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Do Backflow Preventers Leak? (Read This First!)

As the name suggests, a backflow preventer prevents the ongoing water to flow backward into the system. It is an important device and mechanism to ensure one direction water supply to protect the water from contamination and pollution.

But the trouble gets doubled when you see your backflow preventer is leaking. If you see that the backflow preventer is constantly leaking, you must wonder, is that even possible? So, let’s find out whether backflow preventers can leak or not.

Backflow preventers leak

A backflow preventer can leak if the head of the device is assembled incorrectly.  Also, when the water pressure rises suddenly, it can cause leaking. Debris or hindrance in the system can also be a culprit behind leaking. the rubber washer seal may dry out or dilapidate over time to lead leaking.

When you install a backflow preventer on the main water supply pipes, it will help to move the water onward, in one direction continuously.

Due to a sudden pressure in the pipeline, breakage on the main water supply, or due to a function of the fire hydrant the water supply may run backward.  

So, the backflow preventer stops the water supply from flowing in opposite directions to avoid contamination and pollution in the water safe.

This appliance is installed with the main water supply pipe. Sometimes this device can leak water from its source. You need to troubleshoot the problem and fix it.

Firstly, check the connector points of the backflow preventers. The pipes are sealed with a rubber washer. When the water supply is sustained for a long time or the device ages a bit, the rubber washer dries out or deteriorates.

When the washer is not fitted properly to its channel, its connecting point may start leaking.

Next, check the placement of the head assembly of the backflow preventers. When the placement is incorrect, upstream from the system, especially the timer, a sudden pressure hits the head assembly, eventually destroying the backflow preventers.

When the pressure is overflowing, the appliance will leak to relieve the pressure.

Then, observe the assembly of springs. It is crucial to ensure that the springs are opening and closing without any resistance.

When debris, stone, or garbage is caught in the assembly, the inside can’t close properly. Then the connectors are not meeting properly, the water will leak constantly.

A backflow preventer works like a single-way gate. It opens in one direction and closes to another way of flowing water, to prevent the backflow. When the appliance is leaking, that is mostly because something is stuck between the opening and closing gate.

When the water is contaminated with debris from the kitchen, seeds, or disposable waste, the backflow preventers catch it between its parts and the gate can’t seal properly. Hence it leads to the leaking.  

What would cause a backflow preventer to leak?

When you first install a backflow preventer, a little leakage is absolutely fine and nothing concerning. But the issue is repeated several times and resumes to leak, there is a hundred percent valid reason to worry.

A continuous leaking from the head assembly of the backflow preventer is not a usual situation and can affect the regular water supply. So, first, we need to troubleshoot the problem and find the reason behind such leaking.

Stuck debris in the system:

Most of the cases, this is the most common reason for leakage. A backflow preventer has two valves, vacuum, and ball valves. To prevent the backflow, when water is passing from one valve, another one shuts down.

In this flowing process, if debris, seed, stone, waste, or any other clogging material gets stuck, the opening and closing of the valves are hindered. When the gates are unable to close and open properly, the flowing water starts to leak.  

Irregular pressure in the valve body:

High or low pressure than usual can cause the water chain to backflow. When due to main system breakage, or inconsistency on the municipal line, the water starts to draw back, and intense pressure is created.

And since the appliance is the resistance force, the pressure is at a high level. Thus, the water leaks from the backflow preventers.

Assembly is mismatched:

If the parts of the appliance are not installed correctly, the water is bound to leak from the backflow preventer.

The head assembly is the most crucial part of the device, and loose or too tight jamming will damage the assembly. Meanwhile, spring assembly will also cause leaking if they are loose and not fixed.

Can you replace a valve on a backflow preventer?

A backflow preventer consists of two vital valves. Those are very vital and can be replaced in case of damage or aging.

Since they are the heart of the backflow preventers, instead of waiting around for some damage, you must seek the prevention method, instead of a cure.

You should test the valves annually by a professional and replace or repair them if they sustained any damage.

Replacement before a big mishap can save your home and save you a fortune in cost. It is critical to replace the valves when your backflow preventers show some signs.

When the water starts leaking, it is the symptom that is saying the valves are damaged. Also, even if the leak is not visible, corrosion or rusty texture around the valve indicates damage.

If the cycling of the relief valve is off, that also indicates the valves should be replaced. 

How do I know if my backflow preventer is bad?

Backflow preventer has a life expectancy for several years. Due to matured age, damage, corrosion, or rust, it can easily go bad. The backflow preventer manifests its going bad pretty late of damaging.

But, if you can spot the underlying signs, you can comprehend easily whether the backflow preventer has gone bad or not.

Since the appliance is made mostly of metal, especially iron, the backflow preventer will reek a sulphury smell and spread a rotten egg type of smell.

When you trace the smell, you can spot discoloration of the appliance. If severe cases, the device may turn brown, blackish, moss-like, yellow, or pink.

The water flow cycle will be disorganized and slower than the regular cycle. Some sediments or rust particles can flow back into the water from the faucet. The water can also possess a foul smell. It may turn brownish as well. 

How to stop a backflow preventer from leaking?

Once you have diagnosed and found the problem, you have to move on to the fixing part. You need to pinpoint the exact part which is causing the leaking and take steps considering the issue.

The solution will be up to whether the leaks are for valve damage, fitting issue, or damage in line or pipe. Let’s see how you can stop your backflow preventer from leaking.

Gather the suitable material:

If any parts of the backflow preventers are broken and need to be replaced, instead of impulse buying, check the model and brand information of your appliance.

Then, choose the compatible material based on your backflow preventer. It is better if you can purchase the parts from an authentic source, instead

of opting for secondhand products.

Turn off the main water supply:

Before you begin the repair, do not forget to turn off the main water supply line. But check first whether there is a ball valve between the backflow preventer and the main water line.

If no, then turn the main supply line and drain the excess water in the system and pipes, before opening the backflow preventer.

Clean up inside the valves:

After opening the backflow preventer, check the intersecting points from all angles.

If your appliance is mature and serving you for a long time, there should be rust or sediments piling up on the edges. With a soft tool, clean those edges and valves thoroughly.

Take apart the valve seal:

When any debris, sand, dirt, stone, or garbage is stuck between the valves, the backflow preventer starts leaking.

When you diagnose the problem being such, carefully set the relive valve open. With the help of fingers or a tweezer, that out the debris out.

Install a filtration system:

If this debris incident is recurring and repeating, install a filter before the relive valve. It will protect the backflow preventers from any hard material and ensure a clean supply of water from the very beginning.

Rearrange the appliance and test:

After making the necessary changes, rearrange the backflow preventer the same way before. Turn on the main water supply and check whether it is leaking again or not.

Final thoughts:

After installation, it is normal for the backflow preventers to leak a little bit of water. But if the leakage resumes continuing, you must read the signs and diagnose the problem. Most of the time the culprit is debris stuck between relive valves that is preventing the gates to function properly.