Excessive water pressure — anything above 80 psi — can cause serious problems for a residential plumbing system. Ultimately, such pressure can damage water-using appliances and may even lead to leaks and the problem known as water hammer. Fortunately, you can keep your water pressure within a safe range by installing a pressure regulator valve on your main water line.
As its name implies, a pressure regulator valve caps water pressure at a safe limit set by your plumber. While effective, this plumbing component may develop problems as time goes on. If your home contains a regulator valve, keep reading. This article takes a closer look at three common problems faced by water pressure regulator valves.
A water pressure regulator valve works in much the same way as an outdoor hose faucet. A screw at the top allows you to increase or decrease the flow of water through the valve. Tightening the screw restricts water flow and hence places a tighter limit on the maximum water pressure.
Unfortunately, over time, a regulator valve may develop blockages that restrict flow beyond the intended amount. Such blockages often stem from high mineral content in your municipal water supply. These mineral deposits accumulate inside of the valve body, leading to lower-than-intended home water pressure.
In most cases, a plumber can resolve this issue by disassembling and cleaning out your regulator valve. Soaking the valve in a calcium and lime remover loosens up and dissolves unwanted mineral deposits. After rinsing the components clean, the plumber reassembles the valve, which should now function without undue restrictions.
2. Damaged Internal Components
Pressure regulator valves come in two main styles: direct acting and pilot operated. The majority of residential water systems use direct-acting valves. These valves contain a heat-resistant diaphragm attached to a spring. When water pushes on the diaphragm with enough force, the pressure causes the valve to close more tightly.
Alternately, low water pressure causes the diaphragm to remain relaxed, thus keeping the valve open more widely. Over time, the moving parts of this mechanism experience a significant amount of force. Eventually those components may succumb to degradation, making them less responsive than they should be.
In other words, the older a pressure regulator valve gets, the more prone it becomes to failure. Generally speaking, most regulator valves have a life span of between 7 and 12 years. If you have recently noticed any abrupt changes in the water pressure in your home, an internal component in your pressure regulator may have failed.
Theoretically, a plumber can dismantle a regulator valve and replace any defective components. Yet this strategy often ends up taking longer — and costing more — than simply replacing the valve entirely. Replacing your valve also ensures that problems stay at bay for as long as possible.
3. Incorrect Pressure Setting
At the top of a water regulator valve sits an exposed screw. This screw allows a plumber to alter the tension exerted on the spring inside of the valve body. Tightening the screw makes it more difficult for water pressure to move the diaphragm, thus raising the maximum pressure. Loosening the screw has the opposite effect.
When faced with insufficient pressure, don't immediately jump to the conclusion that your regulator valve has failed. You may simply need to have your valve adjusted. Virtually all pressure regulator valves have a pre-set pressure limit of 50 psi. Most homeowners consider this too little pressure.
Fortunately, a professional plumber can measure your exact pressure setting and make adjustments to the regulator valve to optimize pressure. For more information about how to get the best results from your pressure regulator valve, please contact Seattle's plumbing pros at Aurora Plumbing.
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