The Basics of Backflow Prevention

When you turn on your faucet or flush the toilet, one important component you might not think about is backflow prevention.


What is Backflow?


Backflow, as the name suggests, is the flow of water in the opposite direction to where it is supposed to go. Water is supposed to flow into your home but due to pressure changes in the main supply system, like a burst pipe or sudden spike in use, the pressure can dip so low that water gets pulled from your home and enters the city’s mains instead.



Why is Backflow Prevention Important?


Preventing this backflow from happening is an important health and safety issue. The systems in your home, like your dishwasher, garden hose, and toilet, are capable of drawing contaminated water into the mains if backflow occurs. This is also an issue if you have an in-ground irrigation system. Fertilizers, soap, human waste and bacteria are some of the contaminants that can enter the water supply, putting everyone at risk.



How is Backflow Prevention Accomplished?


Air Gap — The simplest form of backflow prevention is the air gap. This works by maintaining a gap between the water supply and potential contaminant. Plumbing codes state where these air gaps are required.

Air gaps are not always possible so backflow prevention must be achieved using mechanical means to allow flow in one direction but stop it from flowing in the opposite direction. Choosing the right backflow prevention device depends on where you are placing it, the hazard level and code requirements.


Double Check Valve Assembly — Check valves work by opening up for fluid to go in one direction but closing if the fluid attempts to flow in the opposite direction. Check valves on their own are not a viable means of preventing backflow but double check valve assemblies contain two check valves in series. These devices ensure that even if one check valve sticks open, the other will close as needed. The other benefit is that the two valves in series will give a tighter, more reliable seal.


Vacuum Breakers — Vacuum breakers contain an air inlet valve that stays closed during normal flow but opens as soon as the water pressure changes and there is a risk of backflow.

Not all homes require a backflow prevention device and municipal by-laws. If you’re not sure about the requirements give us a call at 405-533-2483 and we can help you!

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Advantage Plumbing Heating and Cooling

1521 E. 6th Ave

Stillwater, OK 74074

phone: (405) 334-4035

fax: (405) 372-5020

Oklahoma License #029963

H + M Advantage Heating and Cooling

1400 S. Main St.

Sapulpa, OK 74066

phone: (918) 216-9963

fax: (918) 224-1889

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