Results 1 to 37 of 37
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    9

    Default Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Hi everyone,

    My name’s Isaac, Associate Editor of Working RE. This post turned out longer than I expected, so please bear with me.

    I’m doing a story on water heater/TPR valve safety and was hoping to get some feedback from the home inspector community. I won’t quote you unless you agree to it. I do appreciate your feedback.

    A few weeks ago I was approached by a master plumber who originally got me on the story.

    Mr. Plumber’s position is that Plumbing Codes govern how the water heater and TPR should be cared for, and that as an abnormally dangerous appliance, it is the home owner’s responsibility to adhere to safety protocols and general standards of care.

    So when it comes to water heaters, plumbing codes basically affirm the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations, at least in instances where the plumbing code doesn’t address a specific issue, or the manufacturer’s recommended standard of care isn’t less than the plumbing code requirements.

    So in the case of a TPR valve, here is what a manufacturer’s tag found on a typical T&P Valve has to say:

    “WARNING: Temperature and Pressure Relief Valves should be inspected AT LEAST ONCE EVERY THREE YEARS, and replaced, if necessary, by a licensed plumbing contractor or qualified service technician, to ensure that the product has not been affected by corrosive water conditions and to ensure that the valve and discharge line have not been altered or tampered with illegally.”

    The standard warning on the TPR valve states:

    “WARNING: FAILURE TO REINSPECT THIS VALVE AS DIRECTED COULD RESULT IN UNSAFE TEMPERATURE OR PRESSURE BUILD-UP WHICH CAN RESULT IN SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH AND/OR SEVERE PROPERTY DAMAGE.”

    Now Mr. Plumber’s position, in the context of the above, is that Castle Law allows home owners to not have to have their TPR valves tested every 3 years, since noone can go into their homes and force them to follow safety protocol/plumbing code. However, Mr. Plumber feels that when the house is put up for sale, that the home owner has a responsibility to not sell a “dangerous” (as per manufacturer’s warning) appliance to an unsuspecting home buyer.

    Home inspectors obviously know better than most that water heaters / TPR valves that are not maintained properly pose a danger not only to the home owner, but the community as well: Phoenix Home Inspector Stan Fikel & Exploding Water Heater - YouTube

    If the water heater and TPR valve is ever inspected and tested by a “qualified technician,” then that technician leaves a “service report” for other inspectors and code officials that can verify that the water heater has been serviced and verified as safe.

    By tested and inspected, I'm talking about taking it apart, examining it, testing it, etc. In other words, a test/inspection outside of what a home inspector does, since most home inspectors don't (and shouldn't) take apart the TPR valve, etc.

    So here’s the meat of my inquiry:

    It is Mr. Plumber’s position that home inspector’s would be well served to note that there is no service report on the water heater, and that consequently, the water heater represents a threat of serious injury/death and/or severe property damage—this if course is per the manufacturer’s warning and instructions, which Mr. Plumber believes is codified, in a round about way, into law through the plumber’s code.

    So, what say you?

    Do you think it’s worthwhile for a home inspector to note that the water heater has not been serviced/reinspected/tested as per manufacturer’s instructions and poses a danger to inhabitants?

    Would there be any potential problems for a home inspector who noted this in his report?

    What is a home inspector’s response to Mr. Plumber about this issue?

    Do you think this falls outside what a home inspector should be expected to include on the report?

    There are obviously liability questions here, both for the home owner, and for the home inspector.


    (I appreciate any and all feedback)

    Similar Threads:
    Last edited by Isaac Peck; 07-31-2012 at 04:10 PM.
    2018 ASHI InspectionWorld

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,243

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Isaac ... (no relationship to me that I am aware of)

    Nothing in those two quoted statements says "shall", just "should" and "failure to" test could result in injury or death, but that is something within the homeowners purview.

    Additionally, no one has the right to access or force anything on a property which "passed inspections" and was given a Certificate of Occupancy.

    I suspect that Mr. Plumber is trying to find more work.

    Home inspectors should, in my opinion, test the valves (we have hashed and re-hashed this multiple times with many saying not to touch them because they may leak and other saying to operate them "properly" and report any failures). Operating the relief valve properly is key. If the valve is stuck, or feels stuck, do not force the valve open to test it, write the valve up as needing to be replaced. The valve is a safety device, and a safety device should work the first time, every time, each time it is operated. I have had plumbers report that they "unstuck" the valve and that it is now working - no, what they really did was prove that the valve 'was stuck' and 'is in need of replacement'.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Isaac:

    Interesting topic. I'll bite first. Mr. Plumber is correct regarding the technical issues. In fact, Watts Regulator, the largest manufacturer of TPRV's states in its instructions (attached) that the lever should be operated annually (homeowner) and inspected by an expert every three years. I would submit it's cheaper to replace the valve every three years than take it apart and inspect. I have never seen a relief valve inspection card or service report posted in a residence except for an oil burner. They are popular for relief valves in some commercial applications.

