How a $15.00 Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve (TPRV) for your water heater can save your life!

Many people are not aware of how a simple safety valve on a water heater can save your life!

[tab: Why is a TPRV so important?]

water heater temperature and pressure relief valve (TPRV)

Typical Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve installed on a water heater. Click for a larger picture.

Water heaters are equipped with a simple yet very effective safety device called a Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve (TPRV).  This $15.00 safety device can literally make the difference between your safety or even your death!  Sound far fetched?  NO!  Sound like a scare tactic?  Well I most certainly hope this statement has opened your eyes wide!  Before you read any further I implore you to take 15 minutes of your time and watch the two videos listed here.  The first video was produced by Watts Water Technologies which is a the leader in manufacturing these safety valves.  Even though this is a very old video the theory, concepts, and consequences of failed TPRV’s are all the same now as they were then.  What has changed is greatly improved devices both TPRV’s and water heaters that help keep you safer.  The second video is a more modern video also displaying what can happen when these valves fail.

Explosion-Danger Lurks! (a video from watts regulator) A water Heater Explosion
Mythbusters Water Heater Explosion

I certainly hope you took the time to watch those two videos!  The TPRV is a very simple device designed to activate and open a valve when the temperature and/or pressure inside of the water heater tank exceeds the valve’s set limits.  The maximum settings for these valves is typically 150 Pounds Per Square Inch of pressure and/or 210 Degrees Fahrenheit.  These are considered the upper safe limits to prevent water heater issues.  If these valves fail to open you can see from the videos what can very possibly happen!

tprv and drain pan discharge pipes

This is a typical discharge point for both the TPRV's and the drip pan the water heater is sitting in. Click the image for a larger view.

The TPRV  should be piped either to a proper waster receptor or typically to the outside of the home to a location that will not damage the home or pose a safety threat if they do discharge.  These should also be in a readily accessible and visible location so that you can monitor them for dripping or draining that should never occur if the water heater and valve are functioning properly.  This image displays two TPRV discharge pipes, one for each water heater in this home, and another discharge pipe which is for the drip pan that the water heater is sitting in.  In this case both water heaters are side by side and share a common drip pan.  The drip pan is used to catch any type of leakage from the water heater and drain it out to a safe place where it can not cause any damage to the home.

So why am I making such a big stink about TPRV’s?  Well out of the many existing homes I have inspected (excluding brand new construction) it is obvious that this simple device is not being properly tested and maintained.  These valves should be tested at least once a year to ensure they function and do not continue to leak after testing either from the valve itself or at the discharge pipe.  You should also routinely look at the discharge pipes where they terminate to make sure they are not dripping.  All of these are signs of this valve either failing or other potential and just as deadly problems with the water heater.  If you own the home you should seriously consider replacing these valves every three years.  If you are buying a home make sure your Home Inspector is giving you the manufacture date of the water heater.  If it is three years or older you should also seriously consider replacing these valves.

Water heaters are typically “Out of site, out of mind” for most homeowners.  As a result they rarely think about the serious safety implications of these inexpensive, $15.00 each, safety valves that can save your life literally!  These valves are easy to test and this annual maintenance routine goes right along with other necessary maintenance routines for your water heater.  Your water heater manual can tell you all the typical maintenance needed on the water heater.  If you do not feel comfortable performing this then spend the money on a Professional Plumber to perform routine maintenance on the water heater and TPRV!  It will be some of the best money you can spend!

Be safe so your family can enjoy your home!

[tab: Links and References]

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