First, we discovered how to get water to your house. Now, we’re going to focus on what happens when it gets there by answering questions like “How do water pipes work?” and “How does water pressure work?”
The hot and cold-water plumbing system in your home may seem complex, but it’s actually surprisingly simple. After all, home plumbing should be convenient and unobtrusive. Here’s how your plumbing manages to pull off the important task of bringing you water every day. Start by watching our video:
How Does Water Get Out of the City Main Line?
Each building connected to the city’s water has its own water main. This water line from the street to your house can found at the edge of your property facing the street. Your water main receives pressurized, treated water directly from the pumping stations via this line. The pressure applied to the water by the pumps gives city water enough force to travel through your city’s vast plumbing network and to you.
Your home plumbing system has a water pressure regulator that ensures the water coming into your home isn’t under so much pressure that it damages your pipes. If your pipes rattle or your water comes out too fast, you may need your pressure regulator adjusted or replaced. Your regulator can also be adjusted if your household water pressure is too low.
If you live far away from the city water pumps, you may experience low water pressure. This happens because the pressure and momentum provided by the pumps partially dissipates before reaching your water line. If your home has consistently low water pressure, a professional plumber can install a pump on your water main line, to re-pressurize water enough to circulate through your house.
How Does Water Get Into My Pipes?
Water travels from the city’s main water line to your house water main, a large (¾ inches or larger) pipe that leads into your home. This supply line is buried deep enough underneath your property that it won’t freeze, and it runs from the ground directly into the home. Supply lines are usually made of plastic, galvanized iron, or (ideally) copper.
How Does Water Get To My Faucets?
Once inside, your main line splits into two different pipe paths – one travels throughout your home and the other to your water heater. These paths are called the hot and cold-water lines.
Cold Water Lines
The cold water service line slopes away from the water heater after splitting from the main line. Cold water service lines run directly to every water fixture and appliance in your home. Plumbers install these pipes in straight lines, 90-degree angles, or slight downward slopes to facilitate easier flow.
Each water appliance has its own intake pipe, which branches off from the cold water pipes to supply that appliance with cold water. To get to every appliance, these pipes need to run throughout your home. Think of your pipes like a tree. The main line is the trunk and your hot and cold water lines branches that lead to every fixture.
The Water Heater
The water that doesn’t follow the cold service line continues along its original path and empties into your water heater. When water from the main line flows into the tank, a sensor in the base of the tank sends a message to the heating element. The heating element applies heat to the tank and warms its contents to the temperature set on the water heater’s thermostat.
Water heaters take time to heat water, but they also preserve a quantity of hot water in the tank for immediate use. When you “run out” of hot water after a long shower, you’ve used up your water heater’s reserves. Your water needs to catch up by heating the incoming water to replace the hot water you’ve used.
Hot Water Lines
After warming the water, the water heater releases it out into the hot water service lines which runs parallel to the cold water service lines. They never collide or intersect. If you look at exposed service pipes, you’ll notice pairs of pipes running parallel to each other throughout your house.
If you have no water hot water in the house, it’s likely a problem with your water heater or the hot water supply line. A plumbing expert can diagnose the problem.
When you turn on a water faucet, you’re opening the valve at the end of one of the service line’s intake pipes. Without the valve in place to block it, water would continuously flow out of the faucet and into the sink.
Every water appliance with hot and cold water settings contains intake pipes that connect to your hot and cold water lines. The two intake pipe connections ensure appliances can receive both hot and cold water. The only time the hot and cold water connections collide is when you turn both intake pipe valves at once. By turning both the hot and cold water faucets on, the streams meet inside the faucet’s spout.
How to Shut Off Water in Your House
You now know how water freely flows throughout your home’s plumbing system, but what happens if there’s a problem and you need to shut it off? Luckily you have multiple options. Not only does your home have a main water shut off valve that stops all water from entering, but each plumbing fixture also has its own set of valves as well.
To find your main water shut off, locate the point where water enters your home, usually near your water meter. Inside your home you’ll find a handle that stops the water from flowing in. For more information see our blog on how to shut off main water valves.
If you need to shut off the water to your toilet due to overflow or if you need to replace a leaky faucet, simply locate the shut off valves near the appliance and turn them clockwise. Keep in mind that many fixtures have hot and cold shut off valves and you will need to close both.
But There’s More
As you can see, a home plumbing system operates on surprisingly simple principles. But what about the last leg of the journey? We’ve covered how to get water in your house and how it gets to you, but what happens to water you’ve used? Where does it go after it’s flushed down the drain?
Next, we’ll take the last leg of the Dallas water journey by following your water out of your sink, down your drain, and on to its final destination. It’s already come a long way, but your water still has literal miles to go. Then, we’ll lay out the whole journey, step-by-step, in our “Where Does Your Water Come From?” infographic. If you ever have a question about where your water comes from, this is the only info sheet you’ll ever need to find the answer.
Keep Water Properly Moving Through Your Dallas Home
There are many twists and turns along your water’s journey. And plenty of places where it could go wrong. If you encounter trouble with your water going somewhere other than where it’s supposed to, contact Benjamin Franklin. We fix clogs, leaks, broken pipes, water heaters, water pressure issues and any Dallas plumbing repair you can imagine. Most of all, we make sure Texas homeowners have good water flowing through their homes.