Modern water systems function to channel clean water into your home and carry dirty water out. However, pressure differentials can cause water to flow in the opposite intended direction, leading to a condition known as backflow.
Backflow testing is important as it ensures your water system works as intended. So today, the team at Advantage Plumbing is here to answer the pressing question: What is backflow testing?
What Is Backflow?
Water supply lines typically run in one direction: from the supply to your home. However, your water system can lose pressure and start to run the other way. The result is backflow.
Backflow is bad because your clean drinking water gets contaminated with dirty used water. Contaminants such as sewage, cleaning chemicals, and other kinds of pollutants can make their way into your water system, posing a health risk to you and your family.
Backflow commonly results from one of two things:
- Backpressure: Backpressure occurs when the pressure of your water system is higher than your water tank’s pressure. The pressure imbalance results in contaminated water moving in the opposite intended direction.
- Back siphoning: Back siphoning can occur when water pressure drops significantly after overuse. For example, back siphoning might occur if you use several water faucets and appliances at once. It also commonly happens after civic drainage procedures.
More generally, backflow can be a result of:
- Broken water main
- Overhauled plumbing
- Pressure drops due to leaks
- Power outages
- Pump malfunctions
Because backflow is an ever-present threat, most modern water systems use backflow prevention devices to ensure water remains flowing in the correct direction. Backflow preventers use a series of sensors and valves that keep contaminated water out, ensuring that you have clean water to drink and use.
Backflow preventers are common in residential plumbing systems but are also present in industrial and agricultural applications. If a backflow preventer fails, then your water can become contaminated with a whole host of harmful pollutants.
What Is Backflow Testing?
In some cases, backflow is obvious and will change the color of your water. For example, if your tap water comes out brown, the color is likely the result of backflow. However, backflow may not always result in the water changing color.
Backflow testing serves two purposes: to detect backflow and determine its source. During the test, the plumbing technician will check the preventer’s valves while monitoring water pressure and flow. Most modern plumbing companies use backflow testing software to gauge flow and contaminant levels.
The backflow testing process is simple and only takes about 20–40 minutes to complete. If the technician detects any backflow, they will diagnose the problem with your backflow preventers and repair the damage. In some cases, you may need to replace existing preventers.
As the premier plumbing professional in Bartlett, IL, Advantage Plumbing provides backflow testing for homeowners and businesses. Feel free to contact us to schedule backflow testing for your property!
Why Is Backflow Testing Important?
Most experts recommend testing your backflow prevention devices at least once per year. Keeping your backflow preventers in top condition is important for several reasons.
First and foremost, backflow testing tells you whether your water is safe to drink and use. Low pressures during backflow episodes can flood your home’s water system with used water containing several pollutants. Things like mold, sewage, and debris can be harmful to your health.
Backflow is also harmful to the environment. Contaminants in the water supply, such as sewage or chemical cleaners, can make their way into soil and groundwater, eventually draining into lakes and oceans. Backflow preventers offer important environmental technology as they keep polluted water in its intended loop.
Most home appliances such as dishwashers or water heaters will not work properly under backflow conditions. Pollutants can settle into appliance components, causing damage. Additionally, backflow can cause clogs in your pipes and drains, leading to leaks and flooding.
Backflow testing is also important for overall community health. Backflow from one house can seep into other homes, spreading contamination and damage. It is not unheard of for entire communities to get sick from contaminated water due to backflow issues.
How To Prevent Backflow
Backflow most often occurs in rooms that utilize a lot of water, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Appliances that use pressure, such as toilets and showers, are also more likely to experience backflow.
Consider some ways you can prevent backflow in your home.
Reduced-Pressure Principle Backflow Preventer (RPBP)
RPBPs comprise a special type of backflow preventer that consists of two valves with a single chamber in the middle. When water pressure drops, the two valves will close, trapping the water so the rest can drain properly. When the pressure rises, the valves open to allow water to flow again.
Vacuum Pressure Breaker
Vacuum pressure breakers represent a type of plumbing attachment that monitors water pressure in pipes. Like an RPBP, the pressure breaker will shut a valve and stop water flow if it detects a pressure drop. Vacuum pressure breakers make an efficient choice as you can attach them directly to your pipes.
Air gaps consist of a small space between water outlets that keeps dirty water from flowing back into the water outlet. Air gaps are non-mechanical, so they don’t involve valves or pressure sensors. Most modern appliances and sinks incorporate some kind of air gap mechanism.
Expert Backflow Testing in Bartlett, IL
Backflow is a serious issue that can pose a significant health and safety hazard. So it’s in your best interest to get backflow testing regularly and ensure your backflow preventers remain in top condition. You shouldn’t hesitate to address backflow, so don’t wait—contact an expert to handle the issue.