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Plumbing Backflow Protection

Backflow is a plumbing term used to refer to unwantedreverse flow of water. This backflow of water isnormally considered disastrous as it leads to thecontamination of water supplies. Once water supplies are contaminated, they automatically become unhealthy and if any person comes into contact with this water, the probability of falling sick is heightened.

Backflow of water mainly results from two things; back pressure or back siphonage. Back pressure occurs as a result of higher pressure in the system than in the supply, usually as a result of the system pressure been increased by some means. This usually occurs in unvented heating systems where thermal expansion causes increase in pressure.

Sources of back pressure may be pumps in the water distribution system, boilers, heat exchanging equipment, or power washing equipment. In such cases, there may be an almost constant risk of overcoming the static water pressure in the piping. To reduce the risk of contamination, a backflow preventer can be fitted in the system. A backflow preventer is also essential when chemicals are used, for instance for commercialboilers or when using bleaches during residential power washing.

To prevent contamination due to back pressure, some regulatory regimes require an air gap or mechanical backflow prevention assembly between the delivery point of mains water and local storage or use. Where submerged mains inflow is permitted, a backflow prevention assembly is required, as it will protect the potable water system from contamination hazards. These hazards can be severe as some of them can be fatal to whoever comes into contact with them. In many countries where regulations allow for the possibility of backflow, approved backflow prevention assemblies are required by law and must be installed in accordance with the State’splumbing or building codes

Back siphonage is also another way that backflow can occur. This is usually as a result of supply pressure being lowered more than that of the system. This mainly occurs when a supply is interrupted or drained down.

In water supply systems, water is normally maintained at a significant pressure to enable water to flow from the water source. When pressure is reduced, as may typically happen when a water main bursts, pipes freeze and the pressure in the pipe may be reduced leading to contaminated water from the ground, storage, or other sources, to be drawn into the system. This is an eventuality that should be avoided at all costs as it would be catastrophic.