Home water management systems allow homeowners to receive clean water reliably and safely. Without a water management system, a home’s water can become contaminated, flow inconsistently, or cause costly water damage. If you have noticed something awry in how your home’s plumbing is behaving, there is a chance you could benefit from a replacement or new installation of a home water management device. In this article, you can discover the types of home water management devices and how they are used within your home’s plumbing system.
What is a home water management device?
A home water management device controls or regulates water flowing through a home’s plumbing system. These devices each perform separate functions, some of which include calculating flow rate, detecting leaks, preventing backflow, and regulating flow and pressure. When working together, these devices allow clean water to flow through your home conveniently, safely, and smoothly. When a device fails, you can be charged too much for your water bill, a leak can damage your home, or water pressure can become too high or low.
Types of water management devices in the home
There are many types of devices used in a home to manage the flow of water, including water meters, water pressure regulators, backflow prevention devices, leak detection systems, and flow restrictors.
Water meters, also known as water management devices, track the volume of water that flows through them. They are used by municipalities that charge customers by the volume of water that they consume. Most water companies charge customers a combination of a fixed base fee on top of a variable fee based on the volume of water used in a home during the month. Water meters are used to calculate this variable fee, ensuring customers are not charged too little or too much each billing period.
You can track your home’s water usage by taking periodic readings of your water meter. Water meters are located at a home’s main water valve, which can be found either under the plate in a yard or in the basement. Once each month, document the reading on the water meter and subtract the previous month’s reading from the current total. This will give you the total water usage in your home for the previous month.
Learn more: What is a water meter and how do I read one?
Water pressure regulators
Water pressure regulators, also known as pressure-reducing valves, reduces water pressure as water flows into a home. These devices contain a spring-loaded diaphragm that allows lower volumes of water through when incoming water pressure is high. When incoming water pressure is high, the spring is put under great pressure, constricting the diaphragm and allowing less water through. This decrease in water flow lowers the pressure of water flowing through the regulator. Pressure regulators can be calibrated to a specific pressure by turning an adjustment screw. This allows you to control the maximum allowed water pressure in your home.
Learn more: What is a water pressure regulator?
Backflow prevention devices
Backflow prevention devices block water from flowing in a reverse direction in a plumbing system. They prevent dirty water, such as sewage and dish water, from contaminating potable water in a supply pipe. There are three common types of backflow prevention devices found in homes: dishwasher air gaps, vacuum breakers, and check valves.
Dishwasher air gaps
Dishwasher air gaps are fittings mounted above a sink that prevent water in a drain from re-entering a dishwasher. An air gap connects a kitchen sink drain with to a dishwasher to keep wastewater away from clean dishes. Air gaps separate two branches of a hose with a gap of air, making it impossible for the lines to cross contaminate.
Dishwasher air gaps are required by code in some states, but they are not in others. In regions where air gaps are not required, high loops are a common alternative. In a high loop, the drain line runs from the dishwasher to the sink’s highest point. While high loops are effective, they are not as surefire of a backflow prevention method as dishwasher air gaps.
Vacuum breakers, also called atmospheric vacuum breakers (AVBs), are threaded backflow prevention devices that attach to the ends of hoses, faucets, and spigots. AVBs contain a check valve and an air vent to prevent water from flowing in the reverse direction. When water flows through a vacuum breaker, the check valve is pushed open by water pressure. The check valve will then close when the water flow stops and the pressure subsequently decreases. When this happens, the air vent allows outside air into the system, preventing back siphonage from occurring due to low pressure. When the valve is closed, water cannot not reenter the valve until it opens again, at which point the water pressure will allow flow in only one direction.
Learn more: What is a backflow prevention device?
Check valves prevent backflow by sealing off water with a disc when water flows backward. The disc in a check valve remains closed until water flows in the correct direction. The disc will remain open until the waterflow stops, at which time the disc will form a seal. When water attempts to flow back into the check valve, the disc remains sealed, preventing dirty water from contaminating the clean water supply. Because they only allow waterflow in one direction, a check valve installed in the incorrect orientation can cause pressure buildup and expensive damage in a plumbing system. When installing a check valve, the installer must ensure the valve is oriented correctly.
Learn more: A Guide to Plumbing Valve Types
Leak detection systems
Leak detection systems discover leaks and prevent costly water damage in a home by shutting off the water supply when leaks are found. Leak detectors are often installed at the main water point of entry in a home. They monitor water flow through the system and detect any abnormalities. Once a leak is detected, the system shuts off all water access in a home, preventing expensive accidents before they happen.
A smart leak detection system connects to your home’s Wi-Fi to alert you when a leak is found. It also allows you to monitor your water usage in real-time. The components of these systems not only alert you of issues, but they also communicate with each other to resolve problems as they arise.
Flow restrictors, also known as flow controllers or flow regulators, allow water to flow at a constant rate. They are particularly beneficial to systems that operate with consistent flow, such as water filtration systems, tankless water heaters, and irrigation systems. A flow restrictor contains a two-port valve that increases and decreases the gap that water can flow through depending on the incoming flow rate. Regardless of incoming water pressure, flow restrictors can guarantee consistent, smooth waterflow.
Many types of water treatment systems need specific exposure time to water to treat it effectively. A flow restrictor allows the time that water is exposed to these systems to remain consistent. Not only does this yield high quality water, but it also increases the lifespan of the water treatment systems as well. Flow restrictors must be used for certain filtration systems, such as reverse osmosis. They can also allow consistent water flow in bathroom and kitchen faucets.
Learn more: What is a flow restrictor?
Are water management devices required?
Some water management devices are required in all or some regions, while others are not.
- Water meters are required when a utility provider is the source of water for a home. Most well water systems do not have a water meter.
- Water pressure regulators are required in homes that receive water with pressure greater than 80 psi.
- Backflow prevention devices are required on all water outlets. Some backflow preventers, such as dishwasher air gaps, are only required in some states. However, these states require dishwashers to be equipped with another type of backflow prevention.
- Leak detection systems are not required by building code, but they are a wise investment to prevent water damage in a home.
- Flow restrictors are required in some applications. Shower heads, faucets, and all fixtures in the United States, for example, must be equipped with a flow restrictor that keeps flow rate at or below 2.5 GPM. While not required by law, some filtration systems, such as reverse osmosis, require flow restrictors to function properly.
How often should a home’s plumbing be inspected?
To prevent disasters, a home’s plumbing system should be inspected at least once every two years. This involves everything in the plumbing system, including all fittings, valves, pipes, and fixtures. The cost of a home plumbing inspection typically ranges from $180 to $225. While some homeowners may avoid inspections due to the price, problems that arise from faulty water management devices can lead to much more costly damage down the road.
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.