Do you have something in your line of work that drives you absolutely bonkers? As a home inspector, there are a few items that I find during routine home inspections that just make me wonder what some people are thinking. I am sure you all know what I am talking about. That one thing that you see at work every day that you know is wrong, but no one says anything about and it never changes. Think about it for a moment, it happens every day. We see something that is not right, maybe dangerous, and do nothing to change the situation.
As a home inspector, my bonkers button lately has been the temperature pressure relief valve(TPRV) for water heater tanks, and their pipe extensions. I guess my problem is more with the extensions than the TPRV itself. At least the TPRV is present during my home inspection. But I can't seem to find an extension for one anywhere. I have looked everywhere, I just can' seem to find one during a home inspection.
I know, I know, most of you are thinking what is this crazy home inspector talking about now. Take a moment to vizualize your water heater. Do you have it in your mind. Do you see the tube coming out the side or the top that looks like it will just run water all over your floor? Yeah, I didn't think so. That is because it has become so commonplace not to have the proper extension on the TPRV. This can be a very dangerous situation if you happen to be near your water heater and this valve needs to release pressure. The water could possibly scald you, or with these being at or near eye level, spray water all over your face, which could result in eye injury or worse.
Take a look at this picture below. This is what I typically find during a home inspection. This is improper installation and could cause the homeowner or occupant bodily harm. This is a picture of the TPRV on a water heater. This is only the valve.
Now, can you imaging standing eye level with that valve as it discharges water at a very high pressure? You probably don't want to be in the way when that comes gushing out. By having the proper extension on the TPRV you can avoid a possibly dangerous situation. It is a very cheap installation as well, which is another reason this bothers me so much. I think to install an extension on your water heater, it will cost you less than $15. Yes, less than $15. Money well spent according to this home inspector.
Now, if we take a look at the next picture, we will see what a proper extension on a water heater looks like. The extension on this water heater is a side mount. That is it, the copper tubing on the right side of the water heater tank.The extension should terminate within 6" of the floor. It also needs to terminate into the open atmosphere, so not into a sealed tank or such. Ideally, this should also terminate in the same room as the water heater. The extension pipe for the TPRV also should not be threaded on the end that will terminate at the floor. This way it cannot be capped off, which would make it useless, and create an even more dangerous situation. The material that the extension can be made from will vary from area to area according to their standard building codes. Your local builders or code officials can give you this information for your particular area.
Notice the pipe is not capped off, we can even see a hint of corrosion build up on the pipe. Now, if the pressure or temperature inside the tank becomes too great, the valve will open. Instead of the hot water pointing directly at someones eyes or head area, the spray is directed towards the floor. With this set up, injures that could occur if you are nearby during a discharge will be much less extreme than if there was no pipe installed.
This is just one of the situations that drive me bonkers as a home inspector. The next time you need to replace your water heater, and you do it yourself, please get the supplies for the extension as well. For less than $15, you could be avoiding a very serious injury to yourself or others.
I hope you enjoyed my venting about TPRV on your water heater. Come back and check for more home inspection related articles.