Poor water pressure on board a vessel is one of the most common problems experienced by seasoned boaters, and it can hamper a great day on the water. However, understanding what causes a loss in pressure can help fix the issue before seeing a technician. Poor or low water pressure can happen for many reasons and by simply knowing what to look for, boaters can avoid potential pitfalls and cruise in comfort.
Outlined below are some common issues and helpful fixes to troubleshoot low water pressure problems for a smoother day on the water:
Blocked vent lines and hoses Checking the vent line hoses of a boat’s water tank should be the first port of call when exploring potential causes of low water pressure. A blocked or kinked vent line hose creates a vacuum inside the water tank which restricts the flow of water to the pump creating low water flow and pressure. In freshwater systems, blockages or kinks can occur anywhere in the plumbing system, and even in the pump itself. With a flashlight, follow the vent line from the top of the tank to the fitting outside the vessel, paying close attention to bends through bulkheads and other walls. Try to smooth any hard angles by releasing tension on the line or installing an angled fitting at the kink.
Loose hose clamps Hose clamps are essential to the integrity of any on board plumbing system, but their reliability depends on informed selection and best installation practices. Once the vent hoses have been checked for blockages and kinks, the next step is to check the hose clamps to make sure they are tight. If they are loose, air will enter the system between the pump and the tank, causing air to get sucked into the water pressure system. If air spurts from the faucet every time you turn the handle, there’s a loose connection in the system. Even slight but persistent leaks can significantly reduce water pressure. It should also be noted that cracked inlet strainers and loose inlet hoses can allow air into the system, without leaking water, which also negatively impacts water pressure.
Clogged inlet and faucet filters Another common issue associated with poor water pressure is clogged inlet pump strainers or faucet filters. In marine water systems, debris like pebbles and sand can often clog the pores of the filter, preventing water from pushing through the system. Consistent filter maintenance will help avoid any build up at the inlet and improve the quality of water flow into the pump.
Clogged faucet aerators Clogged faucet aerators can also cause issues with water pressure. Aerators are essential to adding air to the water flow to create a consistent, straight stream of water. However, aerators can also become clogged with mineral deposits from hard water or debris from pipe cuts or scale off the walls of the water heater. A clogged aerator can lead to low water flow or an erratic stream from the faucet.
Clogged water purification filters When a water purification filter is installed on a boat, always remember to perform preventative maintenance. The water filters collect sediments, metals, and contaminants from the water tank which can reduce the pump’s ability to push water through the system. Depending on how often the water system is used and the level of sediment in the water, the filter may need to be replaced every six months or sooner.
Pump size Pump size is critical. Consider the number of faucets that could be open at the same time – this includes ice makers, showers, toilets, and galley sinks. Additionally, we need to think about how far the pump is pushing the water. Most vessels have the pump installed at the stern, which could put more pressure on the pump if it is pushing water to a forward head. If the water pressure is too low at the furthest point, a higher pressure pump may need to be considered.
These are some basic root causes for poor water performance and a couple of quick fixes. If you’re mechanically adept, check out some of the videos on our site, including those that take a more in-depth look at diaphragm pumps and how they work, how to replace a pressure switch, and how to remedy a burping or cycling pump. If the videos don’t align with the symptoms you’re experiencing, you may need to seek the help of a qualified marine technician. Good luck and safe boating!