Is this new technology the future of domestic hot-water balancing systems?
A look at self-actuating thermostatic valves.
A growing number of hotels, apartments, offices, hospitals, universities and other multistory buildings are utilizing thermostatic valves in their domestic hot-water balancing systems.
Self-actuated, recirculation valves threaten to disrupt traditional hot-water balancing practices because they enable plumbing designers, engineers and contractors to install them at the end of each branch and watch the system balance itself without any manual adjustment.
Prior to this technology, domestic hot-water balancing required the installation of hand-operated balancing valves throughout the system.
Once installed, the valves were manually adjusted throughout the building, balancing the hot-water flow floor by floor in an expensive and time-consuming process. Over the life of the building, heat loss, water demand or other reasons could cause the system to become unbalanced, leading to it needing to be manually rebalanced again.
Self-actuating thermostatic valves monitor the water temperature and will automatically modulate open or closed in response to changing water temperature. This constant, automatic response to water temperature enables each hot-water branch to quickly and consistently deliver the right temperature of hot water to each connected fixture.
The valve utilizes the concept of water flowing along the path of least resistance to operate. At system startup, the valve is open at the end of each of the branches, permitting water to flow through the system. As the hot water in each branch reaches the factory-set temperature, the valve modulates to a nearly closed position to keep hot water at the fixtures and forces the flow onto the next branch. Because the valve is never completely closed, it permits continual limited hot water flow into the branch to maintain temperature, reduce strain on the system, lower the erosion of piping and minimize maintenance costs.
When heat loss occurs in the branch, the valve modulates back open to allow hot water to flow through again and automatically balance the system. No external power is required for the valve to operate. Over time, the self-actuating valve maintains its effectiveness requiring no post-installation balancing maintenance.