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Pressure Reducing Valves

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Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs)

What Are Pressure Reducing Valves?

Pressure Reducing Valves, or PRVs, work to reduce and regulate high water pressure coming into your home’s plumbing systems. Homeowners often have these valves installed to protect piping from the pressure that is too high.

High water pressure can lead to numerous problems, including burst pipes, if left unregulated. At Earl’s Plumbing, we have first-hand experience with PRV installation, repair, and replacement. Contact us if you suspect you need help with your water pressure.

PRVs are very common in the North Texas suburbs, including Frisco and McKinney. We also see them in Prosper, and on occasion, in Plano and Allen. Because Plano shares water supply with Frisco, they started to supplement the addition of the Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs) up to $500 in certain areas.

What does a pressure-reducing valve or PRV do?

PRVs do exactly what they say they do in the name. They allow the municipality to turn up the water pressure in the area so that there is not a decrease in pressure during high-demand times of the day.

What is the Ideal Water Pressure for Your Home?

Water pressure at around 75-80 PSI is considered ideal. Anything above 85 PSI is too much for the house and its various fixtures and/or appliances to handle.

Most Frisco neighborhoods are in the 90-100 PSI range at the street with some areas in West Frisco (The Trails) exceeding 125 PSI. Most neighborhoods in McKinney are in the 90-95 PSI range at the street. There are some areas in Plano (North along 121 and northwest along the NDT) where the homes exceed 85 PSI because of the shared Frisco water sources. If this is the case, you might not have a PRV but need one and may be eligible for a $500 rebate through the city.

Toilet fill valves are especially affected when the pressure is over 85 PSI. With PRV installation in place, water pressure can be reduced before it enters the house and causes leaks or damage.

How Do I Know If I Need A Pressure Reducing Valve?

Any house in Frisco or McKinney that was built in 2000 or later has a pressure-reducing valve by code. Some larger homes that were built in the late ’90s (i.e., some homes in Starwood) also have them.

Back in the early days of the PRV, the builders installed them on the main water lines right before it entered the home. Because they’re obscured by the landscape, mulch, or sometimes just completely buried, most homeowners don’t even know they exist until we tell them. As an FYI, this valve box is usually located to the left or right of the double clean-out for the home. The “double clean out” are those two white pipes that are sticking up out of the flower bed.

Some PRVs in newer homes (usually about 2017 but sometimes earlier) are located in the garage with access panels to allow them to be replaced. However, most pressure-reducing valves – at least the ones that are beginning to fail – are installed below the ground. Most are not installed correctly (the new code requirements were NOT as stringent as they are now) and typically last between 12-15 years give or take. The PRVs do fail occasionally, and they must be replaced from time to time.

Here Are Some Signs You Need PRV Replacement:

Low Water Pressure: If your water pressure decreases after a few seconds of water running, you might have low water pressure. If there is a visible or noticeable drop in water flow or pressure after you turn on a second or third fixture, this could also be a sign. There should be no noticeable drop in your water pressure normally.

High Water Pressure: Usually indicated by the phenomenon called “water hammer”, high water pressure is important to look out for too. Water hammer can be identified in the walls as:

  • A pounding or banging sound
  • A rattling sound, like something is being shaken
  • High pitched whining or squealing, usually associated with the toilet or hose spigot
  • Banging when certain appliances turn on or off — very common with the front load HE washing machines, but this is NOT normal
  • No water coming into the house at all. This is typically due to a total of the device (or shutoff valve)
  • A water leak in the flower bed. This can sometimes be identified by:
  • Active water leak in the form of an obvious small geyser
  • A wet muddy area that never seems to dry out — often thought to be an irrigation leak
  • Shrubs in the area around the clean outs that are showing signs of disease or “root rot”
  • The known valve box has standing water that never seems to dry up

If you suspect you have a PRV-related issue, we can perform a couple of simple pressure tests using the outdoor hose spigot that will measure and/or indicate the issue. Before we can make repairs, the hose spigot needs to be free of leaks and drips.

The PRVs come preset at 45 PSI. If caught early enough in the lifespan of the device (within 4-5 years), it can usually be adjusted to its maximum of 80 PSI. This is a significant difference!

What Comes with PRV Replacement Service?

If we replace your PRV, we ALWAYS also replace your “whole-house shutoff valve.” What’s that? Well, if you didn’t know you had a PRV, then you probably didn’t know that in that same valve box there is a shutoff valve. This valve turns off the water to your house in case of a leak-related emergency.

Contrary to popular belief, homeowners are not supposed to open the meter box near the street and use that shutoff to turn off the water. In some cases, you will not have access to the valve box because it’s buried, concealed, or covered by the landscape. Or worse, you know where the box is, but it’s encased in mud, and/or the shutoff valve handle is old and/or rusted off (very common).

Do NOT try and turn this valve if it looks anything other than new. You will especially want to wait for a professional plumber if it’s the old-style gate valve (looks like a water hose spigot handle).

Can High Water Pressure Affect My Water Heater?

