Why Ottawa Homeowners Need a Backflow Prevention Device

Hand holding a small glass under a faucet for filtered water as water streams into glass.

In 2018, the City of Ottawa launched a program which aims to have building owners throughout the city complete the installation of backflow prevention devices by 2027. Backflow prevention devices are designed to stop a building’s contaminated water from entering into the City of Ottawa’s drinking water system. This is done by preventing the contaminated water from flowing back into clean water.

While most new-builds are required to have a backflow preventer installed, some older buildings—including commercial sites—do not have backflow prevention devices installed. Although the City of Ottawa will inform building owners whether they need to install a backflow preventer, it’s still responsible to go ahead and install a backflow preventer device in your home or commercial building. To have your backflow prevention device installed, maintained, or repaired, choose our Ottawa plumbers. Our expert team will do it right!

The City of Ottawa outlines its guidelines for the installation of backflow preventers on their website. Additionally, if you’re keen to learn more about why Ottawa homeowners should install backflow prevention devices, we’ve outlined everything you need to know in the blog below.

Continue reading to discover how backflow preventers work, why you need to install one, and the different options available to you.

What Is a Backflow Prevention Device?

A backflow preventer is a device that’s installed into your home’s water pipes. It allows water to flow in one direction and stops it from flowing in the opposite direction. Backflow preventers are designed to stop clean drinking water from being contaminated with waste water due to backflow.

Backflow happens when pressure changes in your home's plumbing cause clean water to flow backwards and seep into the main water supply. Your home’s water supply should only flow into your home, ensuring your drinking water is clean and not contaminated.

Common causes of backflow are when there is a break in the main water line or when a fire hydrant is being used. These instances cause a decrease in water pressure, so the clean water is not being pushed into your home and instead will flow backward into the City of Ottawa’s water lines.

Backflow is very serious, as it can cause the city’s drinking water to be contaminated with a variety of substances, including:

  • Human waste
  • Fertilizers
  • Pesticides
  • Chlorine from pools
  • Soap/grease/debris from sinks/dishwashers/showers

How Does a Backflow Prevention Device Work?

Essentially, a backflow prevention device acts as a gate that only allows water to go one way. For instance, think of a dog-door that only opens in one direction. Your dog would be able to go outside whenever he or she wanted to, but could not run back indoors and track-in mud, dirt, and debris from outside. That’s basically how a backflow prevention device works. Clean water can flow in, but dirty water cannot.

How Do I Know if I Have a Backflow Prevention Device?

If you have a new home, then you likely don’t have to worry about whether or not you have a backflow preventer installed because it’s required in new-builds. Yet, if you live in an older home or own an older commercial building, it’s worthwhile checking to see if you have a backflow water prevention device installed.

Backflow preventer valves are typically installed outside of your home or business in a black or green box, near the water meter.

Do I Really Need a Backflow Prevention Device?

If you are legally required to install a backflow prevention device in your home or commercial property by the City of Ottawa, you will be notified by the government. If not, then while the choice is yours, installing a backflow prevention device can save you significant hassle—and safeguard you and your loved one’s health—down the road.

There the main reason why Ottawa homeowners should install backflow preventers:

  • Ensure you always have access to clean, drinkable water. Why would you want to risk the health and safety of you, your loved ones, and your neighbours? In a worst-case-scenario, should the City of Ottawa’s main water supply get contaminated, thousands of people will not have access to clean water. Backflow prevention devices protect your home individually as well and ensure your waste-water does not mingle with the city's water supply. The last thing you’d want is to turn on your tap for a nice, cold glass of water only to see that the water has been contaminated.

6 Types of Backflow Preventers

When it comes to backflow prevention devices, Ottawa homeowners have a range of different options to choose from. Continue reading to learn more about the different varieties of backflow preventers and what type might be best for your home or property.

1. Atmospheric Vacuum Breaker (AVB)

An atmospheric vacuum breaker is bent at a 90-degree angle and looks kind of like a bent elbow. The backflow preventer valve is located inside the device and prevents water backflow. AVB’s are usually placed on a faucet valve, toilet, or flush valve to prevent polluted water from flowing backward and entering the clean water supply.

2. Double Check Valves (DCV)

A double check valve uses a ball or gate valve assembled on each end of the device to ensure that water only flows in one direction; thus, preventing contaminated water from flowing back into the plumbing system once it’s been used. Typically, this valve is used in city water supply lines and water service connections.

