The ASSE motto is “Prevention Rather Than Cure”. In an effort to protect the health of the public, ASSE has created standards for manufacturers and a process for certification of control valves under those standards through ASSE approved laboratory testing.
Most plumbing contractors and engineers are familiar with the ASSE standards for control valves, but they often misunderstand the disconnect between the standards and certification and a manufacturer's advertised minimum flow rates.
That misunderstanding at worse could find the contractor or engineer in the middle of a legal battle when valves fail. At best they will suffer a rise in costs when they have to go to a job site and fix problems. Problems that could occur long after the job is complete.
Often the plumbing engineer will see that the product is certified to current ASSE standards and justifiably figure everything is good to go. However, the devil is in the details. Details the engineer will not see until they read the fine print in the installation sheets.
The important question isn’t whether or not the product is certified; that’s easy to verify. What you really want to know is, has the product been tested at the advertised flow rate by third party, ASSE Listed Laboratory and did it pass that test?
How does the certification and testing process work?
In order to have a valve certified, the manufacturer must have it tested. An ASSE approved laboratory does the testing and then certifies the valve according to the standards. Acorn Controls uses the IAPMO R&T Lab based out of Ontario, Canada.
Prior to 2011, ASSE 1016 (Individual Showering) had a standard default of 2.5 gpm. However, in 2011 there was a revision in ASSE 1016, requiring the valves be tested at the manufacturers minimum advertised rate of flow, as verified by their sales brochure or engineering submittal. In the absence of an advertised minimum, the tested flow rate remains 2.5 gpm.
Acorn Controls SV16 shower valves have already been tested and certified by IAPMO to the ASSE 1016-rev.2011 at our 1.25 gpm advertised rate. Very few other valves have been certified to the 2011 revision, and ASSE is giving manufacturers until the end of 2016 to do so.
For ASSE 1017 (Master Mixing), the valves are tested according to the standard default, which is based on the flow with 10 psi differential, followed by a flow rate reduction of 50%.
For ASSE 1070 (Lavatory Tempering), the advertiser must present to the test lab a brochure showing their advertised minimum because there is no default flow rate.
For ASSE 1069 (Group Showering) and 1071 (Emergency Tempering), valves are tested at the advertised flow rate if one is available; otherwise they are tested at the defaults – 2.5 gpm for the 1069 and 3 gpm for 1071.
But keeping track of all that can be confusing for the engineer. Add to that confusion the fact that there are constant changes to the process, and it can be quite overwhelming.
All you really need to know is this. Ask the manufacturer at what flow rate were their valves tested and at what ASSE Listed Laboratory were they tested. Better yet, if you are in doubt at all, get the name of the person who did the testing and ask them how they tested the product.
What you may not know about ASSE standards.
Do you know who sits on the ASSE standards committee and technical panels? Manufacturers sit on the committee and technical panels. One could argue that there is a conflict of interest when manufacturers are defining what their products need to do, or more importantly, what the products don’t need to do, for certification and safety.
We at Acorn Controls hope that unbiased and independent design engineers will be motivated to become involved in the process. By sitting on committees and technical panels, they will add a very important voice to the standards.
Decisions should be in the hands of the people who need these products to work better; the engineers and contractors. We want to do everything we can to help you understand the importance of the testing and standards process in order to ensure the highest level of safety for your customers which will help to reduce your liability.
The new Acorn Controls Chicago training facility.
Acorn Controls has a brand new training facility located in Chicago where we educate engineers on the standards and the importance of standards and testing when selecting different valves.
During training engineers learn how the technology, design and installation all come into play in creating the safest possible solutions.
Our new facility qualified for witness testing because of our computer monitored state-of-the-art equipment. We preceded IAPMO’s testing with in-house testing using a more stringent interpretation of requirements as per the standard.
How confident are we in the quality of our valves?
We actually tell IAMPO to test all our products at a lower rate than is required per the ASSE standards. Acorn Controls uses IAPMO to verify every minimum flow rate we advertise on every product, not just those that require it. We say it. We stand behind it. IAPMO proves it.
This is why our MV17-5 valve is certified at 90 to 4 gpm instead of the ASSE 1017 standard certification of 90 to 45 gpm.
We want to ensure that we not only meet, but also exceed the requirements for certification in order to provide the highest level of bather safety.
Your role as an engineer.
We encourage engineers to ask their manufacturers about their training programs. They will be happy to share their testing process with you if they are confident in their ability to match or beat the standards.
We understand that it’s easier to trust the manufacturer, but we strongly encourage you to ask more questions. Ask at what flow rates their valves were tested and were these rates tested by a third party, ASSE Listed Laboratory.
While you may not yet be aware of any injuries suffered due to thermal shock, scalding, Legionella, ligature or hypothermia, it is important always to take the extra time to be certain you are getting what‘s advertised.
Waiting to find out that someone has been injured before changing to the higher level of safety Acorn Controls provides is like waiting for your house to catch fire before buying fire insurance.