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Making Sense of Your Plumbing System

Updated: May 17, 2023

There’s no denying that modern plumbing systems benefit our lives daily, even hourly. We depend on good plumbing, whether for taking a warm shower, washing dishes, watering our lawns, grabbing an ice-cold glass of water, or a hundred other things.

Most of us simply turn on a faucet or pull a lever to meet our water needs immediately. We don’t really think about what goes on behind the scenes until we run into issues like a clogged, frozen, or burst pipe.

Pipes are everywhere. We have water lines beneath our feet, in our walls, and under our cabinets. Your home’s plumbing system consists of various elements. We can break these into three main categories: Water Supply, Pipes and Fittings, and the Drainage System.

1. Water Supply

Your home’s plumbing system begins with an adequate supply of potable water. This freshwater flows into your house from a central water supply, such as a private well or the main city line. If the water comes from the city line, a few devices are in place between the main water supply and your home. These devices include the following:

  • Corporation Stop - Usually located underneath the street, the corporation stop is a valve that joins the main water line to a service line.

  • Curb Stop - This is a valve similar to the corporation stop. A curb stop acts as a shutoff valve between the corporation stop and the meter box. This valve is most often near the curb or street.

  • Curb Box - The curb box or curb stop box is an access box for the curb stop, making it easier for the water company to turn on or off the water supply to a resident. The water supply company may need to turn off the water for service, repairs, or lack of payment.

  • Water Meter - A water meter measures the amount of water the home’s residents consume. Along with the water meter is a meter box or meter stop. This allows water to be turned off right at the meter for installation or maintenance purposes.

2. Pipes and Fittings

Pipes and fittings represent the framework of a water supply system. They provide the necessary channels for water to flow from the main water supply to your home. Once the water has entered your home, it branches off to the water heater and then in all different directions. Pipes will lead water to fixtures such as sinks, bathtubs, and toilets. The water also will flow to appliances such as dishwashers and clothes washers. You need pipes and fittings for the water to make it to these various fixtures and appliances. Most homes will have one set of pipes and fittings for hot water and another for cold.

  • Pipes - Pipes may be the most apparent equipment utilized in your home’s plumbing system. They push the water along on its journey through your home. They carry the water throughout your home to the various places where you need it.

  • Fittings - The mechanisms used to connect one pipe to another are called fittings. Fittings allow lines to change water line angles, allowing for the best use of your space.

3. Drainage System

Your water needs somewhere to go after you use it. This is where your drainage system comes into play. Without proper drainage, your home would flood in no time. Each fixture and appliance that utilizes water will come with its own drain. These drains will connect to the primary drainage system or drainage network. This network comprises all the pipes from the different areas of your home. The drainage system will take the wastewater from your home and into the city sewer or your private septic system. The drainage system includes a few different parts to help prevent hazardous sewer gasses from ending up in your home and allow for the safe flow of wastewater.

  • Drain Trap - A drain trap is a U or S-shaped pipe that retains a small amount of standing water in the curved bottom section of the pipe. This water works to seal the drain, keeping sewer gasses from entering your home.

  • Vent Pipes - Vent pipes or vent stacks are connected to drain lines. They manage the air pressure in your plumbing system and help remove sewer gasses from your home. They also provide fresh air to the drainage system, improving water flow and drainage. These pipes are located on the roof of your home. Unlike most other components of your home’s plumbing system, vent pipes do not have water running through them.

If you want to continue to live comfortably in your home, it’s critical to keep your plumbing system in good working order. Some ways to ensure your system is in tip-top shape are to schedule regular maintenance and be sure to address any leaks or other problems as soon as they arise. If you live in a particularly cold climate, you may consider installing heating cables for pipes. Frozen pipes restrict water flow and can burst, thus flooding your home and creating a messy, frustrating, and costly situation. A heat trace cable pipe trace system can help prevent this. Knowing even the basics of your home’s plumbing system will help you with necessary maintenance and identifying the need for a repair, hopefully preventing any significant issues.

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