3. Double Check Detector Assembly (DCDA)

A double check detector assembly protects the clean water supply line from being contaminated or polluted from a fire system, back-pressure from fire line booster pumps, “black water” that sits in fire lines for a long time, and the addition of non-drinkable water from outside fire district connections.

4. Reduced Pressure Zone Device (RPZ)

An RPZ has a chamber between two independent check valves that is maintained at a lower pressure than the water supply line pressure. Designed to be used in a situation where water backflow could cause serious harm to Ottawa residents, any excess pressure is relieved through an additional drain so the chamber remains at a lower pressure than the water supply line pressure.

5. Air Gap

An air gap is a physical separation between the free flowing output of a clean water supply pipeline and an open or non-pressure receiving vessel. It is an entirely non-mechanical method of backflow prevention. An air gap device is considered the maximum protection against backflow caused by decreased water pressure.

6. Hydrostatic Loop

A hydrostatic loop is an arrangement of pipes formed into a vertical system that prevents waste water from flowing back into the main water supply line. In order to work correctly, a hydrostatic loop has to be built higher than 33-feet. However, this kind of backflow prevention is not used often in common plumbing practices.

How to Maintain My Backflow Preventer

If you already have a backflow prevention device installed in your Ottawa home, it’s important to ensure it’s working correctly and that you get the most longevity out of the device. After all, what’s the point in having a backflow prevention device if it’s not doing its job?

Read on to discover professional insights into how to maintain your backflow preventer.

*Note, It is strongly recommended to leave backflow preventer device maintenance to a professional, but if you are quite the skilled DIYer here is what you need to do:

  1. Locate the cover panel. Before completing any maintenance on your backflow preventer, it’s important to find out where it is. For most Ottawa homes, the backflow prevention device will be outside your home or business, typically near the water meter. You’re looking for a rectangular box.
  2. Check for Signs of Damage. Inspect the box for any signs of damage or tampering. If you don’t see anything, carefully remove the screws and lift the panel away. Look for any signs of damage of the backflow preventer device located inside.
  3. Remove Dirt and Debris. If there is dirt and debris you will need to flush the line and clean away anything that doesn’t belong. To do so, make sure to carefully close the inlet shutoff valve, remove the covers of the check valves and OPEN the inlet shut-off valve to allow water to flow. Flush the area clean to remove any debris such as sand and dirt from the line.
  4. Clean Each Part of the Backflow Preventer and Resemble. Carefully clean each component and reassemble. Only use water resistant lubricants to grease the components. Do not use petroleum, grease, or other lubricants.
  5. Call the pros. If you’re not comfortable checking your backflow prevention device on your own—or you simply don’t have the time—be sure to call our skilful and professional team, and we’ll have one of our plumbers do it for you.

Why Choose Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Ottawa?

Our company has more than 50 years of industry experience, so we understand that a properly running plumbing system is integral to the safety and happiness of your home or business. You rely on having access to clean water every day—so it’s integral that your access to clean water is protected. When your basic need for clean water is compromised, it can cause a range of stresses on you and your family.

If you need help installing a backflow prevention device or maintaining your current device, the team at Mr. Rooter of Ottawa has your back. Whether you've been asked by the City of Ottawa to install a backflow preventer or want to do your part as a responsible citizen, we can make the process hassle-free and efficient while ensuring we never compromise our quality workmanship.

Our team prides itself on its outstanding customer service. In addition to being industry leaders that provide reliable and quality plumbing solutions, there are a number of ways Mr. Rooter of Ottawa goes above and beyond for our clients:

  • Wearing company uniforms so you always know who’s arrived at your property
  • Using a company vehicle as a sign of professionalism and transparency
  • Wearing booties to protect your floors from damage, dirt, and debris
  • Using mats to protect your home while we work
  • Offering both emergency services and scheduled appointments
  • Arriving promptly to our scheduled appointment or as soon as possible in an emergency
  • Offering upfront pricing and never charging for overtime
  • Offering a guarantee on our parts and services
  • Maintaining a tidy workspace and cleaning the job site before we leave
  • Consistently delivering outstanding customer service from the moment you call us to the moment we leave your home

Book a Backflow Prevention Device Installation Appointment Today!

Whether you’ve been contacted by the City of Ottawa or want to do your part as a responsible citizen and install a backflow prevention device, Mr. Rooter of Ottawa can help. Our experienced, qualified, and skilful team can efficiently install your backflow preventer so that you never have to worry about contaminated water and can protect your home from flooding.

We invite you to give our friendly and courteous staff a call us or to reach out to us online and request a job estimate today.