When you’re thirsty for a glass of water, what do you do? Most likely you grab a glass, fill it up from a faucet, and start drinking. But take a moment to think about each of those steps. At no point in that process do you stop to ask yourself if the water coming out of the nozzle is contaminated. This is because we expect a building’s plumbing will keep our clean water separate from the dirty water. But what if that contaminated water got mixed in with the clean water?  

The Importance of Backflow Testing

When polluted water flows back into a clean water supply, this process is known as backflow. Backflow is something that can happen at any time within any plumbing system. This is a big problem, as a situation like this would be hazardous to the health of everyone within the building. Fortunately, backflow can be prevented with a simple backflow prevention test. After a test, your plumbing company will be able to tell if your building is experiencing backflow and fix it before it becomes a problem.  

How Does Backflow Happen?

When water enters a building from the main water supply, it will typically flow in one direction. However, in the event of backflow, the flow of water will be reversed. This can result in non-potable water mixing with potable water. The usual culprit behind backflow is water pressure. 

The pressure of the water coming into your building is usually greater than the used water that’s leaving. However, in certain situations, this pressure differential can be flipped. For example, a break in the main water line or opening a nearby fire hydrant are factors that could potentially upset this balance. If the pressure drops, that means less force is pushing the water forward. Once this happens, it’s possible for water to begin flowing the wrong way.      

Common Areas for Backflow

Faucets and cross-connected pipes (drinking-water pipes that are connected to each other and also connected to other plumbing) are the plumbing fixtures that are most vulnerable to backflow. Since this is the case, the areas in your building that are at the greatest risk of experiencing backflow are the restrooms and break rooms. Your break room will be especially vulnerable if it contains features such as a dishwasher and garbage disposal. 

However, most modern plumbing now has built-in backflow protection. For example, modern faucets are above the flood rim level of a sink. This means that even if the sink is filled with dirty water, it’s impossible for backflow to occur because of the air gap created by the raised faucet.   

How to Prevent Backflow 

The first step to preventing backflow is to schedule an annual backflow inspection with a commercial plumbing company. A professional plumber will be able to find out if there are any potential sources of contamination. The second step is to have a backflow device installed wherever fresh water and contaminated water pipes may be cross-connected. A backflow device provides the most protection from backflow in multistory facilities with numerous plumbing connections. 

What Are Backflow Devices?

A backflow device is a mechanism designed to stop the water’s flow from reversing. As long as the municipal water source is flowing forward, the device will remain open. If it senses the flow reversing, the device will clamp shut, preventing the water from flowing backward. Some of the most common types of backflow prevention devices include hydrostatic loops, reduced pressure zones (RPZ), and atmospheric vacuum breaker devices (AVB). 

  • Hydrostatic Loops: The practice of arranging pipes in a vertical loop to prevent backflow. 
  • Reduced Pressure Zones: A device that forces water to enter several checkpoints before allowing it to enter your water source. If it senses backflow, the valves shut. Each valve acts independently, so if one valve fails, the others will remain shut. 
  • Atmospheric Vacuum Breaker: One of the simplest and least expensive backflow devices, an AVB introduces an air gap between fresh and contaminated water after it’s depressurized. 


Prevent Costly Plumbing Incidents With A&G Piping 

A faulty plumbing system can cause all kinds of issues for a business owner. Prevent plumbing problems with A&G Piping. Our comprehensive preventive plumbing solutions can help you save on costs, improve energy efficiency, and maintain a healthy work environment. Call us today to learn more about our services.