Buy The Right Backflow Enclosure

Here are some quick tips on choosing the right backflow enclosures and insulated bags for backflow preventers.  Despite their solid metal, rough and tough exterior appearance, these irrigation valves are really pretty wimpy inside.  They have dainty springs, seals and gaskets that do not handle freezing water well at all.  Freezing water expands and really shreds these parts up in a big way.  This is one of the reasons many folks want to cover these valves: to protect them from the cold.  Theft is another concern.  Left out in the open these valves are easy pickens for low-lifes looking to bank some quick cash at the local scrap metal yard.

Hotbox Febco WilkinsSo how do you go about choosing a cover?  It can be a bit of a challenge primarily due to the fact that these installations are usually awkward and somewhat bulky.  Most are installed in a "upside down U" configuration, with two pipes coming up from the ground and meeting in the middle where the actual valve gate resides.  Many building codes require the installs to be up 12" or more off the ground, so they can be quite high as well as long.  Because of this a specialty cover is usually necessary.

The most important step in choosing the right enclosure is making proper measurements:

1. Start with an easy one, the height.  Simply place the end of the measuring tape or yard stick on the ground and measure up to the very top of the valve at its highest point.  Easy-peasy.

2. Now stand above the unit and scope out the width of the valve.  You want to lay the tape across the widest point and jot down the measurement.  Most residential units made by Febco, Watts, Wilkins, Zurn, Appollo, etc will usually fall somewhere between 5 and 9 inches in width.  If you've got a mutant on your hands and it's a lot wider or extremely skinny, don't sweat it.  Just jot down the numbers and move along to step number 3.

3. Now for the length.  Note the two pipes coming out of the ground.  What you want to do here is measure from the far edge of the pipe on the left, all the way across to the far edge of the pipe on the right.  It's far from rocket science, just a simple edge to edge dimension and you're all done.

One thing you want to avoid is padding the numbers to "play it safe."  This is bad because adding an inch or two to each measurement may result in the purchase of an enclosure that is larger than is actually needed for your particular application.  And the larger an enclosure or insulation bag is, the more expensive it's going to be.  If you're a fan of saving money, exact measurements are a must.

The next step is to figure out what ASSE Class of enclosure you need.  ASSE Class 1 is insulated and heated, Class 2 is just insualted, and Class 3 is just the box, no insulation or electric heat source.  The extent of protection you need depends primarily on two factors:

1) How cold it gets in your neck of the woods;

2) When (if ever) is the valve winterized?;

If temps dip below freezing and the backflow preventer is going to be outdoors, then an insulated (Class 2) enclosure is the recommended minimum.  If temps stay below freezing for extended periods of time then going with Class 1 (insulated and heated) is a safe bet.  It's important to consider not only how cold it gets, but for how long it stays cold as well.  In areas where it might dip below freezing for a couple hours during cold nights, an insulated and non-heated enclosure is usually fine.  When in doubt, ask your neighbors.  Check out what they have been using over the years and chances are you can consider the same level of protection.

When it comes time to actually buy a cover or cage, always be certain to consult the interior dimensions of the enclosure.  It's a common error to glance at the listed exterior dimensions and figure they accurately represent what can be enclosed.  Exterior dimensions are almost always taken at the base.  Way down low where the cover is at the edge to edge largest width and length.  These numbers by no means represent what the cover can actually conceal.

It's also a good idea to find models featuring some kind of locking mechanism or tabs for a padlock or two.  Thieves are much less apt to mess with a locked enclosure when there are so many other RPZ's in the neighborhood exposed in the open and ripe for easy taking.  Plus have it locked keeps kids and critters from being able to get in and mess with things.

The backflow enclosures, faux rock covers and removeable insulation bags we sell here are made in the USA by DekoRRa.  DekoRRa uses top quality raw materials and doesn't cut any corners when it comes to producing high quality products.

Posted by RocksFast