Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 46
Spotlight on: Mr. BackflowMatt Graef, owner
BY AMY ASMAN
It’s a little after 9 a.m. on a Monday, and Matt Graef is looking for the Sun’s backflow prevention system.
“This is what I spend about half of my time doing,” Graef says with a smile.
Graef also goes by the name Mr. Backflow and owns a backflow-testing and installation company by the same name.
“I wanted to pick a name for my business that people would know exactly what it meant without having to ask questions,” Graef told the Sun in an interview prior to the in-person visit.
He started his business about 10 months ago after deciding to leave service plumbing to specialize in backflow testing.
“There’s a definite need for [backflow testing]; the work is always going to be there,” he said. “In addition to that, I think it’s important. Plus, being my own boss allows me to spend more time with my family.”
Graef’s company is also a family affair because his wife, Sara, handles the business side of things.
“I am really good at repairing backflows, but I would be lost without Sara helping me in the office,” he admitted.
Backflow systems are installed in commercial buildings and some multi-story residential buildings that have fire sprinklers, and they’re also used with irrigation systems and buildings that have soda fountains.
“They’re pretty much used anywhere water is getting mixed with something,” Graef said.
The purpose of a backflow system is to protect drinkable water from hazardous materials. A pressure valve in the connection between a potable water system and a non-potable system prevents the backflow of such materials. Graef explained, in basic terms, that a backflow prevention system is working properly when the pressure on one side of the valve is higher than the other.
“That means the seal is working,” he said.
If the pressure changes significantly, it could result in backpressure—an increase in pressure that pumps water out into the street—or back-siphonage—a decrease in pressure that creates a vacuum or siphon that sucks water from one system into the other.
The backflow prevention system, Graef said, makes sure “there’s no way contaminated water gets back into the [potable water] system.”
Commercial property owners typically get a yearly notice in the mail alerting them that their backflow systems need to be checked. That’s where Graef, a.k.a. Mr. Backflow, steps in. Graef, who is certified with the American Backflow Prevention Association and various other organizations, can check devices—and repair, replace, or install them. Then he’ll write up a report explaining why the system failed and what he did to fix it.
He said his decision to specialize in this field has severed him well so far.
“Most of my competitors around the Santa Maria Valley are plumbers who also do backflow,” he said. “I’m one of about three who are specialized.”
Graef also said his prices are more competitive because he doesn’t have the overhead charges of a plumbing company. He charges $40 per a backflow test in Santa Maria and Orcutt, and quotes out-of-town tests and repairs on a case-by-case basis.
Managing Editor Amy Asman wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.
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