What Is Water Hammer?

For those wondering what is water hammer, it’s a condition that can occur in a piping system when the valves controlling steam or liquids are used. As a result of a high-pressure shockwave or pressure surge propagating through the piping system when active fluid is abruptly stopped or forced to change direction, a water hammer happens. This shockwave is also known as hydraulic surge or hydraulic shock, that’s characterized by marked knocking or banging sound on the pipes after it’s shut off.

A water hammer occurs when the valve suddenly closes, allowing water to slam on it. It can also occur when the pump gets shuts down suddenly, letting the reverse flow direction back to the water pump. Water is non-compressible, so it’s expected that its impact will cause a shock wave propagating between the piping system’s next elbow and the valve. It could also be that the said shock wave propagates at the speed of sound within the water column next to the pump.

How does water hammer form?

When condensate is successfully formed, the water flow inside the water pipe will have two different components — condensate and steam. The steam’s flow velocity will be higher than the condensate’s. Because of this dual-phase flow, the bottom pipe-flowing heavy condensate will be pulled by the high-speed steam.

This will cause slug water formation with a denser velocity compared to steam. As soon as the slug stops abruptly by a piece of equipment or bend, the slug’s kinetic energy will be converted into pressure energy, creating a massive shock wave within the pipe. As a result, the pipe will continue to vibrant until the released energy gets dissipated entirely.

What are the effects of water hammer?

Although they don’t seem like it, water hammer is a severe problem for every homeowner. Its nature is destructive because the steam drags the condensate, causing the water slug to travel at a velocity that’s equal to that of the steam, a number that’s ten times higher compared to the average water velocity.

The resulting pressure impact initiated by the water hammer gets very high. This would explain why you would hear knocking pipes when taps are turned off or loud knocks when the washing machine is on.

What are the best practices to keep water hammer at bay?

Since we already know what is water hammer, let’s move to some of the tips to help address this problem.

It’s a fact that it’s nearly impossible to keep water hammer from the steam systems. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re entirely unavoidable. Here are some of the proven and tested best practices to follow, so you lessen the chances of experiencing water hammer.

  • Install steam lines with a gradient or gradual slope in the direction of the water flow.
  • Install steam traps at the lower points and regular intervals. This will remove the condensate from your steam system the moment they’re formed.
  • Avoid pipe sagging by installing proper support. As you know, sagging pipes could allow the formation of condensate in your pipework. When this happens, you are only furthering the chances of a water hammer occurring.
  • Operators of the pipework should get training on isolating the valve slowly when starting up the water flow.
  • Properly size drain pockets to ensure that the condensate won’t jump over it. Ensure that the drain pockets are sized appropriately to reach the main trap.
  • Allow eccentric reducers to go against the concentric ones.

When all else fails, hire a plumber instead.

Photo Credit – Adobe Stock

As you already know, a water hammer could be a possible serious problem. If you’re not confident about doing and practising the tips yourself, leave the job to the experts.

Nothing beats experience in dealing with novel plumbing issues.

When it comes to plumbing, not everything you need to learn is taught in vocational school and skills training. Most of the time, plumbers are met with repair needs that are unique to every household. Because these are novel issues, the resolution is also something you figure out on the fly. The more similar scenarios they deal with, the better their problem-solving skills are.

For example, at face value, you thought that your only problem was a leaking pipe. But in reality, the leading cause of the problem is accumulated minor shifts in your home. A novice plumber may simply apply a band-aid solution to stop the pipe from leaking, but a seasoned plumber will get to the bottom of the problem. They will advise you to solve the leading cause first before addressing the leaking pipe problem.

But this doesn’t mean you can just work with any plumber you meet to address the water hammering issue. You need to be picky in your choice to ensure that the problem will get resolved right away. Below are a few basic considerations to ponder on when looking for a plumbing contractor.

Search and decide.

The best way to determine the credibility of these service providers flaunting their services online is to diligently read through their web page the comments and feedback of other people who have tried their service. Most contractor pages nowadays contain different fora, depending on the taste of the site visiting client, to cater to the information and feedback needs of the said client.

Should you be hesitant to rely on the feedback, as you fear that the same may be self-serving, you can just read the part of the website which discusses the service being offered. More or less, you can deduce an intelligent opinion out of the discussion. You can also compare and contrast these services with other sites you visit.

Clarify and ask questions.

If you feel that a particular plumbing contractor can give you the quality service you need, feel free to contact that contractor and ask them specific questions relative to your repair needs. For sewer line repairs, plumbers are more than willing to answer your queries prior to the actual contracting of service.

Photo Credit – Pexels

Get quotations from as many service providers as you can and compare.

Now that you know the ways to combat water hammer within your home, why not view more articles from our blog section, where we cover subjects such as fixing a running toilet and designer trends to keep a look-out for.