Spring! The birds are singing and there are more hours of light. Grass is turning green, all things that should bloom our starting to bloom and bringing more color back to our part of the world. I can almost feel the sun on my face even as I type this the rain is pouring down.
Spring also brings another element to life. Sprinkler systems! And with sprinkler systems come the backflows being put back into service. It is a time to determine if it has survived the winter or even if it has been tucked away for a long winter nap in a nice warm cozy place to determine if it functions as it should.
Just a few suggestions
I would like to point out a few things that could be helpful in getting your backflow going for the year. First, remember that just because several parts of the country have hit 70 plus degrees already that very easily we could get cold snaps and snow even if only briefly. Remember also that often we have plenty of rain to carry us through. So unless you have sod or seed going down you may want to wait a little longer before putting the backflow and sprinkler system into service. If water is really needed I recommend the old fashion method of a garden hose for those spots that may need a little water.
Second. Once you determine the best time to start your system inspect it closely. Especially if you have left your backflow out all winter or it wasn’t winterized at all. Check the outside for breaks in the brass housing of the main body and the shut off valves on both ends of the assembly. Use your hands not just your eyes. Check the bottom side of the ball valves. When the brass freezes it will push out. Look closely on the main body for any bulges or small fractures in the brass.
Third. Make sure the test cock valves (one on the inlet ball valve and three on the main body) are closed. When it is closed the screw driver slot will go across the valve. When it is open the slot will run top to bottom of the valve. If it is in between it will be open a portion of the way.
Hopefully if the assembly was left installed for the winter the ball valve handles were turned to a 45 degree angle to leave the ball partly open to leave room for expansion of the water that is trapped on the side of the ball. Turn them both to the off position. This is the same for the ball valves as it was for the test cocks. If the handle goes across the valve it is closed. If the handle runs in the direction of the valve it is on.
Turn your water supply on to the sprinkler system and then return to the backflow assembly. Slowly open the inlet ball valve and let it fill your backflow assembly. If all goes well and regardless of the type it is you will not have any water shooting out of test cocks, broken shut off valves or out of the vents on either a pressure vacuum breaker (PVB) or reduced pressure (RP) types.
All Does Not Go Well
If you do have water leaking out of the vents (PVB’s will be out from under the canopy, RP’s out the bottom of the assembly) the procedures will be a little different. For the PVB take the canopy and then the bonnet off. inspect for cracks or breaks or if it is brass if it is bowed or broken. Inspect the float (or vent) that floats to the bonnet and seals so water doesn’t spill out the top. If necessary consult the original paperwork that came with the assembly for diagrams and repair maintenance information or consult our web page for those maintenance sheets. www.backflow-supply.com
If you have the RP type that is leaking or dumping out the relief valve (RV) or vent portion of the assembly on the bottom we want to do some trouble shooting. Depending on how much is coming out of the RV you can either open the #4 test cock in the direction of flow (the closest to the outlet shut off valve) or turn on a section of your sprinklers. The key is to get a greater flow going through the assembly than what is coming out of the the RV.
If it stops coming out of the RV when the flow is going through then the problem is in the first check. If the flow out the RV doesn’t change the issue is in the RV. If it slows down you have a problem in the RV and the first check. Once this is determined you need to do some investigating to see if there is debris in the assembly, rubbers that need to be replaced, or broken or cracked parts that need to be replaced. It is also important to look inside the assembly for a cracked body. Often times it will crack down the centerline of the assembly but it will not be noticeable on the outside of the body.
Another thing to pay attention to is when you are unthreading the covers if your model has caps like that is how easily do they unthread? If when you unthread them does it seem like you can turn it with your hand then you have to use a wrench and then by hand and back to a wrench then you may have a body that has warped and you may not be able to save the assembly.
These were just the most basic of suggestions to get started. Of course this doesn’t cover all possibilities but if I get feedback and suggestions I will provide more detail if necessary.
Where to go to get Parts and Help
I just want to say that online is not always the best choice. When I say online I mean places that sell everything under the sun. These places can’t or won’t be able to help you when you have problems or concerns. They do not care other than to get you to buy the product from them. The lowest price doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t figure out how to put it in or why it isn’t working still.
With backflow parts they should be the ones only from the manufacturer of your backflow assembly. Never by a knock off (or generic) repair kit either from a local retailer or on online source. Generic parts are not okay to install on a backflow assembly. If there is a backflow incident you maybe held liable. The parts and kits should only be bought if they are made by the manufacturer of the model you have. If they are made by the manufacturer it will be the same kit regardless of where you buy it. The only difference is price….or is there more?
There is More
I suggest that there is more. It is the service and the ability and expertise to help those that need help to further trouble shoot beyond putting in a kit. In my opinion it is unethical to buy the kit for the lowest price and then go to a local expert to get the help and assistance you need to put the part in and evaluate the assembly and expect that service, experience and knowledge for free. Think of the service knowledge and experience as a “product” that you need to buy and they have it to offer. Sometimes that “product” is still needed above and beyond the cost of the repair kit depending on the severity of your problem.
In my opinion you can tell how much a retail store or an online source knows about backflow by how many of the repair kits are offered. Many stores stock one kit. It is the kit that has all internal components of your backflow. That way the retailer makes sure you have what you need, it makes them the most money and they only have to stock one kit. It also means they can just tell you to replace it all and hope you correct what the problem is.
At Backflow Supply we sell all the kits the manufacturers make and stock most of them to make sure you get just the kit you need. We can answer your questions and provide the assistance you need. We are the specialist you can count on! Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter!