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Boiler Relief Valve Testing Do you do it?

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RayWohlfarth
RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
I am having a quandry and hope to get your advice. We no longer test the boiler relief valves for my customers because they always seem to leak after testing and the customer gets angry and blames us. In addition, low pressure steam boiler relief valves should only be tested when the pressure is at 75% of the relief valve setting which is 11 Psig. Since we service commercial boilers, most supply houses do not stock the relief valves that large so the customer could have a boiler down for several days. We have a disclaimer which tells the customer we did not test the relief valve and explain that it could leak if tested. My question is this:
Do you test the relief valves when checking the boilers?
Thank you so much
Ray
Ray Wohlfarth
Boiler Lessons
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Comments

  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
    edited February 2018
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    I test them. And at least 1/2 the time they end up being replaced after from leaking. That said, I only test if I have one to replace it on hand. So some do not get tested annually. I'm a wethead, and find that the larger water PRV's don't seem to leak after testing.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,833
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    No for the reasons stated.
    RayWohlfarth
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    It's been very tempting to put an OPEN full port ball valve ahead of the PRV and take the handle off. But I have yet to do it for obvious reasons.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,187
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    Since the relief valve is a major safety device, yes I test them. The only time I don't is if the customer declines to have it tested.

    As technicians we are responsible for ensuring safe operation of the equipment. If the valve fails after you service the boiler wouldn't you feel responsible?

    If you aren't testing your guessing. And guessing isn't professional.
    RayWohlfarthSolid_Fuel_Manrick in Alaska
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,808
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    The big problem, as I see it, is that manufacturer's put the cheapest relief valve on residential boilers. They aren't designed to re-seat as well as the 174's or 374's. I considered swapping them on installations but I already get plenty of blow back on why quotes are so high.
    Steve Minnich
    RayWohlfarth
  • kevinj_4
    kevinj_4 Member Posts: 91
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    We are under CSD-1 here and testing by pressure is mandated, lifting the handle is not. So yes we test them as we have to sign off on the CSD-1 forms.
  • kevinj_4
    kevinj_4 Member Posts: 91
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    I forgot to note that we are not residential contractors.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
    edited February 2018
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    I'll admit that I always did not test, for the reasons mentioned above (residential boilers).
    However twice now (last year) I had service calls for leaking boiler, water coming out of the gasket at the internal coil, and the pressure was over 50 lbs, the relief valve sealed shut.

    Now during a maintenance call, I explain to the homeowner the reason for the valve, and it's importance. I tell the homeowner the manufacturer recommends testing this valve annually (it's on the tag). Many times when tested the valve will not seat properly and leak, requiring replacement. I have them watch me do it.
    The quality of those valves is poor in general and I think the manufacturer counts on them not re-sealing.

    I also show homeowners how they could make this less costly for them the next time down the road if they put some shut off valves in the system-for quicker replacement, less time, less boiler draining, refilling bleeding/purging=less costs.

    It's funny that if they do complain about what I charge, and I know I'm on the lower side, they never complain about what a plumber charges. In the one above mentioned case, I was too expensive to replace the coil (they have a plumber friend), but the plumber talked them into replacing the oil fired boiler (12 years old) with a gas fired boiler and add a gas fired water heater-you know, to save them money!

    I also made up a rig with a washer machine hose, small pump that you hook to a cordless drill and a velcro strap for the trigger. I can put just enough vacuum on the system to replace the valve without too much draining, when there are no or bad valves. Just make sure that drill battery is going to last about 2 minutes!

    It would be nice to be able to put a ball valve before the PRV, but I'm not doing it. Even some kind of spring-loaded valve you have to physically hold closed during replacement (but some h/o will figure out a way to keep it closed if their PRV started leaking).

    Here's 2 ideas I had rattling around in my brain.