    Regarding what the home inspector should report, that would depend upon your state requirements, if any. For the most part we don't perform code inspections (including plumbing code) or inspection for compliance with manufacturer specifications or instructions. We inspect performance in some instances, and for existence or non-existence in others, such as with TPR valves. While a great idea to alert the potential homeowner to all suggested maintenance actions, such as relief valve inspection, oil burner annual maintenance, deck guardrail fastener torque inspection, boiler relief valve inspection, furnace service, water heater tank blow-out, etc. we would be going beyond standard. Just thinking of all the items that could be included is mind-boggling. Maybe just a global comment that all appliances should be maintained per the manufacturer's instructions. If we, as home inspectors, only mentioned one appliance, the water heater, and specifically the TPRV, we might be asked later why we did not mention that all should be properly maintained and what those procedures are.

    Attached Files Attached Files

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,546

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    We can try to be watchdogs for our clients, but in the end, it is the home owner's responsibility to maintain his own equipment. It would be a nice service to offer, "I'll see you a year from now and I'll check your TPRV again", but that isn't going to happen.
    It is on the home owner's shoulders to test the valve, so let's educate them.

    Randomly opening other people's TPRV's is a job for a plumber with tools and parts in his truck. In a vacant home, it can be disastrous for a home inspector to do that.
    As Jerry mentioned, this has been rehashed a thousand times. Even if the valve feels free to open, it may not reclose, leading to a drip or a flood. Turn off the water, better cut the power too. In the seller's eyes, you broke it. You've sabotaged the sale. Other buyers were turned away, yadayada.

    A tank water heater can withstand about 350 lbs/sq inch. Then the bottom blows out and it takes off like a rocket. I saw that on Mythbusters.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  5. #5
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
    Garry Blankenship Guest

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Water heaters have the potential to wreak some serious damage. That said; I believe your article / concern is of limited importance. I am speculating a bit, but believe any testing of a TPR valve would be to simply manually open it to see if it will pass water / steam / moisture. That is a level of assurance, but it does not confirm the valve will open at the appropriate temperature or pressure. That "testing" would not confirm safe operation. So why bother ? Another perspective is the average water heater life expectency is low enough to reduce concern with the TPR valve mal-function. Ask your plumber about the exact mothod of his recommended TPR "testing" and I believe you will find it's a good idea in theory, but in practice it accomplishes almost nothing.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Blankenship View Post
    but believe any testing of a TPR valve would be to simply manually open it to see if it will pass water / steam / moisture. That is a level of assurance, but it does not confirm the valve will open at the appropriate temperature or pressure. That "testing" would not confirm safe operation.
    I can't find any documentation to support your hypothesis. But it is an interesting question.
    In other words, even if testing the valve lever causes a flow, does that mean that the valve will function properly in the event of over heating and pressurization? If the answer is absolutely yes, then we should test TPR valve levers, but if the answer is not necessarily so, then the value of testing is gone.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Columbus GA
    Posts
    3,746

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    You operate the TPR valve only to confirm that it does open.
    No, it does not confirm that the valve will operate correctly.
    But if we find it is stuck, we know it will not operate correctly.
    Checking to see that it does open is the only practical test that can be performed, and is the only test the manufacturers recommend be done.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,243

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    I can't find any documentation to support your hypothesis. But it is an interesting question.
    In other words, even if testing the valve lever causes a flow, does that mean that the valve will function properly in the event of over heating and pressurization?
    That is correct, operating the lever *does not* test the valve's ability to release at the designated pressure nor at the designated temperature.

    If the answer is absolutely yes, then we should test TPR valve levers, but if the answer is not necessarily so, then the value of testing is gone.
    "then the value of testing is gone"

    Quite *incorrect* as the value of testing (operating the lever) is to see if the valve is *stuck* or *does not open* or *opens but does not allow water to flow out* - if any of those things are found, then the valve *needs to be replaced* because the valve is a safety valve and any safety valve must work each and every time, and the valve cannot work if it is *stuck*, *does not open*, or *opens but does not allow water to flow out*.

    Thus the value of the test is not to verify that it works, but to check if *does not work and needs to be replaced*.

    Think of it like checking a GFCI or AFCI breaker ... you are not checking to see if the breaker works and trips at the setting indicated on the breaker handle, you are just checking to see if the GFCI or AFCI function works.

    The GFCI or AFCI function works, that function of the breaker is okay. The T&P relief valve opens and flows, that function of the valve is okay.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Ok, those are good points. This discussion reminds me of similar ones about the block test for garage openers, water heater drain valves, and AFCI breakers. I have never tested TPR valves. What is the percentage of defective valves that you find and how many don't close upon testing?

    I ran across the below video of some inspector testing TPR valves.

