DIY Water Flow Testing

Before I begin writing about the main topic of this post, I’d like to recognize a good friend of mine who has greatly contributed to my learning and experience over the years. In fact, he is the one who first made me aware of the importance of electrical panels being properly balanced, which I wrote about in the previous post; and from time to time I still give him a call to pick his brain about things I come across that are out of the ordinary but I know he has likely had experience with. His name is Greg Farlee, and he is a contractor from my hometown of Marion, Ohio. He works solo under his own name (Farlee Contracting) and is one of those “seen it all, done it all” contractors who isn’t afraid of anything he comes across in a home… and it is a shame that we no longer live close to each other. If we did, I’d be recommending him often. If you are reading this and happen to live in the central Ohio area, Greg is the guy you should call!

I wrote in an earlier post some time back about how I learned a good bit early on by shadowing a nephew/uncle contracting duo, and Greg was the nephew in that pair (although he now works alone since he and his uncle are both older). If you have the opportunity to learn from others with vast experience, take it and be sure to express your gratitude!

That being said, let’s move on to the matter at hand – well flow testing on your own. Flow tesing isn’t usually necessary when you have a public water supply because a large treatment plant generally supplies safe water at sufficient pressure. When you have a private well things are quite different, and it’s not a bad idea to make sure your water flow/pressure is sufficient for your household and family needs.

Water flow rates are typically measured in gallons per minute (gpm), and different fixtures average different rates depending on their intended function. Typical flow rates for different fixtures and appliances are as follows: Faucets: 2.5 – 3 gpm, Toilets: 2.2 – 5 gpm, Bathtubs: 4 – 8 gpm, Shower Heads: 2.5 – 5 gpm, Dishwashers: 2 – 3 gpm, Washing Machines: 4 – 5 gpm.

While these ranges are typical, many modern units have been designed for greater efficiency and use less water than the averages listed above. Before conducting a simple do-it-yourself well flow test, you should be familiar with the manufacturer’s information regarding each unit’s normal water usage rate. Often times, the rate is listed on the unit.

So how, exactly, can you do this simple test? Well, as always, hiring a certified inspector/tester is the best way to ensure you get accurate results; but there is a simple way to get a rough idea of the well flow on your own. If you have a 5-gallon bucket or jug, pour one gallon of water at a time into the container and mark the container with a marker at the top of each one-gallon water mark so that each gallon is marked and easy to identify for measuring. You can draw marks between each gallon mark as well to represent half gallons and make your measurements more precise. After marking the container, run water from one fixture at a time into the container. Start a stop watch on your wrist watch or smart phone at the exact moment you turn on the water. At one minute exactly, pull the bucket or jug away from the fixture and shut the water off. Check the water level in your container. The level is the amount of water – measured in gallons – that the fixture put out in one minute (the gpm rate).

If you are testing something like a bathtub that may put out more than 5 gallons per minute, you can simply use two 5-gallon containers and immediately swap out the first container with the second when the first fills up.

Your well system is set up so that once the pressurized water in the house has been used (forced through the system by the well pressure tank) the submersible well pump is signaled to pump more water into the house. As a result, the pressure may drop some while you are testing the flow rate since the water takes some time to get from the deep well into your home. The size of your system, distance of piping runs, and horsepower of your pump all effect how long your water can consistently run at one time with the same pressure.

If you conduct a simple flow test on your own and discover that your water pressure is lower than it should be, consult a reputable well drilling company to evaluate your system and make any necessary alterations. Fixing flow problems is often easier and less costly than you might think since well companies are often contracted with homes and have a vested interest in maintaining their systems.

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Author: hillinspections

I am a Certified Master Inspector (CMI) and the owner and operator of Hill Property Inspections LLC, the top-rated inspection company in the greater Johnstown, PA area, based out of western Pennsylvania. I specialize in property inspections and environmental testing services and have a passion for helping my own clients and other families in learning to properly maintain their homes. I’m also the owner of Hill Pest Control, LLC and a pest management professional committed to helping our clients rid their homes and businesses of unwanted pests. I am an Army veteran, former State Farm Insurance Agent, and real estate investor with experience in all facets of real estate construction, transaction and insurance. I am also the founder and President of the Southwestern PA Chapter of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and an affiliate member of the Cambria-Somerset Association of Realtors (CSAR).

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