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Michael LeavittAnother solution for the thermal expansion issue is the lead free combination ball and relief valve (LFBRV). I am finding more and more LFBRV’s being installed on newer construction and have come not to like them. Sure, they are allowed by the codes and local building departments, but they have their weakness in design. They are usually installed over the water heater on the cold inlet side and usually have a clear plastic tube installed that is routed to the floor drains of our common Northern Utah basements. The reason I do not like them is that they will commonly clog with corrosion, due to our hard water, and the water will flow down the floor drain for months unnoticed by the homeowner. The valves open during each heating cycle to bleed off the expanded water on closed plumbing systems. On the surface they seem like a good idea, but I feel that a non-water wasting expansion tank is the better solution. When LFBRV’s do fail, they are not easily replaceable since they are either threaded, soldered, or crimp fitted into place and a plumber is usually needed.

Watts BRVWatts Description: Series LFBRV Combination Ball Valve and Relief Valves are used in commercial and residential applications on water heater installations. It consists of a bronze body construction with a full port (reduced port with PEX connection), nickel-plated brass ball, blowout-proof brass stem, PTFE seats, stem packing, and stem thrust bearing, Viton relief ball, stainless steel relief spring, brass adapter, and steel handle (the relief valve outlet includes a drain tube connection with PEX or compression fitting models). Series LFBRV has a low profile design and can be installed in any position. It is for applications that require a means to shut off the water supply to the water heater and for providing protection from excess water pressure caused by thermal expansion. Pressure Rated: 400psi. Relief Valve Pressure Settings: 75, 80, 100 or 125psi (5.2, 5.5, 6.9 or 8.6 bar).



11/11/2015 - Thanks to Jason Jarvis, from Eagle Mountain, Utah, who alerted me to the name modification from Watts for this valve. Previously it was a BRV and it is not LFBRV. They added the LF to stress that these are lead free.

QUESTION: Is an expansion tank/valve required? On homes with a closed plumbing system, yes. On homes with an open system, no. Do you know if your home has a closed or open system? If not, call the city building officials and maybe they can help. The water department is a great resource as well. If you have a newer home and live in a metropolitan area, then you can bet that you have a closed system and you need a thermal expansion device. If you have an older home, then it probably started out as an open system, but the water department may have installed a backflow prevention device in recent years to help protect the public water supply. If they did, then you now have a closed system and thermal protection is needed.

QUESTION: Does there have to be a shut off valve on the water heater inlet? Yes. The 2006 International Residential Code states...

P2903.9.2 Water heater valve.
A readily accessible full-open valve shall be installed in the cold-water supply pipe to each water heater at or near the water heater.

QUESTION: Can the water shut off valve required before the water heater cold inlet be a combination ball and relief valve (LFBRV)? Yes. That is the best place for the BRV to be installed. Apollow Pressure Regulator

QUESTION: If I have a pressure regulator (pressure-reducing valve) installed, but the plumbing system is still an open system to the water main at the street, then do I need a thermal expansion device installed? Yes, unless your state, municipality, or water department has some definitive statement directing otherwise. Since 2003 the International Residential Code has been very clear on this point.

2003 IRC"...an approved device for thermal expansion control shall be installed on any water supply system utilizing storage water heating equipment whenever the building supply pressure exceeds the pressure-reducing valve setting or when any device, such as a pressure-reducing valve, backflow preventer or check valve, is installed that prevents pressure relief through the building supply..."

Here is the 2006 IRC verbiage...

P2903.4 Thermal expansion control.
2006 IRCA means for controlling increased pressure caused by thermal expansion shall be installed where required in accordance with Sections P2903.4.1 and P2903.4.2.
P2903.4.1 Pressure-reducing valve.
For water service system sizes up to and including 2 inches (51 mm), a device for controlling pressure shall be installed where, because of thermal expansion, the pressure on the downstream side of a pressure-reducing valve exceeds the pressure-reducing valve setting.
P2903.4.2 Backflow prevention device or check valve.
Where a backflow prevention device, check valve or other device is installed on a water supply system using storage water heating equipment such that thermal expansion causes an increase in pressure, a device for controlling pressure shall be installed.

QUESTION: Where can I install the LFBRV? Look in the diagram below. The LFBRV should be installed on the cold water inlet line.

Watts PRV

LOCATION NOTE: Check with your local building department for any specific requirements for the installation and location of LFBRV valves.

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Orem, Utah 84057


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