What’s Water Hammer and What Causes It?


A water hammer is a phenomenon that occurs when a liquid, such as water, is forced to move through a pipe or other enclosed space. It is caused by a sudden increase or decrease in pressure or velocity, which can cause a shock wave to travel through the liquid and cause the pipe to vibrate. Water hammers can be a serious issue for plumbing systems, as they can cause damage to pipes, fittings, valves, and joints. But, what causes water hammer? Keep reading to find out.

A Sudden Change in Velocity

Water hammer is a common problem that occurs in plumbing systems due to a sudden change in velocity. This phenomenon is most often caused by a pressure wave traveling through a pipe as a result of a sudden change in velocity. The most common symptom of a water hammer is a loud banging or knocking noise in the pipes. This is due to the sudden change in velocity, resulting in a pressure wave that causes the pipe to vibrate rapidly. This can be accompanied by a loud banging sound. The pressure wave is created when a sudden change in velocity causes the fluid in the pipe to accelerate rapidly. This causes the pressure in the pipe to increase significantly.

When the pressure wave travels through the pipe, it eventually reaches the end of the pipe. This is when the pressure wave is reflected back, causing the pressure in the pipe to increase even further. This increase in pressure can cause the pipe to vibrate and the noise is the result of this vibration. In some cases, the vibrations can cause a burst pipe.

A System Imbalance

A system imbalance can be one of the main causes of water hammer, and it is important to understand what this is and how it can be avoided. A system imbalance occurs when there is a discrepancy between the amount of water entering and leaving a system. For example, if a pump is supplying water to a pipeline faster than the pipeline can discharge it, an imbalance is created. This results in a build-up of pressure in the pipeline which can lead to a water hammer. The most common cause of a system imbalance is an incorrect pump size or operating speed. If the pump is too large or fast for the pipeline, it can create a surge of pressure which can cause water hammer. Similarly, if the pump is too small, it may not be able to move enough water to compensate for the pipeline’s discharge.

Incorrectly Sized Pipes

Incorrectly Sized Pipes

Incorrectly sized pipes are pipes that are either too large or too small for the system they are being used in. When this is the case, the flow of water is not able to travel through the pipes at the rate it needs to. This results in a sudden change in flow, which then causes the pipes to vibrate and create a loud banging noise known as a water hammer.

The sound of a water hammer can be very annoying, but it can also cause serious damage. If the pipes are too small, the water pressure can become too high, which can cause the pipes to burst or crack. On the other hand, if the pipes are too large, the water pressure can become too low and the system may not be able to move the water efficiently. In either case, the system can become damaged or fail completely.

Overall, water hammer is an important phenomenon to understand and be aware of, as it can cause serious damage to plumbing systems and can be difficult to diagnose and repair. Identifying and addressing the causes of water hammer is essential to prevent the extensive issues it can create.


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