Your hot water heater has a pressure relief valve safety mechanism. When pressure inside the water tank exceeds certain limitations, the valve opens up to allow the pressure to be released. A faulty pressure relief valve will not release excess pressure, which could cause extensive damage to your home. You should test the hot water heater pressure relief valve once every six months to ensure proper operation. If the pressure relief valve fails the test, replace the valve with a new one immediately.
Locate the pressure relief valve on your hot water heater. The pressure relief valve has a lever handle on top with a drain pipe attached to it. The pressure relief valve is most often on the side of the water tank toward the top. Newer models of hot water heaters have the pressure relief valve on top of the water tank.
Inspect the area around the pressure relief valve for signs of leaking water. If there is leaking water near the relief valve connection, replace the relief valve. If no leaking is evident, proceed with testing the pressure valve.
Examine the area below the pressure relief valve drain pipe. Most water heater closets either have a drain in the floor below the pipe or the pipe is inserted into another pipe to direct the water out of the home. If the end of your drain pipe is not in another pipe or there is no drain in the floor, place a bucket under the drain pipe to catch water when you test the pressure relief valve.
Pull the lever handle on the top of the pressure relief valve up with your fingers. A working lever will lift up without difficulty.You should begin to hear water going through the drain pipe. Slowly release the lever to shut off the pressure relief valve. The pressure relief valve is good. If you did not hear water running through the drain pipe, lower the lever on the pressure relief valve and replace the valve. If the lever is difficult to raise, do not force the lever. Replace the pressure relief valve.
Water in the hot water tank is scalding hot. Do not make skin contact with the hot water as it releases through the pressure relief valve drain pipe. It is a good idea to wear long trousers and thick gloves when testing the pressure relief valve.