ASSE International’s motto is “Prevention Rather Than Cure.”
In the interests of public health, ASSE has created standards for manufacturers of control valves and a process for their certification through ASSE-approved laboratory testing.
Most plumbing contractors and engineers are familiar with the ASSE standards for control valves, but the difference between a product’s certifications and the manufacturer’s advertised minimum flow rates is not always clear.
That misunderstanding could result in higher costs for the contractor or engineer as they return to the job site again and again—long after the project has been completed—to address failing valves. Worse, they could find themselves in the middle of a legal battle.
The plumbing engineer may see that the product is certified to current ASSE standards and understandably assume everything is good to go. However, the devil is in the details—details the engineer won’t see until they read the fine print in the installation sheets.
It’s easy enough to verify whether or not a product is certified. The more important question is, has the product been tested at the advertised flow rate by a third-party, ASSE-listed laboratory—and did it pass?
How Does the Certification & 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, Calif.
Prior to 2011, the standard flow rate for ASSE 1016 (Individual Showering) was 2.5 GPM. It was then revised, requiring that valves be tested at their manufacturers’ minimum advertised rate of flow, as verified by their sales brochure or engineering submittal. In the absence of an advertised minimum, the standard tested flow rate remains 2.5 GPM.
Acorn Controls SV16 shower valves have already been tested and certified by IAPMO to ASSE 1016-2011 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.
ASSE 1017 (Master Mixing) 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 percent.
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 and 3 GPM, respectively.
Keeping track of all the testing standards and their updates can be overwhelming. All an engineer really needs is to ask the manufacturer these two questions:
- At what flow rate were the valves tested?
- What ASSE-listed laboratory performed the testing?
If in any doubt at all, ask for the name of the person who did the testing and ask them directly how they tested the product.
What You May Not Know About ASSE Standards
You may be surprised to learn that it’s the manufacturers themselves who sit on the ASSE standards committees and technical panels. Obviously, it could be argued that this constitutes a conflict of interest—manufacturers defining what safety standards their products are required—and more importantly, not required—to meet.
We at Acorn Controls hope that unbiased and independent design engineers will be motivated to become involved in the process. Their presence on the committees and technical panels will add an important voice and perspective to the discussions.
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, as well as reduce your own 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 emphasize the importance of the standards and testing when selecting different valves.
During this training, engineers learn how technology, design, and installation all contribute to creating the safest possible solutions. Our new facility qualified for witness testing due to 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 IAPMO 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 225 to 4 GPM instead of the ASSE 1017 standard certification of 90 to 45 GPM.
We want to exceed the requirements for certification in order to provide the highest level of bather safety.
Your Role As an Engineer
We recommend that engineers 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 be proactive. Ask at what flow rates their valves were tested and if those rates were verified 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 to always take the extra time to be certain you are getting what is advertised.
Acorn Controls is dedicated to providing a higher level of safety. Don’t wait for an injury to occur before making the change—get in touch today.