What is the water heater pressure-relief valve and what purpose does it serve?

Year after year, your water heater serves an important role in your home. Your morning routine just wouldn’t be the same—or nearly as comfortable—without hot water. Yet, water heaters and their components do not last forever. Preventative maintenance is the key to ensuring that your water heater continues to safely provide your home with hot water. In this article, we’ll review a critical safety component of your water heater, the water heater pressure-relief valve. We’ll discuss what it is, what it does, and how to ensure it’s still working and protecting both your water heater and your home.

Too high of a temperature setting can also cause excess pressure in your water heater. Talk to your King plumber about what temperature your water heater should be set at.

What is the water heater pressure-relief valve?

The name is actually quite literal. It’s a valve that relieves excess pressure in the water heater tank. By doing so, it can prevent excess pressure buildup that has the potential to cause a tank burst and flood your home. It’s an unheralded but essential safety mechanism for your water heater.

What leads to excess pressure in the tank?

As your water heater heats up the water in the tank, the water expands and steam is generated. The greater the heat, the more expansion that occurs. This expansion puts pressure on the exterior walls of the tank, but this is to be expected. Some degree of excess pressure escapes through the water pipes connected to the water heater. In the event that it cannot, the pressure-relief valve triggers. By releasing some of the hot water and air, the valve lowers the pressure back down to safe levels.

For reference, the normal pressure of the water inside of the water heater tank is 50-100 PSI.

What can go wrong?

If the pressure-relief valve is unable to open, the pressure can continue to build inside of the tank past that 100 PSI ceiling. The heavy metal tank can withstand a lot of pressure buildup, but it eventually has its limits. The results are explosive, as the tank gives way, sending hot water flooding outward. If your water heater has an emergency shutoff valve installed, the burst will be detected and the water supply will automatically shutoff. If not, you’re potentially looking at a flooded home with significant and costly water damage.

So, what causes the pressure-relief valve to fail? In many cases, the valve gets stuck or frozen in place due to the buildup of rust and corrosion inside the tank. Or, the valve is stuck due to a prior instance in which it released hot water. A broken valve is something that should be fixed right away, but—unless you’re examining your water heater closely on a regular basis—may not be something most homeowners notice. That’s why regular testing and maintenance is important.

Testing the valve

We recommend that homeowners here in Chicago test their pressure-relief valve when they flush out their water heater twice every year. Bundling your water heater maintenance tasks together makes sense, since each of these tasks takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Start by positioning a large bucket underneath the valve. You are going to release some hot water during this process, so you want to make sure you’re wearing safe clothes to reduce a scalding risk. Remove the drain pipe attached to the pressure valve. Then, gently lift the valve switch so that hot water begins to come out of the valve and into the bucket. For the purposes of this test, don’t push the switch all the way up.

So long as water and air are coming out of the water heater during this test, your water heater pressure-relief valve is working as intended. On the other hand, if you’ve flipped the switch up and you’re not seeing any release, that could indicate a problem with the valve. You should call our plumbing team at King immediately for service so that we can diagnose the problem and replace the valve, if need be.

We’re here for your plumbing and water heater needs

This goes without saying, but if you’re not comfortable flushing your water heater or checking the valve, don’t just ignore this crucial maintenance need. Give our team a call and have us out to your home to perform this service for you. Remember, this preventative maintenance can help prevent a tank burst and major water damage.

4 benefits of upgrading to a ductless HVAC system

While most standard air conditioners and furnaces rely on air ducts to cool and heat your home, a ductless HVAC system does things differently by putting the source of that comfort right in the room with you. Ductless systems aren’t just versatile: they’re also energy-efficient and convenient. In this article, we’ll review what ductless systems are, how they work, and how one Carrier system leads the industry when it comes to ductless performance.

Year-round comfort

At minimum, ductless HVAC systems consist of two main components: an indoor blower unit (typically wall-mounted) and an outdoor heat pump. This type of system can provide both summer cooling and wintertime heating, even here in Chicago. Heat pumps operate by moving heat energy from one location to another. In the summer, this means removing heat from the home and depositing it outside—just like an air conditioner. In the winter, the heat pump pulls residual heat energy from even cold outdoor air and brings it inside.

In a section to come, we’ll review how one Carrier ductless system in particular is a good fit here in the Chicago area.

The indoor, wall-mounted component of a ductless system setup.

Zoned comfort for each room of your home

When you turn down the thermostat linked to a traditional HVAC system, the unit kicks on and cooled or heated air begins blowing out of the ducts. Depending on how your ducts work, you may be able to close or open specific ones, but the system is still pushing air there, which means you’re still effectively paying to cool or heat the entire home, not just a single room. Ductless changes the game by allowing you to selectively change the temperature of the room you’re in or a group of rooms instead of the whole house. This means you can set the comfort in each room—and set yourself up for savings.

For example, if you and your family are spending a hot summer night in the kitchen eating dinner and then playing a board game, you can set that room to a cooler temperature than the rest of the home so that everyone stays comfortable. Then, when the game ends and everyone heads to bed, you can turn off the cooling in the kitchen and turn it on in the bedrooms. This “zoned” approach saves you money because you’re only paying to cool or heat the rooms that you need to at any given time.

Greater energy-efficiency

Ductless HVAC systems are more energy efficient than standard air conditioners and furnaces. As it turns out, air is a relatively poor conduit for temperature, which means that a great deal of the energy spent cooling or heating air is wasted as that air travels through your air ducts to vents and the living spaces of your home. The system then needs to generate more cooled or heated air to make up for the amount lost in transit.

With its indoor, wall-mounted blower unit, a ductless system cuts out the most wasteful part of the process and distributes cooled and heated air directly where it is needed. Add in the aforementioned ability to operate your cooling and heating strategically in zones, and a ductless system will lead to both lower energy bills and greater comfort in your home relative to a standard air conditioner and furnace.

No need to add ductwork

There are many homes and spaces here in the Chicago area where it doesn’t make sense to add air ducts. Historic homes, many of them built before central air conditioning and heating took the form we recognize today, may not be able to be extensively modified or retrofitted due to local historic preservation codes (not to mention that the cost of adding ductwork is often a dealbreaker for many homeowners). In other cases, it may not make sense or be feasible for a homeowner to run new duct lines out to home additions, non-connected suites, or garages.

No matter what type of home or what kind of space you have, a ductless HVAC system grants you greater flexibility. Many homeowners who are car enthusiasts or hobbyists are even starting to use ductless indoor units to keep their garages comfortable during the winter cold or the summer humidity here in Chicagoland.

The outdoor heat pump component of a Carrier Infinity ductless HVAC system.

The outdoor heat pump component of a Carrier Infinity ductless HVAC system.

The Carrier Infinity® Heat Pump

This is one of the most advanced heat pumps in the world, and it’s a perfect fit for the climate here in the Chicago area. This system boasts up to 42 SEER cooling and 15 HSPF heating when paired with an indoor blower unit. Best of all, this heat pump has an operating range that allows it to remain at 100% heating capacity in temperatures as low as 0℉ and 100% cooling efficiency in temperatures as warm as 122℉. This versatility allows it to bring heat to your home, no matter how cold it gets this winter.

Call King for a free in-home estimate

To learn more about the Carrier Infinity® Heat Pump, the manufacturer’s other heat pumps, or these systems in general, give our team a call. King Heating, Cooling & Plumbing offers free in-home estimates on new cooling and heating systems, including ductless HVAC systems. Our techs can match you to the new Carrier ductless unit that’s right for your home.