    MLC Tests 2 TPR Valves - YouTube


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,243

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    What is the percentage of defective valves that you find and how many don't close upon testing?
    The percentage of failures on homes 5 years and older was probably 50%, and the older the water heater, the higher the percentage of failure, going to 75% - 80% on water heaters 20 years and older.

    How many didn't close upon testing? Trick question, so it gets a trick answer ... ... if you just grab the handle and FORCE it open, probably most would not re-seat, however, if began by testing them at newer water heaters to get the 'feel' of how they should feel when they are not stuck, then you will be able to 'feel' the fact that it is stuck and thus you write it up as 'water heater T&P relief valve is stuck and needs to be replaced because it is a safety valve and a safety valve must work *every time*', then add 'if the plumber tells you they "unstuck the valve and it is okay now", what the plumber confirmed is that the valve *sticks* and *needs to be replaced*'.

    If you put that in your report, you will not get the call saying that 'the plumber said it is okay now, it was just stuck' because you have already told them that what the plumber did in that case was to *confirm* what you wrote down and that the relief valve *needs to be replaced*.

    Occasionally you will get an agent who did not grasp what you wrote in your report and they will call you and tell you that the plumber unstuck the valve and said it is okay now, that is when you direct them to the report and read the report with them "Do you see in the report where it says " 'if the plumber tells you they "unstuck the valve and it is okay now", what the plumber confirmed is that the valve *sticks* and *needs to be replaced*' "? You do understand that the plumber CONFIRMED that the valve was STUCK and that because it is a SAFETY VALVE it must work each and every time, and the plumber said it WAS STUCK AND NOT WORKING, please thank the plumber for me for acknowledging that the valve NEEDS TO BE REPLACED."

    Some agents are dense and you may have to explain it better before the agent grasps the fact that the plumber proved that the valve was bad and that the valve needs to be replaced.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    The percentage of failures on homes 5 years and older was probably 50%, and the older the water heater, the higher the percentage of failure, going to 75% - 80% on water heaters 20 years and older.
    Well....50% is huge. Good advice, thanks.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Cape Cod, Massachusetts
    Posts
    574

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck
    Home inspectors should, in my opinion, test the valves (we have hashed and re-hashed this multiple times with many saying not to touch them because they may leak and other saying to operate them "properly" and report any failures). Operating the relief valve properly is key. If the valve is stuck, or feels stuck, do not force the valve open to test it, write the valve up as needing to be replaced. The valve is a safety device, and a safety device should work the first time, every time, each time it is operated. I have had plumbers report that they "unstuck" the valve and that it is now working - no, what they really did was prove that the valve 'was stuck' and 'is in need of replacement'.
    Home inspectors should not (in my opinion) be testing TP valves. I think it is a very bad idea and a high risk for liability. I agree with Jerry that a high percentage are faulty and believe that those faulty valves, if unseated may not re-seat properly and leak all over the place. Especially if the temperature in the tank is higher than 115 degrees F.

    I can see it all now.

    "I tested the valve and it is leaking like a sieve and I can't stop it." It's on the third floor of a condo unit - no safe pan and I try to tell the owner that I tested it because it was a "safety concern" and the manufacturer says to test it annually. You should call a plumber right now to fix it. -- Yah Right -- The owner and listing agent would go ballistic!

    Who do you think is reponsible for damage or repair if the valve leaks? If it leaks YOU OWN IT, and any damage that it causes. The leaking can continue until the valve is replaced. We cannot be expected to carry space TP Valves of variouse sizes and shapes to fit all types of heaters. We are not plumbers. Only the homeowner or licensed plumber should test the device.

    Jerry - You mentioned "operating the relief vavles properly is key." - Sorry, but I must ask - who defines "properly" - As far as I know, The only way to test the valve properly is per the manufacture's test proceedure - not any other way. And no where do I see a manufacturer recommend the proceedure you have described.

    I do believe though we should recommend that the device be tested prior to purchase and on a regular basis per manufactures recommendations - just not by us.

    Ken Amelin
    Cape Cod's Best Inspection Services
    www.midcapehomeinspection.com

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,243

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    Home inspectors should not (in my opinion) be testing TP valves. I think it is a very bad idea and a high risk for liability. I agree with Jerry that a high percentage are faulty and believe that those faulty valves, if unseated may not re-seat properly and leak all over the place. Especially if the temperature in the tank is higher than 115 degrees F.

    Jerry - You mentioned "operating the relief vavles properly is key." - Sorry, but I must ask - who defines "properly" - As far as I know, The only way to test the valve properly is per the manufacture's test proceedure - not any other way. And no where do I see a manufacturer recommend the proceedure you have described.
    Ken,

    If by now, from all my posts on testing T&P relief valves, you do not understand how to test a T&P relief valve, then, NO ... *YOU* *should not be testing them* ... I am also not sure what else you should be testing, given your lack of understanding after all the posts I've made on testing T&P relief valves.

