How Water Gets to Your Home and How Your Water Main Works
Water enters your home via a complex network of pipes that pump potable water from the utility’s treatment facility to your faucet. You, as the owner of your home, are responsible for that water once it passes through your water main and into your plumbing.
What should a new homeowner know about their water supply and how to care for their plumbing? We’ll cover all the basics so that you understand where water comes from and how it flows through your home. We want your plumbing to last for as long as you remain in your home.
The Parts of Your Water Main
An underground supply line connects your home to the city’s water main at the street. This supply line enters your home at the basement, normally where your water meter is. Your water main has three main parts:
- Water meter. A digital readout or moving dial records the amount of water entering your house monthly. The measurement is taken in cubic feet and relayed to the water company so that they can charge you accordingly.
- Shut off valve. The main pipe where water enters your home through the wall will have a shut off valve. This will be either a gated valve (like your hose faucet) or a ball valve (a single handle). This is where you can shut off the water supply to the whole house. This is helpful to locate in the event of an emergency or if you’re having plumbing work done.
- Pressure reducing valve. Water comes into your home pressurized by the utility company. If that pressure is too strong, it could damage your pipes and cause a break. The pressure reducing valve – that bell shaped lump on the side of the pipe – ensures that water is reduced to a comfortable pressure for your pipes. Don’t attempt to adjust your water pressure on your own, always call a trained plumbing technician.
Where Water Goes After It Enters Your Home
The water that passes through your water main is all the same temperature, usually a refreshing 50-60 degrees depending on the ground it was traveling through. A portion of that water gets redirected to your water heater to create the hot water that comes out of your faucet.
Your water heater takes the cold new water and passes it through a heated chamber where it waits until a faucet or appliance draws it. It’s essentially a giant kettle with a gas burner or electric heating element to keep it hot.
The rest of the water entering your home fills all the cold-water pipes and waits until a faucet is turned on or an appliance draws water. When water is used, it is immediately replaced by new water flowing in.
Where Water Goes After You Use It
When you turn a faucet on and wash your hands, the water you use goes down the drain. All the drains in your home converge into a single outlet – your sewer line.
Your sewer line is a long pipe that connects your home to the city’s sewer system. That water you used to wash your hands drains out of your home and flows back to the utility company for treatment.
Maintaining a clean and clear sewer line is an important part of home ownership. Have your sewer line inspected and cleaned annually to prevent clogs and bigger problems from forming.
Why Your Pipes are Vented
In addition to the water pipes and drainpipes, your home also has air pipes for venting. These pipes run vertically from your roof to the ground and allow air to enter your drainpipes so that water can flow freely instead of creating a vacuum. Without this venting, the water would be trapped in a pressurized system with nowhere to go.
A good analogy is using a drinking straw. If you dip your straw in your drink and cover the top with your thumb, you can lift the straw out of the glass with the liquid. This is because the pressure is negative – there is no air to fill the liquid’s place when it drains. Once your release your thumb, air can enter the straw and the liquid can flow out.
Vent pipes also divert sewer gases away from your home via your roof. This is the reason your sink drains have P traps – the curved pipes beneath a sink. P Traps prevent toxic sewer gases from backing up through your drain instead of exiting via the proper vent pipe.
If your drains are slow to empty or if they “gurgle” a lot when draining, it could indicate a venting issue. A plumber can help diagnose the problem.
Water Main FAQ
What is a water main?
A water main is the primary supply for water. A house water main is where water from the city enters your home.
How Can I tell if My Water Main is Leaking?
Because they’re underground, detecting a water main leak can be tricky. Signs to look for are:
- Pools of water in yard or street.
- Increased water bills.
- Low water pressure.
- Discolored water.
What do I do If I Have a Broken Water Main?
Repair a broken water main as quickly as possible. The first thing to do is determine if you or the city are responsible. Contact your local water department to report the leak.
What if My Main Water Shut Off Valve is Stuck?
Don’t force it. Old valves could be rusted in place and may need to be cut out. If you force an older valve, you risk damaging or rupturing the pipe it’s connected to. Call a professional to assess the issue and install a new valve if needed.
Why Does Water Keep Running After Main Shut Off is Turned?
You may have a faulty or corroded valve. Replacing a main water shut off valve should be performed by a licensed plumber.
How Can I Increase My Water Pressure?
Low water pressure can be the result of several issues – clogged or corroded pipes, faulty plumbing, a broken pressure reducing valve. Call a professional to determine what’s causing the pressure problem in your home.
You Home Water Main Experts
We help new homeowners in Dallas, Plano and McKinney with their plumbing and water mains every day. If you’re experiencing problems with the water in your new home, schedule with one of our licensed plumbers. They can help ensure that the plumbing in your home works well for years to come.