Water hammer

Water hammer

Water hammer (or, more generally, fluid hammer) is a pressure surge or wave resulting when a fluid in motion is forced to stop or change direction suddenly (Momentum Change). Water hammer commonly occurs when a valve is closed suddenly at an end of a pipeline system, and a pressure wave propagates in the pipe.

The magnitude of the pulse

The size of the water hammer pulse can be estimated from the Joukowsky equation [Thorley, ADR, Fluid Transients in Pipelines, 2^{nd} ed. Professional Engineering Publishing, 2004]

Delta P = ho a Delta C

Where Delta P is the magnitude of the pressure wave (Pa), ho is the density of the fluid (kgm−3), a is the speed of sound in the fluid (ms−1), and Delta C is the change in the fluid's velocity (ms−1). The pulse comes about due to Newton's laws of motion and the continuity equation applied to the deceleration of a fluid element Streeter, VL and Wylie, EB, Fluid mechanics, McGraw-Hill Higher Education; International 9^{th} Revised Ed edition, 1998] . .

As the speed of sound in a fluid is the sqrt{frac{ ext{effective bulk modulus { ext{density} , the peak pressure will depend on the fluid compressibility.

One approximation to the maximum pressure, P , produced in a water filled line (English units) is

P =0.07 V L/t +P_1

Where P_1 is the inlet pressure, V is the flow velocity in ft/sec, t is the valve closing time in seconds and L is the upstream pipe length in feet [ [http://www.plastomatic.com/water-hammer.html "Water Hammer & Pulsation" ] ]

For this reason, pipe-sizing charts for some applications recommend flow velocity at or below 5 ft/s (1.5 m/s). If the pipe is suddenly closed at the outlet (downstream), the mass of water before the closure is still moving forward with some velocity, building up a high pressure and shock waves. In domestic plumbing this is experienced as a loud bang resembling a hammering noise. Water hammer can cause pipelines to break if the pressure is high enough. Air traps or stand pipes (open at the top) are sometimes added as to water systems to provide a cushion to absorb the force of moving water in order to prevent damage to the system. (At some hydroelectric generating stations what appears to be a water tower is actually one of these devices.)

On the other hand, when a valve in a pipe is closed, the water downstream of the valve will attempt to continue flowing, creating a vacuum that may cause the pipe to collapse or implode. This problem can be particularly acute if the pipe is on a downhill slope. To prevent this, air and vacuum relief valves, or air vents, are installed just downstream of the valve to allow air to enter the line and prevent this vacuum from occurringFact|date=November 2007.

In the home water hammer often occurs when a dishwasher, washing machine, or toilet shuts off water flow, resulting in a loud bang or banging sound. A hydropneumatic device similar in principle to a shock absorber called a 'Water Hammer Arrestor' can be installed between the water pipe and the machine which will absorb the shock and stop the banging.Steam distribution systems may also be vulnerable to a situation similar to water hammer, known as "steam hammer". In a steam system, water hammer most often occurs when some of the steam condenses into water in a horizontal section of the steam piping. Subsequently, steam picks up the water, forms a "slug" and hurls it at high velocity into a pipe fitting, creating a loud hammering noise and greatly stressing the pipe. This condition is usually caused by a poor condensate drainage strategy.

Where air filled traps are used, these eventually become depleted of their trapped air over a long period of time through absorption into the water. This can be cured by shutting off the supply and draining the system by opening taps at the highest and lowest locations, which restores the air to the traps and then closing the taps and opening the supply.

Hydroelectric power plants must be carefully designed and maintained because the water hammer can cause water pipes to fail catastrophically. One of the first to successfully investigate the water hammer problem was the Italian engineer Lorenzo Allievi.

Possible causes

:* Sudden valve closure:* Pump failure:* Check valve slam (due to sudden deceleration, a check valve may slam shut rapidly, depending on the dynamic characteristic of the check valve and the mass of the water between a check valve and tank).


Most water hammer software packages use the method of characteristics to solve the differential equations involved. This method works well if the wave speed does not vary in time due to either air or gas entrainment in a pipeline. Many commercial and non commercial packages exist today.