    Sorry, Ken, your ignorance or lack of being able to understand what has been posted and stated here many times is not a positive thing for you.

    One can lead a horse to water, but one cannot make them drink ... sometimes they drown or die of thirst, or have no thirst for any knowledge beyond what they already have.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Cape Cod, Massachusetts
    Posts
    574

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck
    If by now, from all my posts on testing T&P relief valves, you do not understand how to test a T&P relief valve, then, NO ... *YOU* *should not be testing them* ... I am also not sure what else you should be testing, given your lack of understanding after all the posts I've made on testing T&P relief valves.
    Jerry,

    Please forgive my ignorance. I haven't seen all your posts on T&P valve testing, I'll have to go back and read them, BUT whatever they say - "All your Posts on testing" are just that. - YOUR POSTS on testing- NOT Manufacturers posts on testing.

    The manufacturer (Watts Regulator) states that testing requires lifting the lever an allowing water to drain into a bucket. They make these things and they develop the method for testing.

    I believe testing T&P valves should not be within a home inspectors standard of practice - It is a receipe for disaster. I also think that making this type of recommendation to an editor doing a story on water heater/TPR valve safety may be somewhat irresponsible, especially knowing that the editor doing this story would not have knowledge of your past posts either.

    Ken Amelin
    Cape Cod's Best Inspection Services
    www.midcapehomeinspection.com

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Near Philly, Pa.
    Posts
    1,643

    Cool Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Let me take a stab: the valve mfrs. recommend annual testing of the valve by lifting the lever to confirm discharge of hot water. This test often results in the failure of the valve to re-seat, requiring immediate replacement. Failure to replace a dripping valve may result in collateral damage to the property. For this reason, professional inspectors may elect not to perform this test. Some jurisdictions require only certain licensed professionals such as plumbers be allowed to replace these valves. Therefore, the safest route may be to have a qualified plumber perform this test annually so if it fails to open or fails to close, he is there to replace it either way. While there, he can inspect any other plumbing issues in the home and effect said repairs usually on the spot. Note that most valve mfrs. recommend replacement of the valve every three years anyway. If the valve is past due for replacement, there is no need to test it but simply replace it. If there are other pressure relief valves in the home, such as on boilers, they can be served concurrently.

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Holladay, UT
    Posts
    565

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    I think Michael Casey makes the best point here. If we do test the TPR valve where do we stop testing other components and how far do we test them? I personally do not not test TPR valves but include this in every report:

    Water heater TPR valve should be reinspected at least once every three years by a licensed plumbing contractor to ensure that the water ways are clear. Certain naturally occurring mineral deposits may adhere to the valve, rendering it inoperative. *WARNING* When manually operating the lever, water will discharge and precautions must be taken to avoid contact with hot water and to avoid water damage if valve becomes stuck. The inspector does not operate this valve. A qualified plumber should test now and at least once every three years and replace as necessary. Failure to reinspect this valve as directed could result in unsafe temperature or pressure build-up which can result in serious injury or death and/or severe property damage.

    As John Kogel stated if the valve sticks and water is pouring out it is much better to have the plumber already there. I have also learned to never ever touch a saddle valve or main water valve. I think that it is best left to each inspectors comfort zone and their standards of practice.

    Just my two cents.

    Tom Rees / A Closer Look Home Inspection / Salt Lake City, Utah

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    47

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Rees View Post
    I think Michael Casey makes the best point here. If we do test the TPR valve where do we stop testing other components and how far do we test them? I personally do not not test TPR valves but include this in every report:

    Water heater TPR valve should be reinspected at least once every three years by a licensed plumbing contractor to ensure that the water ways are clear. Certain naturally occurring mineral deposits may adhere to the valve, rendering it inoperative. *WARNING* When manually operating the lever, water will discharge and precautions must be taken to avoid contact with hot water and to avoid water damage if valve becomes stuck. The inspector does not operate this valve. A qualified plumber should test now and at least once every three years and replace as necessary. Failure to reinspect this valve as directed could result in unsafe temperature or pressure build-up which can result in serious injury or death and/or severe property damage.

    As John Kogel stated if the valve sticks and water is pouring out it is much better to have the plumber already there. I have also learned to never ever touch a saddle valve or main water valve. I think that it is best left to each inspectors comfort zone and their standards of practice.

    Just my two cents.
    I do a basic check of the test lever. If it opens very easily "usually" it closes properly and stops dripping. If there is any difficulty at all I call it frozen and should be replaced.

    Years ago as a newbie I would test them all, and found that if they were difficult I could not shut them off. I discovered that by tapping the pin holding the lever most would shut off. I would report them as defective and ask for replacement. After that experience I learned not to force them open.

    It is a basic safety item and I believe they should be tested. In my case of mfd. homes, in the past, if defective, they would drip on the ground below the home and no would know about it wasting energy and water (unless of course the went under the home). Now (on new w/h installations in California) they are drained through the floor and out of the skirting so they are visible if tested and defective.

