This is by far the most common type of water system in the UK. It sends water into your property to a household stopcock valve. In most houses this is usually found  underneath the kitchen sink. When it gets to there, you can get drinking water from the kitchen sink. The rest of the water is moved to a storage tank which can then supply the water to the rest of the house once it has been plumbed in.
  2. Direct - Modern houses are usually equipped with this direct system. In this system it sends mains pressured drinking standard water to every cold tap in the house, including the bath, bathroom basin and kitchen sink.
stopcock for water pressure

What is the ideal household water pressure in the UK?

Maintaining ideal water pressure is crucial for three main reasons:

  1. Efficient Water Usage: Optimal water pressure helps conserve water by preventing excessive flow and ensuring appliances operate efficiently.
  2. Appliance Performance: The pressure of the water system will impact the performance of appliances like showers, washing machines, and dishwashers. Low pressure can lead to weak showers, inefficient cleaning, and even appliance malfunctions in the worst case.
  3. Comfort and Convenience: Adequate water pressure ensures a comfortable and enjoyable experience when using showers, faucets, and other water-based appliances.

Water pressure can be measured in either  "Bars" or "PSI. "

  1. PSI - this stands for pounds per square inch
  2. Bars - A bar is a standard measurement of pressure. With water pressure a bar is classed as "1 bar being the force needed to raise water to a height of 10 metres."

The recommended household water pressure in the UK for everything to work well is 50-60 PSI, or 3 Bars. The higher the pressure, the stronger the force pushing water through your pipes. In the UK, the recommended water pressure range for households typically falls between 10 and 15 liters per minute (LPM). This range ensures adequate water flow for daily activities like showering, washing dishes, and flushing toilets.

Please note that the statutory service standard level of mains water pressure set by water suppliers is 1 bar (or 10 metres/head). That is equivalent to approximately 14.5 PSI.

It is important to understand that these are general guidelines. The actual water pressure you have in your home will vary quite a lot. Factors that impact this are:

  • Your exact location
  • Your property type and height
  • The type of appliances you are using
  • How much water is being used by other customers

If you have specific concerns about your water pressure, it’s best to contact your local water supplier. Here is a link to a map which can show you the water suppliers in England & Wales. (32 regulated companies) Click here, For Scotland it is Scottish Water. For Northern Ireland it is Northern Ireland Water.

Measuring Water Pressure at Home

To determine your home's water pressure, you can use a water pressure gauge. These cost around £20 and are available online or at plumber supply stores throughout the UK. A popular choice is the Dickie Dyer 884712 Water Pressure Gauge. Check availability at Amazon UK.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to measure water pressure using a guide:

  1. Use a Suitable Tap: Choose a cold water tap, the one closest to the main water supply, usually the kitchen sink or use an outdoor tap.
  2. Attach the Gauge: Turn off the water supply to the selected tap at the stopcock. Attach the water pressure gauge to the tap's spout using the provided adapter or thread connection.
  3. Turn on the Water: Slowly turn on the water supply and note the gauge reading. Allow the water flow to stabilise for a few seconds before noting the pressure reading.
  4. Interpret the Reading: Compare the reading to the recommended water pressure range of 10 to 15 LPM or 30 to 60 PSI. If the reading falls outside this range, it indicates a water pressure issue.

If you don't have a gauge, then a good rule of thumb is this. Go to your kitchen tap and you should be able to fill a 4.5 litre (one gallon) bucket in 30 seconds, with all other taps, washing, machine, dishwashers not being used.

affordable water pressure gauge for taps

Signs of Water Pressure Issues

Signs of High Water Pressure:

  • Noisy or rattling pipes: High water pressure can cause pipes to vibrate and make noise. This is most noticeable in older homes with metal pipes.
  • Leaking taps: High water pressure can force water past the seals in your taps, causing them to leak.
  • Spluttering showers: High water pressure can cause the water in your shower to spray in all directions, making it difficult to use.
  • Excessive water splashing from taps/faucets: High water pressure can cause water to splash out of sinks and baths when you turn on the taps.

Signs of Low Water Pressure:

  • Slow water flow: Low water pressure can cause water to flow slowly from your taps, showers, and appliances.
  • Weak showers: Low water pressure can make your showers feel weak and give you a really poor showering experience
  • Taking a long time to fill bathtubs: Low water pressure can make it take a long time to fill your bath up with water.
  • Appliances taking longer to fill: Low water pressure can cause appliances like washing machines and dishwashers to take longer to fill with water.

If you notice any of these signs, it's important to take action, as they can indicate a serious problem with your plumbing system.

What causes water pressure issues?

If you realise that you do have water pressure problems, it can be difficult to identify the underlying cause. Potential causes include:

  1. Blocked or Partially Blocked Pipes: Blockages in pipes can restrict water flow and lead to low pressure.
  2. Leaks: The most likely culprit is leaky pipes or taps that can cause a drop in water pressure.
  3. Faulty Pressure Regulator: The water pressure regulator, often located near the water meter, controls incoming water pressure. A malfunctioning regulator can cause fluctuations in pressure.
  4. Improving Water Flow: The main change that can be made to your internal plumbing to improve your water flow, is to ensure that your stopcock is fully open.

The only simple issue to detect is really a leaking tap which should be obvious. In most cases, it's advisable to seek professional assistance and advice from a qualified plumber. They can diagnose the root cause of any pressure issues, make necessary repairs, and ensure your water pressure is restored to where it should be.

Prevention of water pressure issues?

To help prevent the risk of water pressure issues, consider these preventive measures:

  • Regular Plumbing Maintenance: Schedule regular plumbing inspections to identify and address potential problems early on. There is a cost to this if you don't have the knowledge, but will prevent more serious issues.
  • Adequate Water Supply: Ensure your water supply is sufficient to meet your household's demands.
  • Avoid Excessive Water Usage: Try to conserve water by using water and energy efficient appliances.
  • Fix Leaks and Blockages: If you notice leaks or blockages, address them immediately to prevent further damage to your plumbing system.

It is worth finding out what type of water pressure system you have, indirect or direct. Keeping the ideal water pressure in your UK home is essential for ensuring a comfortable, efficient, and hassle-free living environment. Hopefully you now have a better understanding on the concept of water pressure, and will be able to recognise the signs of pressure issues.

It is better to take proactive measures to prevent and address problems, so as you can keep your water flowing smoothly and your appliances functioning optimally. Remember, when in doubt, don't hesitate to consult a qualified plumber for expert assistance.

Resources Used

Watersafe.org.uk - Approved water contractors

metoffice.gov.uk - Flooding 

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