What is Backflow Prevention?

learn how backflow prevention maintains clean water in your home

What is Backflow Prevention?

(Last Updated On: January 23, 2019)

Why is backflow prevention important? It starts with understanding backflow and wanting clean water within your home!

Backflow means a reversal in water or sewage direction occurred. Typically, backflow derives from a lack of pressure in the overall plumbing system.

“When the pressure in a water system isn’t maintained, the risk for water to flow backward into the water system and become contaminated is greatly increased. Backflow testing monitors the health and safety mechanisms designed to protect water purity.”

If backflow occurs, then contamination results from water line and sewerage back-ups. Frequently, backflow issues originate on your property and/or from the water supply adjacent to your property.

As a result, backflow prevention relies on periodic testing, which helps reduce water contamination within your home and local environment.

Why Homeowners Need Backflow Prevention?

Primarily, homeowners need backflow prevention for safety reasons.

“If there is a water leak in the house, house water service break, city water main break, hydrant flushing, or hydrant use due to a fire, the water pressure in the house or city water mains can drop lower than the water pressure in the water system. This can cause water from the system to back-up into the drinking water supply. The next time you or a neighbor turns on a faucet for a drink of water, the water received could contain contaminants. Even small fluctuations in city water mains that occur due to uneven water use from one neighborhood to the next can cause drops in pressure large enough to cause a back-flow and therefore contamination to occur.”

So, how does backflow typically occur? Frequently, backflow occurs from these common issues.

  • A break in a city water line (possibly caused from line flushing or firefighting needs).
  • A toilet flush valve without an anti-siphon device.
  • Drop in water pressure (commonly while watering the lawn or filling a swimming pool.

Additionally, homeowners with well water must inspect the supply for possible contaminants. For example, untreated or already contaminated streams or ponds present potential backflow risks. Along those lines, homeowners using insecticides for lawn treatment should understand potential backflow risk. As drops in pressure possibly create backflow conditions, if pressure drop occurs when watering the lawn with an insecticide attachment, then potential contaminants may enter the water supply.

However, current fire systems include built-in backflow preventers, so any that helps protect homeowners and their water safety. Therefore, homeowners should remain diligent and look to add systems with built-in backflow prevention throughout their home. For example, instead of watering with a hose, install an irrigation system that includes backflow prevention.

What are Backflow Prevention Devices?

Backflow prevention devices keep contaminated or dirty water from the water supplies that flow into our homes. Additionally, these devices are also called reduced pressure zone (RPZ) values because changes in pressure often create backflow issues. The Plumbing Professors provide some more details.

“Ranging from simple to extremely complex, these units are a series of check valves that prevent water from flowing “backwards” into the clean water supply during times of unequal water pressure or other unique pressure conditions or fluctuations.  When installed and maintained correctly, a backflow preventor keeps the clean water supply safe.”

But what does these complex systems include:

  • Air Gaps, which mainly provide space in the water storage area where it connects to the plumbing systems.
  • Check Valves, which mainly ensures water only flows in one direction and restricts dirty water from flowing back into your home.

Finally, because backflow prevention devices play a major role in safety, building and plumbing codes, along with water regulations typically require backflow prevention devices. Generally, the regulations and codes require the installation of backflow prevention devices where connections exist that could suck dirty water into the clean water supply. Plus, the codes and regulations require annual inspections of the devices and water system.

If your home lacks a backflow prevention contact SolvIt today to discuss what is involved in installing a preventative device in your home and how it protects you from contaminated water. SolvIt provides professional backflow testing and prevention to our services areas.

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