Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prevent waste and damage to your plumbing with this device!

The most critical single item to preventing waste and damage to your entire plumbing system may be your system's pressure regulator.

Water districts often supply water in their main lines at pressures far above the pressures that home water systems are designed to handle. There are legitimate reasons for doing this in order to ensure an adequate supply of water throughout the service area; however, a pressure regulator should be installed to reduce the pressure to normal household levels. For example, here in Ramona, CA the water district supplies water to my neighborhood at well over 100 psi, yet the proper pressure for a home system is required to be under 80 psi.

High water pressure causes leaks, damage to irrigation valves, misting of spray heads, water hammer, repeated repairs, and undue water loss.

My observation, over the past 30+ yeas as a contractor, is that when pressure regulators are needed, they are usually located at the building, where the water supply enters the house. This leaves the supply line between the water meter and the pressure regulator subject to the excessive pressure produced by the water district.

This situation occurs in two common scenarios:

  • The supply line from the meter to the house along an easement:
    For example, six or eight houses may share a road and water supply easement with the water meters at the water district’s connection point (i.e. the end of the easement) . This is very common. Residents see a water leak or a green spot, but no one fixes it because it’s hard to find and all the supply lines are run grouped together (and not marked as to which meter or home it is connected to). I have seen the green spots so old the weeds are the size of trees!
  • The supply line from the meter where the irrigation system draws its water from.
    This leaves the irrigation system subject to full water district pressure. Up to 50% of residential water is used on yard irrigation. This half of the water use is currently unregulated in code (design) and pressure. Yet high pressure in this area makes the system wasteful and prone to damage . Sprayers that are delivered water at too high a pressure produce more mist, get less water on the plants, and therefore are less efficient and wasteful. In addition, leaks on slopes and in unevenly compacted soils are hard to find. So, not only are these supply pipes more subject to damage, they are harder to service. The leaks are also too often ignored, until it results in a $1000 water bill!
A non-metallic pipe should have a tracer wire to follow pipe location for expediting repair. However, most water service lines are PVC with no tracer wires. The lack of a tracer wire, coupled with long and often grouped lines of up to 1000 ft (or more) has often created situations of extensive water loss.

The best place for a pressure regulator is at the water meter. This ensures that the entire homeowner’s water system is protected from damage caused by excess pressure, as well as allowing all the components attached to the system to operate at the pressure range for which they were designed.

Pressure regulators don’t last forever either. They work hard every day, and eventually wear out.
Symptoms of a poorly located or worn out pressure regulator include:
  • Repeated leaks or pipe breaks
  • Misting irrigation systems
  • Toilets running by themselves
  • Noisy pipes - especially 'banging' - (water hammer)
  • High water bill
  • High water pressure (get a gauge and measure it)
If you are experiencing these symptoms, or already know your pressure regulator is installed in a poor location (or not at all), call a plumber to have your pressure regulator installation and operation checked out. This ounce of prevention could really save a lot of expensive water and future repair bills.

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