3 Things to Understand About Your Water Heater’s Pressure Temperature & Relief Valve

Thanks to the combined corrosive presence of water and high temperatures, it is no surprise that water heaters are subject to develop problems here and there. Leaks remain perhaps the most common such problem. If you have recently noticed that your water heater is leaking, read on. This article will outline what you should know about troubleshooting one of the most common leak causes: a faulty pressure relief valve.

The Basics

A temperature and pressure relief valve—often referred to as the T&P valve for short—is one of the most important safety elements your water heater contains. Its role is fairly simple: to prevent your water heater from exploding as the result of dangerously high pressure. Such pressure is often caused by a heater whose temperature has risen to an excessive degree. When such conditions occur, the T&P valve will automatically pop open, permitting some of the pressurized water to spill out of the tank. As a result, the pressure inside will lower back to a safe level.

T&P Valve Leaks

The inside of a water heater is subject to a certain amount of pressure at basically all times. Even when this pressure falls within acceptable limits, it acts to compress the rubber seals inside of the T&P valve. Over time, such compressor will grow so great as to cause the valve to begin leaking. While in theory it is possible to replace such seals, the difficulty of this task makes it more feasible to simply replace the entire valve.

T&P valve leaks are much more likely to develop if the valve has opened up in the past. The problem here is that, once the pressure inside the tank has lowered to an acceptable level, the T&P valve does not always return to its proper closed position. In some cases, such leaks can be eliminated simply by reseating the valve. In other cases, however, it may be necessary to have a plumber install a new T&P valve.

T&P Valve Troubleshooting

If you have what seems to be a chronic T&P valve leak—in other words, one that persists even after you have installed a new valve—you'll need to do some advanced troubleshooting. The first thing to check is whether the heater's temperature is set at an appropriate level. Temperature settings higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit are almost guaranteed to leak to a leaky valve, since this temperature will result in excessively high pressure. 

To learn more, contact a water heater installation company.