How To Install a Saddle Valve for Your Humidifier or Refrigerator
This time of year in the Midwest bring many changes to our lives. Changing the clocks means leaving and returning home in the dark. Another change is the indoor air quality in our homes. The cold dry air of winter reminds us it is time to turn on the humidifier.
I just received a call from a relative who just turned on the water supply to the humidifier and it was now leaking. After a couple questions, followed by a suggestion the problem was remedied in a few minutes. This phone call got me to thinking about those troublesome saddle valves that supply water to so many humidifiers and ice makers.
Safety first, NEVER EVER use a saddle valve for any kind of gas, only water. A saddle valve gets its name from the way it looks, like a saddle on a horse. They are an inexpensive way to get water to humidifiers, ice makers, etc. There are several slightly different versions but all have the same parts and are installed the same.
You will be working on a live water pipe so before you begin locate the water shutoff in your home, just in case you need to quickly turn the water off.
Take a look at the picture below and carefully look at the parts of the valve I have labeled. The saddle is the part that wraps around the pipe, and is held together by 2 screws or bolts. The seat of the valve is where the needle valve (or stem valve) travels through and punctures the pipe. Between the seat and the pipe is a rubber gasket that seals the area around the needle valve puncture. The needle valve works well on copper and plastic pipe, but not very well on galvanized pipe.
The first step to install the valve is to clean the pipe all the way around where the valve is going to be installed, generally with a light sanding. Next position the valve around the pipe, with the output connection and top of the needle valve in a position that you can easily access both. Take into consideration where the output line has to run to. When positioning the saddle valve around the pipe be careful to make sure the gasket is seated properly. One trick is to screw the needle valve down until it barely touches the pipe, allowing you to properly center the gasket. When you have the gasket properly seated tighten the saddle valve, evenly, alternate with a couple turns on each side until good and snug.
Next connect the output line to the saddle valve, leaving plenty of extra length and place the end in a bucket or floor drain. You are now ready to turn on the water. Slowly turn the needle valve so it pierces the pipe. When you cannot turn it by hand anymore slowly back twist it backwards. Water should now begin to come out of the end of the output pipe. If not then repeat turning it in to pierce the pipe.
Once you see water coming out the output pipe close the valve and connect the output line to your humidifier, ice maker, etc. now turn it on one final time, checking for leaks.
If it does leak from the needle valve stem, then you needs to very slowly tighten the nut (packing nut) that surrounds the needle valve (refer to picture). If it leaks from the gasket area, check to make sure the screws holding the saddle valve to the pipe are tight.
A common practice is to turn the saddle valve off when you turn off the humidifier in the spring. If you do this, it is likely in the fall when you turn it back on it will leak from the needle valve stem. Not to worry, just turn the packing nut slightly until the leaking stops.
If you need to ever replace the entire valve, turn the water off and open the faucets of a sink at a lower level to drain water from the pipes. Remove the saddle valve and take it to the store with you to make sure you purchase a new one with the same size needle valve. Follow the above steps to install the new saddle valve with one additional step. When you fit the saddle valve to the pipe, lining up the gasket and needle valve will be next to impossible unless you extend the needle valve, then apply the gasket and insert the protruding needle valve into the existing hole. Then continue following the steps as outlined above.
Follow the above steps and you will have a successful installation of a saddle valve.
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