The water system underlying your house can be a complex and confusing beast with many moving parts to consider. This intricate overlay of elements can cause many problems that might require you to call a licensed plumber. One particularly notable one is the phenomenon of water hammers. What are they, and what can you do about them?
What is a water hammer?
A water hammer is an audible and physical occurrence that comes up during the natural flow of liquid.
When a wave of fluid is forced to stop or change direction suddenly, it creates a massive energy release. That makes a loud hammering or thudding noise in your pipes, which is called a water hammer. While the noise is irritating, the real problem is the effect this rapid reversal of flow can have on your water lines.
You’ll notice several adverse impacts on your installed steam systems, and it can even damage equipment like flow meters installed in the steam network.
How is water hammer caused?
A water hammer is caused by high-pressure water systems when the faucet is closed quickly. Alternatively, it can also occur if a fast-acting solenoid valve suddenly stops the movement of the water.
Regardless of the cause, it creates a shockwave in the water, making your pipes vibrate and shudder under the stress. This sort of damage is detrimental to your water systems, and you should avoid it at all costs.
Here are some other possible causes of a water hammer:
- Inadequately secured pipework
- Ball and float valves
- Fast-acting valves
- Worn stop valves
- Trapped air
The Effects of Water Hammer
Water hammers can cause pipes and valves to break or otherwise get damaged over time, which can, in turn, cause a whole host of other issues.
If the pressure is too low, on the other hand, a complete collapse can occur, damaging valves and fixtures throughout your water system. Moreover, worn-out pipes may burst, leak or otherwise dislodge from their existing connections.
It even poses the threat of actual physical danger, with shockwaves caused by high water pressure shooting out and vicious flows. For instance, while taking a shower, you may suddenly get hit with a burst of water that is both too hot and too forceful, injuring you or the people in your home.
Beyond these critical short-term impacts, various long-term effects can propagate throughout your entire house. You might notice damage to your primary pump and flow systems. It can also cause leaks, dripping down water everywhere, boosting your utility bill, and potentially causing liquid damage to your home.
You can expect to see ruptured pipes in this vein that will require costly and professional repair to get back to a working point. External property damage can occur too, both from the leaks and from the powerful surges of water working their way throughout your house.
As a result of all this, accidents can occur. And if you don’t deal with water hammers in a timely fashion, all the damages they cause could result in the need for extensive maintenance, which in turn will lock you out of using your water system until someone can repair things.
At all costs, you should avoid getting to the point where you need serious help, both for peace of mind and for the continued operation and care of your home.
How do you prevent and avoid a water hammer?
Hopefully, by now, it’s clear that a water hammer problem can be quite annoying and detrimental to your plumbing. You don’t want damage to your plumbing system if at all possible, and thankfully there are measures you can take to avoid or prevent this issue entirely.
Many water pipes have old-school systems set up for resolving water hammer issues. One measure you can take is to install air chambers. These are an extension of the water supply pipe near a pipe fixture. This added length provides a built-in air cushion that can absorb hydraulic shocks, like those that might occur due to a water hammer.
It can also be prudent to try tightening your loose pipes. If properly secured, they should prevent sudden halts to your water flow and subsequent water hammers. If the issue is a water pressure problem, installing a regulator might do the trick. These devices reduce incoming pressure to safe levels for your plumbing system.
Lastly, consider installing mechanical water shock arrestors, which will absorb the shock from water flowing and then suddenly stopping.
Hire a Professional Plumber
Don’t take water hammer issues lightly and get in touch with a plumber for help. Water hammer issues pose a considerable number of threats to your house and your wellbeing. While they may seem like an annoying nuisance and loud sound at first, they can quickly ramp up to the point of massive destruction and large messes, leaving your pipes and equipment in ruins.