    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Larry (from OSHA)
    Larry (from OSHA) Member Posts: 717
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    The service manual on my Knight states it is required to operate the valve at least once a year and to test it every three years. After annual service which includes flushing the heat exchanger, I lift the valve and allow enough water to flush it so it is less likely to leak from little bits of stuff in the water. Then I pressurize the system to over the pop off point to ensure the valve works. If it drips, it's on me and I know it. Also it is the right thing to do. I think if you service the equipment annually and do what is supposed to be done, it's less likely you will have to replace the valve. But if I was doing this at a customers, I'd sure want to have a replacement on hand and the customer should expect a replacement might be needed. Do it right and absolve yourself of liability should something really bad happen after you are done putting your hands on it.
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,239
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    I replace bunches of PRVs without draining down the system. Just take the pressure off the system and close the air vents, spin the old one off and the new one on. If air can't get in, water can't get out.
    ChrisJSolid_Fuel_Man
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    There are so many good ideas and points Thank you everyone. We used to test every relief valve and I lost a customer (rather large) who felt we were "ripping him off" by popping the relief valve so we backed off.
    Kevin NJ we are a csd1 state as well but I was told the tasks in the rear of the CSD1 book are optional and not mandatory.
    I was thinking of offering to test them in the summer or early fall so I can get a relief valve and not have weather in the teens
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Steve I like your ideas We were asked to replace a horzontally mounted relief valve and install it vertically on the fly. I would have felt like the 3 stooges.LOL
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • kevinj_4
    kevinj_4 Member Posts: 91
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    Kevin NJ we are a csd1 state as well but I was told the tasks in the rear of the CSD1 book are optional and not mandatory.
    I was thinking of offering to test them in the summer or early fall so I can get a relief valve and not have weather in the teens

    They are mandatory in absence of manufacturers instructions according to the Michigan boiler Division.

    I think most safety valve & boiler makers require annual or as needed in their instructions.

    If my guys sign off everything had best be working properly.

    Also CSD-1 states that any needed repairs SHALL be made.

    No gray area with that word SHALL, repair is not an option for the boiler owner, it is repaired or shut down.

    We too have lost customers over the laws but the state boiler inspector usually gets their attention.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Thanks Kevin The boiler inspector I spoke with in Pa said they were not mandatory. If you look at the recommendations from the PRV manufacturers, some say yearly, some say twice a year and others say as often as required Which I do not understand what that means LOL
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    edited February 2018
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    As a former expert witness, I can pretty much guarantee you that if you don't test a relief valve, and (God forbid) something drastic or cataclysmic happens, you are guaranteed to be named in the lawsuit. The professional way to handle it would be to let the consumer know the requirements for testing and exercising, but with the caveat that most of them don't properly reseat, requiring the valve to be replaced. I'd give them the price to replace the valve BEFORE you test it, so there is no pocket shock after the fact.

    If the consumer declines your offer, get their signature on your service invoice, acknowledging that you offered to test and or replace relief valve, but that the consumer declines.This way, if it does go to a legal contest, you have verified proof with the consumers acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation.

    In the eyes of the court system, if it's not in writing, it's hear say and not admissable in a court of law...


    As Harvey and others have pointed out, in 95% of the cases, you can replace the relief valve WITHOUT having to completely drain the boiler. Isolate the make up and the expansion tank, close ALL vent valves (including those not in the mechanical room if there is inadequate boiler isolation in the mechanical room), pre dope the replacement valve, and have at it. Expect to get a little wet. It's unavoidable.

    Travel safe out there, and cover your butt in paper.

    ME

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    kevinj_4SuperTechBob Harper
  • kevinj_4
    kevinj_4 Member Posts: 91
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    Thanks Kevin The boiler inspector I spoke with in Pa said they were not mandatory. If you look at the recommendations from the PRV manufacturers, some say yearly, some say twice a year and others say as often as required Which I do not understand what that means LOL

    I'm sure it will vary from state to state, Michigan has a little booklet that gives all their mods to the adopted codes.

    I have found that most manufactures have stuff on the internet and plenty like McDonnell Miller outline the testing to be done.

    The as needed is a bit gray isn't it???? Where customer refuse to take care of the boiler water that could be quarterly service.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Mark That is a good point I am letting a cheapskate dictate how I run my business Thanks
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    SuperTech
  • Parachute
    Parachute Member Posts: 25
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    Hey thanks for this discussion and the head's up on checking PRVs.
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,187
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    That one customer might misunderstand your intentions, but I would think that the majority would be grateful that you are testing a primary safety device to protect them and their property.
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Parachute most welcome
    Supertech i agree
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,110
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    Ray, I put in THEIR laps. They are schooled on its utmost importance, then it's up to them. Mad Dog
    RayWohlfarth
  • delta T
    delta T Member Posts: 884
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    I include it as part of my annual maintenance, and on a new customer who I have not worked for before, I tell them that it is likely to leak and require a new valve. On the ones that I have installed, I have very few problems as long as they are actually check annually. I have found that if you lift the lever all the way, flush for about 3 seconds, the let go, I have very few problems and the valves last a long time.
    RayWohlfarth
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,187
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    But manually opening the valve and dumping some boiler water out isn't the same as raising the boiler pressure and testing how many PSI it takes to make the valve open. I was taught to test the relief valve and tridicator simultaneously by raising the boiler pressure.

