The varied systems within your home work hard to bring you comfort, but they don’t always do this as quietly as you’d like. Still, there are some sounds that are relatively normal and others that should alarm you to a problem. Say, for instance, you’re reading a book or engaging in some other quiet activity and you hear a sudden metallic clang!
Your HVAC system isn’t running, you don’t have the dishwasher going–what could it have been? Well, it could have been water hammer. Read on as we go more in-depth on what this is and why it matters.
What Creates Water Hammer?
What you’re actually hearing when that clang occurs is a shockwave that is caused by a sudden stop and reversal of the flow of water inside your pipes. This shockwave creates a vibration in your plumbing system, and will make a sound like a hammer striking metal–hence the name.
Of course, water flow is always making abrupt stops–every time you turn off a valve or a faucet actually. So, why can’t you hear water hammer all the time? Because your plumbing system is designed with “air cushions.” These are chambers within the plumbing that absorbs the shock to prevent water hammer. So what overrides this prevention?
- The air chambers get water-logged, which eliminates the cushion against shockwaves.
- High water pressure overwhelms the air cushions.
- You have loose pipes where even a mild shockwave within the plumbing can create the sound of water hammer.
“Okay, But Is This Really Bad for My Plumbing?”
Yup. Water hammer does more than just create an unsettling noise. If your piping isn’t already loose throughout your home, the shockwaves that occur due to water hammer can knock them loose can cause damage.
These shockwaves always will lead to fixture and faucet damage–you could have older pipes that break or loosen from their joints, leading to leakage and other problems. Water hammer essentially warns you of a problem–it’s best to call for plumbing repairs before it grows into a sudden emergency.
“How Can I Prevent Water Hammer in the Future?”
The easy answer to this is “by calling a plumber.” Because honestly, it depends on what created the water hammer, to begin with, and only a professional plumber can figure that out. We will also determine the next best step to take when water hammer occurs. This might include:
- Refilling the Air Chambers: A plumber can restore lost air cushions.
- Securing or Replacing Loose Pipes: If you have an older home, it’s a good idea to have your pipes checked anyway. Repiping can ensure that you have less plumbing problems in the future.
- Installing a Water Pressure Regulator: High water pressure is a problem for many homes. Our professionals can resolve this by installing a pressure regulator on your main water line. This stops water hammer, and reduces and prevents other plumbing problems to boot!