Homeowners who have stayed put in the same house for years come to know the home’s features well. Over the years, even newer homes are likely to require some type of major maintenance or repair.
It shouldn’t take an emergency for you to acquaint yourself with the important types of valves in your home’s plumbing. If you know what type of valve you’re looking at, and what it’s for, you’ll be better prepared when repairs become necessary.
Pressure Reducing Valve
In areas where the municipality delivers water at higher pressures, homes may have pressure-reducing valves to keep the powerful flow of water from damaging pipes and fixtures. Pressure reducing valves use a spring and diaphragm system that can be set to reduce the pressure in the flow of water in the home to an acceptable level. These valves don’t turn the water on or off; they just reduce the force of the water entering the pipes and ensure consistent water pressure even if there is a surge in pressure from the municipal supply.
Main Water Shut-Off Valve
It’s important to know where this valve is in your home. Usually, it’s in the basement near where the water supply enters the home. If your home is on a slab or crawlspace, this valve may be near the water heater, in the crawlspace, or in the garage.
Shut-off valves are usually one of two types: a gate valve or a ball valve. A gate valve has a round handle. When you turn it off, it lowers a metal gate within the valve to shut off the flow of water completely.
A ball valve has a handle. Inside the valve is a ball with a hole in the center. When you turn the handle so that it is perpendicular to the pipe, this turns the solid side of the ball toward the water flow, stopping it.
If a pipe bursts, or if you have an unexplained leak in the home, you’ll need to know where to find your main water shut off valve, so you can limit damage and arrange for repairs. If you ever have a sewer back up that will require a plumber to access your sewer line through a clean out, you may need to close the main water supply valve while the work is done.
Fixture Shut Off Valve
Another important valve in your home’s plumbing cuts off supply just to a local area. You’ll find these fixture shut off valves under your sink or next to your toilet. You’d use this kind of valve if you were going to replace a toilet or repair a sink faucet to keep water from flowing to the fixture until you complete the work.
Your home may contain several additional types of valves that regulate water flow, or, as in a tub and shower, allow you to mix hot and cold water to get the exact temperature you want (thermostatic valves). Long-term homeowners get to know their plumbing service well, and your plumbing pro can explain any unusual looking valves on pipes in your home.