Anti-Scald Valves

Anti-scald valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a person. Anti-scald valves are used to regulate water temperature in buildings

Facts and Figures

  • Scalds account for 20% of all burns.
  • More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving skin grafts and plastic surgery.
  • Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
  • Water that is 160º F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds.

Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the cold-water pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will become colder when someone in the house uses the hot-water faucet. This condition is exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with low-flow or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk.

Anti-scald valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the pressure of the hot- and cold-water inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an anti-scald valve increases the amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Inspectors and homeowners may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures are required in new construction in their area.

Installation of anti-scald valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in the hot-water line and require a cold-water feed. They also require a swing check valve on the cold-water feed line to prevent hot water from entering the cold-water system. They may be installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific fixtures.

The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different than the target temperature set on the anti-scald valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, uninsulated plumbing lines or defects in the valve itself. Users may fine-tune the valve with a rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which way it’s turned. Homeowners may contact a qualified plumber if they have further questions or concerns.

In summary, anti-scald valves are used to reduce water temperature fluctuations that may otherwise inconvenience or harm unsuspecting building occupants.

by Nick Gromicko and Rob London

Emergency Supply Kit for Severe Weather

Photo by Ralph W. lambrecht on Pexels.com

Assemble the following items to create emergency supply kits for use at home, the office, at school, and in your vehicle:

  •  Water—1 gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation and 2 week supply for home)
  •  Food—a 3-day supply of non-perishable food for evacuation, 2-week supply for home
  •  Battery-powered or hand crank radio, and a “Public Alert Certified” NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries for both
  •  Items for infants—including formula, diapers, bottles, pacifiers, powdered milk and medications not requiring refrigeration
  •  Items for seniors, people with disabilities and anyone with medical needs—including special foods, denture items, extra eyeglasses, hearing aid batteries, prescription and non-prescription medications that are regularly used, inhalers and other essential equipment
  •  Kitchen accessories—a manual can opener, mess kits or disposable cups, plates and utensils, utility knife, sugar and salt, aluminum foil and plastic wrap, resealable plastic bags
  •  One complete change of clothing and footwear for each person— including sturdy work shoes or boots, raingear and other items adjusted for the season, such as hats and gloves, thermal underwear, sunglasses, dust masks
  •  Sanitation and hygiene items—shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, comb and brush, lip balm, sunscreen, contact lenses and supplies and any medications regularly used, toilet paper, towelettes, soap, hand sanitizer, liquid detergent, feminine supplies, plastic garbage bags (heavy-duty) and ties (for personal sanitation), medium-sized plastic bucket with tight lid, disinfectant, household chlorine bleach
  •  Other essential items—paper, pencil, needles, thread, medicine dropper, whistle, emergency preparedness manual
  •  Several flashlights and extra, fresh batteries
  • A first-aid kit
  • A copy of your home owner’s insurance policy
  • Contact information for a pre-selected, local and licensed Public Adjuster

This list was extracted and modified from the information provided at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/severeweather/resources/ttl6-10.pdf

Prepare for a Home Fire Emergency … Today!

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test your smoke alarms once a month and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Replace smoke alarms every 8-10 years or as the manufacturer guidelines recommend.
  • Plan your escape from fire. The best plans have two ways to get out of each room.
  • Practice fire escape plans several times a year. Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Purchase only collapsible escape ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Check that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Make sure everyone in your family understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked or barred doors and windows.
  • Consider installing residential fire sprinklers in your home.
  • Take the time to prepare (and, if possible, photograph or videotape) a complete inventory of all of your belongings.  Store this information with a friend or family member so that it is not lost in the fire.
  • Find and meet a local licensed Public Adjuster to have your home insurance policy reviewed in advance of an emergency and keep his phone number in an accessible place.

Contact your local fire department on a non-emergency phone number if you need help or have questions about fire safety in your home.

Yes … New Homes Burn Faster

Does it come as a surprise to anyone that many of those who would financially gain from re-building the home are spending heavily to lobby their state legislatures to fight laws that would prevent it from burning down?

If you are living in a recently built home or are contemplating buying one, you need to read this (click, here).

New homes are being constructed with lightweight and flammable material, and many that I have personally inspected include building flaws that increase the risk of fire.

