Water Heater Relief Valve

Improve your home through this water-heater inspection.

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Homeowners Natalie and George Faucher want to buy the family home where Natalie grew up. The 1958 ranch in Jacksonville, Fla., has been in the family for several generations and they’re worried about inheriting age-old problems along with the house. Veteran home inspector Wally Conway surveys the situation for the couple.

Inspector's Notebook—Temperature and Pressure-Relief Valves
A temperature and pressure-relief valve is a required safety device that can help prevent a water heater from exploding. If the water in the tank approaches the boiling point or the pressure hits 150 pounds per square inch, the valve will open and allow the water and steam to harmlessly escape.

However, without a water discharge extension pipe, the hot water can spray haphazardly and burn you. The pipe attaches to the valve, can be made of plastic or metal, and extends to within six inches of the floor where the scalding water can flow safely away.

You should test the relief valve every six months. Open the relief valve by flipping the release lever. Water should flow freely. Close the valve after a few seconds and the water should stop flowing completely. If the water doesn’t flow when the valve is open, or if the water doesn’t stop flowing when the valve is closed, the valve may be defective. Contact a licensed plumber to have the valve replaced.

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