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Your water heater makes life convenient. Hot baths and showers, warm water for dishes, and washing clothes – it’s all become a part of daily life for many. However, a malfunctioning hot water system isn’t just frustrating, but a danger as well when highly-pressurized tanks become involved. Upon troubleshooting your water heater, you may find that it’s your water heater pressure relief valve (TPR valve) that’s giving you a problem. 

Fortunately, this is a fairly common problem and is generally quite easy to identify when you know the right signs to keep an eye out for. Here’s how to tell if a pressure relief valve is bad.

What This Valve Does

Your gas or electric water heater’s temperature and pressure valve (or T&P valve) is a crucial safety feature that a professional should routinely inspect.

As the name suggests, this part helps to relieve pressure on the water tank when necessary. When the water cools and heats, it contracts and expands over and over again, at times placing a great deal of pressure on the inside of your hot water tank. 

In most water heaters, the superfluous water will travel back up the cold water inlet and back to the home’s water supply. However, in homes with valve checks or one-way valves and pressure regulators, this is impossible, meaning the water stays in the tank and pressure continues to build. The pressure relief valve lets a bit of this water leak out when necessary in order to keep this pressure inside the tank at safe levels.

So, do pressure relief valves go bad? Unfortunately, yes. But, there are a few signs that will tell you if there’s a problem with the valve.

Locating the Valve

Before you can check your valve for damage or learn how to tell if a pressure relief valve is bad, you’ll have to find it. The valve in question is a small pipe that extends away from the tank in a downward direction.

Signs Your Pressure Valve is Bad

Since it’s a rather simple, straightforward part, issues with a pressure relief valve are typically easy to spot. There are five telltale signs to keep an eye out for if you’ve been experiencing issues with your water heater. If you want to know how to tell if a pressure relief valve is bad, watch for these common signs:

  1. Flooding: Water should never be gushing from the valve. If this occurs, turn off the water supply immediately and contact your plumber for a proper assessment and fix.
  2. Excessive noise: If your hot water heater is rattling or emitting a high-pitched whistling noise, it’s likely the sound of steam trying to escape the tank, which is a sign of far too much pressure pressing against the inner walls. This means the relief valve isn’t doing its job and may need replacing.
  3. Debris in water: Pressure relief valves do go bad, and debris can be one indication of this problem. If you find excessive debris or rattling continues after you turn off the water and attempt to clean your valve, you may be dealing with significant corrosion. The part may need to be replaced, and a plumber should be called for a full evaluation of your tank.
  4. Ruptured tank: Water should never leak from the tank itself. If you’ve found water coming from the seams of the water heater, you may be dealing with a tank rupture. This occurs after pressure buildup has been left untreated for a long time and is a direct symptom of the valve being unable to release excess water properly.
  5. Leaking: The pressure valve should leak while doing its job, but it shouldn’t be leaking a considerable amount of water and shouldn’t be doing it often. If it seems like the valve just never stops leaking, you’re likely dealing with a problem. It could mean that your water heater is very frequently overheating or that your water heater valve is simply not holding in pressure as well as it should.

How to Test Your TPR Valve

As you can see, pressure relief valves do go bad from time to time. Now that you know how to tell if a pressure relief valve is bad, you may want to know how to test the valve.

Are you still unsure if your TPR valve needs replacing? Before you go scouring the internet for an “emergency plumber near me now,” consider performing a test. You can test your temperature and pressure relief valve to ensure that it’s working properly—and, of course, safely. Follow these steps:

  • Locate the Valve: The TPR valve should be on the side or top of your water heater tank.
  • Take Off the Drain Pipe: Remove the drain pipe from the valve; you may require a plumber’s wrench to do this. Keep a heat-safe bowl or bucket below the line.
  • Lift the Lever: Carefully lift the T&P valve lever but don’t lift it too high (this will lock the lever).
  • Check For Water: Ensure that only a tiny stream of water drains from the tank and into the bucket. If there’s no water flowing from the tank, it’s time to replace the valve.

If you’ve experienced any of these issues discussed above, then yes, it’s likely that your pressure relief valve is bad. Pressure relief valves do go bad for several reasons, but fortunately, the fix is easy, especially when you have a group of knowledgeable professionals on your side.

When you need help with your water heater and decide to comb the internet for a “house plumber near me,” remember that you can reach out to the Whipple Service champions for a wide range of emergency plumbing services.

However, the job doesn’t end at the fix. To ensure your gas water heater is still in good working condition and ready to face the challenge of keeping up with daily hot water needs, contact Whipple Service Champions. Schedule an appointment to have your valve inspected and replaced and get your water heater back to normal again in no time.