Why is the vacuum breaker at my hose faucet leaking, gushing water, or making funny sounds?
Sunday, June 17, 2018
One factor that can lead to the early demise of a vacuum breaker (backflow preventer) is leaving the faucet valve open with a hand-held sprayer at the end of the hose used instead to turn the water flow on and aff. Manufacturers do not recommend continuous pressure at the vacuum breaker for more than 12 hours. Behind the ring of tiny holes around the end of the vacuum breaker, where you screw a hose onto it, is a plastic disc that presses up against the holes when the water is turned on, then springs back when pressure drops off, allowing a small amount of air into the faucet head, and continuous pressure leads to early failure.
Also, hard water that can encrust the disc with deposits over time is another culprit, or not draining the vacuum breaker before a hard winter freeze (unless it is rated as freeze protected or insulation added around it).
The solution is pretty simple: replace the vacuum breaker. They unscrew, and there are YouTube videos explaining how to release the set screw and change one out. Replacements cost between $7 and $30, with the upper price range being for freeze-resistant and self-draining models.
The vacuum breaker prevents a vacuum from forming due to the loss of water pressure, which could siphon water in the hose back up into the plumbing system. If a hose is submerged a backyard pond or attached to a sprayer with pesticide or fertilizer, the contaminated water could be sucked into the home’s drinking water piping.
Although this seems like an unlikely occurrence, about two-thirds of all household water contamination events are caused by a backflow siphoning. The gadgets are mandated by the plumbing and building codes and are an important safety device. The problem is they only last about five to ten years before the disc mechanism fails.
A famous example of backflow water contamination happened during the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It killed 98 people and sickened another 1,500, all due a hotel’s faulty plumbing system that allowed back-siphonage of waste water into drinking water and an amoebic dysentery outbreak. Plumbing codes and enforcement for backflow prevention measures were tightened after this tragedy, and it is part of the reason for that little safety device on the end of your hose faucet today.
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