Plumbing is critical to your home. You depend on it for hot and cold water, to flush toilets, and to wash dishes and clothes. It moves wastewater out of your home and into a septic tank or public sewer system for treatment.
It’s complex, but understanding some basics will help you talk to a plumber and keep your home in good condition. Here are the most important things you need to know about residential plumbing:
Water Service Lines
Water enters your house through a central line, typically 3/4 inch or larger in diameter. This line travels from the city’s water supply to your property and home. It should be buried deep enough that it won’t freeze, and the number of elbows and bends should be minimized to avoid low water pressure and leaks.
Whether you’re a home or commercial property owner, basic knowledge about your water supply lines is essential. It will help you detect problems and deal with them competently when needed.
It is also a good idea to learn about the material of your service lines, especially if they’re made of lead. You can find this information on the DEP’s map, but remember that not all parts of your service line are the same. For example, the portion from your water meter to the corporation stop or curb stop might be made of lead, while the part from the curb stop to the house might be copper or galvanized steel.
A residential plumbing system is complete with functional drain pipes—clean water from the street or your well flows to each fixture, collecting waste and wastewater. The used water and solid waste flow through the drain line to a main drain pipe, which carries the liquids into a municipal sewer line or a septic tank on your property.
All home drain lines have a slope to help water flow and a vent pipe that allows air into the system. In addition to being made from corrosion-resistant materials, such as copper or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), these pipes are capped to keep rain and pests out and air in.
Known as the drain waste vent system, or DWV, these pipes regulate air pressure to ensure water and sewage flow freely from toilets, tubs, showers, sinks, and other fixtures. The piping is also built with a curved segment called a drain trap that holds standing water to prevent sewer gases from entering your home.
A water heater heats incoming cold water to supply your appliances and fixtures with hot water for dishwashing, laundry, showering, bathing, and other daily tasks. The water heater is usually in a closet or basement and can be electric, gas, or oil-fired.
Water heaters are a household’s most overlooked plumbing fixtures, often only noticed when something goes wrong with their capacity or temperature. They are also one of the most dangerous.
Sediment – sand, dirt, and bits of corroded pipes or anodes—travels through the pipes into your home’s hot water tank. This sediment causes the tank’s scale and calc (calcium carbonate) to build up. If these minerals are not removed from the tank periodically, they can cause your appliances and fixtures to clog and malfunction. This is why it’s essential to maintain your water heater. It’s also a good idea to insulate your hot water pipes if you live where temperatures drop.