GUEST COLUMN: Does your home have a pressure regulator valve?
“Pressure regulator valve?” I think to myself as I am sitting in the Kingsbury General Improvement District conference room. “Do I have one of those?”
The Kingsbury General Improvement District provides water, sewer collection, snow removal, and road maintenance services for lower, mid, and upper Kingsbury in Stateline. During the August meeting, the agenda included an item from a resident who experienced an incident where high water pressure caused hoses to blow off of appliances and water damage in her home.
Normal water pressure coming into a building from the main line supply should usually not exceed 120 pounds per square inch, although it can be higher. In order to keep the pressure on the main line servicing residences at or below 120 psi, KGID main water lines have pressure regulators. In this instance, the KGID regulator was not working properly, and the water pressure in the house measured 180 psi, which is extremely high.
Even at that extreme level, homeowners are ultimately responsible for regulating the pressure coming into their building. The way to accomplish this is to have your own pressure regulator valve installed on the water line where it enters the home. The concept is similar to plugging in your TV and computer to a power strip with a surge suppression circuit to protect against electricity surges.
Unfortunately, the resident who experienced the water damage did have a PRV, which failed. KGID staff worked until late in the evening to get pressure back down to appropriate levels.
Do I have a PRV at my house? At the meeting, Trustee Larry Schussel noted that this issue had come up years before at a KGID meeting, and afterward he had a PRV installed at his home after learning about this important device. KGID had also sent a newsletter to the district suggesting owners install PRVs because residents are unaware or forget about their water pressure.
If you have high water pressure, your home’s pipes and fittings can be damaged, causing water leaks, taps that drip, and a leaky water heater. This causes energy and water waste, too. If your plumbing has a PRV, you should test it to make sure it is working properly. If it is working, you don’t have to worry about main line high pressure, as in the case of the 180 psi episode. In KGID, there are zones or areas of naturally low and high water pressure, due to the make-up of the water system and topography.
Symptoms of a PRV that is no longer working are: noises coming from the pipes, sudden increase or reduction in water pressure, or toilets that run. There also may be no symptoms present and the PRV may still not be working.
Although I wasn’t experiencing high water pressure issues in my home, I called a local plumber, Summit Plumbing, who sent Chad over. I knew where my water shut-off valve was (a handy thing to know, especially in the winter with the possibility of frozen pipes). Next to the shut-off valve, Chad showed me my PRV. It is an oval metal device smaller than a fisted hand inserted into the water line. There was an adjustment bolt on the valve which was in the parallel position to the line, indicating that the valve was wide open and allowing a full flow of pressure.
Chad then tested my faucets at 55 psi with a pressure gauge, which can also be purchased at a local home improvement store. He said most PRVs are set to regulate around 50 psi and can be set anywhere between 25 to 75 psi by turning the bolt. He then tested my neighbor’s psi. His guess was that my house was in a normal pressure zone, although pressure can fluctuate within system.
If you don’t have a PRV, Chad estimated that it would cost about $85 for the valve itself and an additional $90 for labor based on their $90 per hour labor rate.
If you live in a condo or townhouse, a PRV can be installed on the line similarly to a single family home.
If you feel that your water pressure is excessive, please contact KGID at 775-588-3548 to have an operator come out and check your service.
– Natalie Yanish is a new trustee on the KGID Board, and a buyer specialist with Deb Howard & Company Real Estate Brokerage. Contact her at 775-843-7142.