How Does House Plumbing Work?


Quick Answer

Despite all the problems it can cause, a house's plumbing system works fairly simply. Hot and cold water come into the house under pressure through pipes and flow out of fixtures. Waste water and sewer gases exit through drains and vent stacks.

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Full Answer

The water comes from the town waterworks or a private water source, often a well. Cold water comes straight through pipes to the fixtures in the home. Water is then diverted through a water heater to make it hot. Many water heaters are tanks that are found in the basement or crawlspace of a home. However, some so-called tankless water heaters can be installed above or below a sink. These heaters provide hot water only when needed, which saves energy. Some homes also have freshwater pass-through filter systems that eliminate contaminants or minerals that make the water hard.

Drains use gravity to empty waste into the town's sewer system or the home's septic tank. Every fixture or appliance that discharges waste into the sewer has to have a water trap to prevent gases from leaking out. The water in the trap forms a gastight valve between the fixture and the sewer. Vent stacks in the roof then expel these gases into the air.

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