The water that flows through your home is designed to travel in one direction. Backflow is a term used in plumbing to describe water that flows in the wrong direction. Instead of flushing down your drain and into your pipes, contaminated water flows back up and out of your fixture.
Whatever the reason for your backflow problem, you’ll want to fix it fast. Backflow can introduce unclean water into your existing potable water and put your family’s health at risk. Luckily, there are several backflow devices and backflow valves you can install that will prevent this problem in your home’s plumbing.
What Causes Backflow?
Backflow usually happens for one of two reasons:
- Back pressure is where water is forced to flow in a direction it’s not meant to go. The pressure in your system increases to become stronger than that of your water supply.
- Back siphonage occurs when the pressure within your water supply is lower than the pressure within your home’s system itself.
The most common reasons for these changes are a burst or leaking pipe or utility maintenance along the supply lines. When utility workers open a fire hydrant or turn off water at the street level, it affects the pressure within your home. To stop water backflow in your home, you’ll want to have a backflow prevention device installed.
What is a Backflow Preventer?
Most backflow preventers are simple devices that install within your existing plumbing. They contain a one-way valve that stays open as long as the municipal water coming into your home flows in the same direction. If that flow reverses, the valve closes to prevent water from traveling backwards.
This protects your clean water from becoming contaminated by dirty water from your toilets, drains or appliances. It can also prevent sprinklers and garden hoses from transporting chemical fertilizers from the ground into your home.
How to Stop Water Backflow
Below we outline five popular types of backflow prevention. Each works in a slightly different way and is best for specific applications.
Air gaps are different than other backflow prevention devices because they’re non-mechanical. They are, in essence, an unblocked vertical space between a water outlet and the flood level of a fixture. Most kitchen faucets actually already contain this kind of air gap.
The air gap inside faucet housings allows water to flow out of the faucet into the sink normally, but won’t allow that sink water to move back into the faucet without modification. This keeps contaminants away from your potable water system thanks to siphonage.
A Reduced Pressure Principle Backflow Preventer (RPBP)
This type of backflow preventer is less common in residential applications, but you might still use one depending on your needs. RPBPs consist of a central chamber with a valve on each side. If the RPBP senses the water pressure goes down, each valve closes in turn. When the valves are closed, they trap the water until it flows back down the drain properly. Then, the valves open back up, allowing for regular water flow and continued usage.
A Barometric Loop
Barometric loops are not as easy to install in existing plumbing as air gaps or RPBPs because they take up more space, but they are an appealingly simple way to fix the problem. Barometric loops are basically continuous stretches of piping in capital “U” shapes. This “U” shape is simply too difficult for backflow water to travel up again.
A Pressure Type Vacuum Breaker
This is another device that you could attach directly to your pipes. A pressure type vacuum breaker is a nonstop monitoring device that keeps track of your system’s existing pressure. Pressure type vacuum breakers contain sensors that monitor the water pressure in your pipes at all times. When these sensors determine that your pipes’ water pressure has dropped too low, they close an attached check valve. Closing the valve prevents backflow and protects your water.
A Hose Bib Backflow Preventer
Hose bib backflow preventers are used to protect single fixtures from backflow issues. They’re frequently used for outdoor faucets or similar fixtures. Hose bib backflows introduce a compact assembly spring that will only allow water to flow in one direction. If water pressure drops, this spring closes and a valve opens to discharge the back flowing water. This process keeps backflow from entering your existing supply of fresh water.
Which Backflow Preventer Do I Need for My Home?
One of these backflow prevention devices should be the right fit for your home’s plumbing. The team at Ben Franklin Plumbing can inspect your system and determine which is best for your needs. We perform backflow preventer installation as well as help with all water pressure related issues. Contact us today to make sure your home’s water stays clean, clear, and free of backflow problems.