Plumbing issues are always vexing. When they’re minor, a drip-drip from a faucet can keep you from sleeping — and wastes water, to boot. Others are harder to ignore or put on the back burner — such as the loud, disruptive sound of a water hammer. What, exactly, is it? Why does it happen? How can you fix it? And, what happens if you don’t?
What is water hammer?
A water hammer — also known as a hydraulic shock — is a common plumbing problem that causes your pipes to suddenly start banging against each other or against a wall or cabinet in their proximity. They occur when there’s an increase in water pressure. The culprit is a shut-off valve that suddenly closes. For example, it could happen when someone slams a faucet shut, or when your washing machine reaches the fill level.
What causes water hammer?
Water hammers happen when a valve is shut abruptly. When a water valve is open, a solid flow of water goes from its source at the main to the faucet. When flowing freely, water moves with force. Closing the valve suddenly can cause shock waves from the water flow to slam into the valve, and bounce in all directions.
Generally, plumbing in modern households have air chambers installed throughout, precisely to prevent this from happening. However, these chambers can become waterlogged, causing water hammers. They can also be slow to drain if they become clogged with scale and other minerals in the water (also known as hard water). Water in Florida — in particular — ranges from hard to very hard.
How to Fix Water Hammer
Drain Water From the Pipes
Shut off water to your house. Do this at the main water valve — which is usually located outside your home. Next, open the faucets in your home. Let them drain until water stops coming out. Make sure to keep them running in a low-pressure setting. Finally, open the water main again and turn on the faucets. If the hammer is gone, you can prevent it from occurring again by installing a hammer arrestor.
Install a Water Hammer Arrestor
This piece of hardware absorbs the shock of flowing water when the flow is suddenly stopped. They are easy to install, thanks to their screw-type connectors. You’ll need to attach two of them — one on the hot water supply line and one on the cold water line.
Adjust the Reduction Valve
You can also regulate the water pressure by adjusting your home’s pressure-reducing valve — usually located by the main water supply. Some of them have a handle, while others require a screwdriver. Set the pressure below 50 PSI (pounds per square inch), which is a sufficient amount for most homes.
Consult With a Plumber
You’ll want a licensed technician to inspect your plumbing to determine whether you have air valves, or whether the problem could be also be solved by installing a globe valve on the affected pipeline. A certified plumber will be able to identify issues and ensure the exact source of your water hammer.
What happens if you don’t fix it?
Water hammers cause the pipes to jerk around and bang against hard objects. This damages the pipe joints and can eventually lead to leaks, burst pipes, and costly repairs — even with plumbing far removed from the problem area. If your budget doesn’t allow fixing it immediately, you can minimize damage on exposed pipes by installing foam pipe insulation around the pipes to serve as shock absorbers.
Call Plumbing Professionals in Broward, Palm Beach, or St. Lucie
At Sansone Air Conditioning Electrical & Plumbing, we are always ready to help you. If you live in Broward, Palm Beach, or St. Lucie, we’ll make sure your faucets are in optimal condition.
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