It’s not unusual to hear the metal pipes in your home plumbing make loud banging noises when you turn off the water intakes. Unfortunately, this sound, commonly referred to as “water hammer,” isn’t just annoying. Water hammer is potentially dangerous and could hurt your plumbing system. Referred to in technical circles as hydraulic shock, water hammer is the result of water stopping or changing direction very quickly. When this happens, a shock wave goes through your pipes, forcing your pipes to move, shake, and bang together.
Water hammer can lead to serious plumbing problems if left unaddressed. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about this troubling plumbing sound, including what causes it, how it could affect your plumbing, and (most importantly) how you can stop it.
What is water hammer?
Water hammer is a pressure surge that occurs when a fluid is forced to stop or change direction at a fast pace. This momentum change causes a shockwave that leads to banging and shaking pipes. Water hammer gets its name from the sound of water “hammering” into the valves and pipes.
We’d like to note that sometimes water hammer happens for simple reasons such as high water pressure. You can determine if your water pressure is the cause by checking your water pressure gauge and adjusting it as needed.
How will it effect my plumbing?
Water hammer can damage and wear away at pipe joints and valves over time. Worn out pipes may burst, start leaking, or detach from their connections. If your shockwave happens because of high water pressure, it can also pose a physical risk. High water pressure can physically harm people who don’t expect a shower that’s too hot or too forceful.
How do I keep it from happening?
There are a number of ways you can fix water hammer. We’ll list the most commonly used and effective solutions.
- Securing loose pipes. If your pipes aren’t secured well, even mild water hammer could force them to bang and shake. Securing them is the easiest, most cost effective way to address the problem. Tighten loose pipe straps or hangers, wrap segments of pipe in pipe insulation to act as shock absorbers, or install additional straps or hangers to secure the pipes at studs or joists. This solution won’t fix extreme cases, but it will help prevent damage from mild cases.
- Install an air chamber. Water hammer happens when water suddenly stops inside a pipe and creates a shockwave of force. The water slams against the pipe valves that just closed and creates a shockwave that travels back through the pipe. If you install an alternate route for water to rebound after the valve closes, then that water won’t slam into the valve wall. An air chamber is a short section of vertical pipe installed near potentially-problematic valves. It gives water and excess force a place to go when you close the valves. A professional can retrofit plumbing with pipe air chambers quickly and easily.
- Install mechanical water shock arrestors. Mechanical shock arrestors are the best solution to severe hydraulic shock problems when you can’t install an air chamber.. They’re a device consisting of an air bladder and spring that you install around necessary plumbing joints. Mechanical water shock arrestors do exactly what their name implies. They absorb and stop the shockwave created when water slams against closed valve walls, neutralizing it before it can reverberate through your pipes.
Leaving small plumbing problems alone only leads to more significant plumbing problems down the line. If you have water hammer or a related issue, give Mike Diamond a call. We’ll send someone else to diagnose and fix your issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.