A relief valve in your hot water heater ensures that it the pressure within the tank will never be too great. For this reason, you should check your relief valve in your hot water heater to make sure that it is working properly. If it isn’t working, you can replace the relief valve and keep the rest of your heater intact.
To determine if you need to replace your relief valve, do this quick hot water heater check. Lift the lever on the relief valve and let about 8 ounces of water flow out. If the flow is steady you don’t need to replace anything. If, however, no water comes out of the relief valve or it leaks after you have released the relief valve, it should be replaced. Difficulty in moving the lever due to mineral build-up is also a good reason to replace this part of your hot water heater.
Before beginning it is important to turn off the source of power that heats your water. In a gas hot water heater, you should turn the shut-off valve to off before beginning. For an electric hot water heater, you should plan on turning off the power to the hot water heater from the service panel. Once the power is off, close off the cold water supply valve on the heater.
In order to work on your heater, you must drain some of the water out of your tank. If your relief valve is on the top of your tank, you will only need to drain a gallon or so. If the relief valve is located on the side of your tank, plan on draining at least five gallons before continuing.
With the tank drained to a comfortable level, you should next remove the discharge pipe that connects to the relief valve. To do this use a wrench and twist off the discharge pipe. Keep in mind that some models do not have a discharge pipe. If your hot water heater does not have one, skip this step.
Now you can unscrew the relief valve using a pipe wrench. Sometimes mineral buildup makes this step particularly difficult. If needed, use a penetrating oil such as WD-40 to help loosen the joint. Always use steady pressure to unscrew the part and avoid jerking motions.
When the old part is completely removed, you can replace the relief valve. Take your old part to the hardware store to insure that you have the right replacement for your particular hot water heater. Once you have the new part, apply pipe tape to the threads of the relief valve and screw it into place by hand. You can then use a pipe wrench to secure it into place. Then reattach the discharge pipe.
With the relief valve replaced, you can then relight your pilot light or turn back on the electricity to your hot water heater. You should also turn back on the cold water supply and allow some time for the water to reheat before using your tank.
A relief valve is an important safety part in your hot water tank. Plan on checking it once a year and fixing any problems promptly. Of course, if you don’t have the time or skill to complete this repair, a handyman or other professional could do the job for you.