The Purpose of the Backflow Preventer

What is this thing in my yard? It is ugly and not easy to hide with landscape plants. Well, this is a Pressure Vacuum Breaker (PVB) Backflow Preventer used to protect the drinking water of your house. PVB’s are required by code to be installed at the connection of your lawn irrigation system to the drinking water supply line to your house. They are needed to prevent contaminated water in the lawn irrigation system from backflowing into your drinking water if something in the irrigation line goes wrong. So, what does backflow mean? Backflow is a term used when water flows backward in the water lines. This back flow condition occurs when there is a break in the water line creating a suction in the pipe. This suction can actually pull contaminated chemicals, dirt, and any other nasty things into your water line. So, the backflow preventer stops that suction from occurring.

Plumbing code requires that backflow preventers be tested by a certified individual when they are installed, repaired, or at least once a year. It is always a good idea to protect these devices from freezing during the winter months since they are usually made of brass and can easily break. Often, insulated boxes or insulated wrapping material covers the backflow preventer during the winter months to manage such conditions.

It is also important to search for your landscape lines prior to digging in your lawn or landscape beds prior to starting your landscape work so that your water lines are not damaged during your construction. If you damage a line, the backflow preventer could be an important resource in protecting the drinking water in your house.

Any questions you have regarding backflow preventers should be directed toward a trusted, licensed plumbing contractor or irrigation contractor familiar with the installation and maintenance of backflow preventers. Good sources for these companies could be your local home building association or local/regional general contracting boards.

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