Types of Backflow Preventers

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Air Gap

Air Gap in a Piping System

An air gap, although an extremely effective backflow preventer when used to prevent back-siphonage and backpressure conditions, does not interupt the piping flow with corresponding loss of pressure for subsequent use. Consequently, air gaps are primarily used at end of the line service where reservoirs or storage tanks are desired. When contemplating the use of an air gap, some other considerations are:

(1) In a continuous piping system, each air gap requires the added expense of reservoirs and secondary pumping systems.

(2) The air gap may be easily defeated in the event that the "2D" requirement was purposely or inadvertently compromised. Excessive splash may be encountered in the event that higher than anticipated pressures or flows occur. The splash may be a cosmetic or true potential hazard - the simple solution being to reduce the "2D" dimension by thrusting the supply pipe into the receiving funnel. By so doing, the air gap is defeated.

(3) At an air gap, we expose the water to surrounding air with its inherent bacteria, dust particles, and other airborn pollutants or contaminants. In addition, the aspiration effect of the flowing water can drag down surrounding pollutants into the reservoir or holding tank.

(4) Free chlorine can come out of treated water as a result of the air gap and the resulting splash and churning effect as the water enters the holding tanks. This reduces the ability of the water to withstand bacteria contamination during long term storage.

(5) For the above reasons, air gaps must be inspected as frequently as mechanical backflow preventers. They are not exempt from an in-depth cross-connection control program requiring periodic inspection of all beckflow devices.

Air gaps may be fabricated from commercially available plumbing components or purchased as seperate units and integrated into plumbing and piping systems.

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