What is a pressure balance valve? (with photos)

A pressure balance valve prevents water from scalding in the shower.

A pressure balance valve is a sophisticated plumbing device that reacts to changes in the pressure of the supplied water. Normally, hot and cold water sources are fed into the valve and its function is to ensure that the volume of water leaving is a constant mixture of these two sources, even if the delivery pressure of the two sources changes. This is very important to keep the shower temperature constant, even when there is no supply.

Pressure balancing valves are necessary in the construction of new homes.

Drastic changes in the temperature of the water in the shower can be dangerous, and there have been instances where the water temperature has changed from normal to scalding hot. Temperature extremes in the other direction also caused problems, with people slipping and falling trying to avoid a suddenly very cold shower. These problems are exacerbated when very young or very old people are involved.

Without a pressure balancing valve, if a person is using the shower and a toilet is opened or another faucet is turned on, the water temperature can change dramatically.

Since a pressure balancing valve can prevent burns, they are now required in all new residential construction. Homeowners can also replace a valve in an older home, but this will likely require the help of a certified plumber. In older homes, the new valve may not work very well if there is inadequate water flow due to clogged pipes or low water pressure related to the age of the plumbing system. A certified plumber can help in such situations because he or she will be able to determine beforehand the extent of the problem and what it will take to provide a working solution.

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Installing a pressure balance valve in a domestic hot water system can help prevent scalding injuries.

For the ultimate in shower comfort, homeowners may also consider installing a thermostatic valve. They cost more but provide much better temperature control. A major disadvantage of the pressure balance valve is that it can provide limited flow rate control. A thermostatic valve can provide a full range of flow rate control while delivering water at a constant temperature.

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