A week ago I woke up to fast running water. That didn’t sound good since no one was up yet, the dishwasher wasn’t set to run, and neither was the washer. I went downstairs and found water pouring into the water heater and the little pressure release valve jiggling. GREAT! Didn’t we just replace that thing a few months ago?
B came downstairs and turned off the water to the water heater. There was a nice flood of water from the release pipe in the backyard. Now we knew that there was a problem with the release valve or the expansion tank. After calling the water heater company and being told to check the pressure coming into the water heater, replace the pressure release valve and maybe the expansion tank, etc. We had to do some research. How do you check the pressure coming in?
This research led to a discovery- there is a pressure regulator valve on the water that comes into the house. If the water pressure is too high, it could cause some serious problems. Let’s see, in the last year we have replaced both valves in the shower, replaced the pressure release valve, noticed that turning off the water was very difficult on some sinks, kids couldn’t get the water to switch from tub faucet to shower mode, replaced water faucet in bathroom, and pipe in my bathroom sounded funny when the toilet was flushed and here we were 6 months later with another blown pressure release valve!
So off to the hardware store… B bought a test kit and discovered that our pressure was 144 psi! Ooops. It is supposed to be under 80 psi coming into the house. It seems that all these breaking things has been a result of a bigger problem. Isolated, they seemed to be the problem but really there was a bigger problem at hand. Even though the failure of the pressure release valve seemed to be pouring rain, I think it was actually the umbrella. The water heater didn’t explode, the pipes haven’t burst (which they could have), and we figured out the problem…
In the end, it was an expensive repair because we decided to move the location of the pressure regulator on the incoming water line. The builder put it in the crawl space between the duct work. It was not accessible and it was going to be hard to replace. Moving it was going to cost a certain amount to repipe the incoming water lines, but replacing the 10 yr old water heater that turned out to have corrosion we couldn’t see until it was moved was only a couple hundred dollars more than just moving the water line. If we waited to replace the water heater when it totally failed, we would have had at least $1000 more expense… so we ended up repiping the small section, replacing the water heater, and regulator valve, and thermal expansion tank.
I have to say, I am grateful for umbrellas to protect us from the downpour. Sometimes those umbrellas don’t prevent all the water from getting to our clothes, but they certainly help! I am also grateful that we were able to take care of this BEFORE the baby came. Last time I had a baby the roof started leaking the week after Baby was born…
And as for the lesson learned- buy a $10 pressure test kit from the hardware store and periodically test the pressure on your home. If it starts creeping up, you can adjust the pressure at the regulator valve. If that doesn’t help, then replace it. It is far better to replace the regulator than to have a series of plumbing problems that could get worse and worse!