When we buy a home, we don’t think about how fancy the water heater may be or that it is an important appliance. However, it really is! Hot water heaters and boilers have a Temperature Pressure Relief Valve or TPR valve (sometimes called a T&P valve) that is for safety. It is an important part of these appliances.
What is a TPR valve? Well, it is a valve that will release water if the pressure or temperature exceeds safe levels. Let’s take a look at why it is important to know what the TPR valve is, the importance of it connected to a discharge pipe, what happens if a TPR malfunctions, maintenance, TPR data plate, and other issues and maintenance of a water heater.
Why a TPR Valve is Important
A TPR valve is a safety mechanism on a water heater. As mentioned above, when the water exceeds a safe level over 150 psi for pressure or the temperature is over 210 degrees Fahrenheit, the valve will open. The water will be released out of the discharge pipe.
The valve is located on the top or side of the water heater so if you don’t have one, the water heater can blow up. This is because there is no way for the pressure to get out. The valve is essential to keep the water heater from exploding!
Life Expectancy of a Water Heater
A gas water heater is expected to last about 8-12 years, while an electric water heater is 10-15 years. Now, this doesn’t mean they will last this long but maintenance sure will help!
Maintenance of the TPR Valve
Water heaters are usually maintenance-free and we don’t think much about them unless we see a leak or the water is not heating up in the shower. However, the TPR valve should be checked annually and this will help with the left expectancy.
- Check that the connection from the TPR valve and tank is not corroded
- The valve is not leaking water
- There is an extension pipe of the TPR valve within 6 inches of the ground and it points down. The discharge tube must be made out of an approved material, such as, copper or CPVC. Without this tube, you could be burned by water over 210 degrees!
- Contact a professional if you have any concerns or need assistance.
TPR Valve Isn’t Working
Here are some tips to see if you can fix it without replacing it:
Cool the water down first by shutting off the power to the hot water tank. If you have an electrical water tank, turn off the breaker. On the other hand, if it is a gas hot water tank, turn the valve to pilot or off. Then, run the hot water from a faucet in the sink or tub until the water has cooled to a lukewarm temperature.
Put a bucket under the valve. This will catch the water when the pressure is released. You will need to lift up the valve to open it. Open it for a few seconds and then close it.
Turn the power or gas back on and give the water heater time to heat up. See if the TPR valve holds. If not, it may need replacing.
Maybe the valve is venting when there is no pressure build-up. Before throwing in the towel to replace it, try to open it up a few times to blow off some of the water. By doing this you may be able to wash out any sediment that is causing the issue.
A professional can look at the issues you are having and recommend if you need to replace the valve. If you need to replace a TPR valve, here is a video that tells you how to do that. However, we always recommend hiring a professional.
How To Replace a T&P Valve
TPR Data Plate
This is located beneath the lever and will tell you the pressure at which a TPR will activate. The pressure should not be higher than what is on the plate. If your water heater is missing this plate, you need to have one added.
Other Issues With a Water Heater
Sometimes the water heater may stop working because the water heater reset button is malfunctioning. This can be due to:
- The water heater unit’s thermostat is not working.
- The reset button is malfunctioning.
- The high-limit switch is not working- that is the part that keeps the water from getting too hot. If it trips, then there is a problem with it or it is allowing the water to get too hot.
- There is a short in the heating element- this may allow the water to continue to heat up, however, it will trip the high-limit switch.
- A wire is loose somewhere in the water heater- this can cause the water to get hot and trip the high-limit switch.
- An electrical issue in the home.
If you need help with any of these issues, contact a professional.
How To Test A T&P Valve
Maintenance of a Water Heater
It is important to maintain the water heater.
Here are a few tips:
- Flush the hot water heater
- Whether you have gas or electric, adjust the temperature and reset.
- Turn your gas water heater off and back on.
- When you are traveling, set the water heater to vacation mode.
- Tighten the drain valve if you see water leaking out.
- Check the temperature release valve, also known as T&P or TPR Set the thermostat to 120 degrees F.
Other Areas to Check
Since you have to turn off the circuit breaker for the power, while you are at the electric panel, make sure you don’t have an FPE Panel or have a circuit breaker that isn’t working. If you find either of these, contact a professional for assistance for replacing.
When to Contact a Professional
If you are having issues with the water heater, the TPR valve, or the reset button, contact a professional for help. A water heater can be dangerous to mess with if you are not trained on how to fix it. There are a lot of safety issues with a water heater and often the maintenance should be left to a professional.
Water heaters are an essential part of our home and provide the hot and cold water we bathe in and drink. It is important to make sure it is working correctly. We will check the water heater while conducting your home inspection in the greater Atlanta area! Think you need help with the maintenance of the water heater or a repair? Leave us a comment below!