When running a water supply tube to a new refrigerator icemaker, humidifier, or other appliance, you'll need to find a way to tap into an existing water supply pipe. An easy way to do this on copper or iron pipes is by using a special shutoff fitting known as a saddle valve or needle valve. The term saddle valve derives from the shape of the valve as it sits atop a water pipe; the term needle valve refers to the sharp hollow needle inside the valve that punctures the water pipe when it is mounted. The design of the saddle/needle valve is quite different than a standard water shutoff valve.
Once the valve is attached to the water supply pipe by means of its saddle bracket, the sharp valve needle is then screwed down to puncture the wall of the pipe and tap its water supply. These valves are designed to work with brass, copper, or iron pipes—they do not work with CPVC or PEX plastic pipe. And saddle valves are designed for water systems with a maximum pressure of no more than 125 PSI.
You will need:
- Saddle valve kit
- Water supply tubing
- Adjustable wrench
How to Install a Saddle Valve on a Copper Pipe
- Shut off the main water supply to the water pipe being tapped.
- Make sure the water pipe is clean and smooth along the section where you will be attaching the valve. Light sanding with wet/dry sandpaper can be used to clean the pipe.
- Place the rubber washer or gasket on the underside of the top bracket of the saddle valve, so its opening is directly aligned with the needle on the valve.
- Fit the top and bottom brackets of the saddle valve around the water supply pipe and hold it in place.
- Insert the bolts down through the holes on the top bracket and through the holes on the bottom bracket. Thread nuts onto the ends of the bolts and hand tighten until the valve is held in place.
- Use a screwdriver and adjustable wrench to tighten the bolts completely. The rubber washer under the top bracket should compress slightly against the water pipe. Be careful not to overtighten; it is possible to crush copper pipe.
- Thread the plastic compression sleeve and compression nut onto the water supply tube, as shown in the diagram. Insert the water supply tube into the threaded outlet on the saddle valve.
- Screw the compression nut onto the threaded outlet. Tighten the nut by hand until snug, then use an adjustable wrench to tighten the nut another one-half turn.
- Turn the saddle valve handle clockwise slowly as far as possible. This will force the sharp hollow tip to pierce down into the water supply pipe. You should be able to feel the needle force its way into the copper pipe.
- With the saddle valve in the off position (fully clockwise), turn on the water supply and check the saddle valve fittings for leaks. If necessary, slightly tighten the compression nut until the joint is watertight.
- Complete the water connection by attaching the opposite end of the water supply tube to the appliance you are feeding. Once all connections are made, open the saddle valve fully by turning the handle in the counterclockwise direction until it stops. Check again for leaks at all connections.
Variations for Galvanized Iron Pipe
Galvanize iron pipe is too hard to be pierced by the hollow needle in the saddle valve, so you will need to drill a 5/32" hole in the pipe to fit the needle. Careful positioning is required when you attach the valve to ensure that the needle will fit into the drilled hole. All other steps are the same as for copper pipe.