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Despite being a common problem, many people do not understand exactly what a water hammer is.

Water hammer generally occurs in plumbing systems where valves control water flow. Usually, it happens due to a change in the direction of the flow. Also known as hydraulic shock, it results in a loud hammering or banging noise when there is a sudden change in the water flow.

Water Hammer Damage

This leads to increased pressure, which can damage the plumbing system if it continues for an extended period. However, it is essential to understand the phenomenon in detail to understand how it can cause such damage.

And that’s just what this guide will help you do. Here, we’ve explained the causes that can lead to water hammer and its effects on the plumbing system. This will make it easy to understand how to deal with the problem most effectively.

So, let’s get started!

Water Hammer Causes

A water hammer, technically known as hydraulic shock, occurs when water passing through a pipe changes direction or stops suddenly. This may happen on the closure of an open valve, and the water hits its surface at high pressure. You can hear loud banging pipes or hammering noises within the pipe systems when that happens.

Water Leaking Kitchen Sink

High water pressure is one of the most common causes of water hammer. However, it can also occur when a water pump is turned off suddenly, and the water flow reverses, causing the water to flow back to the pump. As water is incompressible, the impact creates a shockwave that travels from the valve to the elbow.

Hydraulic shock can also be experienced in the case of loose pipelines within the walls since they tend to move when there is a change in water pressure. Similarly, turning bathroom and kitchen fixtures, like taps, on and off quickly can result in this phenomenon. It can even happen when your washing machine or dishwasher changes its washing cycle.

The Effect Of Water Hammer

The most noticeable effect of the water hammer is the noise, which can be highly distracting for anyone in the vicinity. But that is not the worst of it.

Burst Pipe Splashing Water

Changes in water pressure generally cause hydraulic shock, and excessive water pressure may be much more than the pipe system is designed for.

This means it can significantly damage the plumbing system from a single impact or if it continues over a longer period. If the problem is not resolved correctly in time, it can ultimately lead to the failure of the entire plumbing system. Here are some of the effects of water hammer on the piping system:

1. Damage To The Pump And Other Instruments

When hydraulic shock continues to take place over a long time, it can cause damage to the pumps, valves, and other instruments. It may also cause the failure of joints in the plumbing system and can affect the pipe walls and joints.

2. Leaks

Water hammers can cause leaks by damaging connections, joints and fittings. While such leaks start slowly, they can increase in intensity and size if unchecked, which is quite common as smaller leaks are not easily noticeable.

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3. Burst Pipes

When water pressure is extremely high, the pipes making up the plumbing system cannot handle the flow. This causes leaks and can cause the pipes to rupture, leading to the complete system’s failure. This extensive water hammer damage pipes can be complicated to repair, and the repairs can be expensive. So, watching for the signs of a damaged or bursting pipe is essential.

4. Property Damage

Leaks caused by hydraulic shock can damage electrical devices, equipment and infrastructure, resulting in a loss worth thousands of dollars.

Preventing Water Hammer Problems

Pipe Spraying Water Water Hammer

The type of valve used in the plumbing system can be one of the reasons for water hammering. For instance, swing valves, piston-style check valves or tilting disc valves rely on gravity for closing. The water hits the valve mechanism at high pressure, creating a pressure wave that passes through the entire system.

To prevent this problem, it is better to use spring-assisted or silent valves. These have an internal spring that automatically closes the valve before the water flow is reversed, eliminating or reducing the chances of hydraulic shock.

Another excellent solution for water hammers is air chambers. These chambers have a small pipe segment containing an empty air chamber that holds air and, as a result, serves as a shock absorber. When the water expands on changing direction suddenly, it reduces the impact of the shock, which would otherwise pass to the pipeline.

Protect Your Plumbing From Hydraulic Shock

Now that you know how water hammers can damage plumbing pipes, you can take adequate measures to prevent the problem. While we’ve mentioned some ways to do so, there are others.

These include flushing old toilet systems, installing pressure regulators and reducers in the plumbing system, reducing operating pressure and more. However, getting a plumber to install piping systems with air chambers and silent valves can be the most beneficial.

Contact a reliable plumber with the knowledge and skills to perform such installations. For plumbers in Perth who know your pipes, please speak to our team at Woolf Plumbing & Gas. We will find a long-lasting and affordable solution to your noisy pipes!


Ashley Woolf

Ashley Woolf

Find them on their website: Woolf Plumbing & Gas, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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