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Glossary of Plumbing Terms

Plumbing Vocabulary and Industry Terms | Glossary
Plumbing Vocabulary and Industry Terms | Glossary

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3-Way Valve
A valve that can supply one of two outlets, depending on the position of the valve handle.

A Valve
A gas shut-off valve. Valves are mechanical devices that control the flow and pressure within a plumbing system. They are essential components of a piping system that conveys liquids, gases, vapors, etc. Different types of valves are available: gate, ball, globe, plug, butterfly, check, diaphragm, pinch, pressure relief, control valves, etc. Some valves are self-operated while others are manually-operated.

Abbreviation for Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene. ABS is used for manufacturing rigid black plastic pipes used for drain, waste, and vent lines.

ABS pipes
Rigid plastic pipes that perform very well in plumbing, especially when used for drain, waste, and vent lines.

Alternating Current – Electrical supply in which the polarity of the hot wire reverses rapidly (unlike in DC).

Access cover
Removable plate that permits access to a pipe or pipe fitting for the purpose of inspection, maintenance, repair or replacement.

Access panel
A covered opening in a wall or ceiling near a fixture that allows easy access for servicing the plumbing/electrical system. For example, an access panel will allow you to shut off the water by giving access to the valve. Access panels come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

In the opinion of the inspector, the object (plumbing fixture, etc.) can be approached or entered safely without difficulty, fear or danger.

The level of concentration of acid in water. Acid (higher acidity in water) will neutralize an alkali/base. Acidity is usually expressed in terms of its calcium carbonate equivalent. The opposite term to acidity is alkalinity. The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. A pH less than 7 is acidic. Alkalis dissolve in water to give a pH greater than 7. A pH equal to 7 indicates a neutral solution.

To turn on, supply power, or enable systems, equipment or devices to become active by normal operating controls. Examples: turning on the gas or water supply valves to the fixtures and appliances; or activating electrical breakers/fuses.

A fitting that unites different types of pipe together, such as ABS to cast-iron pipe, PEX to copper pipe, etc.

Adjustable Hot Limit Stop
Restricts the amount of hot water released by your system at a time to prevent scalding.

A device that mixes air into flowing water. It is screwed onto the end of a faucet spout to help reduce splashing and save the water consumption.

American Gas Association (abbreviation).

Air Bleeder
A device that, when opened, allows air to flow out of the hydronic system.

Air Gap
Connects to the drain line between the dishwasher and garbage disposal to allow debris to discharge into the disposal and prevent dirty water from returning to the dishwasher.

An air bubble that stops liquid flowing through a pipe.

The measurement of constituents in a water supply which determines alkaline conditions. The alkalinity of water is a measure of its capacity to neutralize acids. The opposite term to alkalinity is acidity. The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. A pH less than 7 is acidic. Alkalis dissolve in water to give a pH greater than 7. A pH equal to 7 indicates a neutral solution.

Ambient Temperature
The average temperature of the atmosphere in the vicinity of an appliance in question.

A unit of measure of current flow.

Anode rod
An anode rod is a small rod on the inside of your tank-type water heater that helps to reduce the effects of corrosive elements in your water that can eat away from the inside of your water heater. Anode rod is usually made from weaker metals than the metal your tank is made of and keeps your tank from being directly affected by corrosion. After a while, your anode rod gets diminished to a very thin rod.

The result of mixing air with discharging water for the purpose of enhancing the hydro-massage effect of the whirlpool.

A flexible rod, usually constructed of a metal spring. A cutting implement is usually attached at one end, and is used to clear away clogs in your drain. Underground drain lines require a larger auger, which will often be motorized to power through bigger, more problematic blockages.

Auto Float Vent
A device that will allow air out but not the water. Air bleeder will close when it is full of water.

Automatic Transfer Switch
A device that automatically switches the power source to a backup generator in the event the primary power source fails.

Back Flow
Back flow or backflow is a condition of water traveling from one system back into any part of the main distribution system.

Back Up
The overflow of a plumbing fixture caused by a clogged drain or pipe (when water cannot flow through it because something is blocking it).