The answer is yes! High water pressure can cause wear and tear on your water heater if left unchecked.
If we find your PRV does need to be replaced, we will also inspect your water heater. Why? If your water heater is older and you’ve had low water pressure for years, suddenly doubling the water pressure to 80+ PSI could cause the water heater to rupture. It happens, and we actually made that mistake… ONCE!!

Additionally, a thermal expansion tank (it looks like a small propane tank over the heater) is required when a PRV is present. The code for this was not in place when PRVs were first required, but now an expansion tank must be in place or added when the pressure reducing valve is present, added, or replaced.

This is a code-required item and not optional. If the water heater is more than 12 years old, Earl’s will not be able to add the expansion tank without also replacing the heater. Sorry, we’re just not going to take the chance of massive property damage because the normal life of a 6-year tank-type water heater is around 9-12 years. Anything over 12 years is our cutoff, and we would prefer to walk away than take a chance.

How Much Do Pressure Reducing Valve Replacements Cost?

Ultimately, Pressure Reducing Valves can be one of the more expensive plumbing repairs. PRV and shutoff valve work must be done together. We will typically quote this service over the phone with a few ranges. These ranges are determined by the location of the home and questions answered by the homeowner.

There are many things that impact the price of the PRV, but a basic replacement requires us to dig a hole in the flowerbed approximately 2’ wide and 3’ across. From there, some items are obscured that are covered in the initial price range such as the proximity of the line that leads to the front yard hose spigot, PEX lines vs copper, the overall condition, etc. Other items that could adjust the final price are:

  • Depth of the water line and overall depth to access the line: We’ve had lines as deep as 48 inches, meaning our excavation is nearly 5 feet deep. That’s an extreme example, but we’ve had it happen.
  • Leak presence: Typically this makes the digging more difficult.
  • Condition of the soil and dirt: Is it wet, gummy, sticky clay? If so, this is far more difficult to excavate.
  • Amount of landscape and large roots that are present in the dig area: Will shrubs need to be cut back or completely removed?
  • Condition of the pipe once accessed: Bent, dented, angled, the proximity of devices to allow for cutting versus “unsweating”, type of materials used for line and junctions (PEX, copper, black poly, PVC, Qwest pipe, blue poly, etc.).
  • Line and valve box location: If the box can’t be placed by probing, do we have to exploratory dig OR get out “line locating equipment”. That adds to the cost, and line locating can only be done when the line is copper. It doesn’t work on PEX, PVC, or Polylines.
  • Age of the water heater
  • Presence of an expansion tank

In the end, pressure testing is usually done without a charge involved, assuming that the PRV has malfunctioned and we end up doing the work. If not, the testing is done at a nominal rate.

We do an average of about 2-3 PRV replacements per week. But we’ve done as many as 6 in one day. Each job takes an average of 2-4 hours depending on complexity. Interior PRVs take 1.5 hours or less and are far less complex and less costly. Interior PRVs are typically newer homes and also have expansion tanks already in place.

If you have additional questions or would like a quote, please give us a call.

PRV and main shutoff valve job in Frisco

Most Frisco neighborhoods are in the 90-100 PSI range at the street with some areas in West Frisco (The Trails) exceeding 125 PSI.  Most neighborhoods in McKinney are in the 90-95 PSI range at the street. There are some areas in Plano (North along 121 and northwest along the NDT) where the homes exceed 85 PSI because of the shared Frisco water sources. If this is the case, you might not have a PRV but need one and may be eligible for a $500 rebate through the city.

Toilet fill valves are especially affected when the pressure is over 85 PSI. With PRV installation in place, water pressure can be reduced before it enters the house and causes leaks or damage.

How Do I Know If I Need A Pressure Reducing Valve?

Any house in Frisco or McKinney that was built in 2000 or later has a pressure reducing valve by code. Some larger homes that were built in the late ’90s (i.e., some homes in Starwood) also have them.

Back in the early days of the PRV, the builders installed them on the main water lines right before it entered the home. Because they’re obscured by landscape, mulch or sometimes just completely buried, most homeowners don’t even know they exist until we tell them. As an FYI, this valve box is usually located to the left or right of the double clean-out for the home. The “double clean out” are those two white pipes that are sticking up out of the flower bed.

Some PRVs in newer homes (usually about 2017 but sometimes earlier) are located in the garage with access panels to allow them to be replaced. However, most pressure reducing valves – at least the ones that are beginning to fail – are installed below the ground. Most are not installed correctly (the new code requirements were NOT as stringent as they are now) and typically last between 12-15 years give or take. The PRVs do fail occasionally, and they must be replaced from time to time.