One common example is the loose electrical wiring buried under the blown fiberglass insulation in brand new homes that is more of “the rule” than an exception to the rule in many unregulated parts of Missouri.  Another common flaw is the absence of arc fault circuit interrupters.

As stated in the linked article, above …

Designed to carry a greater load with less material, the prefabricated components are made from real or man-made wood fragments held together by glue or metal fasteners. The materials are commonly used to frame roofs and flooring. Assembled in factories and shipped to construction sites, these building components significantly cut down on construction time and cost. Builders also say the materials are better for the environment, because they use less wood, reducing deforestation.

But both real-life and test fires have shown that structures with lightweight construction burn much faster and collapse sooner than traditional solid-wood frame construction. That, firefighters say, makes fires harder to fight and shortens the time occupants have to escape a blaze.

“Not only is that second floor going to come down on your head in a very short period of time, the roof is going to collapse,” said Danny Hunt, fire marshal in Nashville, Tennessee, where he said roughly 90 percent of new homes use lightweight construction.

Caveat emptor.

Radiant Barriers – Good for Energy Savings/Bad for Fire Safety

They can cool the attic … but at what risk to the structure and the occupants?  Could radiant barriers represent a potential for harm?

Read the McDowell Owens Engineering Inc. white paper as to how “The physical and electrical properties of these materials are such that they introduce new and very serious dangers of ignition and fire.”  

The link that I had used for years to the original McDowell Owens Engineering Inc. report is no longer operating; however, you can find a pdf copy of the report by clicking here.

The summary of the McDowell Owens Engineering study is, as follows:

“1. Standard installation methods for roof sheathing with integrated radiant barrier are such that the end result is an overall environment where all of the radiant barrier material and virtually everything metal on and around the roof are electrically connected.

“2. In most cases, something in that environment is connected to earth ground. If anything in the roof environment becomes electrically energized (by lightning or any other common source) there is a high probability the current will pass through the barrier material at some point on the way to earth ground.

“3. The physical and electrical properties of reflective radiant barrier materials which we tested are such that the material in a structure provides two new and unique hazards relative to fire causation.

(a) When energized by an electrical current the material readily generates temperatures sufficient to ignite MANY materials.

(b) The barrier material itself readily serves as the first ignited material.”

If you are considering radiant barriers as an energy efficiency upgrade … if you reside in a home with radiant barriers that are installed … if you are considering a recommendation by an energy auditor or other entity to install them … read this report, first.

Electrical Safety: Some Thoughts on Knob and Tube Wiring and Insulation

Knob and tube electrical wiring was an early method of electrical wiring in buildings and was commonly used in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s.  While it was replaced with other electrical wiring methods decades ago, home with energized knob and tube electrical wiring still exist.

Knob and tube wiring consists of single-insulated copper conductors run within wall or ceiling cavities, passing through studs and ceiling/floor joists through protective porcelain insulating tubes.  The wires are supported along their length by porcelain knob insulators that have been nailed in place.

Knob and tube wiring runs at a higher temperature than modern wiring materials and requires a minimum of three inches of air space around the length of the wire.  This requirement adds an additional challenge to home owners wishing to add insulation in order to increase the comfort and energy efficiency of their older home.

If you have knob and tube electrical wiring in your home and plan to add insulation, first have a qualified electrical contractor inspect your wiring to ensure that it is safe prior to adding insulation.  Ensure that all connections are enclosed in appropriate protective boxes, that the wiring insulation is intact and in good condition and that it has not been modified in any manner since its original installation (addition of non-metalic sheathed cable wiring circuits, for example).

The next step, prior to insulating attics or floors where knob and tube wiring is present, is to identify and seal air leakage points.  This is an important step that will maximize the efficiency of the insulation, extend its life and assist in providing a comfortable and healthier living space.

Do not insulate wall cavities containing knob and tube wiring.

Knob and tube wiring in attics may be isolated by building a barricade around it with R-30 unfaced batts.  Ensure that the batts are at least three inches away from the knob and tube wiring.

While the presence of the older knob an tube wiring does not, in itself, violate national electric codes (though some regions forbid it), the best solution for knob and tube wiring is to replace it, if economically possible.

I’m sure that there are electrical contractors and weatherization folks who could add much to this topic and  I hope they will chime in.  Home owners should always consult a professional electrical contractor prior to adding insulation in the presence of knob and tube electrical wiring.

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