Monday, April 29, 2013

All Shook Up!

"Why does my house seem to come alive and resent me whenever I turn a faucet off?" -Longtime Aune Plumbing Customer and friend.

What my friend is referring to is the noises that sometimes follow the shutting off of a faucet at a sink or the workings of a dishwasher or the like.  The term you may have heard before pertaining to this situation is "Water Hammer".  Here is a diagram depicting water hammer and how it happens:

Water hammer, or the actions and results arising from certain piping situations is really the transfer of noise and vibration from water inside your plumbing pipes.  Often the noise and vibrations show their ugly, annoying face in the form of rattling pipes.  Have you ever noticed when washing clothes that when the washer is filling and stops there is a noticeable thud? The same question can be asked of a toilet filling or a dishwasher, all are related to the same root cause.  Water hammer is common in any plumbing system and can go undetected, which is fine but, when detected it is often to the ire of those living with it. In rare cases it can be the cause of further property damage due to water leaks but, again this is rare.

When water flows through a pipe because a faucet or valve is opened it seems to be happy.  After all, its only doing what it knows to do, flow.  But this process can take a turn for the worse as soon as some of that water is told it cannot continue on with it journey when a valve stops the party (flow)...and BANG!  Madness ensues with rattling pipes and noises in protest; the end result is frustration for you as a homeowner with your new found angst and annoyance but this does'n always mean you'll have to "just live with it"...

There are many products available today that can help rid the water hammer problems you may experience. The first would be pipe fasteners or supports. If plumbing pipes are accessible, a complete inspection of proper supports is in order since thins is the number one reason the noises you may be hearing are so prevalent.

 These simple little devices are often called "Tube Talons" by us plumbers; since that is the name given them by the manufacturer it seems just about right we should call them that...

Seriously, they are simple to install and very effective at keeping pipes where we want them; secure and not flopping around like the time my uncle Jim decided to test out the taser that one fateful night with his buddy after a couple five too many frosty cold ones.

If you have copper piping the spacing between talons is around 6' for 1/2" & 3/4" tubing.  PEX or CPVC tubing should be strapped every 32" to properly secure it.


Other devices available are used either at the source of hammer or installed to treat multiple sources as a whole home remedy.  Below are individual water hammer arrestors installed at the connection of the plumbing system to a clothes washer.  Since clothes washers have a fast-acting electronic solenoid valve that allows flow of water to the machine [and stops it], water hammer often arises from this exact spot.





The washer hoses simply thread onto the arrestor that is then attached to the machine.  The arrestor has a small air bladder in that brass tube sticking out of the top.  When the flow of water suddenly stops the bladder helps adsorb the shock and turbulence created inside the pipe [the angry water]. These devices can help the problem and lesson the effects but this may not help in every situation. Similar devices are available for installation at the connection point of a dishwasher [another fast acting solenoid water valve].

Usually treatment is most effective by installing a "whole house arrestor".  In this case a small bladder tank, designed and sized for this particular use and your home specifically, is installed near the point of entry of your home's water supply.  It may look similar to this:

 When sized & installed properly this type of arrestor can help absorb the shock in the piping system well.  Couple this with the proper support of piping and even the installation of arrestors like the one installed at the dishwasher or clothes washer and you should be able to relax a little as the noises will likely be eliminated altogether.

If you are experiencing a water hammer problem in your home and would like to explore the possible remedies, please call, email or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Have a great day and thanks for reading!

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