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What Is Backflow?
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Blog 06/26/19

What Is Backflow?

While the name does not sound too terrible, backflow can be a serious hazard to your health. Backflow is a plumbing term that describes the unwanted flow of water in the opposite, unintended direction.  If backflow occurs, potable water can become contaminated with wastewater. Wastewater can contain fertilizer/pesticides, human waste, chlorine from pools, and dirty water from sinks, dishwashers, and showers. Backflow can cause several issues by promoting corrosion of your pipes, creating leaks and create potential risks to your health.  Bill Howe Plumbing, Heating & Air, and Restoration & Flood can provide installation and testing services to ensure you and your family are protected.  Backflow usually occurs when the city’s water system is disrupted and/or turned off. 

Backflow Prevention Devices

Backflow prevention devices can be installed in any number of places.  For commercial properties and newer residential properties, there is a larger backflow prevention device that prevents wastewater from the property from entering the city’s water supply.  These backflow prevention devices are required to be installed as close as possible to the water meter.  This aids in eliminating the chances of an illegal connection being made between your meter and backflow device.  The City of San Diego also requires that backflow devices be tested at the time of installation, whenever the connection is moved and on an annual basis.  A certified Bill Howe backflow tester can perform the annual testing as well as any maintenance that may need to occur.  The city cross connection department wants it within 3 feet of the city meter if possible.  If put in other locations, the location must be approved by city cross connection department. 

While these backflow prevention devices protect the municipal water supply from wastewater contaminants that may leave your property, there are plumbing codes and devices already within your property that are designed to help you with backflow protection.  Parts within toilets, faucets, sinks, and hoses have been created and regulated to keep you and your family safe from contamination.  If you have an older home or older plumbing fixtures, updating these fixtures is an affordable way to protect you and your family from contaminated wastewater.  

Backflow prevention for your home is built into existing plumbing codes. A few of the most common fixtures are:

Hand-held Sink or Shower Heads with Hoses

Hand-held sink or shower heads have the potential to drop into the water located in the tub or sink.  A dual check valve may need to be installed to prevent backflow. If your sink or shower head was built in the US however, these generally do not need additional backflow prevention devices.

Garden Hoses

If your garden hose is left on the ground, the hose could potentially transfer whatever it is left submerged in into your water supply.  To protect this from happening, adding a vacuum breaker to the hose bibb.  This is a relatively inexpensive (~ $10) and easy accessory to add to the valve/spigot to control the safety of your water.

In-ground Irrigation and Lawn Sprinkler Systems

With your in-ground sprinkler system, it naturally could be exposed to animal waste, fertilizers or pesticides.  By having a pressure vacuum breaker installed, this will prevent backflow from occurring. This option should be professionally installed and will need to be tested annually.  Both installation and testing in sprinkler systems can be handled by a certified Bill Howe plumber.

Backflow Services

The costs associated with the installation backflow systems vary with each project.  A certified Bill Howe plumber can help determine which type of device is best for preventing backflow in your water and what those costs might be.  Call 1-800-BILL-HOWE to schedule an inspection and learn more about how Bill Howe can help you solve your backflow problems. 


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