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Plumbing / August 4, 2021
At best, an unexpected stream of hot water from the faucet of a sink or tub can be an unpleasant surprise. At worst, it can be a life-threatening emergency. Exposure to extreme heat can cause burn injuries. The medical term for a burn that occurs due to hot liquid is called a scald. Anti-scald devices are important home repairs for seniors that prevent these types of injuries.
Thousands of scald injuries occur every year, and while anyone can be affected, elderly people and children are more susceptible to serious scald injury because they have thinner skin. The hotter the water, the more quickly a serious scald injury can occur. If the tap water gets up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, a serious scald can occur in less than a second, not enough time to react and pull your hands out from under the stream.
The seriousness of a burn injury depends on how many layers of the skin it affects. The least serious is called a superficial or first-degree burn that only affects the outermost skin layer. The most serious is called a full-thickness or third-degree burn because it extends through all the layers of the skin. A full-thickness burn is a medical emergency that requires skin grafts to heal and can sometimes be life-threatening.
An anti-scald device is a valve that detects changes in water temperature or pressure and makes adjustments to keep the water coming out of the faucet at a safe and comfortable level. You can have the devices installed on specific faucets or, by installing the valve closer to the water heater, you can regulate the temperature of every plumbing appliance in the house at the same time.
In addition to preventing serious injuries, anti-scald devices also keep the water temperature at a comfortable level. By reducing the amount of hot water used, the devices help ensure that the supply remains consistent.
Also called tempering valves or mixing valves, anti-scald valves are installed somewhere between the water heater and the outlets. They are installed on the hot water line with a connection to the cold water line. They react to changes in the supply of cold water, such as can occur when a person turns on a cold tap while another person is showering.
An anti-scald device works in one of two different ways. A thermostatic mixing valve contains a thermostat element. As the temperature of the water changes, the element expands and contracts. If the temperature of the water increases to a certain threshold, the element expands to the point that it blocks the inlet for the hot water completely. As a result, the amount of hot water allowed in the mixing chamber is limited. A TMV is a more expensive option but doesn’t have to be adjusted or recalibrated due to changes in the water heater temperature.
Unlike a TMV, a pressure-balanced valve doesn’t gauge or react to changes in the water temperature. Instead, it reacts to changes in the water pressure of the hot water and cold water inlets. A piston moves into position to block the flow of hot water if the valve detects a decrease in pressure from the cold water inlet. If you decide to change the temperature on your hot water heater after installing a pressure-balance valve, this will have to be readjusted as well. However, a pressure-balanced valve is more affordable than a TMV.
You don’t necessarily have to choose between a thermostatic mixing valve and a pressure-balanced valve. There are anti-scald devices on the market that combine the protection of both.
Handyman Connection can help with a variety of home repairs from installing flooring, adding shelves, and many more services to make living in your home comfortable and safe. Find out more about the plumbing services we offer in Ottawa.