Articles & Information

Residential Plumbing

All About Home Plumbing

Residential plumbing refers to plumbing of homes with 1-4 units per building. The plumbing systems, codes and allowances for residential plumbing are different from commercial plumbing systems. Below is a list of the basic plumbing systems of residential plumbing.
1.) Water Supply 2.) Drains and Sewer Systems 3.) Area Drains and Storm Drains 4.) Gas Supply Systems 5.) Water Heaters 6.) Tank-less Water Heaters

Water Supply is the water system that supplies and services a building or residence. The source for that water can come from a private well or from a public water supplier. That supply water is usually treated or filtered before it enters into a home.

Drains and the sewer system is the piping that drains the water that is used within a building. The building drain system is in reference to the water drainage pipes within the perimeter of the foundation. Once the building drainage system leaves the building it is referred to as the sewer or building sewer. Drainpipes within the perimeter of the foundation can be made of the following materials ABS plastic, PVC plastic, copper DWV, galvanized steel, cast iron. Cast iron is the quietest of all and more expensive than the plastic, cast iron is also more expensive to handle and install. If sound is not an issue the plastic is a good choice for drainage. Copper is seldom used for drainage because of cost. Plastics are perfect for disposing of sewer or drain water but not for pressurized drinking water. The sewer or building sewer pipe materials are ABS, cast iron, PVC and clay. Clay is never allowed with in the foundation perimeter. Clay is one of the most common materials used outside.

Area drains and storm drains are the piping that drains the water away from areas around pools, decks, walk ways, driveways, patios, and areas that are prone to receive water during a storm. These drains are vital to protect the property, the foundation, and basement, from flooding or water damage during a storm. This drainage system does not normally drain into the building drain or sewer system. This systems drains to the curb or into a wash.

The gas supply systems is the gas piping system that supplies natural fuel gas to fixtures and appliances such as stoves, water heaters, dryers, heaters, BBQ's, fire pits, pool heaters, and central heating. There have been improvements in gas piping, and there are more material choices like; flexible stainless steel, poly-ethylene, and other plastic materials. These "new" materials make gas installations faster, cost less and last longer. Natural gas in residential plumbing is low pressure approximatly 4-8 PSI.

It is recommended that earthquake gas shut-off valve be installed on every building. Check with your local plumber about cost and code requirements. Remember to include gas piping for your remodeling projects that require gas appliances.

Tank water heaters have improved a lot in the last ten years. Tank water heaters can boast energy efficient ratings as high as 96-97%, and can also make the claim to "endless hot water" at a rate of three gallons per minute. Tank water heaters have improved in safety in preventing flash backs from gasoline fumes in garage areas. It is still recommended that water heaters be installed on a stand where the pilot light is at least 18" inches above the ground. Any type of water heater that burns fuel must have proper air supply. It is recommended that all water heaters be placed outside of that house either in a garage or in a shed. Tank-less water heaters do not require a shed. In extremely frigid conditions extra precautions may be required to protect your water heater. Tank water heaters also work best with recirculation systems. Tank water heaters also work best with solar systems and can also store the heated water from a solar panel. Tank water heaters are generally considered more comfortable because you have precise control of your warm to hot water. Tank water heaters also have an initial lower cost at the basic level and require no electrical supply. Advanced Tank Technology is Top of the line and qualifies as "green."

Some of the new tank water heaters are pilot-less and have a hot surface electric ignition system, these pilot-less water heaters do require an electrical outlet.

Tank-less water heaters are getting a lot of advertising and public exposure lately. Tank-less water heaters are not new and have been around since the early 1900’s. A tank-less water heater is as basic as a coil of copper of water pipe with a flame under it. New technology has improved the copper coil to a new science of sensors and switches that regulate the temperature to flow rates. Tank-less water heaters have no tank, the burner heats the water as the water runs through the unit. Tank-less water heaters are also referred to as flash water heaters, because they use a lot of fuel and produce a lot of BTU in a short period of time. A basic tank water heater can produce on average 38,000 BTU, in contrast a tank-less water heater can produce up to 280,000 BTU’s. Tank-less water heaters fall into the "on demand" type of water heater. Because tank-less water heaters can heat water up in a flash they will not reheat water in a tank again and again wasting energy.

Tank-less water heaters can also produce "endless hot water" up to 13 gallons a minute "forever hot water" and never run out. You could run up to 5-7 showers constantly and never run out of hot water. If you have a Roman bath tub or a large family that loves to take long showers, "going tankless" may be the right choice.

There are a few things to consider about going tank-less. Tank-less water heaters require a dedicated gas line 3/4" inch for the first 30' feet from the meter to the water heater and a 1"inch line up to 80' feet. Tank-less water heaters also require an electrical outlet to power the vent fan and the computer board. The average energy efficiency rating is only 70-82%. There are new highly efficient tank-less water heaters that are up to 95-97% efficient. Tank-less water heaters do not have to reheat water in a tank. Tank-less water heaters should have an inline water filter feeding to the tank-less water heater. The venting on a tank-less water heater is expensive and must be properly installed.

Old existing class "A" or "B" venting is not proper with tank-less and venting cannot be shared with other fixtures. Tank-less water heaters also require maintenance at least once every three years, where the heating unit needs to be acid washed. Be careful not to cut corners by under sizing gas lines, using existing or improper venting, sharing gas lines or not installing a water filter. If you do not properly install a tank-less water heater it can be dangerous, and also void the warranty. Make sure you have proper fresh air ventilation and proper exhaust venting. A tank-less water heater is an appliance that requires natural gas and electricity. If the power goes out, you have no hot water. Tank-less water heaters are expensive if properly installed. Tank-less water heaters also qualify as being "green." Tank-less require a lot of "green" to properly install, know the facts and make your choice wisely. Make a list of reasons for going tank or tank-less, compare your reasons and prices, then decide.

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