Have you ever been in the shower and suddenly the water gets super hot or incredibly cold? The sudden temperature change is due to a drop in either the hot or cold side water pressure. This can happen when someone else in the house turns on the water at a fixture, when the washing machine fills, or even when the dishwasher begins part of the cycle that uses more water. A pressure balance shower valve can remedy this issue.
Pressure Balance Valves in Homes and Apartments
A pressure balance shower valve can provide even temperature to a tub or shower valve despite fluctuations that may occur from other water usage in the home or building. Having a pressure balance valve is even more important if you live in an apartment or condo where water is shared by several units.
Shower valves that are not pressure balanced can be dangerous due to the threat of scalding water, especially for homes with little children. Most building codes pressure require balance valves, but if your home or apartment is older, it may be time to install a new shower valve to make the shower safer and more comfortable.
How a Pressure Balance Valve Works
A pressure balance shower valve works by maintaining a balanced outlet of water from the hot and cold side. The valve has either a balancing spool or a diaphragm inside the valve body that reacts to drops in the pressure of one incoming water supply (either hot or cold) and adjusts the outflow of the opposite water supply so that the water doesn’t get any colder or hotter.
Sudden changes in supply water pressure may reduce the outflow of water from the showerhead, but it will not change the temperature.
Pressure balanced shower or tub and shower valves can come in single, double or three handle varieties, so you can usually match the existing holes in the tile or surround when replacing an existing valve.
The conversion to a pressure balance valve may require some changes in the hot and cold water supply and the shower standpipe in the wall to allow the new valve to fit. If you aren't comfortable working with water supply pipes in the wall, consider hiring a plumber to replace the valve.
Pressure Balance Valve Cartridges
The cartridges in pressure balanced shower valves can and will go bad eventually. When it does, the cartridge may not mix the water evenly and you might get mostly hot or mostly cold water. You may also get barely any water at all. These are all signs that you need to change out the cartridge. Once a new cartridge is installed in a pressure balanced shower valve, it should work like new. You can extend the life of the shower valve by turning it on regularly, even if that bathroom does not get any use. A valve that sits without use for too long is more likely to go bad that one that is used often.
Note: When installing a new pressure balanced shower valve, save the paperwork because it will make it easier to identify which replacement cartridge you need when the time comes to change it. Sometimes a quick call to the manufacturer can result in a free new cartridge, so keep the phone number handy.