A basic definition of plumbing is "a system of pipes in a building for supplying and carrying off water."
Although this gives us a basic definition to start from, it of course is quite a bit more complicated than just that.
From this basic definition, there are some obvious questions....what are the pipes made of? How are they connected?
what are they in fact supplying? Where do they carry the water off to?
Even more than that, what size are the pipes? What is the supply pressure? How much water comes in and goes out?
What about hot water?
All of these questions are valid, and the answers have changed over the years, from place to place. Our system of codes,
inspections, and officers is our attempt to answer these question definitively. Most of our current systems came about
over years of building, trial and error. Let's start by answering some of the basic questions.
The Source of Potable Water
Potable water means water that is suitable for drinking. This may not always be the case, depending on whose standards
you're using, but potable water systems are at least intended with drinkability in mind. Most people would just say
"running water". This includes all faucets in a standard home, from the kitchen to bathroom to outside faucets.
The water needs to be under pressure in order to come out of the faucet in an acceptable manner. This pressure
varies greatly depending on the system.
Well Systems normally run a cycle of pressure difference, varying by about 20 lbs.
For example- a jet pump would run 20lbs.- 40lbs, or 30lbs- 50lbs. A submersible pump would generally run 40lbs- 60lbs. This
pressure difference is hardly noticable, if at all.
Public water systems can vary greatly. Normally the pressure is maintained to 60lbs or more. When exeptionally high
pressure exists, the use of a pressure reducer may be necessary. Pressure reducers generally come pre-set to 60lbs.
Pipe sizes vary greatly, but as for the distribution system in the home, usually two sizes are used. 1/2" and 3/4".
1/2" is the standard size for the actual fixture supply, and 3/4" carries water to a location where more than one fixture
is located(for example, a bathroom). 1" pipe is standard for well systems, from the pump up to the water tank. From there,
3/4" normally takes over.
Hot water is also desired(and required) in homes in the US. This luxury almost seems common knowledge, but many countries,
even fairly developed countries, do not always have hot water for all of their citizens. In the USA, hot water is water
that has been heated up to 110°F or more. The water can be heated up in a variety of ways, and all of the standard methods
are dealt with in this site.
The Drains in a home are responsible for carrying the excess water away, to a private septic or public sewage system.
Once the water leaves the faucet, it cannot be allowed to re-enter the potable water system, so whether you've used the
water or not, it has to be carried out of the house.
The sizes of drain pipes are much larger than that of the water system. This is because they are not under pressure, but
just collect the water and use gravity to allow the water to run away. Pipe sizes range from 1 1/2" to 4".
Some examples of standard pipe sizes for some fixtures.
- kitchen sink- 1 1/2"
- standing shower- 2"
- toilet- 3" or 4"
- clothes washer- 2", many old installations are 1 1/2"
- main line leaving a house- 4"
Homes in the US need sources of heat. Depending on the area, these systems may be depended on heavily to prevent pipes
from freezing(and people too). The most popular fuel sources are oil, gas, and electric. There are many versions adapted
to wood as well, and even some solar. These different types will be covered in the heating section of this site, with
hopefully some new and exciting heating methods coming out in the next few years!