Back Wash
The process of cleaning a filter by reversing the flow of water through it.

Ball Check Valve
This mechanism uses a ball to create a seal, allowing for one-way water delivery.

Ball Valve
A valve that uses a ball to seal up against the seat.

Ballcocks also known as float valves, are found in water tanks and are used to control the flow of water into the tank. They work by rising with the water level in the tank which in turn activates a lever which then shuts the valve. When the water level falls, the float ball valve and lever drops which then reopens the valve leaving water-free to return and refill the tank. (also check Ballcock washer; Ballcock assembly).

A substance when dissolved in water it releases hydroxyl ions. It reacts with an acid to form salt and water.

A vessel with curved walls used to hold water for washing.

A large plumbing fixture used for taking a bath. It typically stands on a floor in a bathroom.

The process of draining a pipe of excess air by opening a valve.

In plumbing, a blockage is something that blocks a pipe.

A tank/reservoir where water is turned into steam (or hot water) for the use of heating. Boilers generate hot water or steam for hydronic heating systems such as radiators, finned-tube baseboard heaters, radiant floor heating, radiant panels (towel warmers), kick space heaters and indirect water heaters.

Boiling Point (BP)
The temperature of which water turns to vapor when the heat is applied. The boiling point of water is 212°F or 100°C.

British Thermal Unit
A quantity of heat energy required to raise the temperature of 1 lb. of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. British Thermal Unit is abbreviated "BTU. Gas- and oil-fired water heaters provide BTU-per-hour ratings. For electric water heaters, multiply the watt rating by 3.4128 to get the equivalent BTU input per hour.

British Thermal Unit. A quantity of heat energy required to raise the temperature of 1 lb. of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. Gas- and oil-fired water heaters provide BTU-per-hour ratings. For electric water heaters, multiply the watt rating by 3.4128 to get the equivalent BTU input per hour.

A heat-producing device where a flame is used to provide heat or plumbing heating.

An organic compound, an alkane with 4 carbon atoms (its formula is C4H10). The term refers to either of two structural isomers: n-butane or isobutane, or to a mixture of both.

A carpenter is a professional worker who can build the foundation and rough work of an addition, a deck, or a screened porch. Carpenter can also do finish woodworking like building cabinetry, hanging doors, and mounting trim.

Circulation Pump
The device that causes water to circulate within the heating system.

Construction Liens
Just like any bill, it is important to pay your contractor and construction bills on time. But unlike most other billing agencies, contractors and other home improvement professionals have the ability to put a “construction lien” on your property if you do not pay. A lien is a legal document filed with your local register of deeds, basically making your debt public record. A lien filed against your property will be held against you if you try to take out a home equity loan, line of credit, or refinance. And before you collect proceeds from the sale of your home someday, the company will have legal rights to that portion of the profits. A “lien waiver” is a document from a contractor, subcontractor, materials man, or other party stating they have received payment and waive any future lien rights to the property. Be sure to ask for a lien waiver once you’ve paid and keep it in the file.

Once you’ve chosen the professionals you want to work with, you will likely be asked to sign a contract. Make sure that the contents of the contract are acceptable to you before signing. Also, ask the contractor to estimate a completion date for the contract so you can hold them accountable if the work is not finished in a reasonable time frame

Most contractors and professionals will ask for a deposit before beginning the work. That amount is usually around 10 to 50% of the estimate. This is not uncommon, but you should not have to pay the entire cost before the job is completed. If someone insists you pay the full cost before they begin or finish the work, take a step back. Either verify that this is customary practice for this particular type of job, or else strongly reconsider that professional.

Should any dispute arise between you and someone you’ve hired to complete work on your home, be sure to document your actions carefully. Put complaints in writing and save a dated copy in your files. Make notes on what happened and when, carefully logging phone calls and emails. Truly, it’s best to try to work things out with the disputing party before taking complicated next steps. But if the two parties cannot come to an agreement, there is a mediation option through many professional organizations or through the State Department of Regulation and Licensing. If an agreement cannot be reached through discussion or professional mediation, small claims court or individual legal action may be necessary.

