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What You May Not Know About Water Heater Relief Valves
“WARNING: FAILURE TO REINSPECT THIS VALVE AS DIRECTED COULD RESULT IN UNSAFE TEMPERATURE OR PRESSURE BUILD-UP WHICH CAN RESULT IN SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH AND/OR SEVERE PROPERTY DAMAGE.”
This typical Manufacturer’s Warning on a water heater’s temperature
and pressure relief valve (TPR) highlights, in no uncertain terms, the
dangers that a malfunctioning relief valve can pose to both the people
and the property nearby.
Case Against Testing
(story continues below)
Amelin says that it’s better for an inspector to recommend that the
valve be tested in the inspection report.
“Inspectors should recommend that the device be tested prior to
purchase and on a regular basis per the manufacturer’s
recommendations. Testing TPR valves should not be within an
inspector’s standard of practice—it is a recipe for disaster,” says
However, in some states, home inspectors are required to operate the TPR valve and such testing is actually included in the SOP. For example, in Texas, the SOP for all licensed real estate inspectors requires them to report as deficient anytemperature and pressure relief valve that:
(i) does not operate
(iii) is damaged;
(iv) cannot be tested due to obstructions;
(v) is corroded; or
(vi) is improperly located
However, the Texas SOP exempts inspectors from operating the TPR valve
“if the operation of the valve may,
in the inspector's reasonable judgment, cause damage to persons or
Case for Testing
“If you just grab the handle and FORCE it open, then most will probably not reseat (close). But if you get some experience testing the value on newer water heaters, you can get a 'feel' for how they should operate. Then you will be able to 'feel' one that is stuck. If you encounter one, you simply write it up as needing replacement,” Peck says.
In the event that he opens a valve today that
won’t close, Patterson says he has a few steps to minimize leaking.
“If you have a valve that will not seal back completely, if you open
it a few more times and let it wash out, the valve will usually seal
with no drips,” says Patterson.
If the valve still won’t seal, Patterson makes sure the water drains
into a pan. He finishes his inspection and then returns to try to
reseal it. “If I can't get it to seal, I turn the water heater off and
cut the water off at the water heater. I leave a note for the owner
explaining that the valve is leaking and would not reseal, and I try
to call the listing agent so they will know as well,” says Patterson.
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