No state has fully banned the use of backflow enclosure cages, but municipalities throughout the country are taking action that would make them a difficult choice to live with. Whether it’s their lack of concealment that draws attention from all the wrong people, or a lack of adequate protection from the seasons, state and local governments around the country are looking at many examples where cages have failed and updating ordinances and codes, effectively moving away from them as an option.
Let’s look at a few jurisdictions that have made the move away from cages:
As of December 2008, the City of Lynchburg approved their cross-connection control and backflow prevention program: “All reduced pressure principle assemblies shall be protected by an ASSE 1060 Heated approved enclosure, located on a 4” thick concrete pad … This is to protect the assembly from vandalism and freezing temperatures.”
For 15 years, the standard in Lynchburg has been set, and in no uncertain terms: nothing but an above-ground, ASSE 1060 enclosure with heat will do.
People tend to think of Arizona as desert and arid environs, but the valley is not the state. Flagstaff, for example, sits at a higher elevation than Denver, Colorado and is subject to all four seasons. As a result, their website is also clear when it comes to how residents should cover a backflow preventer: “Backflow assemblies need to be located as close to the water meter as possible in a heated enclosure.”
You can’t heat a cage.
Charlotte hasn’t fully moved to thinking outside the vault when it comes to backflow installation, but their construction guidelines are clear when it comes to covers: “Above-ground Installations [sic] need an insulated cover meeting ASSE 1060 requirements.”
They also require drainage to meet city requirements and permanent enclosures must match vault specifications; no lower-profile pump houses allowed.
Portland, too, made the move to exclude cages from consideration: “Backflow assemblies must be protected from severe environmental conditions. Only commercially manufactured prefabricated insulated outdoor enclosures are approved.”
New York State
New York State has not banned the use of below-grade or “pit installations” outright, but their website’s guidelines for backflow prevention assembly installations, a clear best practices resource from the Department of Health, has this to say about the matter: “An above grade installation is generally necessary to provide gravity drainage from RPZ devices. The additional benefits of improved access and enhanced safety are also realized with an above grade installation. Two companies, ‘Hot Box’ and ‘Hydrocowl’, have designed prefabricated insulated enclosures that provide heat, gravity drainage and removable access panels for servicing and testing.”
Sounds like the team at Hydrocowl has things pretty well figured out. We’re not ones to brag or anything.
Check Your Local Requirements
These are just a few examples of a clear trend: jurisdictions across the country are moving toward a more secure, safer approach to upholding cross connection standards. Below-ground and indoor installations are becoming a thing of the past, because officials around the country agree that safety and security are essential to protecting the health of every resident, and utilities are only as good as the standards used to safeguard them.
As always, check with your local governing body for any updates to ordinances or statutes related to backflow assembly installation. Civic, county and state websites are reasonably easy to navigate. We also recommend going above and beyond when it comes to following local guidelines. If the city calls for a four-inch concrete pad, install a six-inch pad.
If they call for an insulated enclosure, go with the only modular solution that is insulated, heat-capable, ASSE 1060 certified and even looks pretty good in the process. Take a look at our in-stock size options, or contact a design pro to discuss a custom solution for your project.