You shut off a faucet in your house one day, and instead of hearing quiet right afterwards, there’s instead a strange clang or bang noise. It might even be loud enough to cause you to jump.
This isn’t a one-time occurrence, either. You start to hear this banging sound from the plumbing more and more often. Everything else about your plumbing seems to be working fine—so what’s happening, and is it something you need to worry about?
What you’re experiencing with your plumbing is common enough that it has its own name: water hammer. As plumbers, we’ve often dealt with water hammer in Glenview, IL and our other service areas, so we can tell you what’s going on.
Water hammer is a hydraulic phenomenon that occurs inside pipes because of an abrupt change in the flow of water or water pressure. This is a fancy way of saying that a water hammer is what happens when the water moving through a freshwater pipe suddenly stops or gets sent in the wrong direction—and there isn’t anything to absorb the shockwave that occurs because of this, leading to a clanging or banging noise.
Whenever you turn off a tap or a valve shuts from a water-using appliance, the flow of water creates a pressure shockwave as it stops. This is a normal occurrence in pipes, but it turns into water hammer when there isn’t enough air inside the pipes to cushion the shockwave. Residential plumbing has air cushions built into the pipes specifically to stop this. If these air cushions become water-logged, the shockwave will strike harder and not only cause the startling noise, it will also create a vibration through the pipe.
Another common cause of water hammer is when water pressure in the plumbing is too high. This can lead to shockwaves strong enough to overcome the air cushions.
The Problem With Water Hammer
Because water hammer isn’t just a noise and a physical shock to the pipes, it can create several problems in plumbing if allowed to continue.
- Pipe damage: Your pipes aren’t meant to rattle around. Over time, water hammer will cause damage to pipes that will weaken their joints and fittings, leading to leaks or even a burst pipe. The pipes can also shake loose and cause damage to pipes and building materials around them.
- Damaged appliances: The shockwaves water hammer unleashes can also damage water-using appliances such as water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines. The shockwaves will disrupt their operation and cause wear and tear that shortens their service lives and increases the number of repairs they need.
- Noise: We’ve already mentioned noise, but do you really want to have your house clanging each time you shut off a faucet?
Fixing Water Hammer
Fortunately, it’s not difficult for professional plumbers to put a stop to water hammer and to help prevent it in the future. We can restore the water cushions to the pipes or install a water pressure arrestor to eliminate water pressure problems.
For expert plumbing service, installations, or maintenance contact Reliance Plumbing Sewer & Drainage, Inc. Our knowledgeable plumbers serve the North Shore and Northwest Chicago suburbs. Rely on Reliance!