Drywallers, mudders & tapers, and painters
They will put up drywall over stud walls or repair/refresh the current walls in your home.

An electrician works on connecting new light fixtures and switches, electrical outlets, and other wiring and electrical needs in your home.

Energy Class
A class that provides an indication of energy efficiency of a product or package. The format for heat generators and packages will be from A++ to G and for controls it will be from I to VIII.

Flooring professionals
From carpets to tiles to hardwood floors, you can bring in a flooring professional to install, repair, or replace flooring in your home.

General contractor
A general contractor is a professional person or company that hires, organizes, and manages labor. Thus, the general contractor is able to take the pressure off the homeowner by coordinating professionals like plumbers, electricians, and drywallers. Often, they have a trusted group of these “subcontractors” they work with. The general contractor's job is to get the job done to the specifications of the homeowner at an agreed-upon price within the agreed time. Note: A thorough vetting process before choosing your contractors will greatly reduce the chance of disputes.

Handyman or handywoman
A handyperson is a great and cost-effective choice for those jobs around the house that are beyond your comfort level, but not too large. While each differs in their skill and offerings, many handypersons are known for doing small plumbing, door and window, painting, woodworking, patching, venting, and other carpentry repairs. A good handyperson will be insured, and tell you what they are experienced doing, referring you elsewhere if the job is beyond their scope.

Heat Emitter
Heat emitters are the objects which are used by heating systems to distribute the heat into the rooms/spaces. They are a part of a heating system that removes heat from the hot water as it emits it into the space to be heated (air in our home). Heat emitter may be a simple radiator, baseboard register, a coil in a forced-air furnace, tubing in a radiant floor. If the supply and return lines are not properly insulated, they might become heat emitters (against our will) moving heat into the ground and wasting energy. Emitters transfer heat by convection and radiation of heat.

Hot Water Cylinders
Are cylinders (vented and unvented) for storing domestic hot water.

HVAC professionals
HVAC (or Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) professionals work on heating and cooling systems, including ductwork and radiators.

Hydronic Heating Systems
Systems that use water to move heat from where it is produced to where it is needed. The water within the system is neither the source of the heat nor its destination; only its conveyor medium. Modern hydronic heating has many benefits: unsurpassed comfort, energy savings, clean and quiet operation, low air dehumidification, etc.

Is a name for the use of water as the heat transfer medium in heating systems.

Make sure to verify proof of insurance before hiring any professional to work on your home. The likelihood of injury is not so low during physical jobs, and if they are not insured—your insurance will be held liable - meaning your premiums will go way up! You have been warned.

A section of system piping that groups several branches of piping into one area.

OSHA regulations
Special ‘Excavation Safety’ regulations.

Is one of a defined combination of heating products that is supplied to an end customer and is intended to be used within the same heating system.

Package Label
Is a label in the format defined within the regulations which must be supplied when a package is sold to end customer.

Be sure to always get the proper permits from the city, township, or county zoning before doing work. Licensed professionals you hire may obtain these on your behalf, but do not assume that they will without checking. The permit process is typically painless, relatively inexpensive, and there to ensure that the work is done properly. The municipality will come out one time while the work is in “rough” condition, like before you’ve closed back up the walls. If something is not safe, the inspector will flag the error and make sure it is fixed before completion. Then they’ll come again to see the finished product. Homeowners are allowed to complete their own plumbing and electrical (special rules apply in condos or owned rental property). The inspector provides a particularly helpful service if you are completing the work yourself and want to get an expert’s opinion before closing up the wall. Consequences of completing work without a permit may not be immediate, but they can be serious when they arrive. If any future damage occurs, your insurance may not cover the repairs of something which never had permits. Also, you may be forced to show permits one day when you attempt to sell your home. If you cannot produce evidence that the work was completed with the proper permits, it will decrease the value. Should you sell the home without disclosing that fact (which is usually illegal), if harm or damage occurs later the new owners may come back to hold you accountable.

