Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Under Pressure

Not so long ago, you might remember driving through our towns and neighborhoods and enjoying a scenic landscape of nature and fields for miles and miles. There was plenty of land between housing communities and commercial developments. Now, in the present, you cannot throw a rock without hitting a house, a strip mall, or a tract of land with construction equipment building a coffee shop. With all this development and residential explosion, there poses a problem with water distribution.
I am sure you enjoy the long hot showers or just the convenience of having clean water readily available from your faucet at the touch of a lever as much as I do. In order for that to happen our local municipalities must supply fresh water to our homes in a way that will not be interrupted. Have you ever been in the middle of your shower and have the water stop suddenly because your neighbor turned on their washing machine? Probably not, and here is why:
Water is delivered to our homes and businesses at a pressure about three times greater than your supply requires. This is why neighboring usage does not affect you. Everything to this point is the responsibility of your supplier. Now the burdon of safe distribution lies on the property owner and their licensed plumber.
The rated pressure of all our fixtures should not exceed 90 P.S.I. (pounds per square inch), with an optimal average pressure of 55 to 60 P.S.I. How we reduce the supplied water pressure to your working pressure is with a devise simply called a "pressure reducing valve" or PRV. This is a brass, bell shaped valve installed on your main water service pipe usually within 10' of where this pipe enters yout house. The job of this valve is to reduce service pressure (or city pressure) to working pressure (or the pressure inside your house). Your PRV plays an important part in a plumbing system- it protects all water pipes, faucets, and fixtures from increased pressure which can cause premature failure of any plumbing device.
An easy way to check the pressure in a water system is to connect a pressure gauge ($5-$10 at any hardware store) to an outside hose faucet. Every house should have two of them, one in front of the house which should measure service pressure, and one on the side or back of the house which should measure working pressure. If your pressure is over 90 P.S.I., you should strongly consider hiring a local licensed plumber to replace the PRV.