woman washing hands in clean water

Backflow Testing: What is It and Why is It Necessary?

March 15, 2023

Backflow prevention and testing is an important, but often overlooked, component of any plumbing system. Scheduling an inspection by a qualified Maryland commercial plumbing repair company can help identify issues early and correct them before they cause serious issues for your business. In some areas of the country, including Washington, DC, this is a legal requirement.

What is Plumbing Backflow?

Plumbing backflow happens when a loss of pressure allows wastewater to flow back into the pipes used to deliver fresh water to your building or business. Drinking that water or using it for cleaning and washing could result in serious illness among your staff members, customers and clients. Backflow events can also cause damage to structural elements and property inside your building, requiring costly repairs and/or professional cleaning.

The Two Types of Backflow

Backpressure backflow is created when the downstream water pressure is greater than the pressure in the water distribution lines. It can occur in pressure producing systems like boilers, elevated tanks, recirculating systems, or in a pump used to increase water pressure within the building’s plumbing system to reach a higher floor.

Back-siphonage backflow is caused by negative pressure in the drinking or public water system. It can occur when water use exceeds normal delivery capacity of the water supply (like nearby fire fighting or a water main break).

How Can Backflow Be Prevented?

Backflow can be prevented with specialized devices that are designed to protect your plumbing system from backflow events. When a backflow preventer is installed in a plumbing system, it creates a physical barrier that prevents water from flowing in the opposite direction.

​​Backflow preventers are installed where there are irrigation systems, fire line systems or domestic water lines. Preventers are commonly placed at every cross-connection point within the plumbing systems of apartments, condominiums, food establishments, and most public and commercial locations. The type of backflow preventer used is determined by the degree of hazards present.

Why is Backflow Testing Important?

Backflow preventers can fail over time due to age, damage, or incorrect installation. A failed backflow device can cause a costly interruption to your business. They can be complex and are best thoroughly inspected by a plumbing professional or a certified backflow prevention inspector. Regular inspection and testing will keep your business compliant with regulations, help protect your customers and staff and provide peace of mind.

Here are some reasons why backflow preventer inspection is essential:

  • Compliance with Regulations: Most states and municipalities have regulations that require regular inspection and testing of backflow preventers. Compliance with these regulations is necessary to avoid fines and legal consequences.
  • Protection of Public Health: Contaminated water can cause health hazards such as infections, illnesses, and even death. Regular backflow preventer inspection can prevent contaminated water from entering the clean water supply, protecting public health.
  • Prevention of Property Damage: Contaminated water can cause significant property damage, such as corrosion of pipes, fixtures, and appliances. Regular backflow preventer inspection can prevent property damage and save businesses thousands of dollars in repair costs.
  • Peace of Mind: Regular backflow preventer inspection can give businesses peace of mind, knowing that their water supply is clean and safe to use.

Backflow Testing, Repair & Installation Services

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to have your backflow preventers inspected and tested regularly. Fortunately, GMS is available to help! We provide a variety of commercial plumbing services, including backflow testing, device repair and installation. Contact us today to learn more.

Greg Lilly

about the author

Greg Lilly, President and Owner of General & Mechanical Services, LLC

Greg Lilly is a Johns Hopkins University graduate with over 30 years of experience in mechanical services focused on providing energy efficient solutions and strategies within facilities, central plants and data centers.