Becoming a Backflow Tester: Step One

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So…. you want to be a backflow tester? A few weeks ago, Sasha went through some of the things to consider if you were considering becoming a backflow tester. If you’ve decided it’s a good path for you, what are your next steps?

Local Chapters

Your local American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA) and American Water Works Association (AWWA) chapters are your friend. For starters, they can help you become acquainted with the local and state regulations. Since they vary so greatly, your local chapter can be super helpful. The ABPA tends to be larger in the western & southern states while the AWWA in the central & east coast of the states.

They’ll also be able to direct you to how to become certified in your area, as well as where to get credits to be re-certified. Many local sections offer annual shows and classes, so being on their newsletters can help you not forget to keep those credits updated! Nothing like having to pay an extra fee just because of forgetfulness!

They’re also the people that are generally helpful in the backflow scene – most of the board members have years of experience in the backflow industry, and can give some great pointers. Typically, they vary from technicians to water purveyor employees, so there is a solid base of varied experience.

Certification

Becoming a backflow tester requires a certification. Your initial certification takes 40 hours, and the class typically runs through a regular work week of Monday through Friday. It costs around $800 to take the initial certification classes to become a backflow tech, but this can vary by state and the company offering the class.

If you want to also be certified for backflow repair work, many areas will require additional licensing and potentially classes. This can vary from a limited plumbers license to a master plumbing license depending on where you’re working. Again, the ABPA or AWWA can be helpful in determining if you need this.

To find a local place to become a certified backflow tester, you have a couple options. You can reference your local ABPA or AWWA sections like I mentioned above, and they can point you in the right direction. Alternatively, you can simply google “Backflow Certification” within your state and usually find what you need in the first couple of results.

If you’re working in a metro area that spans a few states you’ll need to double check if you need to do anything special. In many cases, states have a reciprocity agreement and you’ll just need to pay another licensing fee to the other state. In other places they’ll both use the AWWA or ABPA cert.

When you need to become re-certified, you can typically choose to take online or in-person classes that equate to 8 hours – and you’ll only need to renew your cert every two years. Just don’t forget! Otherwise you’ll be unable to test, and you’ll have to pay an extra fee. It’s better to get those renewal classes done early – the ones later in the year book up early because everyone forgets to get them done until they are about to expire.

Gauge

You’ll need to purchase a backflow testing gauge – which you’ll find out about in your certification class. There’s some really great options on the market, and you’ll expect to pay about 800 bucks for that as well.

If you’re looking to start with a cheaper option, spend some time scouring Craigslist – test kits pop up from time to time, and can save you several hundred dollars. Some caution applies to craigslist gauges – you’ll probably spend more on one that has been sitting for a long time and needs a lot of replacement parts and re-certification than on a new one. If you’re going to buy a used gauge, look for one that’s been recently certified – it’ll minimize the risk that you’ll find it needs a lot of maintenance work or parts.

In a recent blog, Sasha mentioned some of the reasons you need to have your gauge calibrated – you’ll need to remember to have your gauge calibrated annually, so set a calendar reminder!

How often will you need to replace your gauge? Very rarely, if ever. Take good care of it and most importantly keep any junk out of the lines and they can last a lifetime. My dad hung his first gauge up after it wouldn’t hold a calibration for more than six months and he couldn’t find replacement parts for it – he got about 25 years out of it and that gauge made him a *lot* of money.

Go Test!

You’re on your first steps to becoming a backflow tester! We plan on checking back in with some follow-up steps that could help build your own backflow testing business later on.

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