4 Distinct Types of Vacuum Breakers and How They Protect Your Water

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American Backflow Protection Association studied 25 water systems serving 10,000 people to 103 systems serving more than 10,000 people or more to assess the true cost of mitigating a backflow incident. According to survey findings, it took 494 hours to mitigate the impact of backflow incidents. When you multiply 494 hours with the average labor rate of $30 per hour, you get a whopping average cost of $14,800 to resolve a single incident of backflow.

Keep in mind that we are just talking about average cost here. Some backflow events require more time to fix hence will cost much more. On the contrary, some backflow events might require less time to fix so they might cost you less. Irrespective of whether these events cost you more or less, you should surely use a vacuum breaker to prevent backflow. What really is a vacuum breaker? How does it work? What are the different types of vacuum breakers? We will try to answer all these questions in this article.

What is a Vacuum Breaker?

A vacuum breaker is a device placed in the toilet or flush valve to stop water from siphoned backward and prevents it from mixing with the clean drinking water system especially when the water pressure is low. This saves your clean drinking water system from contamination.

How Does It Work?

A vacuum breaker has a plastic disc that is pushed forward when the water supply applies pressure on it. As a result, it can cover the small vent holes. When the pressure of the water supply is low, the disc automatically springs back to open the vent holes. Due to this, external air enters and prevents the backflow of water. If you use a more sophisticated vacuum breaker valve, it can work and serve the same purpose as a backflow preventer does.

Why Use Vacuum Breaker?

There are four reasons why you need to add a vacuum breaker to your plumbing system.

  • It allows you to completely condensate drainage under different operating conditions whether it is on and off
  • It safeguards you against a water hammer
  • It helps regulate temperature during temperature fluctuation and uneven temperatures
  • It minimizes product and waster wastage

4 Types of Vacuum Breakers

Here are four types of vacuum breakers you should know about.

1.  Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers

The atmospheric vacuum breaker has a check valve along with an air vent. When water applies pressure on that valve, it closes the vent. This allows air to get into the system and block the siphon from reaching the point of use. Since, atmospheric vacuum breakers only protect against siphon, these devices are placed on plumbing fixtures and appliances.

Always place atmospheric vacuum breaker six inches above the highest downstream pipe or rim of receptors. If you are using a deck-mounted atmospheric vacuum breaker, place it at least one inch above the fixture or flood rim. Keep in mind that atmospheric vacuum breakers can not handle 12 hours of water pressure so you should never subject it to that.

The same goes for backpressure. If that happens, the atmospheric vacuum breaker can get stuck or sealed. As a result, it might not open on demand based on the atmosphere. In most cases, this condition occurs due to mineral deposits, chemical bonding,  and the quality of water can keep the valve closed. Always install the atmospheric vacuum breaker in an upright direction  Since, the valve inside relies heavily on gravity to allow air, this will help it to function properly.

2.  Hose Connection Vacuum Breakers

There are two ways to install a hose connection vacuum breaker. You can either install it on every faucet or on a hose that is connected to the water supply. Place hose connection vacuum breakers six inches above the ground. One of the biggest downsides of hose connection vacuum breakers is that they cannot be easily removed after installation.

It inhibits backflow to the water supply by venting water into the atmosphere to minimize the impact of backflow conditions exist. When the pressure is high, the flow is directed towards the hose to vent it out but when the pressure is interrupted or pressure in the hose exceeds the supply pressure, outflow stops and the spring-loaded check valve closes. It is imperative that you test the hose connection vacuum breaker regularly to ensure that they are working properly.

3.  Pressure Vacuum Breakers

A pressure vacuum breaker is an advanced form of the atmospheric vacuum breaker. One of the atmospheric vacuum breaker’s biggest shortcoming is that they cannot handle continuous water pressure. This means that it can function even under continuous high pressure.

On the contrary, pressure vacuum breakers can handle such situations easily. Unlike atmospheric vacuum breaker, pressure vacuum breaker has a spring-loaded check valve. When the pressure reduces, the spring opens the check valve so that air can enter to break down the siphon.

Pressure vacuum breaker should only be used in situations where outlet pressure is lower than the inlet pressure. Just like atmospheric vacuum breakers, pressure vacuum breakers struggle with backpressure. Make sure pressure vacuum breakers are placed 12 inches higher downstream pipeline.

4.  Spill-Resistant Vacuum Breakers

A spill-resistant vacuum breaker is a modern and advanced form of the pressure vacuum breaker. The biggest difference between spill resistant vacuum breaker and pressure vacuum breaker is that the check valve and air inlet does not work independently in split resistant vacuum breaker but it works independently in pressure vacuum breaker.

The diaphragm present at the bottom of the valve chamber closes the poppet before the internal check valve opens. Due to this, you will have little to no spillage as compared to the pressure vacuum breaker. Once the check valve closes, the air inlet also closes. As a result, spill-resistant vacuum breakers offer additional protection as compared to pressure vacuum breakers.

Which type of vacuum breaker do you use in your home? Share it with us in the comments section below.


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