A comforting hot shower or bath is a daily necessity for most of us, so we all want to avoid a malfunctioning and unreliable hot water system. It’s essential to take care of your water heater to ensure that you will continue to have hot water now and in the future.
A common problem with water heater tanks is a faulty or failing pressure relief valve, which can occur in both electric and gas tank-style water heaters. The pressure relief valve on your water heater will look like a small pipe extending away from the tank, normally aimed downward. As the name suggests, it helps to relieve the pressure that can build up in the water heater unit from the hot interior temperature. Here are some of the most common signs that can indicate your water heater pressure relief valve has gone bad.
If water is streaming or gushing from your water heater’s pressure relief valve, it is a sign of a severe problem that needs to be addressed immediately. You should turn off the water heater, including the water supply, and contact a plumber to have the relief valve repaired (or possibly even replaced).
If water is just dripping from the pressure relief valve pipe, it typically means that the system is working properly to release overly hot water and reduce pressure in the system. However, if water drips often and regularly, it is a sign of a problem. This means that the water heater is frequently overheating the water. You should adjust the thermostat down so that there is not as much pressure in the tank.
If you do not reduce the temperature of the water heater, the pressure will build up inside of the tank and could rupture the tank. Continuous dripping, even after lowering the temperature, can be an indicator of ongoing high pressure due to valve failure. The valve can fail due to a number of reasons including age, corrosion, and improper closure. Contact a plumber to inspect the unit, as you may need to replace it.
If your water heater is making a high-pitched whistling sound or a rumbling or a rattling noise, then it should be dealt with quickly as it could be a sign that the pressure relief valve is failing. A high-pitched whistle indicates there is steam escaping the tank through the valve, which means that there is too much pressure inside the tank. You will want to turn down the thermostat to reduce the pressure.
Dirt Build Up
If the noise continues, turn off the water heater, let it sit for approximately one hour, and then try to clean the interior of the pipe valve. There may be dirt, debris, or corrosion blocking the pipe. If this does not correct the problem, contact a plumber because the valve probably needs replacement.
If the water heater is rumbling or rattling, there is probably corrosion built up in either the interior of the pipe or on the inside of the tank. In this instance, it is probably best to contact a plumber to have a thorough cleaning of the system and if necessary replace the relief valve.
If You Notice These Signs…
It’s important to be aware that most machines wear out over time, and your water heater is no different. Most tank-style water heaters last only 10 to 15 years. At some point, the valve may fail. When this happens, it is recommended that you contact a plumber to repair or replace the valve. In some cases, you may need to replace the entire water heater unit.
The best way to preserve your water heater and protect your home is to call a professional plumber for assistance as soon as you notice any of these signs of a failing temperature pressure release valve.