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How Home Plumbing Works

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Plumbing refers to the pipes, fittings, and fixtures related to water transferal. Having a basic understanding of how home plumbing works can help you be more informed when you solicit the help of a trained plumber. Home plumbing consists of an input and an output system, which are utterly separate from each other.

Input Subsystem


The input system transfers freshwater into the home from the utility or well while the output system carries wastewater out. Incoming water is pressurized to ensure that it can travel upwards to the second floor of your house, as well as traverse pipes to reach your shower, washing machine, etc. As the water enters your home, it travels through a meter that measures the amount your household uses. The central water shutoff point is normally in close proximity to the water meter. When pipes burst, one of the things trained plumbers will do is turn off the main shutoff, to prevent flooding. Cold water comes directly through the previously mentioned pressurized pipes. In order to produce hot water, a specific pipe brings cold water to your water heater and once the water is heated, a hot water line delivers it to the appropriate areas of the house.

Output Subsystem or Drain-Waste-Vent System


Some homes use a sewer system while others use a septic system. Unlike input systems, the output or drainage system solely uses gravity as a means of transportation, with all drainage pipes facing downward. Wastewater follows the pipes to a sewage treatment facility or septic tank. When a major clog occurs, it’s often challenging to diagnose for people because the output pipes are hidden beneath the floors.



Vents connected to the drainpipes allow air to enter them, helping wastewater to move properly and ensuring gases waft out of the home appropriately. In addition, vents help maintain the necessary water pressure in the pipes.



Fixtures are anything that straddle the divide between an input system and an output system, for example, showers, sinks, dishwashers and washing machines. Fixtures take in freshwater and release wastewater. Underneath each fixture, except toilets, which have built-in traps, is a trap, which can be identified as an s-shaped piece of pipe just below the drain. Gravity pushes the wastewater through the trap and out to the drainpipe, but the trap ensures that some water is left behind. This is necessary, as the remaining water forms a seal, preventing gas from coming back up through the pipes.


Before trying to toggle with plumbing yourself, we recommend contacting a reputable plumber. Vetted plumbers are well-versed in local plumbing codes as well as a myriad of plumbing issues. They are best suited to identify and remedy complex issues of this kind.


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