What Happens When Your Backflow Preventer Stops Working?

It’s completely normal to worry when your backflow preventer stops working. The increased chance of backflow conditions and water contamination is stressful. However, backflow preventer stoppage, otherwise known as “failure,” is a helpful feature that mitigates the impact of backflowing water and allows time for you to conduct the proper repairs. RPZ assemblies fail to alert you of serious complications. Read on to learn more about what happens during RPZ failure and how to respond properly.

Zone of Pressure Imbalance

How do reduced pressure zone backflow preventers work? RPZs utilize a zone of pressure and hydraulic mechanisms to open and close the valves. When this zone of pressure is disrupted, an imbalance hinders valve performance. Luckily, a sensing line can detect this disruption and activate the relief valve, where backflowing water is redirected away from public service lines. While the relief process is normal and beneficial for the RPZ equipment, it’s important to remember it indicates a larger issue.

Identifying the Problem

The most likely culprit of RPZ failure is unwelcomed debris in one of the chambers hindering the valve mechanism. For example, a tiny rock or an accumulation of micro-objects can lodge into the hydraulic components and prevent the valve from opening or closing completely. Minor drippage from the relief valve often indicates debris in the first chamber, while heavier flows typically suggest an issue with the second chamber. Outside factors can also activate RPZ failure—a drop in pressure caused by pipeline ruptures or fire department interferences can trigger severe backflow conditions within your plumbing infrastructure and test the limits of your equipment. This is often followed by a heavy release of water from the relief valve.

Implementing Solutions

Now that you fully understand the conditions proceeding backflow preventer failure and the most common culprits, it’s time to implement productive solutions to ensure plumbing protection. Suppose the underlying issue is related to debris within either chamber. In that case, opening the test cocks, draining the water, and closing the shut-off valves will remove obstructions without damaging the rest of your plumbing infrastructure. Excessive leaking—another common RPZ complication—is easily fixable by installing replacement seal components. However, certain problems may prove too difficult for your RPZ, causing catastrophic failure.

What Happens During Catastrophic Failure?

Catastrophic failure occurs when your RPZ backflow preventer ceases functioning completely. The prevention equipment cannot stop the backflow of water or redirect the flow to a relief point. The risk of contaminating a potable water source increases tremendously. In the event of a catastrophic failure, it’s highly recommended to respond with professional plumbing services from a licensed master plumber. Additionally, you must purchase a functional reduced pressure backflow preventer to replace the damaged unit.

Understanding what happens when your backflow preventer stops working ensures you can properly respond to any complication and prevent a more serious situation. Browse our selection of industry-leading backflow prevention equipment at Backflow Direct, and protect your plumbing infrastructure today!