One of the most significant factors affecting the peace and comfort of a home is its plumbing system. According to Team Enoch, knowing the basics of plumbing is very useful so we can: a) understand how our plumbing truly works; b) stay away from doing things that can harm our home’s plumbing; and c) figure out ways to solve whatever plumbing issues we encounter in the household. Team Enoch also emphasizes the vital role of plumbing in providing our home with a safe and clean water supply that we use for sanitation, drinking, cooking, and washing.
We homeowners have so much to keep in mind as far as the home’s plumbing system is concerned. Plumbing maintenance, for one, is something everyone in the household should be cognizant about. Even young children at home must be taught basic things like proper ways of using and caring for our plumbing fixtures. Plumbing, being an inevitable part of homeownership, should be one of the top priorities we must consider if we want our home to remain in tip-top shape and enjoy a smooth and productive daily household routine.
Plumbing Know-How is Necessary
Hiller (2019) explained how many households in the US have up to 1 trillion gallons of water wastage every year because of plumbing leaks, which are one of the most common plumbing problems that occur at home. Most of the time, leaks can be fixed even without the help of a professional. However, homeowners should also be able to tell if a particular leak issue already calls for professional attention.
Plumbing Facts You Should Know
For homeowners to be effective in maintaining the good condition of their plumbing system and preventing plumbing disasters, they first need to gain a deeper understanding of how plumbing truly works. There are several interesting facts about plumbing that many homeowners are still unaware of and should familiarize themselves with. These include the following:
- Types of plumbing systems at home. Basically, our house’s plumbing system is divided into two—the water supply system and the drain-water vent system (DWV). The water supply system is responsible for bringing fresh water into the household. It is a system of pipes that depends highly on water pressure. The clean water in the water supply system either comes from the city water or from the well. City water goes to our home through the main pipe. People get water from the well if they do not have access to the city water. Well water must be pumped at high pressures so it can enter our home. Once the water pressure is reduced, then there will be problems with water supply particularly in the high or far areas of the house. Low water pressure usually occurs when there are leaks and/or blockages in the water supply pipeline. This will then affect the water supply to our toilets, faucets, and showers. Our faucets, sinks, toilets, and washing machines are called fixtures and are the bridges that connect the water supply system to the DWV system. The drain-water vent system is responsible for getting rid of our home’s wastewater. It consists of drain pipes, drain traps, and drain vents. As opposed to water supply pipes, drain pipes are way bigger allowing them to move or carry waste from the fixtures to the sewer line without blocking. Drain pipes are built in downward angles and are highly reliant on gravity. Drain traps, on the other hand, help prevent backflow, thanks to its curvatures, which consistently holds water and blocks sewer gases from escaping into your home (Imagine the stink!). Drain traps also trap nasty debris so they settle as sediments. The clean-out plugs allow access to your drain traps so you can remove the trapped debris and prevent them from going down and clogging your pipes. Meanwhile, drain vents are those small pipes that run from your roof down to your drain pipes. They let air out into the drain pipes to ensure smooth drainage.
- Impact of leaky faucets. One definitely needs to be mindful of faucet leaks no matter how small or minor the leaks may be. We must know that even small leaks are the culprits behind sudden increases in water bills. Every household wastes about 3,000 gallons of water each year because of their leaky faucets. This connotes that we really need to fix small leaks as soon as possible, not only to conserve water but also to save money.
- Distinguishing a sink plunger from a toilet plunger. There are basically two types of plungers that we use at home–the toilet plunger, which is clearly meant for unclogging toilets, and the sink plunger, which is used for unclogging drains/sinks. You can tell the difference between the two plungers just by looking at their appearance. The sink plunger is the one we commonly see with a plain flat base. The toilet plunger, on the other hand, narrows down at the base part so that it can fit into the toilet.
- Significance of proper pipe insulation. Homeowners must know that insulating the pipes properly has two main benefits: 1) it keeps the pipes from getting frozen; and 2) it helps water warm up faster. Pipe insulation does affect the house’s water heating system because, according to Oliver Heating & Cooling, properly insulated pipes trap heat in the pipes. Thus, if you are waiting for hot water, you spend less time waiting for the water to warm up since the water that travels to your taps will not lose heat along the way as a result of insulation. At the same time, proper pipe insulation lessens the amount of water you waste while waiting for the water to heat up.
- Ideal hot water temperature for bathing. A hot bath is without a doubt very soothing to the senses. However, one should be careful when taking a hot shower especially when choosing the right water temperature. Otherwise, you can get scalded! Hence, make sure to set your water heater’s temperature to no more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Above this temperature entails a great risk and can burn your skin even just a few seconds of heat exposure.
- Proper use of the toilet. The toilet among other plumbing fixtures needs proper care and regular maintenance for its functions can affect other parts of the plumbing system. One way to make sure your toilet does not get leaky or clogged up is to watch what you are flushing. Always remember that the toilet bowl is not a garbage can; therefore, you need to do away with flushing just anything, especially big stuff such as baby wipes, tissue paper, plastic wrappers, food wastes, vegetable peelings, and other nasty debris. Even when it says “flushable” in the label, avoid flushing things other than human waste down your toilet.
- Natural drain cleaners. Chemical drain cleaners may be effective in eliminating clogs but they can also damage your pipes in the long run. Hence if you want to protect the integrity of your pipes, you need to know better that using a DIY alternative or a natural drain cleaner is way safer than chemical drain cleaners. How do you make a DIY drain cleaner? Simple: Just mix a cup of white vinegar and half a cup of baking soda and then pour the mixture into your drains. This will create a bubbling effect, which later on removes the backups that cause the clogs. You may let this linger overnight and the next day, you can pour boiling water into your drains to further eliminate those backup residues.
- Location of your main shut off valve.
This one is a must for all homeowners. Unfortunately still, not everyone can locate their home’s main water valve, which, in terms of appearance, may have a lever or a round wheel handle. Knowing where your home’s main water valve is mandatory especially when you have plumbing emergencies (i.e. burst pipes, major leaks) or repairs going on. R.S. Andrews named two areas where water shut-off valves may be located inside your home, namely, the basement (typically near the front foundation wall) and inside the crawl space.
Basic Knowledge can Save Your Plumbing
We must not take home plumbing for granted. The saying “Ignorance is bliss” is not useful and true at all as far as your plumbing system is concerned. If you want to keep your plumbing to remain in good shape, knowledge of how plumbing works is a huge advantage. It is true that we can always call a plumbing professional if we need help with our plumbing problems, yet it is also important we homeowners should be responsible in taking care of our plumbing system. One way of doing our part in protecting our household’s plumbing is gaining basic know-hows of the parts and functions of the plumbing system, including basic plumbing maintenance tips.
As homeowners, we have to keep reminding ourselves that damages or malfunctions can happen at any time and especially so if we neglect the do’s and don’ts of plumbing. By understanding how plumbing works as enumerated and explained above, we can anticipate what decisions and actions to make in case problems arise with regard to the plumbing at home.