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There are multiple types of backflow preventers, the three most common being the pressure vacuum breaker (PVB), the reduced pressure zone (RPZ), and the double check assembly (DCA). These are all installed in the water system immediately after the isolation valve.
Pressure vacuum breaker assemblies (PVB) are the most common, inexpensive type of whole-system backflow preventer. It consists of an inlet shutoff valve at the bottom, a single valve body consisting of a pressure vacuum breaker, check valve, and two test cocks, and an outlet shutoff valve. As well as being inexpensive, PVBs are relatively simple in design, and are easy to install, maintain and repair.
Double check valves (DCV, also called double check assemblies or DCA) are a good choice for underground or indoor installations. A DCA consists of an inlet shutoff valve, two independently operating spring-loaded check valves (usually inside a single valve body), four test cocks, and an outlet shutoff valve.
The DCA is the most common type of approved backflow prevention device for use in underground or in-line installations. In-line (or below-grade) simply means that the backflow device is parallel with the piping of the sprinkler system; unlike the PVB, the DCA does not have to be installed 12 inches above the highest point in the system.
Reduced pressure zone assemblies (RPZ), also sometimes called a reduced pressure principle assembly, is the most complex and expensive backflow preventer. However, when working properly, RPZs are the most secure and reliable of all backflow prevention devices. A reduced pressure zone assembly consists of an inlet shutoff valve, two independently operating spring-loaded check valves separated by a pressure differential relief valve, four test cocks, and an outlet shutoff valve.