What’s the last time you thought about how your potable water gets to the top floor of your Chicago highrise building? If you’re like most people, you’ve never thought about it. You turn on a tap or start the washer, and the water simply flows. The truth is that it’s hard to get water to flow uphill. It typically needs pumps and tanks, and if any of the components inside your plumbing system fail, you could start to notice lower water pressure on the upper floors than the lower floors. The good news is that we can answer your common questions about highrise water systems, including how does potable water rise to the upper floors, and what part does plumbing play? Is low pressure an indication of problems and what effect does all of this have on pipes? Let’s take a look behind the walls.

How Potable Water Reaches Your Top Floors

Up until the 1940s, the most popular way to get water to the top floors of a highrise building was gravity tanks. These are large tanks that are located on the roof of a building that store clean water until it is needed, and you can still see these tanks on some buildings today.

When gravity tanks are used in a plumbing system, water pumps are used to pump water from the city’s municipal water system to the gravity tank. Once the tank is full, the pump turns off. As water is used in the building, the pumps periodically turn on to supply the tank with more clean water. While this method is effective, it is not without its problems. The tanks had a tendency to attract pests, like birds, and extreme temperatures, like the summer heat and winter cold, also contributed to issues with the tanks.

In fact, gravity tanks became such a maintenance nightmare, that by the 1950s and 60s, most buildings had stopped using them in favor of pneumatic pressure tank systems. Unfortunately, pneumatic pressure tank systems were bulky and energy inefficient because an air compressor was used to provide the pressure needed to push water upward to the roof. 

With the rising energy prices and the need to streamline plumbing systems and the maintenance issues caused by large pneumatic pressure tank systems, a new way to pump water from ground level to the top floors of highrise buildings was needed. The answer was a series of booster pumps and precisely sized pipes. Of course, some buildings still use the pneumatic pressure tank systems, but the good news is that these systems are now completely customizable and scalable for the buildings in which they are installed.

Water Pressure, Plumbing Systems and Highrise Buildings

Maintaining uniform water pressure throughout highrise buildings and skyscrapers is challenging. Even with the right system for delivering water from the ground floor to the upper floors, age, the components of the system and even the pH level of the water can have a significant impact.

For example, acidic water can accelerate pipe corrosion, leading to a system that develops leaks and low water pressure much faster than anticipated. Cheaply made valves and water pumps can fail prematurely, and if the system is more than 20 years old, it can develop leaks due to corrosion and worn-out joints and seams.

The good news is that by paying attention to service orders and water pressure complaints, you can stay ahead of your highrise plumbing system problems. For example, if you notice more leaks on the top floors or an increase in water pressure complaints, you can be proactive by calling a licensed plumber in Chicago and having them test and inspect your system. If problems are found, the appropriate repairs can be performed.

Options for Improved Water Pressure in High Rise Buildings with Althoff, Serving Chicago

The first step in diagnosing water pressure issues and plumbing problems in highrise buildings is always a plumbing inspection or building pipe assessment. These often utilize camera inspections to find corrosion and workout pipes that may be contributing to the low-pressure problems on your upper floors. After all, the more leaks in the system, the lower the water pressure, especially as the water rises. You can also request a water pressure test, which involves draining all the water lines and filling them with air. If the PSI drops in the system, there are leaks that need to be repaired. 

If those leaks are numerous, you may begin to consider having your plumbing system entirely replaced, which involves removing every pipe form your building and replacing those pipes with new plumbing pipes. While this takes care of your water pressure and leak problems, it can be messy and time-consuming. Here at Nu Flow Midwest, we offer an alternative to completely replacing every potable water pipe in your Chicago building. Our pipe lining technicians can evaluate your plumbing, explain the issues and tell you whether you’d benefit from a total pipe replacement, epoxy pipe lining or combination of the two. We are able to offer comprehensive plumbing solutions that involve both epoxy pipelining and traditional pipe replacement because we often work with Althoff Industries, who has licensed plumbers on staff. With our unique combination approach, we are able to provide you with affordable plumbing solutions for your highrise building so that your residents can enjoy great water pressure, no matter how many water-using appliances they are running.

To learn more about how we can help you correct water pressure problems in your highrise building with epoxy pipe lining, give us a call at 815-790-9000.