A look at what could be happening to a faucet that has a low flow of water.
I left my home for the day, not expecting any problem. When I came home for lunch, I see a pool of water by my garage door. Going to the utility room, I find that the water heater is leaking. The hose from the hot water outlet to the hot water pipes has failed, leaving me with a nice mess. I shut off the water and gas; hook up a garden hose to the water heater’s drain; and I head off to the store to buy a new hose. I had my afternoon project. After replacing the hose, I let the hot water flow in my kitchen sink. Of course, the air that is now in the line has to be cleared. I was hoping to be done with the job, since a family event beckoned me, but trouble was yet to come.
The following day I began to notice that the water was not flowing well in the kitchen sink and one bathroom sink. I had to go to a job, but upon returning home, I was informed that I needed to take care of the sinks by she who must be obeyed. I find this problem during my home inspections, and I am surprised that homeowners do not realize the solution. To understand my situation, you have to realize what was happening. The hard water from the city was leaving deposits inside my water heater. When I turned the water back on, the pressure knocked bits of these mineral deposits loose from the water heater. I try to be good about draining the heater, but I do not always do this often enough. The bits of minerals are flowing down the pipe to a faucet. A faucet for a sink will have a filter on the end. The deposits fill the holes in the filter, which blocks the water flow.
To correct this low water flow issue, we need to remove the filter. Look at the end of the faucet, and you will see a line that demarks where the filter portion is. The filter is screwed on, and you should be able to unscrew it with your fingers. However, the build-up of minerals can create a tighter seal so you may need a wrench. An adjustable wrench, like a monkey wrench, will do the trick. You do not want to damage the coating on the filter or faucet housing, so use a towel or a piece of a rubber glove to protect the faucet from the teeth of the wrench. A little pressure should remove the filter. The filter comes in parts that can be removed by pushing the screen. Rinse off the grit, and you can put everything back together.
What if this problem continues? For the next couple of days, I had to remove faucet filters to be cleaned. The loose mineral deposits kept effecting me, but it stops soon. Yet this problem may continue due to a related reason. My home was built using galvanized pipes for the plumbing. These pipes allow for the minerals to build-up on the interior walls. A good flush of minerals from the water heater can block the pipes. In one case, I found a home with no water to one bathroom. It had been a rental property. The owner did not think there was a real issue, and the renters never pushed for repairs. They stopped using the bathroom, which made matters worse. The pipes had to be replaced. If you notice that the water flow does not seem right in one par of the house, and you have already cleaned the faucet filters, there is something that plumbers can do. I have heard it called pipe cleaning or a system flush. The idea is that the material collecting on your pipe walls is cleaned away. As long as there is no significant damage to the pipes were they could bursts or leak with renewed higher pressure, this step can resolve many low flow issues.
How can I avoid problems with mineral deposits? The best solution is having a water softening system installed on your home’s water system. These can be easily maintained, and they help prevent further issues with hard water. The one problem that I see happening with these systems is lack of maintenance. When the system is not serviced, you have no benefit from it. I drain my water heater every three months, which clears out minerals. A water heater takes about eight hours or less to drain, depending if hard water has blocked the drain valve at the bottom of the heater. The unit should be turned off during this process, so no hot water. I have not looked into this, but I remember once that there was a cleaner that could be poured into the water heater to help clear out the mineral deposits. I am not sure that this is sold anymore. I will have to look, but you may want to check your local hardware store. I wonder how harsh this product would be. I do not want anything in the water that I would not want to drink. Maybe vinegar could work.
If you do have a low water flow, check the faucet’s filter. I find on my home inspections that this is more often the cause than severe build-up in the pipes. That is not to say that the pipes may not have problems. Replacing pipes can be a big job. If I did have to replace the pipes, I think that I would go after the PEX tubing. That may be cheaper than other types of pipes.