    Greg Filian
    http://www.MobileHomeInspectors.com
    714 612-3564

  18. #18
    Joe Richmond's Avatar
    Joe Richmond Guest

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Okay, I will post my two cents too. It appears that there are a couple of schools of thought. One being site assessment, and the other, inspectors being knowledge bases. I believe the beginning to to truly understand the parts and pieces of the systems that we inspect, the to provide information and be able to discuss same factually enough to allow Home Buyer to make the educated decision either way. What I take from this conversation is to re-examine the water heating system, including distribution, maintenance, and correlations to other systems and utlities, then to begin to build a knowledge base to pass onto client (whether if be in teh form of a general note in section description, or an additional flier/.pdf that can be provided to client at inspectino or at distributino of report. Either way, the information should be passed onto who can utilize it best (our clients'), and we can increase our value to the industry. So I will end by saying thanks for the additional information adn it will be something that I will research on my own and see if ?I can add some value to our industry.


  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,243

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Filian View Post
    After that experience I learned not to force them open.
    Greg,

    That is the key to testing T&P relief valves - *never* *force* them. If they are so tight that you have to do anything more than light-to-medium pressure to lift the lever ... the valve is *stuck*.

    If the valve is "stuck", never force it open.

    All, let's look at it another way ... if you had a door, say to a rear porch, and the door would not open, would you throw your body weight into the door to knock it off its hinges and splinter the latch jamb to get it open ... or would you write it up as the door would not open? How did you learn how much pressure was 'too much' when opening doors, and how much was 'okay'? The only difference is that one is a door (a hinged lever) and the other is a hinged lever (which is not called a door).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Cape Cod, Massachusetts
    Posts
    574

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac Peck
    So here’s the meat of my inquiry:

    It is Mr. Plumber’s position that home inspector’s would be well served to note that there is no service report on the water heater, and that consequently, the water heater represents a threat of serious injury/death and/or severe property damage—this if course is per the manufacturer’s warning and instructions, which Mr. Plumber believes is codified, in a round about way, into law through the plumber’s code.

    So, what say you?

    Do you think it’s worthwhile for a home inspector to note that the water heater has not been serviced/reinspected/tested as per manufacturer’s instructions and poses a danger to inhabitants?

    Would there be any potential problems for a home inspector who noted this in his report?

    What is a home inspector’s response to Mr. Plumber about this issue?

    Do you think this falls outside what a home inspector should be expected to include on the report?

    There are obviously liability questions here, both for the home owner, and for the home inspector.


    (I appreciate any and all feedback)
    [quote=Isaac Peck]

    Isaac,

    It looks like we got off track a bit and may not have answered your original questions. (we tend to ramble on these interesting threads)

    Here's my two cents - please feel free to quote me.

    1. Do you think it’s worthwhile for a home inspector to note that the water heater has not been serviced/reinspected/tested as per manufacturer’s instructions and poses a danger to inhabitants?

    ans: I do not think it is possible for a home inspector to note if the valve has been serviced or replaced as there is no way of determining this.

    2. Would there be any potential problems for a home inspector who noted this in his report?

    Ans: Yes, because it would be impossible to determine. Reporting any notes without knowing the facts is not recommended. Sometimes we see that a plumber replaces the hot water heater but re-cycles the TP valve. We should probably note this in our reports

    3. What is a home inspector’s response to Mr. Plumber about this issue?

    Ans: Mr. plumber says if there is no service tag then we should note it - But I have never witnessed where Mr Plumber has ever left a service tag on a water heater TP valve. It has been my observations that the only time Mr Plumber touches a TP valve is when it leaks.

    4. Do you think this falls outside what a home inspector should be expected to include on the report?

    Ans: I think you may have touched on an important potential safety issue. I think the industry meaning, Manufactures, Plumbers, and Inspectors should come to an agreement on what might be proper. I would put the action items in this order:

    a. Manufactures need to determine if there is indeed a problem with TP valves aging, and what is the "required test" (it may well be replacement on a regular basis.)

    b. Plumbers need to agree on service requirements and documentation for record and posting.

    c. Inspectors should note if there is any evidence of that the heater has been or not been serviced.

    d. There should be some sort of consensus between all parties.

    There are obviously liability questions here, both for the home owner, and for the home inspector.

    Comment: There are. But the real issue to me is safety not insuarnce liability. (although I do care ) We have not really determined if it is a safety issue that requires the industry to develop a program or set new standards for service and inspection. I understand that you are an editor for an insurance liability firm and you are directing your questions to your clients, but I believe the best way to reduce liability and to improve safety is to start at the top of the chain. The burden should lie with the manufacturer not the inspector.