    But I certainly don't test water heater valves like that...
  • ch4man
    ch4man Member Posts: 296
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    last month, working on a small residential water boiler something looked amiss. the i realized the fill valves on both sides of the BFP were open. relief was just dripping slowly.

    yep boiler was over 50 PSI. this was not the only time i've found a plugged relief or run off tube.

    i isolated the X-tank, relieve the pressure with a hose on the drain and leave the valve open a bit so when i spin off the relief there is a place for water to "leak" from and that keeps the top of the boiler where the new relief goes in, and me, dry.
  • kevinj_4
    kevinj_4 Member Posts: 91
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    SuperTech said:

    But manually opening the valve and dumping some boiler water out isn't the same as raising the boiler pressure and testing how many PSI it takes to make the valve open. I was taught to test the relief valve and tridicator simultaneously by raising the boiler pressure.



    But I certainly don't test water heater valves like that...

    That is the NBIC requirement, We have that code here too.
  • Ron Jr._3
    Ron Jr._3 Member Posts: 603
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    I don't even test my own !
    RayWohlfarth
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Thanks all. What is the NBIC Code?
    Supertech, I sold a high pressure steam boiler to a government facility and we had to jump the cotrols out until the relief valve popped. It certainly tested my sphinter muscle! It sounded like a jet engine roaring.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    SuperTech
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,110
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    The raison de etre to check relief valves: Main reason why relief valves need to stand up straight, too ! Not only was the nipple, elbow and valve itself, 100% clogged, but so was the pig tail assembly. The ONLY thing preventing this "BOMB" from going off was a working probe l.w.co.! The HO said the original.oil-to-gas conversion installer told him it was maintenance free! Oy veigh! Mad Dog
    SuperTech
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,110
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    Oops...when I saved draft and came back I, pics were gone..mad dog
    SuperTech
  • the_donut
    the_donut Member Posts: 374
    edited February 2018
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    Mad Dog said:

    Oops...when I saved draft and came back I, pics were gone..mad dog

    So we’ve got steam turds and now steam diarrhea.

    Do you think it settled there because the elbow ran up hill and the relief valve was leaking? Or was it from never being blowdown?
  • kevinj_4
    kevinj_4 Member Posts: 91
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    Thanks all. What is the NBIC Code?

    National Board Inspection Code

  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,592
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    We have HPS. State inspector witnesses test annually as part of annual permitting process unless we replace prv’s annually. We test annually and replace if they dont seat - about every six,seven years.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,110
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    Me thinks the sloshing & moshing of an uncouth new steamer
    Clogged this puppy. If it had been PROPERLY serviced even every 3 years it would have been caught. Mad dog
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,110
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    Tic, tic, tic, tic, BOOOOOOM! Ignore your boiler, take it for granted. Big trouble. Mad Dog
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Thanks KevinNJ
    How about this relief valve? At least it was installed vertically.


    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Solid_Fuel_ManSuperTech
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    And if you lift the handle it would dump and I bet reseat quite well too!
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,110
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    Geez. I have found that not having a healthy fear and respect for any trade, whether it be plumbing, electric, heating et cetera
    Is often the cause of such dangerous installation mistakes.
    I'll do boiler wiring, but I'm staying out of the panel. Mad dog
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,654
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    ****‽


  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Solid Fuel Man I never thought of that Great point
    Mad Dog I agree I think we are sometimes in such a hurry. That is why I still use a chaecklist for testing a boiler during my service call. It forces me to check all the items on the list.
    Ratio, Thats what I said when I first saw the pic.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • the_donut
    the_donut Member Posts: 374
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    A lot of pressure in that open pipe, would hate for it to get in my vacuum system?