Here Are Some Signs You Need PRV Replacement:

  • Low Water Pressure: If your water pressure decreases after a few seconds of water running, you might have low water pressure. If there is a visible or noticeable drop in water flow or pressure after you turn on a second or third fixture, this could also be a sign. There should be no noticeable drop  in your water pressure normally.
  • High Water Pressure: Usually indicated by the phenomenon called “water hammer”, high water pressure is important to look out for too. Water hammer can be identified in the walls as:
    • A pounding or banging sound
    • A rattling sound, like something is being shaken
    • High pitched whining or squealing, usually associated with the toilet or hose spigot
    • Banging when certain appliances turn on or off — very common with the front load HE washing machines, but this is NOT normal
  • No water coming into the house at all. This is typically due to a total of the device (or shutoff valve)
  • A water leak in the flower bed. This can sometimes be identified by:
    • Active water leak in the form of an obvious small geyser
    • Wet muddy area that never seems to dry out — often thought to be an irrigation leak
    • Shrubs in the area around the cleanouts that are showing signs of disease or “root rot”
    • The known valve box has standing water that never seems to dry up

If you suspect you have a PRV-related issue, we can perform a couple of simple pressure tests using the outdoor hose spigot that will measure and/or indicate the issue. Before we can make repairs, the hose spigot needs to be free of leaks and drips.

The PRVs come preset at 45 PSI. If caught early enough in the lifespan of the device (within 4-5 years), it can usually be adjusted to its maximum of 80 PSI. This is a significant difference!

What Comes with PRV Replacement Service?

If we replace your PRV, we ALWAYS also replace your “whole house shutoff valve.”  What’s that? Well, if you didn’t know you had a PRV, then you probably didn’t know that in that same valve box there is a shutoff valve. This valve turns off the water to your house in case of a leak-related emergency.

Contrary to popular belief, homeowners are not supposed to open the meter box near the street and use that shutoff to turn off the water. In some cases, you will not have access to the valve box because it’s buried, concealed or covered by landscape. Or worse, you know where the box is, but it’s encased in mud and/or the shutoff valve handle is old and/or rusted off (very common).

Do NOT try and turn this valve if it looks anything other than new. You will especially want to wait for a professional plumber if it’s the old-style gate valve (looks like a water hose spigot handle).

Can High Water Pressure Affect My Water Heater?

The answer is yes! High water pressure can cause wear and tear on your water heater if left unchecked.

If we find your PRV does need to be replaced, we will also inspect your water heater. Why? If your water heater is older and you’ve had low water pressure for years, suddenly doubling the water pressure to 80+ PSI could cause the water heater to rupture. It happens, and we actually made that mistake… ONCE!!

Additionally, a thermal expansion tank (it looks like a small propane tank over the heater) is required when a PRV is present. The code for this was not in place when PRVs were first required, but now an expansion tank must be in place or added when the pressure reducing valve is present, added or replaced.

This is a code-required item and not optional. If the water heater is more than 12 years old, Earl’s will not be able to add the expansion tank without also replacing the heater.  Sorry, we’re just not going to take the chance of massive property damage because the normal life of a 6-year tank-type water heater is around 9-12 years. Anything over 12 years is our cutoff, and we would prefer to walk away than to take a chance.

How Much Do Pressure Reducing Valve Replacements Cost?

Ultimately, Pressure Reducing Valves can be one of the more expensive plumbing repairs. PRV and shutoff valve work must be done together. We will typically quote this service over the phone with a few ranges. These ranges are determined by the location of the home and questions answered by the homeowner.

There are many things that impact the price of the PRV, but a basic replacement requires us to dig a hole in the flowerbed approximately 2’ wide and 3’ across. From there, there are some items that are obscured that are covered in the initial price range such as the proximity of the line that leads to the front yard hose spigot, PEX lines vs copper, the overall condition, etc.  Other items that could adjust the final price are:

  • Depth of the water line and overall depth to access the line: We’ve had lines as deep as 48 inches, meaning our excavation is nearly 5 feet deep. That’s an extreme example, but we’ve had it happen.
  • Leak presence: Typically this makes the digging more difficult.
  • Condition of the soil and dirt: Is it wet, gummy, sticky clay? If so, this is far more difficult to excavate.
  • Amount of landscape and large roots that are present in the dig area: Will shrubs need to be cut back or completely removed?
  • Condition of the pipe once accessed: Bent, dented, angled, proximity of devices to allow for cutting versus “unsweating”, type of materials used for line and junctions (PEX, copper, black poly, PVC, Qwest pipe, blue poly, etc.).
  • Line and valve box location:  If the box can’t be placed by probing, do we have to exploratory dig OR get out “line locating equipment”. That adds to the cost, and line locating can only be done when the line is copper. It doesn’t work on PEX, PVC or Poly lines.
  • Age of the water heater
  • Presence of an expansion tank

In the end, pressure testing is usually done without a charge involved, assuming that the PRV has malfunctioned and we end up doing the work. If not, the testing is done at a nominal rate.

We do an average of about 2-3 PRV replacements per week. But we’ve done as many as 6 in one day. Each job takes an average of 2-4 hours depending on complexity. Interior PRVs take 1.5 hours or less and are far less complex and less costly.  Interior PRVs are typically newer homes and also have the expansion tanks already in place.

If you have additional questions or would like a quote, please give us a call.

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West Frisco, TX
2770 Main St Suite #263
Frisco, TX 75033
East Frisco, TX
11625 Custer Rd #110
Frisco, TX 75035