Have you ever seen a train apply brakes and stop immediately? Of course not. Trains take time and space to slow down and come to complete stop. The bigger the train, the more momentum it carries, thus needing more time and space to stop. Our flowing water lines are no different. Every time you turn your tap on and off, shut off a valve, grab a drink of water from your fridge, flowing water experiences an abrupt change in velocity causing pressure surges, audible noise and even destruction forces. This experience is known as “water hammer” and it happens in all pipelines from small to large, from residential to commercial.
The Local Problem
Since the rise of PEX pipe and other technologies in Ontario, the noises of water hammer have been reduced which in turn have falsely made people believe it simply is not there anymore. In our copper piping systems, water hammer creates noticeable audible sounds but PEX pipe dampens the sound, but it does not eliminate water hammer. As newer technologies like solenoid valves regulate the amount of water we use, it forces the plumbing system to go on/off more than before, causing more pressure spikes. If you were to continuously use your fridge line to go on/off, on/off (imagine a little kid grabbing a drink of water), studies have shown pressure spikes of up to 700PSI! Considering PEX pipe bursts at 1000PSI, this number cannot be ignored.
Many leaks, especially in laundry rooms, have been caused by pipes bursting due to water hammer. Since 2013, water damage claims have tripled in Canada, causing approximately $4-6 billion per year in damages. There are a growing number of issues that cause this problem; outdated infrastructure, increase in population, malfunctioning products, and so on. Now more than ever, we need proactive solutions to decrease these staggering numbers. The shockwave caused by water hammer can damage the following: water heaters, safety relief valves, pressure reducing valves, backflow preventors, faucets, solenoid valves, fittings, and hangers & brackets. Each product plays a critical role in ensuring the performance of our plumbing systems. Thankfully, using the right tools to combat water hammer, we can mitigate the potential disastrous outcomes with rather simple solutions.
One Simple Solution
Although water hammer can create serious problems, it does have a simple solution: water hammer arrestors. An engineered water hammer arrestor employs a measured compressible cushion of air or gas which is permanently separated from the water. Moving water is then displaced into the arrestor after an abrupt shut off, slowing down momentum and eventually dissipating all the water safely which prevents further development of water hammer. The most common and efficient style of arrestor is known as the piston style. The simple design makes it affordable to scale with very few moving parts assuring longevity and high quality.
Why we still need to pay attention
To most, it seems like we have the answers. We can curb the number of damages that incurs from water hammer. We have the tools to mitigate it, control it, and disperse water hammer. So why are we still talking about it?
According to the National Building Code of Canada, water hammer arrestors are needed on most appliances. However, this code is not enforced from a provincial level. Other provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec to name a few, have all changed their provincial code to mandate the use of water hammer arrestors. Yet Ontario has not done so. Therefore, we look to the municipal codes for an answer. Few municipalities in Ontario have mandated arrestors, but there are still many that do not. This lack of regulation allows our systems to go unchecked and potentially creating disastrous problems both residentially and commercially.
Water hammer is here, it is real, and it still is a problem. At TriSon, we have been actively speaking out on the topic to engineers, inspectors, municipalities and contractors. Thanks to our friends at Sioux Chief, we are equipped with the knowledge and solutions to mitigate these potential damages. What we need now is a collective effort to change our antiquated code and help save countless buildings and homes from the devastating effects of water hammer.
(cred: https://www.siouxchief.com/docs/default-source/print/print-brochures/supply/water-hammer-arresters—engineer-report.pdf?sfvrsn=405c3137_22 , https://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/insurance/commercial-property-claims-are-sharply-increasing-and-heres-why-that-wont-stop-1004196593/)