Have you ever been in an older house and turned on the hot water tap, only to be shocked with the almost immediate scalding hot stream of water?
You recoil, nursing your hands and thinking to yourself, “Why is this so much hotter than the tap at home?”
If you’ve ever had this happen to you, it’s likely that that home didn’t have any tempering valves installed.
Tempering devices are mandated by law in:
- All new homes
- Some replacement hot water system installations
- When performing a bathroom renovation in an existing home
In fact, it’s likely your house already has one, even if you don’t even realise it.
Tempering valves play a crucial role in your hot water system, ensuring your safety and comfort. But despite that, few people are aware of the device’s existence.
And even fewer know what they do!
We take a look at what function tempering valves serve, how that makes them important and some of the common problems your home’s tempering devices can run into.
Tempering valves: a crucial part of hot water safety
Under Australian law, the stored temperature of a hot water within a system must sit at 60ºC, and then reduced to 50ºC for use.
Why 60? Because some types of bacteria breed in warm water (that is, temperatures below 60ºC).
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) updated its standards in the late 90s with a clause mandating these new temperatures for two major reasons:
To reduce the risk of legionella bacteria forming in storage hot water temperatures of less than 60ºC.
This temperature is high enough to kill harmful bacteria before it reaches our sinks and showers.
2. To prevent scalding
In the past, hot water systems were generally set between 65ºC and 75ºC, which could scald the skin within just 1 second.
At 50ºC – the temperature water comes out of fixtures like the bath – that time stretches to as long as 2 minutes.
This is where tempering valves come into play
When it comes to hot water, tempering valves (also known as mixing valves) are your number one tool against hot water burns and scalds at home.
Long story short: tempering valves mix hot water with cold water to deliver hot tap water at a safe temperature.
Many modern valves are also heat-sensitive, detecting the temperature of the incoming water and changing the ratio of cold water to maintain a safe temperature.
This guarantees water that doesn’t scald or burn no matter when you turn your tap, protecting you and your family.
Not all water outlets have such a valve fitted. While present in most bathrooms and kitchen sinks, certain outlets such as washing machines and dishwashers are completely untempered.
And fair enough, those fixtures need the extra oomph.
But when it comes to fixtures you’ll be using directly such as your kitchen sink or shower, you’ll want to make sure you have one of these installed!
How can I tell if my tempering valve is faulty?
Like any other plumbing fixture, tempering valves don’t last forever, with a lifespan of 5-8 years.
Fortunately, identifying when something’s wrong with one of yours is fairly straightforward. If your water is coming out far too hot, chances are your valve is malfunctioning and it needs to be replaced.
How can you prevent issues with your tempering valves?
Our advice when it comes to avoiding problems with your plumbing fittings is simple: regular inspections and maintenance. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all!
It may only take 5 minutes out of a complete home plumbing inspection, but a quick check of your tempering valves can be all the difference between a refreshing hot shower and painful scalds.
Our Templestowe plumber will be able to identify any potential issues with your tempering valves and provide fixes that keep your hot water at a pleasant – and more importantly, safe – level.
Some other fixes for tempering valve problems include:
Installing an inline filter
Many problems with your tempering valve can be traced back to debris build-up. And much of this debris enters your system at the water heater. A filter can prevent this by stopping debris from entering your hot water system to begin with.
And if you already have a filter, be sure you check it regularly. Debris might not be building up at the valve, but it might at the filter!
Upgrade your hot water system
If your hot water system is reaching the end of its lifespan (anywhere from 10-20 years on average), it’s definitely worth considering!
Many older tanks are more prone to rust and other particles, which can damage your tempering filters as they pass through.
Talk to an experienced Templestowe plumber about tempering valves!
Water can be dangerous. Oh, we’re not talking about hidden currents or rips – even the taps at home can pose a risk to the safety of you and your family members!
Whether you’re curious about the condition of your home’s existing tempering valves, or your hot water system is presenting with one (or more) of these problems, get in touch with the expert H2-Pro plumbing team!
As a leading Templestowe plumber (as well as the surrounding area), you can trust our experienced plumbers to inspect, identify, and solve all your plumbing problems. Our can-do attitude and commitment to excellent service means you can rest easy.