Learn the Anatomy of Backflow Testing and Replacement

Backflow preventers are a crucial component of any water system. They act as a vital safeguard to prevent contaminated water from reversing direction and flowing back into the potable water supply. Backflow contamination can lead to serious health risks if unchecked. To ensure backflow preventers continue to function properly and provide maximum protection, they need to be periodically tested and maintained or replaced if necessary. This guide will comprehensively walk you through everything you need to know about the anatomy of proper backflow testing and replacement.

We’ll go over when testing is needed, how certified techs do testing, how to tell when a device needs to be replaced, how to choose the right backflow prevention device, and how to find a qualified backflow specialist. This guide will teach you about the important job of backflow preventers and how to make sure they keep working right by checking them and replacing them when needed.

When to Test Your Backflow Preventer?

Backflow testing should occur annually at a minimum. Some jurisdictions or facilities may require more frequent testing than once per year, such as every 6 months. The purpose of backflow testing is to make sure the backflow preventer is functioning correctly and able to prevent backflow if it were to occur.

Backflow preventers have springs, rubber seals, and other internal components that can wear out over time. Backflow testing verifies that the backflow preventer passes water in the normal direction but closes and prevents any reverse flow. Annual backflow testing ensures the device will work properly when needed.

How Backflow Testing Is Conducted

Backflow testing is a process conducted by certified backflow testers. The tester will bring specialized equipment to your property to evaluate your backflow preventer.

First, the tester will look at the outside of the backflow preventer to see if there are any leaks or damage. They are going to take out the test cocks and hook up their testing gear. A testing manifold, a differential pressure gauge, and a set of hoses are usually part of this.

These valves will be partly opened by the tester so that water can flow through the backflow preventer. Then, they raise the back pressure and watch the gauge to see where the flow turns around. Any backflow will be stopped by a gadget that is working right.

The tester writes down whether the backflow preventer works or not. If your backflow preventer passes the test, you can be sure it is working right. If the test fails, it’s likely that the item needs to be fixed or replaced.

When to Repair vs. Replace a Backflow Preventer

If your backflow preventer fails to test, a certified technician will assess whether repairs or replacement is the best option.

When repairs may be possible:

  • Minor failures involving a single component, like a stuck check valve or damaged seal. Replacing just one part can restore functionality.

  • Worn out rubber components like seals, O-rings, and valve discs. These tend to deteriorate over time, and replacing them can allow the device to pass testing.

  • Broken or fatigued springs. The internal springs keep check valves sealed. Replacing compromised springs can repair a device.

  • Small leaks from component failure. Tightening fittings or replacing gaskets may resolve minor leaks.

When backflow replacement becomes necessary:

  • The preventer fails repeatedly, even after multiple repairs. At some point, the whole device may be too far gone.

  • Internal components are severely corroded or deteriorated. This damage cannot be remedied with repairs.

  • Parts needed for the specific model are obsolete or no longer available. Repairs are not feasible without proper replacement parts.

  • It is an older device, and replacement parts are very expensive or difficult to source. At this point, backflow replacement becomes the better option.

  • Upgrading to a newer, more efficient model is preferable to investing in repairs. Newer devices often last longer with improved functionality.

  • Major damage like cracks in the main body stripped threading, or broken connections. This level of damage necessitates full replacement.

A trained backflow technician will do an official evaluation to see if focused repairs can get the device working again or if the whole thing really needs to be replaced. This knowledge keeps people from having to replace things that can be fixed instead. But trained backflow technicians can also tell when backflow replacement is the smarter and more cost-effective option in the long run.

Choosing the Right Backflow Prevention Device

If backflow replacement is needed, it’s crucial to select the right type of device for your application:

·       Double Check Valve (DCV)

This is the most common type used for residential and light commercial sites. It consists of two positive seating check valves in series. During normal flow, both check valves are open, allowing water to flow freely. If backpressure or back siphonage occurs, the check valves seal to prevent any reverse flow. DCVs provide protection against backpressure and are moderately resistant to fouling.

