What’s the difference between a mechanical mixing valve and an electronic mixing valve?

What’s the difference between a mechanical mixing valve and an electronic mixing valve?

If you’re in the plumbing world, you’re likely aware of the role that a water heater’s mixing valve plays in maintaining comfortable and safe water temperatures. But did you know there are two types of mixing valves available on the market? Today’s water heaters can use either mechanical mixing valves or electronic mixing valves to control the flow of hot water. However, it’s important to understand the difference between each option and the benefits offered to your customer.

Let’s explore the mechanics of how the two types of technologies work in more detail.

Mechanical Mixing Valves

A mechanical mixing valve is a device that blends hot and cold water to achieve a consistent, predetermined temperature at the outlet. The more traditional of the two devices, mechanical mixing valves operate based on the principles of thermal expansion and contraction. Inside a mechanical mixing valve, a thermostat-like mechanism responds to changes in water temperature, adjusting the valve to regulate the mixture of hot and cold water.

These valves do not communicate with the water heater itself and are used as add-on parts. Even once installed, mechanical mixing valves have to be manually configured to ensure the proper temperature is maintained and homeowners remain safe from scalding.

Electronic Mixing Valves

In contrast, electronic mixing valves rely on digital technology to achieve accurate temperature control. These valves incorporate electronic components, including temperature sensors, and can be programmed to deliver specific temperature outputs, resulting in a high degree of precision. This also allows the tank to hold and store hotter water, since the outlet temperature can be more accurately controlled.

At GE Appliances, we wanted to simplify not only the product maintenance and control for the homeowner but also the installation process for the pro. That’s why we created a patented, industry-first innovation: a built-in electronically controlled mixing valve used in our FlexibleCAPACITY™ water heating products.

On our FlexibleCAPACITY water heaters, the unit and valve are factory-installed, so the plumber needs to connect only the cold inlet and hot outlet plumbing, just like a standard water heater installation. Additionally, plumbers save time by not having to wait on-site for the tank to heat up the water and to test the temperature. With GEA products, you can simply install and move on; the product will do the work.

Benefits of an Electronic Mixing Valve

Among other benefits, electronic mixing valves can result in better and safer water temperature control, as well as better communication from the unit on its performance over time.

In the episode below of “Designing Spaces” on Lifetime Television, a family shared their story on how better control of their water temperature and increased hot water capacity can make a significant impact.

Just as Nikki and Chris experienced, a water heater with an electronic mixing valve can offer many valuable advantages to a home or business. Whether your customers are looking for added safety measures, easier maintenance or reduced costs, an electronic mixing valve can help.

Increased Hot Water Capacity

Using an electronic mixing valve, our FlexibleCAPACITY water heaters allow for three capacity setting options, providing more hot water when it’s needed and more efficient operation. For example, when users select the X-High setting, the water is heated up to and stored at 160 degrees. As it leaves the tank, a digital sensor reads the exit temperature, opening the electronic mixing valve to mix in the proper amount of cold water and provide users with their desired water temperature without the wait time.

This, in turn, allows homeowners enjoy up to 60%* more hot water, with a 50-gallon water heater performing like an 80-gallon water heater, more energy efficient hot water storage and more usable hot water.

Water Heater Maintenance

Traditional water heaters should be periodically checked, about once per year, to ensure mechanical integrity. GE Appliances smart water heaters proactively alert the homeowner to an issue so they can contact a plumber ASAP. The mixing valve can also be shut on and off.

All parts in GE Appliances units are individually replaceable, which makes for a faster and easier fix too.

Water Temperature Safety

While an electronic mixing valve allows the water heater to hold hotter water, it also lowers the outlet temperature to a safer set point — reducing the risk of scalding. A hotter tank also helps to combat the potential growth of Legionella bacteria.

Get a closer look at our lineup of FlexibleCAPACITY water heaters, and see how an electronic mixing valve can benefit your customers.

*vs comparable water heater without mixing valve at 120F setpoint and 58F inlet water temperature.