What is a Plumbing System?

What is a Plumbing System?

Your plumbing is a complex network of pipes that brings in fresh water, heats it for washing, and removes wastewater. It’s easy to take this vital system for granted until something goes wrong. 

Understanding some basic plumbing principles can help you troubleshoot problems. This article will cover the basics: piping and fittings, drains, meters, and more. 

Pipes and Fittings 

Plumbing pipes serve two basic functions: They bring water into your home, and they take wastewater out. Pipes are usually made from copper, cast iron, galvanized steel, or PVC. The type of pipe you choose depends on the application. For example, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the most common for water supply lines but isn’t suitable for drain pipes because it can warp at high temperatures. 

Fittings are attached to the ends of pipes to control their direction, distribution, and regulation. They’re also used to connect different sizes of pipe. Couplings join two pipes together, and there are many types of couplings including equal, reducing, and F&M. A union is similar to a coupling but can be removed without disturbing the rest of the pipe. An adapter allows you to connect two dissimilar pipes in the same run, and there are male and female versions. 


The plumbing system in a home is made up of pipes, fixtures, and drains. Without these pieces, a house wouldn’t have running water or waste disposal. Fixtures are the bridges between the two systems: they allow water to enter and leave a space. They also control the amount of water that flows through them, whether it is hot or cold. 

Some common plumbing fixtures include toilets, showers, tubs, and sinks. They all connect to a drain, which directs wastewater into the sewer system. They also have a valve that can be manipulated to stop water flow. 

Some fixtures need ventilation to keep the water pressure and flow rate high. These include bathtubs, showers, dishwashers, and washing machines. These can be connected to a vent stack, though it’s important to note that there is a maximum number of fixtures that can safely share a single vent. This helps prevent clogs and other issues. A professional plumber can help determine the best number of fixtures for a home’s venting system. 


The drain system removes wastewater and other waste materials from a structure. It includes pipes that are angled downward, using gravity to help move wastewater to the sewer system or septic tank. The drainage system also includes a toilet trap (sometimes built into the fixture) and a clothes washer standpipe. The drain pipes are larger than the water supply pipes, and they use a special P-shaped pipe called a drain trap that prevents the backflow of sewer gases into the house.

A plumbing inspection can identify a number of potential issues with the drainage system, including improper sizing and installation of the pipes. These problems may result in low water pressure or a blocked drain in Canberra. Fortunately, most of these plumbing issues are relatively easy to repair for an experienced plumber. 


As water enters your home, it passes through a meter that registers the amount of water you use. Most meters have a shut-off valve so you can stop water flow in an emergency. 

Most meters are mechanical, with either positive displacement or velocity-based methods of measurement. Newer electronic meters are also becoming more common. 

Mechanical meters use a series of ports around an internal chamber that create jets of water that hit an impeller or rotor. As the jets of water move past, they cause the rotor to rotate and the rotary motion is recorded on a dial or digital display. These types of meters retain their accuracy at low-flow rates but are not practical for larger pipe diameter situations. 

Multi-jet and turbine meters are more accurate at higher flow rates. They both have multiple ports that surround an internal chamber, with each port creating a jet of water against an impeller that is angled to a specific point of rotation depending on the velocity of the passing water. These types of meters are commonly used in 5/8″ to 2″ sizes for residential and small commercial applications.