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Maintaining the Flow

The plumbing industry can trace its roots to ancient times, when the Romans created a system of pipes connected to aqueducts to bring water into their homes. Plumbing processes today are certainly more complicated, but the Idea Is much the same — a system that brings clean water Into our homes and removes waste water from our homes.

While home builders and home buyers make decisions on many of the plumbing features found in new homes today, public health standards in the United States require all plumbing systems to meet strict government specifications.  Licensed inspectors monitor the cleanliness of our drinking water, the types of materials used to create plumbing systems in homes, offices and schools, the quantity of water that we use, as well as the systems employed to remove waste from our homes, and many other water and sanitation issues. Close government monitoring of water usage and other plumbing matters will continue because, according to the EPA, a recent survey showed at least 36 states are anticipating local, regional or statewide water shortages.

With these facts in mind, it, good to understand some plumbing basics, as well as trends likely to affect plumbing systems in the future.  According to EPA figures, the average family of four uses 400 gallons of water a day.  If a home has one or more leaky faucets, a drip a second will waste more than 3000 gallons of water each year.  Leaks can be found by reading the water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same both times, there is probably a leak somewhere. This problem can usually be fixed by simply replacing any worn faucet washers. On the bottom of a faucet stem, a screw holds a rubber washer in place. Unscrewing the washer and replacing it with a new washer of the same size may eliminate the leak. Washerless faucets have 0-rings instead of washers that provide a seal, and a cartridge, ball, or disc mechanism that controls the water flow. These leaks can usually be fixed by pinching the 0-ring on the stem and pulling it off.

A leaky toilet also presents a problem by wasting about 200 gallons of water every day.  A toilet leak can be diagnosed by placing a drop of food coloring in the tank.  If the color shows in the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak.

If the toilet was purchased prior to 1992, It is probably an inefficient model that uses between 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush. New and improved high-efficiency models use less than 1.3 gallons per flush — that’s at least a 60 percent reduction in water use than older, less efficient toilets. Retrofitting a home with high-efficiency toilets can save a family of four roughly $1,000 over 10 years without compromising performance.

Other plumbing fixtures In a home that may experience leaks Include exposed pipes, as well as pipes that run through walls or the foundation. Green stains around brass and copper may signal corrosion.

Also keep in mind that every plumbing system has its limits, based on the age and size of the system. Any planned improvements must take these limitations Into consideration. For example, an existing drain line may work well for the number of sinks and toilets already Installed, but may not have the capacity to catch the flow from an additional sink or toilet.

For the future, trends in plumbing include solar powered water heating systems, as well as recycling gray water (defined as the non-Industrial waste water generated from domestic processes such as washing dishes, laundry and bathing). Advanced plumbing systems also will add innovative technologies to provide customized features as well as focusing on water conservation.

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