Modern plumbing only really developed in the early 1800’s, but the concept of indoor plumbing goes back about 5000 – 6500 years. One of the earliest examples of a sophisticated indoor plumbing is the ancient city of Lothal of the Indus Valley. That sounds kinda mythical, but it’s basically just Pakistan, way back in the day. Almost every house had a crude toilet that drained to an underground sewerage network constructed of tightly packed bricks! 

We’re super impressed by how such primitive means were used to pave the way – quite literally, with bricks – to how plumbing works today! 

We Don’t Use Bricks Anymore

So, the word “plumbing” originates from the Latin word plumbum, which means “lead”. That’s what pipes legitimately used to be made of until the 1970s, but we’re tickled pink that the word plumbum so fittingly has the word ‘bum’ in it. (eye-roll) 

We’ve progressed by leaps and bounds from tightly packed bricks, and even beyond the age of lead piping – which is toxic, and shouldn’t be exposed to your water supply.

Here’s what you need to know about how plumbing works in your home…

Your home has two plumbing systems

Obviously, to separate potable water from waste, the average home is fitted with two plumbing subsystems: the water supply that draws in freshwater, and the drain-waste-vent (DWV) that carries wastewater out of your home. 

Incoming Water Supply – how does it work?

  1. Water arriving from the municipal water supply is supplied under pressure, so that it can pass around corners and bends in your pipes, and also to upstairs outlets. This pressure is generated by pumps at the water source, such as municipal reservoirs. 
  2. Municipal water travels through a meter, which measures and records your water usage. 
  3. Your water supply arrives cold and needs some kind of heating appliance, such as a heat pump, electrical or gas geyser, to be warmed up (all of which we supply!)

Drainage: How plumbing works to remove wastewater

  1. Unlike the freshwater subsystem, wastewater drainage does not require water pressure. Water – or any liquid – is lazy like a Sunday afternoon. It moves for nothing except gravity. And so, using drain pipes angled downwards, the earth’s gravity does all the work of moving wastewater, pulling pockets of air along with it. 
  2. Vents in the drainage system allow fresh air to re-enter the pipes – this is to make sure that proper pressure is maintained, but also to ensure that those nasty sewerage gases and smells don’t reverse back into your home. (Ew.) 
  3. Wastewater is flushed from your home into a septic tank or a municipal sewerage system, never to be seen or smelled again!
Fixtures, Faucets and Flushers

Of course, plumbing isn’t just about pipes, but also factors in all the fixtures that manage the water access within your home: baths, showers, sinks and basins, toilet cisterns, washing machines and other appliances. Not to mention, possibly the most important fixture: the main water valve, which controls water flow into your house and can be switched off in the event of a catastrophic leak or burst pipe or fixture. 

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And that, ladies and gentle-dudes, is how plumbing works in the average building – give or take a few scientific embellishments and a few thousand years of progressive evolution. 

If you’re interested in hearing more about those embellishments, and how they might impact or improve your plumbing, contact us for an obligation-free chat. (Call to action…)

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