Plumbing systems have come a long way over the past few decades, with better materials and greater efficiency helping cut costs and increase the standard of living. But not every homeowner knows how their plumbing system works.
The Building Blocks of a Home Plumbing System
Every plumbing system has pipes, plumbing fixtures, a septic tank, and sewer lines.
Pipes allow clean water to enter the system from the water supply line, while gravity pulls unclean water down and towards the exit. Air blows through the vents to keep the pipes clean and clear.
Plumbing fixtures can include bathtubs, sinks, showers, toilets, and faucets. These fixtures are typically installed before the walls and doorways have been made.
The septic tank and sewer lines are a bit more difficult to install than other plumbing components. Plumbers need to know how many bedrooms will be in the home before they can calculate the right size of the septic tank.
The role of a septic tank is to separate liquid waste from solid waste through the use of facultative and anaerobic microorganisms that break down the solid waste. The gas by-products of this process exit through vents.
The Water Supply System
A home’s plumbing system may receive water from one of two sources: city water or wells. Homes that receive city water have a main pipe that usually runs parallel to the street. Water to the home can be shut off at the shutoff valve, located near the water meter.
Homes that don’t have access to city water typically receive water from wells. These systems require water to be pumped at high pressures to reach the farthest and highest parts of the home.
Problems with water pressure typically lead to issues with showers and faucets.
The Plumbing Draining System
The drain water vent (DWV) system does not overlap with the water supply system. However, bridges between the two systems are called bridge fixtures. These include sinks, faucets, and washing machines.
The three components of the DWV are drain pipes, drain traps, and drain vents. Drain pipes are pipes angled downward that rely on gravity to move water from a fixture and into the sewer line.
Drain traps are U-shaped pipes that prevent waste from flowing back into the system. The drain vent runs from the roof and into the drain pipe, and releases air into the plumbing system to ensure waste drains smoothly.
If any of these components are damaged, the entire plumbing system may malfunction and require professional service.