hot and cold water pipes

Backflow: Causes and Prevention

 

Your home’s plumbing system is designed for water to flow one way, but sometimes the flow can reverse. This is called backflow, and it can have serious consequences.

 

Here’s what you should know about what causes this plumbing issue and how you can prevent it.

 

Causes
Backflow refers to an unwanted backward flow of contaminated water or wastewater mixed with other liquids and gases into your clean water supply. This can occur wherever there’s a connection between potable and non-potable water lines. There are two types of backflow:

 

Back pressure. This occurs if the pressure from a non-potable water source becomes greater than the pressure of your clean water supply. Back pressure backflow is often caused by boilers, sprinkler systems or power washing tools, among other things.

 

Back siphonage. This happens if there’s a loss of pressure in your clean water supply, which causes contaminated water to be sucked backward. Back siphonage backflow usually occurs if a water main breaks or a large quantity of water is being used for firefighting.

 

If wastewater and other substances contaminate your clean water supply, it can expose the members of your household to pollutants that can make you moderately to severely sick. Backflow can also contaminate the municipal water supply, thereby threatening the health of the entire neighbourhood.

 

Prevention
There are a number of devices that can be installed in your pipes to protect the clean water supply from backflow. These are the most common backflow preventers used to keep water flowing one way through residential plumbing:

 

Air gap. This simple solution involves creating an open space between devices that connect to the plumbing system and the pipes themselves. An air gap helps maintain a consistent pressure and avoid backflow. However, there isn’t always enough room to accommodate an air gap.

 

Backflow preventer valve. This is a specialized valve that can be installed at any location in your plumbing system where there’s a risk of contaminated water flowing backward into your clean water supply.

 

Once installed, it’s important to have your backflow prevention system inspected by a plumber every year to make sure it’s in good condition. A professional can also assess whether other plumbing connections in your home are at risk of backflow, such as the one to an irrigation or sprinkler system.

Plumbing services in the GTA
Whether you want to install a backflow preventer in your home or have existing devices inspected, the experienced plumbers at Black Forest Plumbing can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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