Everything You Need To Know About Backflow Preventers

Water is perhaps the most underappreciated resource. We often drink several bottles of water a day or take sips from the fountain without thinking twice. In reality, getting access to this element is a very complex process. City officials must go through various steps to ensure water is safe to drink. For example, they have to use backflow preventers to keep water contaminant-free. This guide on everything you need to know about backflow preventers will help you gain an appreciation for the often-unknown device.

What Is Backflow?

Before we can discuss backflow preventers, we must understand what backflow is. The water in our homes and office buildings should only flow in one direction: towards the building. When the water flows in the opposite direction, backflow occurs. Contaminants make their way into the water supply, making it unsafe to drink. Several things can cause backflow to occur. For example, if there’s a rupture in the piping system, the water may change direction. Backflow shouldn’t be confused with back-pressure or back-siphonage. Back-pressure is when the pressure is higher in the system than the one in the supply; back-siphonage is when the pressure of the supply is lower than the system. If back-pressure or back-siphonage occur, contaminants can backflow into the potable water supply.

What Are Backflow Preventers?

Now that we’ve gone through a short glossary of terms, we can finally explain what backflow preventers are. By simply looking at the name, we can understand that the devices prevent backflow. But what does that mean? These tools ensure that water flows in one direction. Backflow preventers keep water safe for drinking.

Backflow preventers are used in many applications such as irrigation systems, public drinking fountains, and in fire suppression systems. In fire suppression systems, the water sits in the pipes until the alarm is activated. When water is stagnant like this, it can accumulate bacteria and other harsh pollutants that have no place in a city’s main water supply. Other chemicals, like antifreeze, are also often used in fire systems. Backflow preventers stop this contaminated water from entering a drinkable water supply.

Different Types of Backflow Preventers

Are you still with us? Good, because we’re not finished telling you everything you need to know about backflow preventers! Believe it or not, there are different types of backflow preventers that we should discuss.

Double Check Valve

Double check valves, or DCs, are one type of backflow preventer. DCs have two acting and approved checks. There are also two shutoff valves and test cocks. If one check is stuck open, the second check will provide protection to the potable water supply. Double check valves are great for low-pressure situations like irrigation systems.

Reduced Pressure Zone

Reduced pressure zones, or RP or RPZ, are similar to double check valves in that there are two checks. However, RPZs also have a relief valve that opens to release contaminated water. If the relief valve is operating, that means there is back pressure on the valve or there could be debris keeping one of the checks open.

Pressure Vacuum Breakers

Pressure vacuum breakers, or PVBs, are designed to be connected to a sprinkler system. PVBs prevent dirty water from getting into the sprinkler system. They have an internally loaded check valve and air inlet valve.

Signs of a Bad Backflow Preventer

That’s a lot of information to grasp, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re doing great! We now know how backflow preventers operate and the different types on the market. Now, it’s important to examine the signs of a bad backflow preventer. Watch out for the incidents, so you don’t end up drinking or washing with contaminated water!

Discolored Water

One of the most obvious signs that your backflow preventer needs replacing is discolored water. If brown water is coming out of your faucets, call a plumber immediately. Discolored water indicates that contaminants have made their way into the water supply, and it’s unsafe for consumption. This doesn’t just impact your home or building, this can affect everyone who shares your public water supply.

Slow Drainage

If you notice the water in your bathtub isn’t going down, this could be an indicator of a bad backflow preventer. When one of the check valves is broken, water will not be able to circulate properly. So, it’ll get stuck in your drains and may accumulate bacteria over time. Again, call a plumber immediately should this situation arise.

Smelly Water

Much like discolored water, you need to watch out for smelly water, too. Water that has an odd smell probably has contaminants in it that weren’t purified out. Don’t consume this water or use it to wash your clothes or your body.

The Importance of Certification and Testing

We’re almost there! The last note we should mention involves the importance of certification and testing. Only certified workers can install, test and repair backflow preventers, as they’ve gone through a course that taught them how to work on backflow preventers. Backflow Direct also has certified backflow preventers that have gone through rigorous testing to ensure they’re in excellent working condition.

Speaking of testing, backflow preventers must be inspected regularly to ensure they work when needed. Inspections are especially crucial in fire protection systems because they’re needed in emergency situations. Backflow Direct has high-quality replacement parts in case something is damaged.

Well, there you have it! Hopefully, now you understand how important backflow preventers are in keeping our water supply safe. Without these devices, we could ingest contaminated water and suffer serious issues such as nausea and skin irritation. What’s more, we’d have a public health crisis on our hands if backflow preventers didn’t exist. What if pollutants made their way into a city’s main water supply? Thousands of people could be put at risk. Additionally, no one would be able to shower or wash their clothes for fear of contamination.

Backflow Direct is proud to play a small part in keeping people safe. By offering certified backflow preventers and parts, we give people peace of mind about the quality of their water. Our team of professionals is dedicated to getting you the right equipment so that your water supply remains safe. Next time you take a sip of water, quietly thank the backflow preventer that made it possible!

Everything You Need To Know About Backflow PreventersEverything You Need To Know About Backflow Preventers