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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
4:03 AM Sat, Dec. 15th

Ask the Contractor: ‘Water Hammers’ can be hard to ignore in your home

This past week there were three phone calls relating to “water hammers” and three phone calls asking about how to replace broken garage door windows. Let’s talk water hammers first.

Water hammer is a specific plumbing noise, not a generic name for pipe clatter. It occurs when you shut off the water suddenly and the fast-moving water rushing through the pipe is brought to a quick halt, creating a sort of shock wave and a hammering noise. A water hammer is the sound of moving water being suddenly stopped cold by the closing of a valve. Think of running full speed and suddenly running into a brick wall. The force, or inertia, of this water is transferred instantly from the water to the pipe, and then into the fixtures or framing of your home. Hard to ignore, this hammer-like sound can be heard throughout all your plumbing.

Properly installed plumbing has air chambers, or cushions, that compress when the “shock wave” of water hits and these cushions soften the blow and prevents hammering.

The “water hammer” issue with these three homeowners recently started. In checking with RED Plumbing, Keith Riggs said “if hammering suddenly starts, most likely the plumbing system’s air chambers have become waterlogged.” A homeowner can cure a water hammer by turning off the water behind the waterlogged chamber, opening the offending faucet and permitting the faucet to drain thoroughly. Once all the water drains from the chamber, air will fill it again and restore the cushion. If the air chamber is located below the outlet, you may have to drain the main supply lines to allow the chamber to fill with air again.

This is a “Don’t panic” but this pressure wave can cause major problems, from noise and vibration to pipe collapse. Water hammers can cause pipelines to break if the pressure is high enough.

In the home, water hammers may occur when a dishwasher, washing machine, or toilet shuts off water flow, because these devices use quick-acting solenoid shutoff valves. It is best to contact a plumber to have them check the water hammer and they can be eliminated. However, water hammers can and do occur with toilet valves and plain old faucets as well.

Water hammers can be stopped – the hammer is controlled by the installation of either permanent air chambers, water hammer arrestors, or both. The permanent air chamber is simply a vertical section of copper pipe with a cap on the end that is attached with a T-fitting to the supply line near a shutoff valve or appliance. They are installed on both hot and cold water lines. The chamber is filled with air which absorbs the force of the moving water by compressing within the chamber, acting like a shock absorber.

The three culprits causing water hammers are first the length of the pipe the water is traveling through. You can’t do much about the length of your pipes, assuming that you can’t move your house closer to the water source. But it is an important factor in creating water hammers, so it is useful to take a look at it, especially as it relates to the pipe size.

The second variable is time, or specifically how fast the water is being stopped. When a closing valve is causing water hammer, time is how long it takes for the valve to close.

The third factor that influences water hammers are the velocity of the water. The faster the water is traveling in the pipe, the greater the water hammer.

I love this community. Regarding broken garage door windows, I just called my life line “Call A Friend” Erik Meinhardt , and Alyssa Meinhardt, owners of Neumann High County Doors. Erik indicated that replacing broken glass panels are not a DIY project. So based on Erik’s recommendation, I agree, leave the leather work gloves, step ladder, helper, Phillips-head screwdriver, small flathead screwdriver, tape measure, replacement glass and the rubber mallet in the garage tool box and call Neumann High County Doors for help.

Many panelized garage doors have windows that are vulnerable to damage and breakage. Some windows consist of a frame with glass and others consist of glass inserts that fit into the framework on the door. The method used to replace a damaged or broken window varies with the type of frame.

If you have a garage door with glass panels that was installed in 2000 and up more than likely you have a screw together design. According to Erik the screw together windows are usually easy to deal with when replacing broken glass. The screws are removed from the inside of the frame and the inside portion of the frame comes off and the glass is sandwiched between the frame and the front portion. If you want to be a daring DIY person this is where you will need the additional set of hands because you will need someone to hold the outside portion of the frame and keep it from falling out when you’re working on the inside. The new piece of glass is plopped in and as they say “wallah” the task is complete.

The other type is glass replacement is a snap together design. If you have a garage door with glass panels before the year 2000, there are not any screws on the inside of the frame and this replacement is a little more difficult for glass repairs.

For this one – I say stay away from the DIY – the entire window section must be removed from the door, and the process according to Erik is not fun. The most time-consuming part of replacing the window in this older style of door is removing the inner frame retainers from the window frame.

If you need a window replaced or for that matter want to add windows to your current garage door, Erik and his team at Neumann Garage Doors have installed hundreds of garage doors with windows and decorative trim. A free estimate is provided.

While we are on the topic of garage doors, let’s take time to talk garage door sensors.

Most garage remotes use an infrared or radio-based system to communicate with garage door sensors. The remotes send a coded signal through the air that is picked up by the sensors, which then give the garage door a signal to move. Separate sensors detect whether the door is open or closed. If open, the sensors tell the door to close, and vice versa.

While radio wave signals can be picked up by remote systems without much interference, infrared signals need some sort of line-of-sight connection to work properly. An infrared sensor problem can usually be identified by switching between the wired, in-garage button and the remote button. If the garage door works properly with the wired connection but not the remote transmitter, the problem is probably signal-related. Most sensors have a small red light that will blink where the signal is sent and/or picked up, known as the “eye.” Sometimes sensors only need to be cleaned or readjusted to resume working properly.

Garage doors are equipped with photoelectric sensors near the base of the door opening that ensure the door will not close down on anything. When an object interrupts the light wave based connection, the door will either refuse to close or automatically freeze. If these safety sensors are misaligned or blocked in some way, the door will not function properly. Also transmitter problems can be caused by low batteries.