    Ken Amelin
    Cape Cod's Best Inspection Services
    www.midcapehomeinspection.com

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Yesterday was an unusually busy day. Three inspections. I prefer one a day. At the first one, the home was a winterized foreclosure with some removed copper plumbing (theft) so the water was off. The TPR valve on the water heater was opened from a year ago when the house was winterized. It was frozen in the open position. Of course, I write it up.

    Second inspection.........I apply what I consider reasonable effort to operate the TPR valve and it won't budge. I write it up as stuck.

    Third inspection.......a plumber is replacing the water heater. I can easily evaluate the effort required to operate a new TPR valve and do. He is amused as I stand there operating the valve. But, since I haven't tested TPRs in the past, I want to be familiar with the effort required. I am satisfied with the effort I applied at the second inspection and my assessment.

    You guys have made interesting and good points on both sides of the test/don't test argument. I think for my business, I'll test TPR valves similarly to the way I use the block test for garage door openers. In some properties where I judge the risk of damage from the test of the valve (should it fail) to be too great, I'll simply write it up as "a plumber should inspect the valve". Others, I'll do like Jerry recommended, and apply the effort that should open a new valve and if it doesn't open, call it stuck and move on.

    In this biz, we constantly make judgment calls. I have been doing inspections for nearly 15 years, but unlike an old dog, I try to learn new tricks. I appreciate the discussion here.


  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    North Central Texas
    Posts
    472

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    From Casey's post:

    WARNING: Following installation, The valve lever MUST
    be operated AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR to ensure that the
    water-ways are clear. Certain naturally occurring mineral
    deposits may adhere to the valve, rendering it inoperative.
    When manually operating the lever, water will discharge and
    precautions must be taken to avoid contact with hot water
    and to avoid water damage. BEFORE operating lever, check
    to see that a discharge line is connected to this valve directing
    the flow of hot water from the valve to a proper place of disposal
    otherwise personal injury may result. If no water flows,
    valve is inoperative. TURN OFF THE WATER HEATER AND
    CALL A PLUMBER IMMEDIATELY.
    This device is designed for emergency safety relief and shall
    not be used as an operating control.

    @ JP: "MUST" seems to me to be related to SHALL.

    Texas SOP states:

    535.231(c)(3)(K)
    Water heaters. The inspector SHALL report as deficient a temperature and pressure relief valve that:
    (i) does not operate manually;
    (ii) leaks;
    (iii) is damaged;
    (iv) cannot be tested due to obstructions;
    (v) is corroded; or
    (vi) is improperly located; and

    So, it is a moot question in Texas. They MUST be inspected because the TREC says that they SHALL be inspected.

    As for the warning verbiage suggested by the plumber in the OP, I like it and SHALL incorporate it into my reports even though I MUST not.

    So, at first blush, perhaps:

    The manufacturers of all water heater temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valves require that these valves be professionally tested on a periodic basis (usually every three years). No certificate or proof of this required testing was observed at the water heater(s) or at the home and none was provided to this inspector by the owner, his agent, the client, or his agent. In the absence of proof of required servicing of this essential safety device(s) you are strongly urged to have this (these) valve(s) replaced prior to the end of any time limits associated with the purchase of this home. Failure to do so could result in devastating property and/or personnel damage.

    Last edited by Aaron Miller; 10-10-2012 at 10:22 AM.
    Texas Inspector
    http://www.texasinspector.com
    What the plainspoken man lacks in subtlety, he makes up in clarity.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Snowbird (this means I'm retired and migrate between locations), FL/MI
    Posts
    4,086

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    No need to reinvent the wheel or re-write, its already been done.

    See: TheTemperature Pressure Relief Valve
    The Most Important Part of Your Client's Domestic Hot Water
    System
    By: Kenny Hart
    ASHI Reporter December 2008

    Clickable direct link: The Temperature Pressure Relief Valve | The ASHI Reporter | Inspection News & Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors


    I agree completely with the author's opinion regarding HIs NOT opening TPRVs.


  24. #24
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    No need to reinvent the wheel or re-write, its already been done.

    See: TheTemperature Pressure Relief Valve
    The Most Important Part of Your Client's Domestic Hot Water
    System
    By: Kenny Hart
    ASHI Reporter December 2008

    Clickable direct link: The Temperature Pressure Relief Valve | The ASHI Reporter | Inspection News & Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors


    I agree completely with the author's opinion regarding HIs NOT opening TPRVs.
    Since this thread started up again a few days ago, I started testing some TPR valves. I have found three defective TPR valves. So, I am convinced that this is a bigger problem than I previously appreciated. We have hard water around here, so our failure rate may be higher than other parts of the country.
    Yesterday, in an occupied home, I saw a dry stain under the discharge pipe, so instead of simply calling out a possible problem with the TPR valve, I tested the valve. It easily opened, but sure enough, it wouldn't close. On one hand, the seller is now forced to fix the thing, which is in their best interest, but on the other hand, I may get some grief over this that I could have avoided. It's not that I am saying that I was wrong to test the valve, but rather, it would have been easier to recommend having a plumber check it out and move on. Demonstrating dramatic failure of a component, makes for good theatrics, but rarely necessary and has a tendency to bite you in the butt.

