What is Water Hammer?

A water or fluid-hammer situation, occurs when water surges through a pipeline, causing subsequent problems because of the forceful thrust. Let's look more into how this happens and what to do about it.
HomeQuicks Staff
Water hammer is a problem that a lot of us experience in our homes, where a strong outflow of water is abruptly cut off, causing the pipes to experience a kind of shock. The noise that follows is what is known as water hammer, where it can cause damage to pipes in the long haul. Let's read more into this problem.
What Causes Fluid Hammer?
As mentioned earlier, it refers to the sound that occurs in the form of loud banging or 'hammering', imitating the sound that a hammer would make, when struck against a surface. The movement of water in the pipes is driven by some amount of kinetic energy, or let's say momentum. Now if this flow is made to stop with a sudden force, or change direction with immediate effect, then a pressure surge or wave is created which causes the hammering noise and vibration in the pipes. The faster the water flows through a pipe, the more intense the water hammer effect is. This hammering noise is not a normal occurrence and is otherwise not heard while water flows. It is only when the water is turned off that the problem occurs.
How to Fix It
Ignoring this sound when heard is a natural reaction, but we're not aware of how powerful the surge is, amounting to 1000 psi or more; a pressure so forceful, it can ruin piping in the most severe of ways. Constant events of water hammer weaken the joints and valves, which may eventually lead to leaky pipes or even flooding.
Minor problems easily go unnoticed and over time, it may result in structural damage and mold growth. So in order to avoid such a result, experts recommend the use of pressure reducing valves. These instruments come with adjustable screws that help control the intensity of pressure within the piping system. Installing air chambers or cushions can help reduce the impact of a water surge, but will need to be taken care of as part of its maintenance.
It is also important to determine the factors that contribute to water hammer, if you want it fixed. If the piping is of an improper size when it comes to the velocity of the water flow, it worsens the problem. Some houses do not have a pressure-reducing valve, which also aggravates the problem. Other factors include, the absence of a dampening system, long straight runs without any bends, and poor strapping of the pipes to its overall structure. Avoiding such faults in the water system will help with the fluid-hammer situation.
Water hammer is not unlikely, especially for spaces that use an extensive network of piping. Although you can try to fix the problem yourself, the plumbing work may not be so easy to handle. So unless you have some experience in this area of work, it is wise not to take the matter into your own hands, but seek the help of a professional. It may be a bit pricey, but it's better to face the issue at hand before you end up paying more for the damage it will later cause.