How Do Pressure Relief Valves Work?



  • Pressure relief valves are usually found in areas where there can be a gas buildup. Gas, no matter what type, can hurt a system if it builds up to much pressure. This includes steam. If the system has a pressure relief valve in place, it can release this gas buildup and return the pressure back to normal within the pipes.


  • A pressure relief valve is made up of a plug, shell and handle or some means to open and close the valve. The plug is found inside the shell of the valve and is connected to the handle. When the handle is place in the closed position, the plug is up against the seat in the valve, which blocks the water flow from moving any farther down the pipe. The plug can be made of different materials, such as metal or rubber, and the type of material depends on the gas moving in the pipe.


  • The handle is similar to a screw. When turned to the right, it moves down toward the valve, and when it is turned to the left it goes up. The plug, connected to the mechanism, is pushed down to the seat when turned right. This seal keeps the gas from leaking out. When opened, the plug moves away and gas is released. If operated by hand, gloves are normally needed because of the pressure that comes out and due to the heat associated with some gasses such as steam. Sometimes a valve is connected to sensors that let the system know when pressure needs to be released and can be set up to be opened and closed automatically by the machine.

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