Understanding Your Home Plumbing System

It’s easy to take your plumbing system for granted, but understanding how it works can save you time, money, and trouble the next time something goes wrong. The seemingly interwoven network of pipes, fixtures, and drains may seem overwhelming, but a home plumbing system is actually quite straightforward.

Plumber talking to clients

Every plumbing system consists of two subsystems. The supply side brings fresh water in, and the drain side carries wastewater away, while fixtures bridge the two. Here are the basic functions of a plumbing system that every homeowner should know.

Water Supply System

If you get your water from the municipal water supply, a large pipe running parallel to the street carries fresh water to your home. It enters through a meter that measures how much water you use for billing purposes. The main water shutoff valve is located here, allowing you to stop the flow if you experience a leaky or burst pipe.

Water enters your home with enough pressure to travel upstairs, around corners, and anywhere else it’s needed. One pipe carries cold water and is immediately ready to meet your cold water needs. Another pipe transports water to the water heater before distributing it to fixtures and appliances that require hot water.

Plumbing Fixtures

The bridges between the supply and drainage sides of a plumbing system are called fixtures. Toilets, faucets, sinks, showers, garbage disposals, dishwashers, and washing machines draw fresh water and discharge wastewater.
Some fixtures have dedicated shutoff valves, which are convenient for performing repairs and preventing property damage during emergencies. It’s wise to educate every household member about when and how to operate these valves.

Drainage System

Whether your home is attached to the municipal sewer system or a septic tank, the drainage system is essentially the same. Unlike the supply side, drains don’t depend on pressure. Instead, wastewater flows away in large-diameter gravity pipes. An effective sewer line depends on all drain pipes having an adequate downward pitch. Gravity continues pulling the waste along until it reaches the sewer or the septic tank, depending on the system.

Vents, traps, and cleanouts are vital drainage system components. Vents stick up from the roof, allowing air to enter the drainpipes, a critical aspect of this gravity-fed system. Traps are the curved section of pipe under every drain that holds water and prevents sewer gases from rising into your home. Some traps have cleanout plugs that provide easy access to remove or break up blockages.

Even with a solid understanding of these plumbing basics, it’s usually best to leave plumbing maintenance, installation, and repair to a licensed plumber. Whether you’re dealing with a leaky pipe, broken water heater, or clogged drain, Mike Counsil Plumbing can help. Our dedicated team of experienced plumbing technicians can get the job done right, with a satisfaction guarantee for your complete peace of mind. Call us any time at 408-916-1226 or contact us online to schedule a visit. We have proudly served San Jose and the surrounding South Bay area since 1994.

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