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Backflow Preventer FAQ

If you’re scratching your head at what you need to know about backflow prevention in your commercial facility, look no further. We’ve compiled a guide to all the most frequently asked questions about backflow and backflow preventers.


What is Backflow?

Backflow is a plumbing term describing water flowing in the reversed direction of its intended flow. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as reduced pressure in the distribution system (backsiphonage) or increased pressure from a nonpotable (non-drinkable) source (back pressure). Have you ever run the dishwasher and water starts coming up your kitchen sink? That’s backflow!

Is a Backflow Preventer Necessary?

The dishwasher example is more annoying than harmful, but backflow can be dangerous when contaminated water (that has contacted chemicals or hazardous compounds) flows back into the drinking water system. A backflow preventer device avoids potentially dangerous backflow incidents and must be thoroughly inspected and tested annually.

What Kinds of Properties Require an Annual Backflow Inspection?

Local water suppliers are required by the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet certain standards of purity in the potable water supply Because of this, state regulations and local municipalities require backflow preventers to be installed in most kinds of commercial and industrial properties.

An annual backflow inspection might be required if your commercial or industrial property has or uses the following:

  • Is three stories or taller
  • Has a dedicated fire service line / sprinkler system
  • Is a multi-tenant retail unit
  • Has in-ground irrigation systems
  • Uses a secondary source of water, such as reclaimed water or well
  • Includes a swimming pool
  • Includes a fountain with a dedicated fill pipe
  • Includes a fire sprinkler system
  • Is located in a flood zone designation
  • Backs up to or includes a body of water (including canal, river, bay, lake or pond)
  • Includes a solar water heating system
  • Has a cross connection

There are some commercial businesses that require an annual backflow inspection. These types of commercial businesses that need to have their backflow inspected annually include:

  • Restaurants
  • Dry cleaners
  • Medical offices
  • Funeral homes
  • Beauty and nail salons
  • Car washes
  • Churches with baptismal pools
  • Medical clinics

In some cases, commercial properties might be exempt from the installation of a backflow preventer. To check if your property is exempt, you can contact your your local municipality or government office to verify your property’s exemption status.

How Does it Work?

There is a series of valves and checkpoints in the backflow prevention device that is activated by high and low pressure from water flow. Check out this short video to get a better understanding of how it works.

If any of these checkpoints, valves, or gaskets fail, the entire system could fail, resulting in possible water contamination to potable water sources. That’s why an annual inspection of these devices is so important.

What is the Lifespan of a Backflow Preventer?

The expected lifespan of a black flow preventer is typically 5 to 10 years, depending on the type of backflow preventer. Some common types of backflow preventers include:

  • Double Check Valve Assemblies (DCVA)
  • Double Detector Check Valve Assemblies (DDCVA or DCDVA)
  • Reduced Pressure Zone Assemblies (RPZ or RPZA)
  • Reduced Pressure Detector Zone Assemblies (RPZDA)

How Often Does a Backflow Preventer Need to be Inspected?

A backflow prevention device must be inspected at least every year, according to the Virginia’s Department of Health and Waterworks Regulations. This prevents costly and harmful system failure and ensures all repairs and replacements are made in a timely manner.

How Long Will My Water be Off During an Inspection?

A backflow prevention inspection does require your water to be shut off to properly test the pressure and valves. However, the good news is that it will only be shut off for about 10 minutes while the inspection is taking place, and typically causes little interference to the water supply. At Moore’s, we clearly communicate with our customers when and how long the water will be shut off, so you can plan accordingly.

There are some instances when a water shut-off would be detrimental to a company’s business during their operating hours. We work with our customers to plan a backflow inspection appointment at the time that is most conducive to their workplace so you’re never caught off guard during a water shutoff.

What Documentation Needs to be Submitted to the County?

The county must receive certification that the backflow preventer device has passed its annual inspection. At Moore’s we will handle all the documentation paperwork needed for your county, as well as send you a copy of the test result for your records. We also make sure to put a tag on your backflow preventer describing the results of the inspection as well as contact information for the technician providing the inspection including his certification information so you can always check back for verification.

What Happens if my Backflow Inspection is Late?

Late backflow inspections are subject to progressing fine(s) from the county and may eventually result being disconnected from the public water system until inspection is completed and all fees paid. Don’t let your inspection deadline pass without scheduling yours! Moore’s sends you timely annual reminders so never have to worry about missing your backflow inspection again.

What Happens if my Backflow Preventer Fails Inspection?

If your backflow preventer assembly fails the test, you should make arrangements to have the assembly repaired or replaced as required, and retested within 15 days. The good news is, if you schedule an inspection with Moore’s, our technicians are also certified to make any repairs or replacements needed, from start to finish!

How Much Could I Get Fined for a Failed Backflow Inspection?

It’s important to note that you will only get fined for a failed backflow inspection if you don’t do anything to remedy the situation. You have a deadline each year to present the county with paperwork that shows a backflow preventer passing inspection. So make sure you schedule your backflow inspection with enough buffer to fix any potential issues before your deadline with the county.

As far as fines go, it varies from county to county, but the first fine for a late backflow inspection typically starts at $100 and increases from there. If you don’t complete your backflow inspection within 60 days, your county can shut off your water completely.

Recommendations for a Reliable Backflow Inspection Provider?

At Moore’s, we make sure your backflow preventer is properly inspected and up to code (even if we need to repair or replace it) so you don’t have to worry about getting fined. Our experienced technicians are able to provide service for any commercial facility in Virginia and North Carolina. Schedule your inspection appointment today!

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