How to Test Your Water Heater Relief Valve

Time: 30 minutes

Your water heater's pressure-relief valve protects your water heater from getting too hot or building up excess pressure inside the tank—both of which could lead to a disastrous explosion in your water tank. You should check to make sure this important safety equipment is working properly every 6 months—and replace it if it isn't.

What's in it for you?

  • Reduced likelihood of fire damage
  • Reduced chance of flooding or leaks
  • Improved safety

How to Test Your Water Heater Relief Valve:

  1. Inspect the floor around the water heater. If the floor is already wet, it could be a sign that your valve is leaking. Look closely at the end of the pipe or hose below the valve to see if it's dripping. Also look around the valve itself to inspect for moisture.
  2. Open and close the valve. Place a bucket beneath the pipe or hose that's attached to your relief valve. Lift open the valve handle and step aside to avoid being splashed with hot water. Allow the water to run for at least five seconds to make sure it flows freely. When you close the valve, check again for any leaks or drips to make sure it's fully functional.

How to Replace a Broken or Clogged Relief Valve:

If your valve is leaky or clogged, it needs to be replaced. To do this, you will need a bucket, a heavy pipe wrench, a wire brush, pipe thread sealant and a new valve.

  1. Drain the water heater. Shut off the water heater's intake valve and turn the thermostat to the lowest setting. Drain the tank's water into the bucket until it's below the level of your safety valve. You'll have to empty the bucket several times to remove the five to 10 gallons of water required for this step.
  2. Remove the old valve. Using the wrench, turn the old valve counterclockwise until it comes free. If corroded, this will take some effort.
  3. Prepare the pipe threads. Use the wire brush to clean the pipe threads and apply sealant.
  4. Install the new valve. Using your hand, turn the new valve clockwise until it twists into place. Use the pipe wrench to give it three more clockwise turns, making sure the opening points down when you're done.
  5. Install the drain pipe. Remove the drain pipe from your old valve and prepare heads as described. Twist the drain pipe into place on the new valve, tightening with the wrench.
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