We normally respond to quote requests within minutes, but if you require immediate assistance please feel free to give us a call at 817.888.8880

Plumbing Basics — Plumbing 101 for Beginners

Summary

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.

Table of Contents

The Three Parts of Your Plumbing System

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. 

Your Water Supply — Getting Water Into Your Home

The pipes that supply water to your home get their water typically from one of two sources:

  • City water
  • Well water

Let’s examine some of the advantages and disadvantages of each

City water
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.

  • Reliability. City water systems don’t require any equipment on your part. Once you’re connected to the main, you can expect a regular supply of water without any worries about maintaining pumps or other equipment. And unlike wells that rely on electric pumps, your water will keep flowing even if the electricity goes out. 
  • Safety. While news stories like the Flint water crisis may give you pause, the vast majority of municipal water systems provide a clean and reliable source of water that’s regularly tested and treated. While a good well can provide an abundance of clean water, it’s up to you to test the water regularly for bacteria or other groundwater contaminants. 

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.  

Well water
You may own property that is suitable for a well. And having a well for your water source can have some advantages. 

  • No monthly water bills. A well is not without cost. For example, there’s the cost of drilling, pumps, testing, and more. But once these costs are factored in, you’ll have a reliable source of water that won’t require a monthly check. 
  • Chemical-free. A good well will provide you with clean, safe, drinking water. 
  • Freedom from water restrictions. If your area is suffering from a drought, you won’t have to worry. 
  • Increased property value. In many cases having a well on your property will increase your land and home’s value. 

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:

  • The well casing is the tube that forms the body of the well. The well casing will have a screen to filter out dirt and rocks. They’re usually constructed of steel or plastic. 
  • A pump is used to draw water out of the well and transport it to your home via a buried pipe. 
  • In your home, a pressure tank pressurizes the water so that it flows through the pipes of your home. 

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

Distributing Water In Your Home

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.

Stop valves

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

Wastewater and Drainage

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.

Vents

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

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...

Clean-outs

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. 

Preventing clogs

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. 

  • Keep your drains clear. Keeping foreign objects out of your drains is the best way to prevent clogs. In the kitchen use screens on your drain or have a disposal installed to prevent food scraps from clogging your drain. And in the bathroom take care to keep as much hair as possible out of the drain. Also, avoid putting flushable wipes or hygiene products into your toilet. When clearing a clog at home be sparing in the use of commercial drain cleaners, as they may damage your pipes with long term use. 
  • Inspect your pipes. Keep an eye on exposed pipes where possible, like in your garage or basement, and note any leaks. Watch for mildew on walls or foul odors in closed-in spaces. They may be a sign of a leaking pipe. 
  • Drain your water heater. It’s a smart idea to drain your water heater a couple of times a year to flush out sediment and rust. This simple step will extend the life of your water heater greatly. 
  • Winterize your plumbing. Be sure that you take steps to winterize any exposed or vulnerable pipes before winter. A burst pipe can cause a lot of damage and be an unwelcome expense. Check out our guide to winterizing your home for some tips. 

Keep Your Plumbing in Tip-Top Shape

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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

homearrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram