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Do you know what this is ?

3 way valve

It’s a Three Way Valve and I expect that some of you recognised it.

The one in the picture has been replaced with a newer version by me and it is the fourth time that I’ve done this in the twenty odd years that we have been in this house. The job is a right pain in the arse (RPITA) the valve, its associated pipework, other valves, and electrical connections are all jammed into the airing cupboard with the hot water cylinder making it all  difficult to access, unless you’re an ambidextrous Martian with six arms.

In the picture the valve is sitting on a towel, one of the many used in soaking up the water which pours out whilst the old valve is disconnected and the new one installed. I’m always worried that I won’t actually be able to fit the new valve in time (or at all) to prevent water pouring through the downstairs ceilings. I haven’t yet worked out how to isolate the valve in order to make the job less traumatic, without draining down the entire water system. Plumbers (or some of them) have  devices whereby they can isolate plumbing components by freezing the surrounding pipework, although I’m not sure it would work in this case because the area is so restricted that you can barely wield a spanner.

Whilst typing I’ve   worked out how to restrict the water flow during the inevitable  future valve replacement.

Inevitable that is unless we replace our ageing Potterton  with a (compulsory) newfangled condensing boiler. Our heating engineer says DON’T DO THIS, there are apparently enough spares around to keep our existing system going for the foreseeable future and the  Potterton is more reliable and almost as efficient as the newer boilers. Apparently condensing boilers can be unreliable and are expensive to fix. I’ve done some Google research and this does appear to be the case.

Quote from DT:-

The fact that your existing boiler is 12 years old does not mean it will have to be replaced. Older boilers usually benefit from having sturdy cast-iron heat exchangers, and have fewer electronics than newer models.

And the Daily Mail:-

In fact, since 2005 it is illegal to fit any other kind. (condensing boiler)

At the time, the Government claimed they would massively reduce your carbon footprint and slash your fuel bills. As a result, every year some 1.2m old-style ‘dirty’ boilers are scrapped in Britain and replaced by this wondrous new variety.

However, the recent cold snap has revealed a major problem with them. Tens of thousands of people found themselves shivering as their shiny new boilers cut out without warning.

British Gas is understood to have had 60,000 call-outs in Yorkshire alone. And the cost to call out a plumber? It can be between £200 to £300 on a bank holiday. And don’t forget about VAT.

Back to the problem ……In the main water tank in the loft are three outlets (excluding the overflow) one goes to the cold taps, one to the hot water cylinder and one to the central heating header tank (which itself has an outflow to the radiators). I reckon I could make some softwood plugs, block the holes and solve the problem.

Pity I didn’t think of it earlier.

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Categories: General
  1. Pseu
    November 6, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I didn’t recognise the article in the photo, but then I’ve never done any plumbing 🙂
    Suitable photo for ‘detail’ competition? (Hint)

  2. November 6, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Hello Jazz:

    The plug idea would work, even a broom handle could plug the output of the tank sufficiently. I am not recommending this practice but I have seen it used by a plumber, when you disconnect the valve, stuff some fresh bread in the open pipes (no crusts), you should have about twenty minutes to finish you job before the bread starts to break up, the plumbers use this trick to have time to sweat (solder) replacement fittings without draining the whole system. When the water starts to flow the bread is washed out of the system. Look around for a better quality valve, they should last much longer than five years in service. Here’s one that I retired after 15 years in service outside as part of a swimming pool solar heater, still works fine (would not work for you, it is 110 volt a/c activated).

    Regarding condensing heating systems, I have them in use with a whole house hot air heat/cool system, the flue gas temperature is very low so they need a forced draft fan to work properly, the exhaust is also mostly water vapour and very acidic so any condensate must be drained or it will corrode the flue (most systems here use PVC pipe as the flue) and vent through the house roof, they almost all have outside combustion air supplied.

    Complicated but efficient, the hot air system is about 95% efficiency. Mine has been running for about twenty years without serious problems .

  3. November 6, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    The problem with three way valves is common in this area because of the very hard water, even a high quality valve (and the one I replaced was a ‘Honeywell’) is not immune to hard water.
    My neighbour has had a similar experience.
    We fitted a water softener about a year ago so it will be interesting to see if that has any effect.

  4. christinaosborne
    November 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Problem being, so many people do not service their boilers annually, I’m not surprised they break down.
    Here we have an ancient 35 year old boiler serviced with monotonous reliability. When we asked whether we ought to replace it, they were adamant in refusal, evidently the thing is built like the proverbial brick shit house and all the parts are still available! So on we trundle.
    When I extended the central heating in the house in Pembrokeshire I had one of these new fangled boilers. It provided hot water on demand and the tank was dispensed with. I must say the bills went down dramatically. I only had it five years before I sold the house but it never did die on me! Electronically it was a nightmare, It struck me as being over sensitive to any hiccups in power supply and worked apparently on an abundance of caution. ie a real pain in the arse until one learned how to shut it down and fire it up from the start again. The electronics of the time setting required a PhD to set though! I can well see why people wouldn’t want one!
    It did have cast iron guts though, but was a fairly expensive model.

  5. O Zangado
    November 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    If Chateau Jazz is so big you need triple valves to get hot water around the place then you deserve all you get :-). Here in The Cave where the water is so hard even the police alsatians won’t drink it alone, I just turn off all the pumps (borehole, cisterna, house) for any major maintenance to drop the pressure to zero and crack on. In your case would not turning off the master cock and turning on a tap have the same effect? Simples.

  6. November 6, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Jazz’s kennel is not large. But I think you misunderstand the function of the three way valve. It has as the name suggests three valve positions.
    (A) Heating only.
    (B) Hot water only.
    (AB) Both together.
    The valve will automatically motor between them in accordance with the times and temperatures set for central heating and hot water.
    It’s not really a function of house size.

  7. O Zangado
    November 6, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Oh, and there was me thinking it was West Wing, East Wing and Central Hall. 🙂

    OZ

  8. November 7, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Valves, schvalves, they’re all Greek to me! 👺

  9. November 7, 2014 at 8:49 am

    For my next trick I shall be replacing both the central heating thermostat/timer and the hot water timer and thermostat.
    This should be interesting because the hot water cylinder and three way valve are upstairs and the timers etc are downstairs in the kitchen. The wiring does not conform to current colour coding and what starts off as a blue wire downstairs is probably another colour upstairs.
    All good clean fun and lots of bad language.

  10. Four-eyed English Genius
    November 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

    We used to have such a device in our house. It was a annoyance, because it kept chattering, even when replaced and stuck a few times. In order to fix that, I relied on one of a true engineer’s four main tools. A large hammer. (For those interested, the others are, a large screwdriver, a Mole wrench or adjustable spanner and a tin of WD40!) 🙂

  11. November 7, 2014 at 11:18 am

    We used to have such a device in our house. It was a annoyance, because it kept chattering, even when replaced and stuck a few times.

    When the valves fail you can always put them into manual mode i.e. heating only or hot water only. We put ours onto heat only and use the immerser as required for hot water. The hammer WD40 option can only be a temporary solution.

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