Have you ever really looked at how your home’s plumbing system works? For many people this hidden system running behind walls and below flooring is something they generally don’ pay attention to. While installing it and maintaining it have components that require expert level knowledge, understanding the general concept can help you make responsible decisions about water consumption, hot water tanks, winterizing, and other plumbing related situations.
There are a few fundamental laws of nature that dictate how plumbing works – water, pressure, and gravity. When your home was built there were two different systems installed, one that brings fresh water in and one that takes waste water out. Water coming into your home is under pressure, which allows it to get to all the various areas in your home, water leaving your home is traveling under the power of gravity. You can determine where water comes in to your home by locating the main water shutoff. This shutoff is designed to immediately stop water from coming in to your home at all, in the case of an emergency.
After the shutoff, the incoming water splits into two lines. One goes to the hot water heater to create hot water for your home, the other travels through the cold water lines directly to the various sinks and bathtubs in your home. After the hot water tank there is a parallel line running to the sinks and bathtubs which carries the hot water.
The main waste water line that connects to the city sewer goes up through the middle of your home. Each toilet in the house has a direct line to this main drain. Other drains such as the bathtub and sink typically connect up together and then travel over to the main drain. Each of these lines is installed at an angle which allows this water to flow downhill requiring nothing more than gravity. Coming off of the main drain and going up to the roof is the main vent stack. Venting is an absolutely critical component of your home’s sewer line. Every drain will have some type of vent.
The waste water and fresh water systems are completely separate. They only meet up at your fixtures – sinks, washing machine, bath tub, etc. These fixtures are of course what brings value to this whole system. This is where indoor plumbing becomes a reality. Your plumbing system travels throughout your home largely unseen, but can you even imagine life without it?