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Backflow? Here’s What You Need to Know

Effective backflow prevention helps keep unsafe water from entering your home’s water-supply lines. In a properly functioning system, clean water moving through the supply pipes should flow in only one direction. When backflow occurs, however, the direction of water flow reverses and may siphon contaminated or unsafe water backward into the clean water supply. This could result in illness or other adverse effects due to drinking or contacting tainted water.

When Water Flows Backward

Backflow is most often caused by a sudden, precipitous drop in municipal water pressure. This can result from ruptured city water pipes or other events like opening multiple fire hydrants. The abrupt loss of pressure causes municipal water to briefly flow backward, inducing suction inside the system. This, in turn, can trigger a backflow condition within household water pipes connected to the system.

Where Backflow Happens

Contamination of water due to backflow in the house occurs at certain junctures where sanitary water-supply lines connect to pipes, leading to less-than-sanitary locations. These are known as “cross connections” and include:

  • Lawn-sprinkler systems
  • Swimming pool supply lines
  • Fire-sprinkler pipes
  • Outdoor fountains or fish ponds
  • Garden hoses retaining contaminated water
  • Handheld sprayers in the shower or bathtub

How to Keep Your Water Safe

Because incidents that trigger backflow typically happen without any warning or notice to homeowners, effective protection requires mechanisms that automatically engage to prevent the reversal of water flow. Backflow-prevention devices installed at existing cross-connections in the house allow the water to flow in the safe direction only. If backflow conditions reverse the flow, the valve protecting the cross-connection automatically closes to prevent contamination.

The mechanical design of backflow-prevention valves varies, depending on the specific type of cross-connection where they are installed. An inspection by a qualified professional plumber can identify vulnerable cross-connections in the house where backflow prevention is required.

For more about backflow-prevention devices to protect your home’s sanitary water from contamination, contact the professionals at Beyer Boys.