Learn About a Plumbing Air Chamber and About The Danger of Water Hammer

As another in our series of helpful tutorials, the Balkan Drain Team will explain what a plumbing air chamber is. You may think this is a device you would never have use of, but think again. Whether you live in a small town like the Village of Roslyn, or a big city like Manhattan, a plumbing air chamber is present, and helpful in them all.

Water Hammer and the need for a Plumbing Air Chamber

It is only so common for plumbing pipes, especially metal ones, to produce a banging noise occasionally. This is especially true  when water is shut off or opened abruptly. The same noise may also happen when you cut off water intake to appliances such as a dishwasher or a washing machine. Water is sent rushing quickly, as soon as you open a faucet or a valve. It flows to the direction you desire for its use. Then all of a sudden, a halt of the flow happens when the valve is closed abruptly. This creates a shock wave inside your water pipes – known as water hammer. A shock wave pushes some pipes to wiggle around, vibrate, and want to pull apart. It can also cause a vibration that makes your pipes bump into each other, or the framing of your building. The loud noise that you hear is technically called hydraulic shock, or also referred to as water hammer.

Water does not readily compress. Therefore when it smacks into an elbow or bend inside an empty pipe, it makes a loud banging sound. This is what water hammer is. Water hammer can literally blow your pipes apart. That is when an air chamber installed in your piping system can save you from damage. An air chamber provides a point where water can expand or contract, and not put pressure on your water piping system.

plumbing air chamber

Commonly used plumbing air chambers

The potential damage of water hammer

Left untreated, frequent water hammer can break pipes apart. It can also loosen pipe joints in multiple sections of the plumbing. Plastic pipes are subject to water hammer as well, but you don’t hear noise as loud as those produced by metal materials. While plastic pipes may not crack due to the shock wave, they can flex, bend, or literally blow apart.

How a plumbing air chamber saves your piping

Properly installed plumbing incorporates a form of cushion to soften the blow of hydraulic shock. This is called a plumbing air chamber. This chamber only has one thing to do: it provides a space for the shock wave to go to without producing the noise. This chamber is filled with air, as the name implies. The air in the chamber gets compressed or expands as it absorbs the shock wave of sudden movement of water inside your pipes. Unlike water, air is much more easily compressed, hence acts like a shock absorber. You can think of it as the more traditional version of pressure regulator relying solely on physics rather than on mechanical parts.

A plumbing air chamber is not a sophisticated device. The cushion is often a plumber-fabricated device. It is made of a simple pipe attached to water supply lines between shut off valve and a faucet,spigot, or any plumbing outlet. Ready-made plumbing air chambers are also available. It is nothing more than a stub of pipe capped on one end, attached to a supply line on the other, and containing air. Most air chambers are installed vertically on a horizontal supply lines. If the supply line is in vertical position already, an additional run of short horizontal pipe can be added. Since this dead-end pipe is installed in a way that it partly intersects water flow, the pipe also contains pocket of air.

A plumbing air chamber in practice

In practice, air in the chamber compresses temporarily under water pressure as you shut off a valve or faucet. Pressure is absorbed to minimize or even completely eliminate the banging noise. One of the most common sources of water hammer is the supply line to a washing machine, but air chamber can be installed throughout the building, too. Building codes in some areas may require a plumbing air chamber in specific locations.

Maintaining a plumbing air chamber

The biggest problem with traditional air chambers is how easy they are to become water-clogged, rendering them useless. Regular draining of the supply line can remedy the issue nonetheless. The ideal method to air–refill the chamber is to close individual water-appliance’s shut off valve instead of the turning off the water from the main valve. To get rid of water in a plumbing air chamber and refill it with a pocket of air, follow these instructions:

  1. Shut off the main valve and open the uppermost plumbing fixtures in your home.
  2. Open the lowest faucets in your house. As the water is drained out, the chambers are once again filled with air. Close this faucet once water stopps flowing.
  3. Open the main valve slowly, and leave the uppermost faucet open. Water will rise throughout the system, but the chambers should remain full of air.

To prevent frequent clogging, air chambers must be larger in diameter than the supply line to which it is connected. One thing to notice is that this additional plumbing component may not be practical in tight spaces. If that is the case, have a professional plumber install the alternatives. Some alternatives are mechanical arrestors, or pressure regulator instead. Always pay attention to your local building code because even installation of minor additional components may require a permit. If in doubt, call a professional.

A little bit about the Village of Roslyn

sewer cleaning Roslyn

The Balkan Drain Team has the Village of Roslyn covered (courtesy of google maps)

Roslyn is a relatively small village located in Nassau County, New York. Roslyn is on the North Shore of Long Island, and on the Eastern edge of North Hempstead. It also abuts the Hempstead harbor, and was once an active port.

In the latest census taken in 2010,  the population of Roslyn was 2,770, and is the home to over 1,000 families. Initially the village was settled in the year 1633, and was known as Hempstead Harbor until a name change in 1844 to Roslyn. This ended confusion with all the various towns known with derivations of “Hempstead” in their name. Roslyn is known for its fine array of shops and dining establishments.

A little bit about Team Balkan

Team Balkan is NYC’s largest house sewer, water service line, and drain cleaning family of companies. Established in 1952, we have a history of service and expert advice that spans over 67 years. A recipient of multiple Angie’s List Super Service Awards, the company is now providing its services in Nassau County. Today the Balkan remains one of the most experienced and longest running plumbing companies in New York City. Whether you need expert information about an item such as a plumbing air chamber, or prompt and professional sewer, drain, and water main service, contact Balkan. We are available 7 days a week, and after-hours as well.