Polymer and fiberglass backflow boxes are designed to protect the prevention devices in a couple different ways. One is security from vandals and thieves. Most prevention devices are made with copper and other precious metals. Thieves will hack saw the copper pipes off at grade and run off with the whole unit. They then turn it in to salvage yards as scrap metal. It’s cold, hard cash. Crooks are even breaking into foreclosed homes and cutting out all the copper water piping. Sad but true. It’s increasingly necessary to use this type of protection as a deterrent against thieves and vandals.
In cold climates backflows can freeze, sometimes causing the pipes to burst and rendering the unit useless. Depending on the climate of your location, it’s important to choose a model that is either insulated and or heated to protect from frost and pipe freeze. It’s wise to make sure any insulated or heated version is ASSE certified (American Society Of Safety Engineers) to insure the units are indeed manufactured to the advertised specifications.
Believe it or not, they can also help protect your eyes because you won’t have to look at the ugly pipes sticking out of the ground! Of course this all depends on the type of enclosure you buy. Unfortunately many types are not designed with curb appeal in mind, but with a little bit of poking around online you should be able to find some that provide security and look good doing it.
Lastly, they also help to protect from injury. By design these devices are awkwardly shaped with sharp metal corners especially around the valve areas. Kids can be mesmorized by this funky looking metal beast. It’s an alien spaceship! A horsey to ride on! You get the picture. Kids playing around an exposed unit is a recipe for both a chipped tooth and a broken valve gate. Just be sure you choose a design that doesn’t have any sharp corners that can be more dangerous than the device itself.
What to look for before you buy?
We’ve already mentioned the importance of ASSE Certification in purchasing any backflow device cover. ASSE certification is designated in three different classes:
Class I – Freeze Protection – Class I shall have a minimum thermal resistance value of eight and a positive means of heat. These units have been designed and constructed to maintain a minimum internal temperature of 40.0°F.
Class II – Freeze Retardant – Class II shall have a minimum thermal resistance value of eight. These units have been designed and constructed to be installed in minimum external temperatures of 33.0°F.
Class III – Non-Freeze Protection – Class III are designed and constructed to provide system security for components when freezing temperatures are not a consideration.
Manufacturers spend a lot of time and money getting their designs ASSE Certified. This is important to realize because an ASSE Certification not only means a backflow sheild or rock will meet certain industry specification standards, but also that the manufacturer is serious about making high quality components and is more apt to stand behind their products. High quality models will also have a means of locking the cover onto the base with a padlock to prevent theft and vandalism (more info). Try to avoid designs made of fiberglass as that material is prone to sun damage. You also want to make sure the cover can be lifted off for easy inspection and testing. And a stake down system of some sort is another crucial element to keep it all fastened securely to the ground.