What is Backflow?

plumber under a sink

You’d think that the flow of water would be a straightforward thing, but when it comes to residential and commercial plumbing, there are many different problems that can arise. One of these is backflow, which happens when water reverses its flow in a plumbing system. When this happens, the potable (drinkable) water supply gets contaminated as the result of wastewater being siphoned into freshwater pipes. It’s not a common problem, but when it happens it requires immediate expert attention and backflow prevention.

Signs of a Backflow Problem

One sign of backflow is bad smells from your drains. Sewer systems give off gas that’s normally vented outside your home or place of business, but if that vent is blocked, there’s nowhere for the gas to exit outdoors. Instead, it’s going to take the path of least resistance and vent through your drains instead.

When it comes to water backflow, the signs will also manifest in your drains. If water is bubbling as it drains or when you flush a toilet, that means there are pockets of air in your pipes. And while clogs can happen to any drain, if you’re seeing clogs in multiple drains at once or if you’re noticing that a drain you hardly ever use is clogged, it’s often a sign of a backflow problem.

The last potential sign of a backflow system failure is also the most serious: cloudy or discolored water, which can mean that your water is unsafe to drink. To be clear (if you’ll pardon the pun), there can be other reasons the water from your tap or in your toilet is discolored, and it’s best to call a plumbing professional to make sure you’re addressing the correct problem.

Backflow Causes and Consequences

The causes of backflow can be deceptively minor, but can still cause major problems. The city of DeSoto, TX cites examples of seemingly minor incidents that caused backflow problems for entire cities, including malfunctions in firelines, a soda fountain, a country club’s water softener, and a malfunction at a local funeral home.

Building codes stipulate that homes and commercial properties must have backflow prevention measures in place. However, like any other component of your plumbing, things can wear out, clog, or break. Backflow valves may require replacement.

Diagnosing and Preventing Backflow

So how can you tell if you have a backflow problem? If you live in the Sacramento area, the easiest way is to call Ace Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. California law requires backflow technicians to be certified to confirm proper operation; our techs have the necessary certifications to test, repair, and certify backflow preventers for homes and businesses alike, keeping your water supply safe from potential contamination. 

Some plumbing problems are obvious, from clogged toilets to leaky fixtures. Other issues take experience and specialized knowledge to diagnose and fix. That’s when the expertise of Ace Plumbing shines through. For all your plumbing problems, from the obvious to the obscure, call 916-455-4548 today!