Coffee machines that get their water from a reservoir or tank are pretty straightforward. However, if you decide to connect the machine to your plumbing, the machine must then comply with plumbing safety standards. One of those standards relates to the use of backflow preventers.
Your coffee machine will need a backflow preventer if local building and plumbing codes require it. Of course, that only applies to plumbed coffee machines connected directly to your building’s water supply, not those relying on water reservoirs. Backflow preventers are especially crucial if the coffee machine shares the same water supply as other appliances, as they could also cause backflows and contaminate the water.
In this guide, you’ll learn what a backflow preventer is and how it works. Then, you’ll discover a handful of considerations to think about when deciding if your coffee machine needs a backflow preventer of its own.
What Is The Main Function Of A Backflow Preventer?
A backflow preventer is a plumbing device attached to your home or building’s pipes. Its purpose is to ensure that water only flows in one direction and doesn’t go backwards.
Just as its name spells out, its job is to prevent a backflow of water.
Water backflows might not sound like a big deal at first. However, it can have devastating consequences, especially when it comes to potable water, i.e. water that’s supposed to be safe to drink.
Water backflows can quickly lead to contamination of a shared water supply. That contaminated water supply can lead to coffee machines and water dispensers.
As you can imagine, anyone who consumes contaminated fluids through those appliances is put at severe risk.
Does My Coffee Machine Need A Backflow Preventer?
Some coffee machines must have a backflow preventer installed, while others don’t. Here are 4 critical considerations to determine if you need a backflow preventer for your coffee machine:
#1 Does Your Machine Use A Reservoir Or Direct Water Line?
First and foremost, you must understand how your coffee machine gets its water supply. Some coffee machines rely on a water reservoir or tank, while others are plumbed.
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A coffee machine that relies on a water tank does not need a backflow preventer. That’s because there’s no plumbing involved, so there’s no risk of backflow or cross-contamination.
However, plumbed coffee machines connect directly to your household or building water supply through a direct water line. So, there’s always a risk of backflow and contamination of the water supply, no matter how minimal.
Without a backflow preventer, brewed coffee inside the machine could flow backwards and contaminate the water supply.
Or, worse yet, any cleaning chemicals you put into your coffee machine could contaminate any other appliance sharing the same water supply.
Recommendation: If your coffee machine relies only on a water reservoir, it’s not connected to any plumbing and therefore doesn’t need a backflow preventer.
However, a backflow preventer is necessary if you have a plumbed coffee machine connected directly to your water supply.
#2 Do Your Local Plumbing Codes Require A Backflow Preventer?
Your local building and plumbing codes regulate plumbing devices like backflow preventers. Those codes set the standard for what’s considered safe and acceptable when constructing buildings and equipping them with plumbing.
You must never forget that building and plumbing codes differ between local governments. Besides that, homes and commercial buildings will also have different codes to adhere to.
In other words, the codes that apply to you and your coffee machine might not apply to someone else living in the next town over.
Also, suppose your local code requires a backflow preventer for your coffee maker. In that case, it will likely specify the precise backflow preventer type and model they’ll accept. Understanding the code will help you buy the correct backflow preventer.
You can then work with your plumber to ensure that your coffee machine’s water supply is equipped and compliant with that code.
Recommendation: Firstly, you must identify which building and plumbing codes apply to your premises.
Remember: building codes differ based on your local government, and they can also differ between commercial and residential buildings.
You can do so by referring to your local government or consulting a qualified local plumber. Local plumbers will definitely understand the code better than anyone else. Plus, they can supply and install the backflow preventer for your coffee machine.
#3 Does Your Coffee Machine Share Its Waterline?
The backflow preventer for your coffee machine isn’t the only one that matters. Sure, that preventer will stop the coffee machine from potentially contaminating your water supply.
However, it does not stop other appliances from contaminating your coffee machine’s incoming water supply.
That’s why you must also identify all other appliances that share that water supply with your coffee machine.
For instance, backflows can also come from washing machines, vending machines, and water dispensers, leading to contaminated water flowing to your coffee machine.
So while a backflow preventer is suitable for your plumbed-in coffee machine, you must also install backflow preventers for other appliances sharing the same water line.
Recommendation: Firstly, consider your local building and plumbing codes. Suppose they require your coffee machine to have a backflow preventer. In that case, they’ll likely need the same for other appliances sharing the same water supply.
However, even if your local codes don’t require you to do it, you should ensure that your appliances have backflow preventers installed. That way, you won’t have to worry about contaminated water coming from other places and flowing into your coffee cup.
#4 Are You Doubtful, Worried, Or Unsure?
Let’s suppose your local building and plumbing codes aren’t clear, and you feel doubtful, worried, or unsure. Or, perhaps you’re in an area where not installing the backflow preventer doesn’t really have any significant consequences.
In that case, you should err on the side of caution and install a backflow preventer anyway.
As the old saying goes, “it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it”.
Recommendation: If there’s any doubt about codes requiring the use of a backflow preventer, you should install one anyway.
Whether or not the building code requires it, the backflow preventer will provide you with several benefits. Firstly, you eliminate any risk of fines from being non-compliant with local building codes.
More importantly, you’ll prevent the contamination of your water supply that could hurt anyone who drinks coffee from your machine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Check out these helpful questions and answers to better understand your coffee machine and backflow preventers:
Why Is Backflow Bad?
Backflow is bad because it contaminates the shared water supply. That contaminated water will be consumed by someone else unknowingly, putting them and their health at risk.
Can You Get A Plumbed-In Coffee Machine?
Yes, even at home, you can plumb your coffee machine and connect it directly to a water line.
Does An Espresso Machine Need A Drain?
Some espresso machines require a drain, while others will only capture water in their drip pan. Those with drains will allow wastewater to flow directly into your plumbing to be carried away safely. However, drip pans or trays must be emptied manually and at regular intervals.
How Do I Find Local Plumbing Codes?
You can find local plumbing codes by checking your local government’s website or calling them directly. You can also consult local plumbers and contractors who must become familiar with the regulations for their business.
What Happens If You Violate Plumbing Codes?
Violating plumbing codes can result in warnings, fines, or in severe cases, business shutdowns. That’s why you must always understand local plumbing codes and ensure that your premises comply with them.