Replace a Water Valve to Keep a Hot Shower
LESLIE: Well, Doreen in Rhode Island is having a hard time keeping that shower on the second floor warm. What’s going on, Doreen?
DOREEN: Well, we’re having a little problem. We own a cape – a seven-year-old cape – and just in the past month or so we started having a problem keeping the water hot out of the shower.
TOM: Okay. Is it … does it go cold or something, like when somebody else is using the water?
DOREEN: No. No, there’s no one else using the water. And –
LESLIE: Nobody’s flushing the toilet; playing a prank on you?
DOREEN: No, not at all. It’s just my husband and I. (laughing) And we’ve checked it and it’s about … from three to five minutes, it starts getting cooler.
DOREEN: And we can actually put the whole faucet on hot and it’ll just be warm. And when we get out of the shower, we check the sink – make sure that the water’s hot – and it’s steaming hot. So –
TOM: That’s weird. So in other words, it’s only cold in the shower –
LESLIE: In the shower.
TOM: – but not in the sink?
TOM: That’s really weird. Huh. Hmm.
DOREEN: And I know my –
TOM: Do you have a pressure balance valve in that shower? Do you ever have problems with the … with the water turning hot or cold while somebody else is using it?
DOREEN: To be honest with you, it’s … it’s like I said; it’s just my husband and I. It’s usually not … we’re not using it at the same time. So, anything down stairs –
TOM: Well, the weirdest thing is that you’re just running out of hot water in just that one … one faucet itself; that shower faucet. If you were running out of hot water in the whole house, it would be easy to figure out what’s going on. But if you’re telling me that you’re running it out of that one faucet, that’s kind of weird. I’m thinking that if you have a valve there, that maybe as the valve heats up it’s expanding and shutting off. Or if you have a pressure balance valve, that something is going wrong. A pressure valve’s the valve, by the way – that’s the valve that prevents you from getting scalded or –
TOM: – juiced with ice water when somebody else runs something else in the house. It’s a valve that maintains the mix of hot and cold water no matter what’s happening with the pressure in the rest of the house. And if you have that kind of valve and it goes bad, that could be what’s occurring there.
DOREEN: Where do I find that valve?
TOM: Well, I mean that’s what built into the bathtub itself. What kind of water heater do you have in this house? Gas or oil … I mean gas or electric?
DOREEN: It’s oil.
TOM: It’s oil?
TOM: The water heater’s oil?
TOM: You’re sure it’s an oil water heater?
DOREEN: It’s a tankless water heater.
TOM: It’s a tankless water heater. It’s attached to the boiler.
DOREEN: It’s attached to the boiler.
TOM: Well, then, you shouldn’t be running out of hot water, that’s for sure. Those things can pump out lots and lots and lots of hot water.
DOREEN: This never happened before.
TOM: I think this is a problem with your valve itself.
TOM: Either that or there could be air in the line that’s blocking it. You need to have a plumber look at this. For some reason, you’re not getting the flow to that one faucet. Shouldn’t be that big of a deal to figure this out.
TOM: Worst case scenario, you’ll need a new valve.
DOREEN: Oh, that’s great.
DOREEN: And one other really quick question. Is it a big job to replace the mechanism for a … for the shower itself? The hot and cold … it’s kind of old-fashioned.
TOM: No, not necessarily.
DOREEN: It’s only seven years old but it’s ugly, I think. (laughing)
TOM: Oh, now we’re talking about a cosmetic improvement.
DOREEN: Yeah, exactly.
TOM: Yeah. No, it’s not that big of a deal to do. I mean the plumber can do it in an hour or two, depending on what’s behind it and how much work they have to do. Do the valves for this wall happen to back up like to a closet on the other side, by any chance?
DOREEN: Yes. Exactly, yes.
TOM: Well, that’s perfect, see. Because that’s the –
DOREEN: Is there an access panel already?
DOREEN: No, there’s not an access panel but the … right in back of this is the bathroom … the linen closet.
TOM: Yeah, that’s the way to do it. So you’ll cut a hole in the back of the closet so you won’t even see it. And then they’ll do the work from behind there and they can panel that back up and you’ll be good to go.
I was just writing a story, today, for a magazine about a new kind of faucet that’s made by Moen. It has this new immersion technology which makes the shower only … it delivers only two-and-a-half gallons a minute worth of water; which is not a like. But it like pressurizes it so it gives you a really aggressive shower.
LESLIE: So it makes it feel like it’s a lot of pressure.
TOM: Yeah, so you can do a lot of things by changing your faucets, these days.
DOREEN: Is there a particular name to that? Or is that -?
TOM: It’s called immersion. And it … immersion technology. It’s available in a bunch of their faucets.
DOREEN: Okay, great. That’s –
DOREEN: Thank you so much for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome.
DOREEN: I really appreciate it.
TOM: Good luck, Doreen. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.