    Going forward, I'll no longer test TPR valves in occupied homes. Instead, I'll recommend having it evaluated.


  25. #25
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,243

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    Since this thread started up again a few days ago, I started testing some TPR valves. I have found three defective TPR valves. So, I am convinced that this is a bigger problem than I previously appreciated. We have hard water around here, so our failure rate may be higher than other parts of the country.
    Yesterday, in an occupied home, I saw a dry stain under the discharge pipe, so instead of simply calling out a possible problem with the TPR valve, I tested the valve. It easily opened, but sure enough, it wouldn't close. On one hand, the seller is now forced to fix the thing, which is in their best interest, but on the other hand, I may get some grief over this that I could have avoided. It's not that I am saying that I was wrong to test the valve, but rather, it would have been easier to recommend having a plumber check it out and move on. Demonstrating dramatic failure of a component, makes for good theatrics, but rarely necessary and has a tendency to bite you in the butt.

    Going forward, I'll no longer test TPR valves in occupied homes. Instead, I'll recommend having it evaluated.
    So, instead of taking grief for testing that one T&P relief valve and being able to report the others, you would rather take grief for someone to have to spend money for a plumber to test it and then have it not fail?

    Your business, but I think you are setting yourself up for taking grief for the wrong thing.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    So, instead of taking grief for testing that one T&P relief valve and being able to report the others, you would rather take grief for someone to have to spend money for a plumber to test it and then have it not fail?

    Your business, but I think you are setting yourself up for taking grief for the wrong thing.
    No doubt, there is a potential for a complaint either way. But with a failure rate of 100%, so far, on three water heaters over five years old (granted, very small sample size), the risk of getting a complaint about having a plumber find a working TPR valve, on these older units, seems low.

    I regularly recommend scoping older drain lines to the sewer. Often the line is clean and intact, and I haven't had anyone complain about recommending a scope on such a line. Occasionally, I recommend having a furnace certified safe for use by a HVAC tech and sometimes, the furnace is found serviceable. Again, no complaints about the recommendation. Ditto about recommending evaluations by structural engineers which are never cheap.

    You have to have a thick skin to be in this business, and mine is rhino tough after fifteen years. But that doesn't mean that I go around seeking abrasions. For one thing, that style is bad for business. A reputation for breaking things is as bad for business as a reputation for not finding problems. I think that we can meet our obligations to our client by recommending having a suspect TPR valve evaluated by a plumber, rather than proving it is defective with no immediate way to replace the valve that is now spewing water after our test. (I recognize that finding a stuck valve doesn't necessarily result in spewing water) My point is that, you can't perform your duties in this business without getting some grief and complaints, but I believe that you can be effective and complete by judicially recommending further evaluations by appropriate experts. I'll add that if an inspector's style is to recommend further evaluation by appropriate experts on every component, then that inspector has wasted a client's money, so clearly, that is not what I am advocating, either.

    It is your business too, how you conduct it. From your postings, I judge your style to be more confrontational and abrasive than mine. I don't doubt for a second that you do a great job advising and protecting the interests of your clients. I simply submit that the interests of the client can be equally protected without always doing things virtually guaranteed to create later brain damage for us. You can be a great inspector without always choosing the path of most resistance and peril.


  27. #27
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,243

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    From your postings, I judge your style to be more confrontational and abrasive than mine.
    Not confrontational or abrasive - I simply state the facts and provide supporting back up documentation ... argument ends right there.

    You can be a great inspector without always choosing the path of most resistance and peril.
    I have found that the path of least resistance and peril is to report the facts and provide back up documentation - that stops the resistance right there.

    To knowingly not test something that you yourself has found to be at a 100% failure rate from your own testing is, to me, definitely not the path of least resistance but the path of most resistance.

    So be it.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  28. #28

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Interesting article. I think you missed one big issue. How to install a PRV correctly.

    I've seen in the field PRV installed off "T" fittings with a 4" standard PRV. Which means the rod is not inside the tank. Which means it will not work as intended. I'm surprised at how many people miss this.

    I have written up more than 6 such cases during the summer. Which prompted me to blog it.

    Possible bomb within your home | Gaudet Inspections LLC

    Steve


  29. #29
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    This is an interesting discussion that has previously occurred here in various threads.

    Does anyone have any statistics on how many water heaters have actually failed, hopefully by type, actually causing an explosion? Is this a real issue or just lawyers covering their ass from liability suits and passing the responsibility down to the homeowner?

    What is the Risk Assessment for this device failing and causing an event? For example, I have read the Risk Assessment of getting cancer from being exposed to asbestos, is the same as getting struck by lightning on a sunny day at 12 noon.


