Your family uses water in your San Jose, CA, home every day. An intricate plumbing system allows this to occur. One important aspect of a plumbing system is that water only flows in one direction to prevent contamination. Backflow prevention is a method used to protect the water supply.

What Is Backflow?

Backflow refers to the reversal of water flow within a plumbing system, allowing various contaminants to enter the water. This is a problem because unsafe water poses a series of health risks. Backflow can also lead to plumbing damage. Backflow can occur for several reasons, including changes in water pressure, improper plumbing connections, water main breaks, and backward siphoning.

Back-pressure backflow occurs when water pressure down the line exceeds the water pressure from the water supply. Usually, this occurs as a result of the use of water pumps and equipment. Back-siphonage draws water backward in the system because of negative water pressure. This pulls in different contaminants, which could easily end up in your freshwater supply.

Health Risks Associated With Backflow

Backflow is a serious situation that can put your health at risk as well as the health of those in the community. Backflow can expose you to things like chemicals, bacteria, and pathogens. This can lead to GI symptoms as well as more serious issues like hepatitis. People at a higher risk include the elderly, small children, and those with a compromised immune system.

In addition to health risks, you may be legally responsible for any problems that occur because of backflow on your property. Homes and businesses should take appropriate steps to ensure that this isn’t a situation that is occurring at their expense. Certain plumbing systems require the installation of backflow prevention, even if signs of backflow are absent. If you fail to have this equipment installed, you could find yourself in legal trouble.

Property and Plumbing Damage

Backflow can also cause structural damage to your plumbing system. As backflow occurs more frequently, corrosion will occur. This can lead to leaks and breaks in pipes. Substantial property damage can occur when any kind of plumbing disaster strikes. You may also notice that there is a change in your water pressure when backflow is occurring. This can affect your ability to use your water, appliances, equipment, and more.

Using Backflow Protection Devices

Several backflow prevention devices are available to prevent the reversal of water, reducing contaminant exposure, plumbing problems, and pressure issues. A professional will conduct a backflow inspection to determine what points in your plumbing system would benefit from installation. Usually, this is at cross-connection points or areas that experience a frequent change in water pressure. These devices essentially include a barrier with valves or vacuums that will promote a one-way flow of water. Common options include pressure vacuum breakers, double-check valves, and atmospheric vacuum breakers. The equipment that’s used will be determined by the severity of the risk of backflow.

A backflow device will allow water to flow normally when in use. However, they are designed to sense backflow, determined by a change in water pressure or flow. This is when the device will activate, providing a secure seal against any water that may try to flow backward.

The Need for Ongoing Maintenance and Service

Once your initial inspection has taken place and backflow prevention equipment has been installed, it’s ideal that you schedule regular maintenance and service for this new system. Having a professional test your backflow prevention equipment will ensure that it’s working properly. Minor adjustments or repairs may be needed on occasion to keep everything working efficiently. Whenever you’re dealing with water, it’s a good idea to catch a problem as early on as possible to prevent expensive and inconvenient damage.

It’s also a good idea to work with a professional plumber so that you know your home or business is safe. Work should be done according to local code to protect your home and your community from any contamination issues. A professional has been trained to work on a variety of different plumbing setups, including those that are at risk of backflow, and who can spot a backflow issue long before it causes contamination or corrosion issues.

Ideally, a plumbing professional should inspect your backflow prevention equipment and plumbing system once per year.

Signs of Backflow Issues to Watch For

Now that backflow is on your radar, you can do several things to catch it at its earliest stage. Frequent plumbing issues, such as corroding or leaking pipes, are one red flag. For example, if you replace something only to have the issue reoccur in a short period, the underlying issue has likely not been addressed.

If you’re trying to spot contamination in your water supply, take note of any odd smells that are coming from your faucets when water is in use. Severe contamination issues caused by backflow can cause water to appear dark or dirty. Water that has a foul taste is a serious concern that warrants immediate attention from a professional plumber.

If any of these signs occur along with physical symptoms such as GI issues, nausea, headaches, fatigue, or dizziness, contact a plumber to inspect your plumbing system for backflow or other issues.

How Common Are Backflow Occurrences?

Backflow is a more common problem than many homeowners realize. Just because you’re not showing signs of serious illness doesn’t mean that some degree of backflow is taking place. The contamination simply may not make it back to the water flowing out of your fixtures. However, there can be substantial damage to your plumbing system that you don’t know about until it’s too late.

Even when a structure’s plumbing system is intact, certain scenarios can create or increase the risk of a backflow problem. A water main break, for instance, can cause backflow problems, which is why you are encouraged to boil your water for a certain period after repairs are made. This allows time for contaminated water to move out of the system and be replaced by fresh, clean water. Fire hydrant use can also cause backflow thanks to the extensive water pressure involved with fire equipment. You won’t necessarily know fire hydrants are being used, but you might notice a decrease in water pressure at the time. Routine maintenance can also lead to backflow, even if the maintenance is planned and scheduled ahead of time.

If you would like to learn more about backflow protection for your San Jose home or business, reach out to Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter for assistance. We can perform a backflow inspection, determining your risk. We can also install backflow protection and make necessary changes to your plumbing system that will reduce backflow risk. We also perform emergency plumbing repairs, drain repair, and more. Give Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter a call today to schedule an appointment.

Josh Gibson

Hi, I’m Josh. I’ve been around plumbing my whole life. When I was 5-6 years old my family built a home where I did a lot of the sanding of copper pipe and definitely some playing in the mud. Plumbing is a major part of my family as I am a fourth-generation plumber. The skills I bring to the job are a good technical knowledge of plumbing and code requirements. I am often complimented on my hands-on problem-solving skills.
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