·       Pressure Vacuum Breaker (PVB)

A prevalent application for this is in irrigation systems and other applications that have the possibility for back-siphonage. It has a float check as well as an exit valve and an intake valve. Back siphonage will cause the float check to drop, creating an air gap. While they do protect against back-siphonage events very well, PVBs do not stop back pressure from happening. They are only useful for situations where the pressure stays the same, and there are no downstream shutoff switches.

·       Reduced Pressure Principle Backflow Preventer (RPZ)

For high-hazard sites with a risk of backpressure, an RPZ provides the highest level of protection. It contains two independently acting check valves with a pressure differential relief valve between them. If either check valve leaks, the relief valve discharges to prevent backflow. RPZs defend against both backpressure and back-siphonage. However, they are prone to fouling and require frequent backflow testing.

Choosing the optimal backflow device depends on factors like the water supply type, line pressure, hazard level, potential backflow causes, and applicable codes. A water systems specialist can help select the right backflow preventer for your unique needs. Correct device sizing is also vital for proper performance.

Replacement Costs

The costs of backflow replacement will depend on the type and size of the device, additional parts and accessories needed, and labor for installation.

As a rough estimate, for a typical residential or light commercial application replacing a 3/4″ or 1″ double check valve, total costs range from $400 – $1000 in most cases. This includes the device, fittings, enclosure or insulation, and professional installation.

Backflow preventers with more features, like higher flow or bigger sizes, can cost $2,000 or more to install. It is strongly suggested that the replacement be done by a skilled and experienced company. In many places, technicians must be qualified and have the right permits to do their jobs.

Partnering with a Backflow Specialist is Essential

Backflow testing, repair, and replacement are complex tasks that should only be handled by qualified professionals certified in backflow prevention. Attempting DIY repairs or installation often results in safety hazards and non-compliant devices that fail to provide adequate protection.

There are crucial reasons to only use a certified backflow specialist:

1.     Expertise

The training that backflow specialists receive is substantial, covering topics such as the subtleties of each type of device, the methods of installation, the applicable codes, and the testing procedures. They are familiar with locating problems and being able to make repairs that are appropriate.

2.     Proper Testing

For the purpose of conducting accurate backflow preventer tests on an annual basis, certified personnel make use of calibrated gauges, adapters, and techniques. They are able to replicate backpressure and back siphonage in order to ensure that the correct functioning is being performed.

3.     Compliance

A backflow specialist will make certain that all new installations and backflow replacements comply with all of the standards set forth by the water authority and the local building laws. The authorizations and inspections will be taken care of.

4.     Documentation

In order to give certification officials complete records, testing results, repairs that have been made, and installations will be carefully written down. Full reporting is one way to show that you are following the rules.

5.     Safety

It is possible for drinking water to become contaminated as a result of improper installation or repair of backflow devices, which poses a significant risk to public health. Setups that are dangerous are avoided by certified specialists.

6.     Warranties

In many cases, extended manufacturer warranties are available for repairs, replacements, and installs that are carried out by certified professionals.

Contact Showtime Express Plumbing for Backflow Prevention Needs

At Showtime Express Plumbing, our team includes fully certified backflow technicians with extensive training and experience. We handle:

  • Annual backflow testing to code requirements using precision test gauges.
  • Repairs to restore correct functioning and pass testing.
  • New installations per manufacturer specifications and local codes.
  • All necessary permits and documentation for total compliance.

With Showtime Express Plumbing as your trusted backflow replacement specialist, you gain peace of mind knowing your water supply is protected from contamination events. We keep detailed records for certification authorities. Rely on our expertise for reliable testing and repairs or replacement when needed.

Contact Showtime Express Plumbing today for all your backflow prevention needs! Our certified pros have you covered.

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