In any practice and industry, the common terms used are taken for granted. When we recommend a valve replacement, our customers often ask, what are valves? The Oxford dictionary defines a valve as a device for controlling the passage of fluid or air through a pipe or duct, especially an automatic device allowing movement in one direction only.
A heart valve, for example, allows blood to flow in one direction and prevents blood from flowing backward.
Similarly, plumbing valves control the flow of water, opening and closing gates or doors so water flows only when wanted and only in the direction wanted. Valves prevent backflow, adjust temperature, and adjust water pressure, quietly functioning day after day, year after year.
Common Plumbing Valves
There are many kinds of valves, including ball, check, air/vacuum, globe, and gate valves. They all work toward the same goal of regulating water flow. Some operate using solid disks to block water flow, as in a gate valve, or by rotating a ball to block the flow, as in a ball valve. Others regulate specific water flow, as in the check valve which allows fluid to flow in only one direction.
Many valves are behind walls. A shower valve for instance is the mechanism behind the tile or surround in the bathroom. You can see the shower head and handle, but not the valve.
The toilet tank holds a fill valve, responsible for filling the tank with water after each flush. The fill valve connects to a float and to the toilet flapper, sealing the bottom of the tank.
Shut Off Valves
Shut off valves perform the function of shutting water off to one or more fixtures in your home.
The main water shut off valve inside the house allows you to turn off all water immediately. This valve is highly recommended in case of a major water leak or a water emergency.
In addition, individual fixture valves can be turned off to allow plumbing work to be performed in one specific room in the house. These valves are used on kitchen and bathroom faucets, toilets, dishwashers, wash machines, and ice makers. The shut offs are usually located on the pipe behind the fixture, such as behind the toilet, behind the refrigerator, or under the sink for faucets and dishwashers. Bathroom and kitchen sinks have separate cold and hot water shut offs.
If you’ve ever broken a handle while turning an old faucet on or off, you will appreciate being able to turn off both the hot and cold water using valves under the sink. Without these, many gallons of water can flood your house while you try to find or get to the main water shut off valve to turn off the water.
Sometimes, hose bibbs have a shut off valve inside the house. These are handy when a repair needs to be made, or when the hose bibb is replaced. These globe valves can also be used to shut off water for the winter to avoid frozen pipes.
Single handle showers use a pressure balancing valve to regulate the water pressure and temperature. This helps prevent excessively hot water from scalding you when a toilet is flushed. Dual handle showers use a thermostatic valve that adjusts water pressure and temperature separately.
A diverter valve allows you to redirect water from a shower to a tub. A transfer valve directs water to multiple shower heads.
A pressure balancing valve automatically controls the balance of hot and cold water pressure, keeping the temperature where you want it.
Pressure Relief Valves
Pressure relief valves or safety release valves are found on hot water tanks. This valve releases steam or hot water from a discharge tube when the internal water pressure or the water temperature is too great for the tank. This plumbing safety feature is required on gas and electric hot water tanks.
- Check that your home has a water shut off valve inside the house. If you don’t have one, we strongly recommend you have one installed.
- Valves work hand-in-hand with their faucets and parts, so stick with one manufacturer when replacing bathroom and kitchen valves.
- Invest in high quality valves to ensure a continuous and well-regulated water supply.
- Call Raymark Plumbing & Sewer for all valve help and plumbing solutions.