A plumber is a professional worker trained to deal with various issues of your plumbing system. He/she can help you not only with reconfiguring and creating bathrooms, but also in creating hook-ups for new clothes washers. The plumber can also move or replace sinks, garbage disposals, and dishwashers in the kitchen.

Plumber's Tape
Is a polytetrafluoroethylene film that helps you to get a watertight seal on threaded pipe joints. Also called Teflon or PTFE tape.

Poor water quality
Water with high amounts of solids, sand or dirt that can create deposits inside the wall of heat exchanger components, reducing the amount of heat output.

Product Fiche
A table of technical information that a manufacturer of a heating or hot water product is required to provide.

Product Label
Is supplied by the manufacturer of any product within the scope of the regulation and provides information about the energy performance of that product.

A polytetrafluoroethylene film for use in sealing pipe threads. It is also called Plumber's tape or Teflon tape.

Shut-off Valve
A valve that can be closed to stop the flow of water or open to allow the flow. These valves are designed to control the water supply to your faucets, dishwasher, and refrigerator water lines.

A soft, wet mud made up of a mixture of liquids and solids. The term is often used to refer to dirty oil or the byproducts of the oil refining process. Heavier solids drift to the bottom of the tank and form a sediment that gets thicker with time.

Solar device
Solar device means a solar-only system, a solar collector, a solar hot water storage tank or a pump in the collector loop, which are placed on the market separately.

Solar Thermal Collector
A solar thermal panel (flat plate or vacuum tube).

Solar Thermal Cylinder
A hot water cylinder with at least tow heating coils one of which is specifically for connection to a solar thermal collector.

Supplier is a generic term used within the regulations to include manufacturers, importers merchants, and installers.

Generally refers to a central heating system or in some cases a solar water heating system.

Tank-in-Tank is a stainless steel hot water tank entirely immersed within an outer tank which contains the primary water. The corrugated inner stainless steel tank forms a large heat exchange surface that can heat the domestic hot water in a very short time. The outer tank is covered with high-quality insulation, protected by a shock-resistant plastic jacket.

Temperature Control
Feature of the equipment that interacts with the end-user regarding the values and timing of the desired indoor temperature. It communicates relevant data to an interface of the heater such as a central processing unit, thus helping to regulate the indoor temperature.

Thermal radiation
A process by which electromagnetic radiation (energy) is emitted by a heated surface in all directions and travels to its point of absorption at the speed of light. Thermal radiation does not require an intervening medium to carry it (unlike in Hydronic Heating System).

An important safety device that prevents gas from being sent to the pilot and burner if there is no source of ignition. If the gas were to continue flowing to an unlit pilot light, the result would be a hazardous buildup of natural gas. While the part sends an electric signal to the gas valve, it doesn’t use any electricity itself but instead uses heat to generate an electrical impulse.

A unique PVC-Alloy pipe lining system for trenchless rehabilitation. Thermoform is a product supplied by Warrior Trenchless Solutions.

A device that controls the temperature in the space to be heated by sensing that temperature and turning the heat emitters on or off (depending on the temp).

Thermostatic Mixing Valve
A 3-way valve that mixes hot and cold water based on the temperature of the water flowing from the outlet.

Thermostatic Valve
A valve that opens and closes based on the temperature of the fluid inside the valve.

Threaded Seal Tape
A polytetrafluoroethylene film for use in sealing pipe threads. Also called Plumber's tape, PTFE Tape or Teflon tape.

Water Heater
A plumbing appliance designed for heating cold water in the water distribution system. A plumbing appliance is a special type of plumbing fixture/device that: - is connected to an external supply of drinking or sanitary water; - generates and transfers heat to deliver drinking or sanitary hot water at given temperature levels, quantities and flow rates during given intervals; - is equipped with one or more heat generators.

Water-To-Air Heat Exchanger
A coil with water flowing inside copper tubes that are covered with metal fins. Heat is removed from the water inside the tubes when air moves across the metal fins.

Water-To-Water Heat Exchanger
A device that transfers heat from one water system to another without mixing the water in the two systems.

Zone Valve
A valve that is opened and closed electrically to send hot water to a specific zone in the building to be heated.

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