You count on your plumbing to provide your home with safe water for cleaning, cooking, and drinking. And you also rely on it to provide sanitation by safely carrying away wastewater. Your plumbing is essential — but how much do you know about how your plumbing works?
A little knowledge can be very useful when you’re making decisions about your plumbing or trying to figure out why you’re encountering problems with it. And armed with your knowledge, you’ll avoid actions and decisions that can contribute to creating problems with your plumbing. Let’s examine the plumbing basics of your home water system so you can be a smarter homeowner.
While there are many individual components in your plumbing system, it’s useful to break it down into three primary systems: your water supply, water heating, and drainage.
The pipes that supply water to your home get their water typically from one of two sources:
Let’s examine some of the advantages and disadvantages of each
If you live in an established residential area in a city or suburb, most likely your system uses city water. A series of large pipes, known as “mains” is buried throughout your neighborhood, typically under the streets. From the mains, individual lines branch off to supply the homes and businesses located on the system.
Before entering your home’s plumbing system, the water will flow through a water meter. This measures the amount of water used in your home so that the local utility system can bill you for your consumption. You’ll find a shut-off valve located at the water meter. You can completely shut off the water to your home with this valve — very useful in the event of an emergency like a broken pipe in your home.
If you don’t know where your water meter and shut-off valve are located, take the time to find them. You’ll usually find them near the street, located under a metal cover about the size of a large plate that’s marked “water meter.” Open it up and familiarize yourself with the shut-off valve location. You can turn it on and off with a large adjustable wrench.
There are some advantages to having city water rather than relying on a well.
Repairing a broken water main — the water line carrying water into your home — can be a big job. Contact us at Team Enoch for professional water main repairs.
You may own property that is suitable for a well. And having a well for your water source can have some advantages.
Wells aren’t trouble-free all of the time. Depending on the activity on the lands around you, there can be a risk of groundwater contamination. So, it’s important that you have your water tested annually, and be alert to any changes in the taste of your water.
A well water system has several important components:
Your pump and pressure tank require electricity to operate, so it’s wise to have a backup source of power, like a generator, to operate them in the event of long power outages. Learn more about the different generator options that are available to you in this article.
Once water enters your home, there are several important components that you should be aware of that aid in the distribution of the water to where you need it.
Suppose you have a leak in one of your faucets and it needs to be temporarily shut off or replaced. It’s impractical to shut off all the water coming into your home when only a small repair is needed. That’s where stop valves come into play.
You’ll find stop valves throughout your home. There will be one where your water source enters the home. It’s helpful for when you might want to shut the water off completely, such as during a long vacation or during very cold weather if you’re worried about your pipes freezing. You’ll also find stop valves underneath your sinks and toilets. By turning these valves off you can isolate where you need to do replacement or repair work.
Hot and cold water
Cold water flows straight to your taps or toilet tanks either from your water main or well. But the hot water we use for baths, showers, dishwashing, and laundry takes a somewhat more circuitous route. Hot water is supplied to your home from a water heater. In most homes, that will be a single centralized heater, although on-demand water heaters are sometimes employed at the places where they’re needed.
A central water heater is connected to your main water pipe via a branch line, and then the hot water is transported to where you need it via a series of pipes. Water heaters can use a variety of means to warm water, such as electricity, gas, or solar. The heat of the water is regulated by a thermostat built into the heater.
There are many factors to consider when replacing or upgrading your water heater. Learn more about how to choose a water heater in this blog post.
Water comes into your home, so it has to go back out too. That’s where the drain portion of your plumbing comes into play. Your drains rely on gravity to take the wastewater away from your home and send it off to either a municipal wastewater system or a septic field. That sounds pretty simple, but there are three important parts of your drain system that you should know about — vents, traps, and cleanouts.
Did you ever wonder what those small pipes sticking up out of your home’s roof do? They’re vents for your drains. We don’t need to get into the specifics of how they work but without vents, your drainpipes won’t work properly. Drains must have proper venting to allow wastewater to flow through the system.
Traps are the curved sections of pipe found beneath your sink and built into the base of your toilet. Water stays in the trap at all times, preventing sewer gas from backing up into your home. Because of their shape, clogs can occur in your traps, which leads us to...
To make it easier to clean clogged traps, they often have removable plugs that allow access to the trap without doing a complete disassembly. You may be able to fix a clog yourself by using the clean-out.
Poor drainage is one of the most common plumbing complaints, and it can have many causes. But in almost every case, a drainage issue is resolved by removing a clog. To help prevent clogs, use strainers at your kitchen sink to keep excess food particles out of your drains, and avoid pouring excessive amounts of grease down the drain. In the bathroom, keep hair out of your drains as much as possible, and avoid flushing anything down your toilet except waste and toilet paper. “Flushable” wipes are a common cause of clogs, both in homes and in municipal waster systems.
Some Maintenance Fundamentals
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By following these simple steps you can avoid some of the more common home plumbing problems.
Your home’s plumbing is vital to your health, comfort, and happiness. Maintaining your plumbing and making prompt repairs when necessary is an important part of your home’s regular maintenance.
Catching problems with your plumbing early can save you money in your water bill caused by wasted water, and prevent water damage and mold growth caused by leaky pipes. Even small problems can mushroom into much bigger issues when unattended to or handled the wrong way. Therefore, it’s a smart idea to have regular inspections of your home’s plumbing system done by qualified professionals.
We hope this examination of the basics of plumbing will help you better appreciate how your plumbing works and how you can take better care of it and identify problems early. At Team Enoch, we take pride in our workmanship and have the experience and know-how to not only fix plumbing problems but catch potential issues before they happen. Our membership plans offer preventative maintenance and inspection programs to help you keep your system in top condition.
If you’ve got a problem with your plumbing or want to upgrade elements of your system, contact us today and we’ll be happy to talk to you about your plumbing needs. Remember, estimates are always free!