  30. #30
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Goeken View Post
    Does anyone have any statistics on how many water heaters have actually failed.
    I can't find any documentation with actual statistics. It appears from available stories, that around two a year explode in the US. One story, mentioned that the homeowner had worked on the unit.
    The one that exploded at the school in PA last Friday also mentions that the heater was being worked on.
    I didn't read all the stories, but that may be a theme with some of these catastrophic failures.
    I tested a TPR yesterday on a three year old storage tank and it worked perfectly. However, it was improperly installed in piping outside the tank. It's clear that water heaters are remarkably safe appliances which is a good thing since the safety device on them is rarely in proper working condition. I would like to see research about whether "stuck" TPR valves will open before a water heater goes critical at around 350 psi. And it seems reasonable that a leaking valve provides relief for a failing tank trying to overheat, even though the valve is no longer properly working.


  31. #31
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Near Philly, Pa.
    Posts
    1,643

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    If a HI is worried about getting burned with replacing a TPR valve or PV tested during the course of an inspection, why not get pro-active? Include language in your contract clearly stating such valves will require lifting the test lever to observe flow. If the valve fails to close, the client shall be responsible for its prompt replacement and any collateral damage from water discharge. Have them initital that clause. I also suggest your contract include language stating you must test any valve that does not have a suitable service history tag affixed noting the date of installation and date of last test and by whom. That way, if the valve is determined to be greater than 3 yrs old, don't test, just recommend replacement. If according to the tag, the valve is less than 3 yrs old, test with the caveat it may require replacement should it not close. Done. There should be no need to test a valve that cannot be reasonably determined to be less than 3 y/o. Since almost no plumbers use tags on these valves, you can skip this test in 99% of your cases and make the proper recommendation with good backing for the call. Since so many of these valves have improper discharge tubes that need correction, it can all be taken care of by the plumber for a nominal charge unless the appliance is being recommended for replacement.

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  32. #32
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Holladay, UT
    Posts
    565

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    I hope this is as clear to you as it is to us now Isaac.

    Tom Rees / A Closer Look Home Inspection / Salt Lake City, Utah

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    california
    Posts
    56

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Someone above asked ref. water heater accident statistics. Well back in my post of 8/28/2011 i asked the same question and Mike Boyett kindly steered me to the National Fire stats. Anyone who wishes to know more could read the above mentioned post.

    In brief, a tiny proportion of W/H's are involved in accidents, typically the accident is a fire caused by flammable chattel's on or close to the W/H.

    Perhaps gas W/H venting arrangements are a cause for far more concern and scrutiny than the actual appliances?


  34. #34
    michael avis's Avatar
    michael avis Guest

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Isaac, I think you can reasonably report in your publication that there is disagreement in the HI community about how to address TPR valves and explain further in your reportings the source of this division within our community. This alone; the explanation of both schools of thought, is probably more educational to your readers than anything else.


  35. #35
    Joe Richmond's Avatar
    Joe Richmond Guest

    Default Water Heaters, TPR valves, and discharge piping

    So I performed an inspection yesterday on a recently renovated single family home and saw discharge piped into waste piping as shown in attached photos. What say ye?

    Last edited by Joe Richmond; 10-19-2012 at 06:51 AM. Reason: Photos did not attach

  36. #36
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Water Heaters, TPR valves, and discharge piping

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Richmond View Post
    So I performed an inspection yesterday on a recently renovated single family home and saw discharge piped into waste piping as shown in attached photos. What say ye?
    Photos not there, but the discharge termination cannot be hidden from view. You have to be able to see if water is coming out.


  37. #37
    April Green's Avatar
    April Green Guest

    Default Re: Water Heaters and TPR valves

    Obviously, there is not agreement on the testing issue. Personally, I would either not test a TPR valve at all or include a statement in my contract like what Bob Harper suggested, stating that the homeowner is responsible for any repairs or replacements needed due to the improper functioning of the valve.

    If you chose not to test the valve, you could take a quick look to see if there is any documentation of testing or replacement in plain sight and if not, simply include a statement along the lines – “ No documentation of maintenance or repair was found on sight. Water heater should be inspected and maintained per manufacturer’s recommendations. Failure to do so may result in serious injury or death and/or property damage.”

    Although, as a couple of people mentioned, if you look for documentation on one appliance and not others and there is an issue with improper maintenance of an appliance that you didn’t check maintenance records on, it could be an issue. You could take a quick look at all of the appliances you normally inspect to see if there is any documentation on or in the near vicinity of it. If not you could just include a blanket statement of – “All appliances should be maintained per manufacturer’s instructions”. It would only take a few minutes, but you would need to be consistent about it.

    Just my two cents. I have never been a home inspector, just commercial buildings and TPR testing has never been within the realm of my responsibilities, so I’ve never personally had to deal with the issue.


Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •