If you’ve ever heard your pipes knocking or banging behind your walls when you turn off a faucet, they may be trying to communicate — and tell you there’s a problem. Water hammer, or hydraulic shock, as it’s formally called, is a common problem that many homeowners have faced. Here is everything you should know about water hammer so you can take the right steps to resolve the issue and protect your plumbing.
What Is Water Hammer?
When you turn off a faucet, shower, or any appliance that uses water, the water that’s rushing through the supply line has to come to a sudden stop. All the forward force of the water has to be transferred elsewhere, resulting in a shockwave that reverberates through the pipe in question. This can cause the pipe to rattle or bang against nearby surfaces such as the support brackets or an adjacent wall.
Many homes with water hammer have problems with high water pressure. Even if the plumbing system has measures in place to reduce the effects of water hammer, they will not be effective if the water pressure is simply too high.
Air chambers near shutoff valves are a common method of negating water hammer. The cushion of air in these chambers helps to absorb the impact as the water stops and prevents the pipe from vibrating and creating noise. Unfortunately, air chambers can become waterlogged over time, which can lead to water hammer in pipes where it wasn’t present before.
Another common source of water hammer is the solenoid valves in appliances such as dishwashers. Unlike traditional shutoff valves, solenoid valves are electrically controlled and can potentially have a much shorter response time. If the response time of the solenoid valve is poorly tuned, the appliance can cause water hammer.
What Are the Consequences of Water Hammer?
Every time you hear water hammer, you are hearing damage to your plumbing system. If water hammer is not resolved, the extreme pressure that this problem creates can cause worn valves, loose and damaged fittings, and even burst pipes. In severe cases, the vibrations from water hammer can be enough to loosen support brackets from your walls and leave pipes hanging freely.
Taking steps to remedy water hammer in a timely manner can save you from hidden leaks in your walls and under your floors. This in turn can help you avoid paying out of pocket for water damage repair or mold cleanup. Furthermore, no homeowner enjoys hearing jarring, unexpected noises every time they turn off a faucet. Water hammer is a nuisance that you don’t have to live with.
How Is Water Hammer Resolved?
There are two approaches to resolving water hammer in the home: reducing water pressure or fortifying the plumbing system to better handle the water pressure. The first approach usually consists of installing a pressure regulator. A professional can install a pressure regulator where the water main enters the home, and they adjust it to set the water pressure to a safe level before it reaches your plumbing.
Ways to improve your plumbing system to reduce water hammer include installing air chambers near shutoff valves, replacing appliances with problematic solenoid valves, and securing loose plumbing support brackets.
If you choose to install air chambers, remember to flush your plumbing system regularly to prevent them from becoming waterlogged. Mechanical water shock arrestors are another alternative that don’t have to be recharged.
Water hammer is a relatively simple plumbing problem once you understand what’s causing the noise you hear when you turn off your faucets. If you are experiencing water hammer in your home, call Two Men and a Snake so we can find the best solution for your home.