Here's a question for you to think about: How much do you really know about backflow and the dangers it poses to you and your family? If you're thinking "honestly, I don't even know what backflow is, much less why it's dangerous," don't worry- you're not alone.
Most people don't know much at all about backflow or how to prevent it from threatening the health of your loved ones, but that's why we're here!
We want to help you learn not only about what backflow is and why it's dangerous but also what the best plumbing devices for preventing it are! It is required by law that all buildings, residential and commercial, have a backflow prevention device installed.
So What is Backflow, Anyway?
Backflow happens in the cross connections of your piping system when the flow of contaminated water is reversed and contaminates your drinking water supply.
Contaminants coming from your toilet, sink, or shower drains can contain bacteria such as E Coli, salmonella, and others that can cause serious illness and hospitalization.
We now find ourselves at a place where we know we need a backflow preventer, but don’t know which kind is best for our home. Let’s take a look at how air gaps and pressure vacuum breakers protect against backflow.
Air Gap Device
Air gaps are one helpful tool to prevent backflow. The idea is simple: keep a certain amount of space, filled only with air, between the source of clean water and the potentially contaminated water.
An excellent example of how air gaps prevent backflow is a kitchen sink's plumbing.
If there is enough space between the water coming out of the faucet and the maximum water level of the sink- so that the water in the sink cannot reach the faucet even if it overflows- then clean water can still flow freely from the faucet, but the potentially contaminated water in the sink cannot enter the faucet.
Within your piping system, a tundish may be used to create an air gap as well. Air gaps are can also protect against back-pressure, another form of backflow.
How do Pressure Vacuum Breakers Work?
Pressure vacuum breakers are an affordable option for residential backflow protection.
This device consists of a check valve and an air inlet, and function like so:
- In normal circumstances, the check valve will allow water to pass through while keeping the air inlet closed.
- In the event that the air pressure in the pipe becomes greater than the water pressure, the vented chamber will open and close the check valve to prevent a backflow of water.
Understanding Which is The Right Device For Your Home
Choosing the best plumbing device for protecting your home against backflow should be influenced by your home’s specific needs and concerns.
While pressure vacuum breakers are generally preferred in areas with milder winters, for example, they may not be the optimal choice here in Ontario.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that air gaps protect against contamination through back-pressure, so that may be a better option for you if back-pressure is a concern with your system. Make sure maintain your backflow devices with regular testing and certification, provided by Hall’s plumbing, and give us a call for your other plumbing needs as well!