Definitions of Terms Related to Home Water Systems

Air chambers—Pressure-absorbing devices that eliminate water hammer. Air chambers should be installed as close as possible to the valves or faucet and at the end of long runs of pipe.

Air gap (drainage system)—The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the outlet of a water pipe and the flood level rim of the receptacle into which it is discharging.

Air gap (water distribution system)—The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the lowest opening from any pipe or faucet supplying water to a tank, plumbing fixture, or other device and the flood level rim of the receptacle.

Backflow—The flow of water or other liquids, mixtures, or substances into the distributing pipes of a potable water supply from any source or sources other than the intended source. Back siphonage is one type of backflow.

Back siphonage—The flowing back of used, contaminated, or polluted water from a plumbing fixture or vessel into a potable water supply because of negative pressure in the pipe.

BranchAny part of the piping system other than the main, riser, or stack.

Branch ventA vent connecting one or more individual vents with a vent stack.

Building drain—Part of the lowest piping of a drainage system that receives the discharge from soil, waste, or other drainage pipes inside the walls of the building (house) and conveys it to the building sewer beginning 3 feet outside the building wall.

Cross connection—Any physical connection or arrangement between two otherwise separate piping systems (one of which contains potable water and the other which contains either water of unknown or questionable safety or steam, gas, or chemical) whereby there may be a flow from one system to the other, the direction of flow depending on the pressure differential between the two systems. (See Backflow and Back siphonage.)

Disposal fieldAn area containing a series of one or more trenches lined with coarse aggregate and conveying the effluent from a septic tank through vitrified clay pipe or perforated, nonmetallic pipe, laid in such a manner that the flow will be distributed with reasonable uniformity into natural soil.

DrainAny pipe that carries wastewater or waterborne waste in a building (house) drainage system.

Flood level rimThe top edge of a receptacle from which water overflows.

Flushometer valveA device that discharges a predetermined quantity of water to fixtures for flushing purposes and is closed by direct water pressures.

Flushometer toilet—a toilet using a flushometer valve that uses pressure from the water supply system rather than the force of gravity to discharge water into the bowl, designed to use less water than conventional flush toilets.

Flush valveA device located at the bottom of the tank for flushing toilets and similar fixtures.

Grease trap—See Interceptor.

Hot water—Potable water heated to at least 120°F (49°C) and used for cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, and bathing.

InsanitaryUnclean enough to endanger health.

Interceptor—A device to separate and retain deleterious, hazardous, or undesirable matter from normal waste and permit normal sewage or liquid waste to discharge into the drainage system by gravity.

Main ventThe principal artery of the venting system, to which vent branches may be connected.

LeaderAn exterior drainage pipe for conveying storm water from roof or gutter drains to the building storm drain, combined building sewer, or other means of disposal.

Main sewer—See Public sewer.

PneumaticPertaining to devices making use of compressed air as in pressure tanks boosted by pumps.

Potable water—Water having no impurities present in amounts sufficient to cause disease or harmful physiologic effects and conforming in its bacteriologic and chemical quality to the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act or meeting the regulations of other agencies having jurisdiction.

P & T (pressure and temperature) relief valveA safety valve installed on a hot water storage tank to limit temperature and pressure of the water.

P-trap—A trap with a vertical inlet and a horizontal outlet.

Public sewer—A common sewer directly controlled by public authority.

Relief ventAn auxiliary vent that permits additional circulation of air in or between drainage and systems.

Septic tank—A watertight receptacle that receives the discharge of a building’s sanitary drain system or part thereof and is designed and constructed to separate solid from liquid, digest organic matter through a period of detention, and allow the liquids to discharge into the soil outside of the tank through a system of open-joint or perforated piping or through a seepage pit.

Sewerage system—A system comprising all piping, appurtenances, and treatment facilities used for the collection and disposal of sewage, except plumbing inside and in connection with buildings served, and the building drain.

Soil pipeThe pipe that directs the sewage of a house to the receiving sewer, building drain or building sewer.

Soil stackThe vertical piping that terminates in a roof vent and carries off the vapors of a plumbing system.

Stack ventAn extension of a solid or waste stack above the highest horizontal drain connected to the stack, sometimes called a waste vent or a soil vent.

Storm sewerA sewer used for conveying rain water, surface water, condensate, cooling water, or similar liquid waste.

TrapA fitting or device that provides a liquid seal to prevent the emission of sewer gases without materially affecting the flow of sewage or wastewater through it.

Vacuum breakerA device to prevent backflow (back siphonage) by means of an opening through which air may be drawn to relieve negative pressure (vacuum).

Vapor lockA bubble of air that restricts the flow of water in a pipe.

Vent stackThe vertical vent pipe installed to provide air circulation to and from the drainage system and that extends through one or more stories.

Water hammerThe loud thump of water in a pipe when a valve or faucet is suddenly closed.

Water service pipeThe pipe from the water main or other sources of potable water supply to the water-distributing system of the building served.

Water supply system—Consists of the water service pipe, the water-distributing pipes, the necessary connecting pipes, fittings, control valves, and all appurtenances in or adjacent to the building or premises.

Wet ventA vent that receives the discharge of waste other than from water closets.

Yoke ventA pipe connecting upward from a soil or waste stack to a vent stack to prevent pressure changes in the stacks.


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