Platinum Plumbing is a complex network of water supply pipes, drain pipes, and vents. Understanding how it all works can help you maintain your system better and avoid costly problems.
It mainly comprises two subsystems: the water supply and drainage systems. Learn about these to troubleshoot problems and prevent clogs.
The home plumbing system is a complicated web of pipes, valves, fixtures, and other parts that supply clean water, remove wastewater, and facilitate various other activities in a house. While the system can initially seem intimidating, a little knowledge goes a long way in keeping your home plumbing working properly.
Understanding the basics of home plumbing can help you save time and money when it comes to routine maintenance and repairs. It can also prevent the type of costly catastrophe that could happen if you are unfamiliar with how your home’s plumbing works.
Your home’s plumbing starts with the water supply line that connects to your municipal water source or private well. This large-diameter pipe brings fresh water into your house and connects to a water meter, which keeps track of the amount of water you use.
From there, you have a series of smaller diameter pipes that carry the water to individual fixtures, such as toilets, sinks, showers and appliances. This distribution system is what most people think of when they imagine their home’s plumbing. Each fixture has a drain that allows wastewater to leave the fixture. The curved pipe under each sink is called a P-trap, which is named for its shape and functions. The P-trap retains a small amount of water, which helps to stop toxic sewer gases from entering the home. It also traps hair, soap scum and other debris to prevent drains from becoming clogged.
The waste lines run from each fixture to the sewage or septic tank system, which is part of your home’s drainage system. These drain lines are referred to as the “DWV” system, which stands for drainage, waste and vent. The DWV system is the most important of your home’s plumbing because it carries all of your household wastewater.
The drains in your bathroom and kitchen are the most likely to become clogged, so it is important to keep up with regular cleaning and maintenance. For example, you should never flush anything down a toilet that is not supposed to go in there (like baby wipes). The simplest way to keep your drains clear is by using a plumbing snake, which is a flexible rod with a hook on the end that gets stuck down a drain to grab and pull out the debris.
A water heater is the key to providing hot water for showers, tubs, sinks, laundry machines and dishwashers. The system that delivers this hot water is a network of pipes, service valves and fittings that are mostly hidden from view. It also includes a heating appliance, like an electric water heater or gas water heater, to heat the incoming cold water or, in some cases, store hot water for future use.
A conventional tank-style water heater has an insulated storage container that holds from 20 to 80 gallons of hot water. It is powered by electricity or propane, natural gas, fuel oil or other energy source and has a thermostat that records the temperature inside the tank. When the reading drops below a pre-set level, the water heater turns on to heat the water back up. Normally, the temperature is set between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water enters the tank through a dip tube and then passes over the heating element, which is usually made of steel, copper or iron. As it warms up, it rises through the tank and exits through the hot water outlet at the top of the unit. The hot water lines carry this piping around your home to deliver it to the fixtures and appliances that need it.
Many older homes have poor water pressure, which can be caused by the original pipes or mineral build-up in the tank or pipes. Strange knocking, hissing or rattling sounds from your water heater are often caused by sediment that has built up in the heating element or at the bottom of the tank. A professional plumber can drain and flush the water heater to remove the sediment and restore normal operation.
To reduce your energy costs, consider replacing your traditional water heater with a tankless water heater. This type of water heater heats the incoming cold water directly as it flows through the pipe, rather than storing hot water in a large tank. This eliminates standby energy loss and can save up to 20 percent on your water heating bills.
A home plumbing system consists of two systems: the water supply system and the drain or wastewater system. Unlike the water supply system, which relies on pressure, your home’s drainage system depends on gravity to transport waste away from individual fixtures. The main drainage line runs from the house to the municipal sewer system or private septic tank. It’s important to understand how your home drains work so you can spot problems.
Generally, each fixture in your home has a water outlet and a drain. Each fixture also has a device that can be manipulated to stop the flow of water. This is called a shut off valve and it’s found on the water supply line that leads to your fixture (like a sink or tub) or on the drain itself, like the commode, or the shower or bathtub.
You don’t normally think about your home plumbing system, especially the drains, until something goes wrong. But, in order to understand how the system works you must have an appreciation of how the fixture drains work with the overall drainage system.
For example, a sink has a drain opening that connects to the DWV system through a horizontal branch drain line concealed in the walls. The drain pipe also has a U or J-shaped trap that holds standing water and prevents sewer gases from entering the home. This is mandated by state and local plumbing codes. These traps may dry out over time, in which case they will not keep sewer odors out of the home. The solution is to periodically pour water down the drains to re-saturate the traps.
Your home’s wastewater flows from all the fixture drains into one or more larger vertical pipes that connect to the municipal sewer system or septic tank through a system known as the DWV system. This system includes multiple small drain lines that connect to each fixture, as well as a vent that ensures proper air circulation.
During normal operation, the drains in your home are never all used at the same time. This is why a drain size is designated by a number that reflects how many fixture units (DFU) it can carry. Learning how to calculate a DFU can help you choose the right size drain for your home and avoid costly future repairs.
Most homeowners have a basic grasp of how their home plumbing works and can clear a simple drain clog or fix a leaky fixture. However, there are some aspects of home plumbing that can be confusing even for the most intrepid do-it-yourselfer. One of these is the drainage vent system, and there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about how it works.
The Drain-Waste-Vent (DWV) system is responsible for carrying waste water and sewage from sinks, bathtubs, showers, toilets and water-using appliances like dishwashers and washing machines to the public sewer or septic tank. The vent system, on the other hand, is responsible for regulating air pressure within pipes to allow for easy draining and preventing the buildup of dangerous sewer gases in the house.
Every drain has a trap underneath it that holds a small amount of water to prevent odors and gases from coming back up into the house. This water is held in place by the P-shaped trap. The water in the trap is also what neutralizes negative pressure within your drain pipes, keeping the water flowing smoothly. Without a plumbing vent system, the glug-glug sound you hear when emptying a drain can actually be the result of a vacuum forming in the pipe, which can cause the water to stop flowing altogether.
Your vent system is a series of pipes that run from each fixture to the roof, where they exit into the atmosphere. The piping is usually made from PVC or ABS plastic and should be no less than 3 inches in diameter, although larger pipe sizes are sometimes used for long runs to ensure adequate flow. A vent stack typically consists of a central vent pipe that extends up through the roof and connects to smaller vent pipes that lead to each fixture.
Blocked or damaged plumbing vents can be a serious problem for your home. Not only can they lead to a buildup of sewer gases, but they can also affect the normal functioning of your drains and sewer lines. If you suspect that your vents are blocked, it is important to call a plumber immediately for an inspection. A plumber can install a new plumbing vent or repair your existing vent stack to ensure that wastewater and hazardous gases are properly removed from your home.