Water Hammer Review

Water Hammer Review

Water hammer is a liquid shock wave resulting from the sudden starting or stopping of flow. It is affected by the initial system pressure, the density of the fluid, the speed of sound in the fluid, the elasticity of the fluid and pipe, the change in velocity of the fluid, the diameter and thickness of the pipe, and the valve operating time.

During the closing of a valve, kinetic energy of the moving fluid is converted into potential energy. Elasticity of the fluid and pipe wall produces a wave of positive pressure back toward the fluids source. When this wave reaches the source, the mass of fluid will be at rest, but under tremendous pressure. The compressed liquid and stretched pipe walls will now start to release the liquid in the pipe back to the source and return to the static pressure of the source. This release of energy will form another pressure wave back to the valve. When this shockwave reaches the valve, due to the momentum of the fluid, the pipe wall will begin to contract. This contraction is transmitted back to the source, which places the pressure in the piping below that of the static pressure of the source. These pressure waves will travel back and forth several times until the fluid friction dampens the alternating pressure waves to the static pressure of the source. Normally, the entire hammer process takes place in under one second.

The initial shock of suddenly stopped flow can induce transient pressure changes that exceed the static pressure. If the valve is closed slowly, the loss of kinetic energy is gradual. If it is closed quickly, the loss of kinetic energy is very rapid. A shock wave results because of this rapid loss of kinetic energy. The shock wave caused by water hammer can be of sufficient magnitude to cause physical damage to piping, equipment, and personnel. Water hammer in pipes has been known to pull pipe supports from their mounts, rupture piping, and cause pipe whip.

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