A home plumbing system is a complex and often confusing network of pipes, fixtures, tanks and valves that all work together to keep water flowing in and out of your home. It is one of the most expensive systems to repair or install in a home.
It pays to understand how plumbing works at a fundamental level so that you can carry out important routine maintenance, better understand the types of problems that can occur with your plumbing system, and reduce potential damage to the system and to your home.
A typical home plumbing system is composed of two separate subsystems:
- Water s
- Drainage systems
There are two common supply systems:
The most basic difference between these two systems relates to how cold water is distributed across the home.
Indirect Cold Water Supply System
This is the most common type of water supply system in most homes in the UK. With this system, drinking water is delivered to a home through the mains, which is a local authority water supply pipe in the road at a point just outside your home.
The indirect system sends drinking water into your property through the household stopcock valve, which is the main on/off
On the one hand, having a cold water storage cistern means that the household will still have a reserve of water in the event of an interruption to the mains. Unfortunately, there is a risk of stagnation and contamination that comes with having a large quantity of water open to the atmosphere. While there are regulations that require cisterns to be fitted with certain components to ensure that the water remains drinkable, you’ll still be brushing your teeth with water from a tank in the loft.
The cold cistern supplies water to the rest of the cold water outlet points in the house including the bath taps, shower, bathroom sink, toilet, hot water cylinder, washing machine, dishwasher or outside faucets used for watering the garden. This means that with the indirect system, you can only get safe drinking water from the tap in the kitchen.
Also known as a stop tap or stop valve, the stopcock is the control tap for your mains water. It effectively controls the flow of water into your home from the water coming in from the street.
It is very important that you know the location of this tap so that you know how to stop the water if you have a leak from pipework in your home and for when you’re doing works or repairs.
Typical locations for the stopcock include:
- Under the kitchen sink
- In a downstairs toilet
- In the garage
- In the airing cupboard
In an emergency, switching off the stopcock will stop water flowing from any water pipe in the house, including the pipework for the hot and cold water, as well as the central heating.
In newer buildings, a water meter that registers the amount of water used will be incorporated within the supply pipe.
If your meter is outdoors, it is usually buried in a small metal or plastic cover in your driveway, garden or nearby footpath. If it is inside, it can typically be found under the kitchen sink.
Direct Cold Water Supply System
Most modern buildings in the UK are equipped with
In some homes, the cold water storage cistern supplies only the hot water cylinder under the direct water system. However, if the property has a combi boiler or an unvented hot water cylinder, there won’t be a cold water storage cistern because there is no need for it. .
With the direct system, there is no need to insulate the pipework and tank from freezing up in the winter. The water supplied through a direct system will generally be at a much higher pressure than that which has been supplied from the water storage tank.
In contrast with the indirect system, the direct system is cheaper to install and offers safe drinking water from every cold tap in the house.
Fixtures and Appliances
In plumbing parlance, a plumbing fixture is any device that is connected to a plumbing system to deliver and drain water. This includes toilets, sinks, bathtubs, showers and laundry tubs.
An appliance refers to any equipment that receives or collects water, liquids or sewage and discharges water, liquid or sewage directly or indirectly to a plumbing system. They include water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines
Toilets require only a cold-water line and the water supply to appliances and fixtures