Plumbing troubles no longer have to be a headache. You can save time and money on your plumbing worries when you have a basic understanding of how your plumbing works. A simple action, such as knowing how to cut off the water supply to your property, can be what saves you from excessive property damage and an extortionate plumber’s bill.

A man tries to fix a kitchen sink.

Becoming educated and knowing how a plumbing system works is the first step towards knowing what to do in a plumbing emergency.

Here are 8 things you should know about a plumbing system.

  1. All plumbing follows three basic laws of nature, which are gravity, pressure and water seeking its own level.
  2. A plumbing system normally consist of two different subsystems, one that brings in fresh water and one that takes out waste water.
  3. The water supply and drainage subsystems never meet. They are only ever bridged by fixtures, which is anything that draws freshwater and discharges wastewater.
  4. Fresh water is carried from the water main (your neighbourhood’s water supply) to your property via a supply pipe. It enters your property under enough pressure to go upstairs and around corners. A meter calculates the amount of water that passes from the main supply to your property.
  5. In a plumbing emergency, a stop valve that cuts off the connection between your fixtures and the water supply can be located next to the meter. Some fixtures may have individual stop valves, which can be switched off when the plumbing emergency is confined to a specific fixture. Closing off these valves in time can stop flooding and prevent more damage. Before you begin any plumbing work, emergency or not, the main supply valve or fixture stop valves should be switched off.
  6. Water from the main is cold and ready to be used for any cold water needs. Hot water is made hot when cold water from the main is carried to a water heater. A separate pipe then carries the hot water to different fixtures. A water heater’s temperature is normally set between 60 and 70 degrees C but it is more economical to set a water heater to 49 degrees C.
  7. No matter whether you have a septic or sewer system, the drainage system works the same way. Waste water leaves your property thanks to gravity. Drainage pipes are angled downwards so that the waste flows to the sewer line and then to the septic tank or sewage treatment facility.
  8. Drainage pipes need three components to work correctly, namely vents, traps and clean outs. Vents allow air to enter the pipes, which allows the waste to flow properly. Traps are the ‘S’ shaped section of a drainage pipe that you have most likely seen under a sink. Traps allow water to drain out of a fixture but still leave enough water behind in the trap to create a seal. This seal stops any sewer gas from entering your property. However, traps, especially those in kitchen sinks, can become blocked. This is why traps have clean out plugs, which allow easier access to break up and remove the blockage in the system.

It is better to know as much as you can about your plumbing system before you have any problems to act effectively when an emergency does occur. Ask your plumber to explain your own plumbing system to you and find out if there is any specific advice he or she can give about your particular system. Another way is to physically look for yourself to figure out where all your stop valves are and whether your drainage traps have clean out plugs.

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