What in the World Is a Water Hammer?


A water hammer can cause massive damage to your piping system.

What did you think of when you read that sentence? If you’re like most people, you probably pictured a hammer (possibly made of water) smashing pipes to smithereens.

But the reality is that water hammers are not like the hammers you normally think about. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t a big problem, though.

They are something that you need to be prepared for should they start damaging your pipes. Keep reading to find out more.

So What is a Water Hammer?

A water hammer isn’t like an actual hammer at all. It isn’t physical.

In fact, a water hammer can be best described as a momentum change.

When water (or any fluid in the pipe) is forced to change direction suddenly, it can create a high-pressure shockwave, also known as a high-pressure surge, also known as a water hammer or hydraulic shock.

This sudden direction change can be caused by the valve closing too quickly, pumps starting too suddenly, or parts of the pipeline burst.

Water hammers generally cause a banging sound in pipes after you shut off the water.

This surge can be estimated using a lot of fancy math that I won’t get into here, but the important part is the pressure surge caused by the sudden direction change.

Anything that causes sudden shifts in direction leaves you open to water hammers.

How Can You Prevent Water Hammers?

Now that we know what water hammers are, how can we make sure they don’t damage our pipes?

One of the most important things to do to prevent water hammers is to de-aerate your pipes. This prevents the air from constricting the flow of water, which increases pressure and leads to water hammers.

To prevent these air pockets, you can buy an air release valve. These valves will make sure that air doesn’t build up in your pipes. You can get more information here.

Water control valves, which regulate the flow of water, are also a lifesaver. By controlling the pressure, they can stop the rapid fluctuations in the direction that cause water hammers.

If you don’t have any system in place to regulate the flow of the water, you’re leaving the safety of your pipes up to chance.

The important thing is that you have some sort of system that can prevent water from rapidly changing direction.

That is, after all, the direct cause of water hammers.

As long as you have systems in place to prevent water from rapidly changing direction, you’ve got this.

What to Do Next?

What should you do with your newfound knowledge of a water hammer and how to prevent them?

First, you should check to see whether your pipes have proper water-hammer-preventing equipment attached. If not, consider installing some. Remember: the key is to prevent the water from rapidly changing direction.

Second, pass on this knowledge to others! Many could be leaving the safety of their pipes up to the whims of water — not a very safe thing to do.

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