Why Air Might Get Trapped in Your Pipes (and How to Fix It)

When you use a sink, tub, or shower on a daily basis, you probably notice any changes in its water flow or pressure right away. While issues like this often resolve on their own, that’s not always the case. For instance, if there’s air stuck in your pipes, it may need a little help getting out.

How does air get trapped in pipes?

When a home’s plumbing system is functioning normally, any air that enters its pipes should make its way out on its own, says Roy Barnes, a plumber with roughly 30 years of experience, and the co-owner of Service Force Plumbing in Rockville, Maryland. That’s because water with appropriately high pressure flowing through household pipes, which are relatively small in diameter—typically 3/4″, 1/2″, etc.—is unlikely to get “caught” somewhere in the system for no reason, he explains.

When air does get into household pipes, it’s typically because of underground utility work in the area, the home’s water main being shut off for maintenance, or unacceptably high water pressure. “The biggest issue for homeowners is jumping out of their shoes for a moment when the air makes a racket being expelled from a faucet or toilet,” Barnes says.

Signs that air is trapped in your pipes

The most common sign that air is trapped in your pipes is water spitting or sputtering as it comes out of the faucet, says Mark Collins, a fifth-generation plumber and the CEO of 1-800-Plumber + Air. In some cases, water might flow out of the faucet erratically and make more noise than usual, he says—though that typically only lasts for a short period of time, and depends on how air got into the pipes.

How to release air trapped in pipes

If you suspect that there’s air in your pipes, Collins recommends turning on multiple faucets in different parts of your home, and letting the water run for about 30 seconds each. That should alleviate the problem, but if it’s something you have to do on a regular basis, you might have a bigger issue on your hands that would require a professional to investigate.


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