Most plumbing issues are inconvenient, but they don’t put your health at risk. If the problem in question is one that you must address with the help of a backflow preventer, there’s a chance that the issue is serious.
As you might have already guessed, the problem we’re talking about here is known as backflow.
It’s a word that certainly doesn’t come off as threatening, but it can pose a real danger to the health of you and your loved ones.
Find out more about backflow and backflow preventers by continuing with this article.
What Is Backflow?
According to Corrosionpedia, backflow is the “undesirable reverse flow of water that returns contaminated water from a worksite back to the potable water source.” Basically, backflow takes place when the water flowing through your home’s plumbing is not going in the direction it’s supposed to.
Now, it may seem like water moving in the opposite direction through your pipes is no big deal. It’s weird, but nothing to worry about, right?
Unfortunately, that is not the case when it comes to backflow.
The Dangers Posed by Backflow
The most concerning thing about backflow is that it can pose a danger to your health. When water does not move in its intended direction, it can contaminate what should be a clean supply of water.
Wastewater could enter your plumbing system due to backflow. As soon as that happens, you are at risk of getting sick every time you get a glass of water.
It’s also possible that the contaminated water could flow through your shower, and that would be one unpleasant bathing experience for sure.
That’s not all you need to worry about when it comes to backflow.
Left unaddressed; backflow can also cause damage to your pipes, and force leaks to spring. You could find yourself without a working plumbing system due to backflow, and that’s a nightmarish situation.
Why Backflow Occurs
There are two main reasons why backflow occurs.
The first is known as back pressure. Back pressure is when the flow of water moving downstream suddenly produces a greater amount of pressure relative to the supply pressure.
Since the water moving downward is producing pressure, it could flow into the potable water lines.
The other explanation for backflow is back siphonage. Back siphonage takes place when the water pressure in the supply line drops quickly. The sudden drop in the water pressure can lead to the water going back to where it came from.
You’re more likely to encounter backflow caused by back siphonage because that can occur whenever there’s a water main break, whenever the supply line is drained, and even through excessive use of water.
Which Items in and around Your Home Can Experience Backflow?
Backflow can happen anywhere in and around your home.
The toilet is a victim of backflow, and if you’ve never seen one overflow before, you can consider yourself lucky. Faucets are also susceptible to backflow, especially the ones that accommodate hoses.
Your dishwasher could also suffer from backflow, which is alarming for many reasons.
Outdoor fixtures such as swimming pools, artificial ponds, and sprinkler systems are similarly susceptible to backflow.
How Can You Prevent Backflow?
We’ve now established the importance of preventing backflow, but how exactly do you go about doing that?
Wikipedia notes that there are two ways to tackle this problem.
The first involves installing an air gap. Air gaps are open vertical spaces that you will find between the devices connected to the plumbing system and a spot where contaminated water could wind up pooling.
Air gaps are built into your plumbing system already, and they have probably prevented instances of backflow in the past. However, if you want to use an air gap to prevent backflow now, you may run into problems.
You may need to reconfigure your home’s plumbing system to accommodate the installation of additional air gaps.
Since air gaps are harder to add to an existing plumbing system, most homeowners need to consider a backflow preventer instead.
What Is a Backflow Preventer?
Backflow preventers do one thing, and that’s to ensure the water in your plumbing is always moving in the right direction. They typically install these devices directly on to the pipes themselves.
You’ll often see backflow preventers whenever they cannot install air gaps. Since air gaps require a good amount of vertical space, they may not fit in certain positions. Air gaps may also not be usable if the water is pressurized.
Once you have installed a backflow preventer, it will act like a barrier.
It works as a barrier whenever water is moving in the wrong direction and tries to go back to the main water supply. Otherwise, it keeps the water flowing from the public supply and into your home.
Which Structures Need Backflow Preventers Installed?
It’s easy to see the value that backflow preventers present. Still, some homeowners may be hesitant to spend the money necessary to get one installed.
A backflow preventer is not an essential addition for many homeowners, but there are exceptions. For instance, if you are using a well system as a water supply, you will want a backflow preventer installed. The same holds true for homeowners who have irrigation systems at home.
You also need backflow preventers in buildings that use sprinkler systems to protect against fires. You don’t want that stagnant water in the sprinkler system flowing back into the drinking water supply.
Also, if there are any spots in your plumbing system where the water flowing into your home and wastewater may be cross connected, you should secure those locations with the help of a backflow preventer.
Avoid jeopardizing your health by contaminated water by investing in backflow preventers. Make sure you install them properly by going to the professionals for assistance.