Metal backflow cages came along in 2008, after the economic crash, primarily to prevent valve theft. But property owners quickly learned cages are actually a target.
Thieves found that the metals used in backflow preventers and the surrounding plumbing system are worth a lot of money at the recycling yards.
So, let’s look at a recent incident where a backflow preventer cage failed to protect the equipment and a much better option for your next backflow preventer installation.
Where Backflow Cages Are Most Popular
You’ll see a lot of cages on backflow preventer assemblies in places like Arizona, Southern California and Florida. Backflow preventers are supposed to be installed above ground but are not supposed to be left completely uncovered and unprotected.
As a result, lots of small backflow cage manufacturers popped up to supply the immediate demand, and the knee-jerk reaction, to using inexpensive cages to temporarily protect their plumbing system.
But there’s a problem with that. Backflow cages lack certain things, like freeze protection.
Drawbacks To Backflow Cages
Today, backflow cages are still being used in municipal systems to prevent valve theft, but there are many drawbacks to using these “enclosures.”
Earlier this year, backflow valve thieves in Arizona found that an unlocked cage is a gateway to easy money. They stole two backflow preventers from a gated community in Phoenix. Some of the people who live there told KHPO-TV that they were without water for almost nine hours.
The thieves shut off the water, took off the bolts, and took the backflow preventers with them. At least two backflow preventers went missing because the cages that protected the pipes were not locked.
Luckily, a local plumber stopped to help. He did a quick fix and got the water flowing again, but the backflow preventers still needed to be replaced.
Thieves will take the brass and copper from backflow preventers and sell it as scrap.
Copper is more valuable. It can go for as much as $2.50 per pound. You can get anywhere from $1-$2 for brass.
The “quick fix” was simply to hard-pipe the gap where the backflow preventer was previously installed, creating a very unhealthy cross-connection that puts the entire water system at risk. Until these backflow preventers are replaced, the entire community and the water system as a whole are in a high-hazard situation with their water supply.
Backflow Covers Are a Better Option
If these valves were protected by a solid, ASSE 1060-certified backflow enclosure, the thieves would not have even known what was inside, much less been able to steal them.
Backflow preventers are safest above ground in a backflow enclosure made of marine-grade aluminum. To learn more about the differences between cages and enclosures click here. But to learn more about the trends in backflow preventer installation, check out our guide “Trends in Backflow Valve Specifications and Location.”