Software packages vary in complexity, dependent on the processes modeled. The more sophisticated packages may have any of the following features::* Multiphase flow capabilities:* An algorithm for cavitation growth and collapse:* Unsteady friction - the pressure waves will dampen as turbulence is generated and due to variations in the flow velocity distribution:* Varying bulk modulus for higher pressures (water will become less compressible):* Fluid structure interaction - the pipeline will react on the varying pressures and will cause pressure waves itself

Mitigating measures

Water hammer has caused accidents and fatalities, but is usually less threatening. In many cases damage is limited to breakage of pipes or appendages. An engineer should always assess (at least qualitatively) risk of a pipeline burst. Pipelines with hazardous goods should always receive special attention and should be thoroughly investigated.

The following characteristics may reduce or eliminate water hammer::* Low fluid velocities.:* Slowly closing valves. Toilet flush valves are available in a quiet flush type that closes quietly.:* High pipeline pressure rating (expensive).:* Good pipeline control (start-up and shut-down procedures).:* Water towers (used in many drinking water systems) help maintain steady flow rates and trap large pressure fluctuations.:* Air vessels work in much the same way as water towers, but are pressurized. They typically have an air cushion above the fluid level in the vessel, which may be regulated or separated by a bladder. Sizes of air vessels may be up to hundreds of cubic meters on large pipelines. They come in many shapes, sizes and configurations.Such vessels often are called accumulators.:* Air valves are often used to remediate low pressures at high points in the pipeline. Though effective, sometimes large numbers of air valves need be installed. These valves also allow air into the system, which is often unwanted.:* UPS (uninterruptible power supply) is sometimes installed to dampen the initial pressure wave by keeping the system running for some time after a power trip. Fact|date=August 2008:* Flywheel on pump.:* Pumping station bypass.


:* The water hammer principle can be used to create a simple water pump called a hydraulic ram.:* Leaks can sometimes be detected using water hammer. :* Enclosed air pockets can be detected in pipelines.:* The US Navy is conducting field trials for mine clearing using water hammer.

ee also

*Water hammer pulse
*Blood hammer


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Water hammer — Wa ter ham mer (Physics) 1. A vessel partly filled with water, exhausted of air, and hermetically sealed. When reversed or shaken, the water being unimpeded by air, strikes the sides in solid mass with a sound like that of a hammer. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • water hammer — n. 1. the hammering sound caused in a pipe containing water when live steam is passed through it 2. the thump of water in a pipe, caused by an air lock, when a faucet is suddenly closed …   English World dictionary

  • water-hammer — I. ˈ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ˌ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ intransitive verb Etymology: water hammer of water : to strike with a hammering sound against the walls of a sealed containing vessel from which the air has been removed II. adjective Etymology: water hammer …   Useful english dictionary

  • water hammer — hidraulinis smūgis statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. hydraulic impact; hydraulic shock; water hammer vok. hydraulischer Schlag, m; hydraulischer Stoss, m; Wasserschlag, m rus. гидравлический удар, m pranc. choc de bélier, m; choc… …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • Water-hammer pulse — A pulse that is full and then suddenly collapses. This type of pulse is also called a Corrigan pulse after the Irish physician Dominic John Corrigan (1802 80) who described this finding in patients with aortic regurgitation caused by a leaky… …   Medical dictionary

  • water hammer — noun Date: circa 1890 a concussion or sound of concussion of moving water against the sides of a containing pipe or vessel (as a steam pipe) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • water hammer — the concussion and accompanying noise that result when a volume of water moving in a pipe suddenly stops or loses momentum. [1795 1805] * * * …   Universalium

  • water hammer — noun A surge of pressure in a pipe carrying a fluid; especially the banging sound in a steam or hot water pipe caused by bubbles of air, or by an abrupt alteration of the flow …   Wiktionary

  • water hammer — noun a knocking noise in a water pipe that occurs when a tap is turned off briskly …   English new terms dictionary

  • water hammer — wa′ter ham mer n. bui the concussion and accompanying noise that result when a volume of water moving in a pipe suddenly stops or loses momentum • Etymology: 1795–1805 …   From formal English to slang

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