Published onApril 19th, 2021
Hot Water Tempering Valves: How They Work to Protect You
As a property owner or manager in New York City, you must find the perfect balance between providing hot water for tenants and ensuring the water doesn’t become dangerously hot. A tempering valve is the solution for most buildings. However, you may have had hot water tempering valve problems that undo the care you put into controlling your property’s hot water temperature. Here’s a look at the function of tempering valves, signs your valve is malfunctioning, and tips for preventing problems in the future.
What Do Hot Water Tempering Valves Do?
Prevent scalding and discourage bacterial growth
Also sometimes called a mixing valve, a hot water tempering valve is typically installed early in the distribution system between the hot water heater or boiler and the pipes leading to individual taps. It mixes cold water with hot water to provide water at the perfect temperature for sinks and showers.
Why is finding the ideal temperature so important? It’s about more than just comfort. Water that’s too hot in a bathtub, for example, can scald anyone in less than three seconds. Young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.
However, landlords also want to keep water in their tanks very hot. This is necessary to kill bacteria like Legionella, which can cause severe health outbreaks. The death rate of Legionnaires disease, the illness caused by Legionella, is usually around 5 to 10 percent.
Other bacteria in colder water may cause bad smells, even if they are not dangerous. High water temperatures may also be necessary if the same system is used for both hot water and steam radiators.
A hot water tempering valve gives property owners the best of both worlds. It lets them keep water above 135 degrees in the tank to kill Legionella, eliminate unpleasant odors, and provide steam radiator heat, but by the time the water reaches tenants, it’s cooler–ideally, 120 degrees at the maximum, as dictated by New York City law. Using a tempering valve is less expensive than installing individual anti-scalding devices on every tap, although some properties may benefit from these, such as units with young kids or seniors.
What’s the Difference Between a Tempering Valve and Thermostatic Valve?
Systemic vs. local temperature control
Some folks tend to confuse hot water tempering valves and thermostatic valves. While they both accomplish similar tasks, a tempering valve controls water temperature for the entire system, while a thermostatic valve works on one tap only.
Usually, thermostatic valves are installed on showers, so users can enjoy a consistent water temperature every time they shower. Thermostatic valves also regulate water pressure, giving users their precise, desired combination of water temperature and volume. They are geared more toward convenience and luxury than necessity.
How Do You Know if Your Tempering Valve Isn’t Working?
Hot water tempering valves aren’t designed to work forever, and as you can well imagine, they are subject to 24/7 wear and tear. The most obvious and most common sign that a tempering valve is failing is tenants complaining that their water is too hot. A valve that is just starting to malfunction may work one day and not the next. Or water can be the right temperature one moment and scalding a few minutes later.
You might also notice your valve leaking or water pooled beneath it. This could be due to internal components or to the couplings that connect it to your hot water distribution system. Hard water scale and other debris can accumulate, causing blockages and encrustation of the parts.
Sometimes these issues can be fixed (see below); other times they point to a need to replace the hot water tempering valve entirely. We’re happy to come out and take a look if yours shows any of the warning signs of failure. You don’t want to wait until a tenant has a scalding accident because their water is far too hot.
Can You Prevent Hot Water Tempering Valve Problems?
Maintenance and more
Because your hot water tempering valve performs such an essential job for your tenants’ health, it’s wise to stay on top of maintenance. A quick visual inspection at regular intervals will tell you if anything looks wrong or if there are any obvious leaks.
We often suggest that our clients install better water filtration further upstream. This prevents sand, mineral deposits, and rust particles from blocking the hot water tempering valve and causing it to malfunction.
Speaking of rust, if your hot water or boiler system is nearing the end of its lifespan, we suggest creating a timeline for replacement, so you can budget and select the least disruptive time to do the work. This is a smart idea anyway, but it will also prevent rust and bits of corroded material from ruining your tempering valve and other plumbing parts.
Likewise, most hot water tempering valves last about eight years maximum. If yours is that age or older, it may be time to think about installing a new one. Contemporary models offer features that weren’t available in the past, such as electronic components that allow for more accurate adjustment of the set-point and remote monitoring. You will appreciate how easy it is to use a newer electronic hot water tempering valve compared to the ones of the past. We can recommend the right model for your unique needs and the demands of your property.
Is Your Hot Water Tempering Valve Malfunctioning?
Call Sanitary Plumbing
Have you been having difficulties with the hot water tempering valve in your property? Are tenants suddenly complaining about their water being too hot? Is your tempering valve leaking, showing signs of wear, or looking clogged with mineral scale? Is it so old that you can’t even remember when it was installed?
Don’t wait until one of your tenants suffers a serious burn from hot water. Call Sanitary Plumbing at 212-734-5000, or schedule a service call using our convenient online form. Reach out today, and save yourself a lot of hassle and headaches tomorrow.