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How Can I Prevent Backflow?

Backflow is a term used in plumbing to describe when water flows in the wrong direction. Instead of flushing down your drain into your pipes, it flows back up and out of your fixture. Backflow usually happens for one of two reasons: back pressure, where water is forced to flow in a direction it’s not meant to go, or back siphonage, which occurs when the pressure within your water supply is lower than the pressure within the system itself.

Whatever the reason for your backflow problem, you’ll want to fix it fast. Backflow can introduce unclean water into your existing potable water and put your family’s health at risk. Luckily, you can install several devices that will prevent backflow in your home’s plumbing.

An air gap.

Air gaps are different than other backflow prevention devices because they’re non-mechanical. They are, in essence, an unblocked vertical space between a water outlet and the flood level of a fixture. Most kitchen faucets actually already contain this kind of air gap.

The air gap inside faucet housings allows water to flow out of the faucet into the sink normally, but won’t allow that sink water to move back into the faucet without modification. This keeps contaminants away from your potable water system thanks to siphonage.

A Reduced Pressure Principle Backflow Preventer (RPBP).

This type of backflow preventer is less common in residential applications, but you might still use one depending on your needs. RPBPs consist of a central chamber with a valve on each side. If the RPBP senses the water pressure goes down, each valve closes in turn. When the valves are closed, they trap the water until it flows back down the drain properly. Then, the valves open back up, allowing for regular water flow and continued usage.

A barometric loop.

Barometric loops are not as easy to install in existing plumbing as air gaps or RPBPs because they take up more space, but they are an appealingly simple way to fix the problem. Barometric loops are basically continuous stretches of piping in capital “U” shapes. This “U” shape is simply too difficult for backflow water to travel up again.

A pressure type vacuum breaker.

This is another device that you could attach directly to your pipes. A pressure type vacuum breaker is a nonstop monitoring device that keeps track of your system’s existing pressure. Pressure type vacuum breakers contain sensors that monitor the water pressure in your pipes at all times. When these sensors determine that your pipes’ water pressure has dropped too low, they close an attached check valve. Closing the valve prevents backflow and protects your water.

A hose bib backflow preventer.

Hose bib backflow preventers are used to protect single fixtures from backflow issues. They’re frequently used for outdoor faucets or similar fixtures. Hose bib backflows introduce a compact assembly spring that will only allow water to flow in one direction. If water pressure drops, this spring closes and a valve opens to discharge the back flowing water. This process keeps backflow from entering your existing supply of fresh water.

If one of these backflow prevention devices seems like the right fit for your home plumbing, you’re in the right place. The team at Ben Franklin Plumbing is standing by to help you with all your plumbing needs, installations included. Give us a call anytime and we’ll work with you to make sure your home’s water stays clean, clear, and backflow free.