he word “plumber” dates from the Roman Empire. The Latin for lead is plumbum. Roman roofs used lead in conduits and drain pipes and some were also covered with lead, lead was also used for piping and for making baths. In medieval times anyone who worked with lead was referred to as a plumber as can be seen from an extract of workmen fixing a roof in Westminster Palace and were referred to as plumbers “To Gilbert de Westminster, plumber, working about the roof of the pantry of the little hall, covering it with lead, and about various defects in the roof of the little hall”. Thus a person with expertise in working with lead was first known as a Plumbarius which was later shortened to plumber.
Years of training and/or experience are needed to become a skilled plumber; some jurisdictions also require that plumbers be licensed. Common plumbing tasks and skills: Reading drawings, and specifications to determine layout of water supply, waste, and venting systems Detecting faults in plumbing appliances and systems, and correctly diagnosing their causes Installing, repairing and maintaining domestic, commercial, and industrial plumbing fixtures and systems Locating and marking positions for pipe connections, passage holes, and fixtures in walls and floors Measuring, cutting, bending, and threading pipes using hand and power tools or machines Joining pipes and fittings together using soldering techniques, compression fittings, threaded fittings, and push-on fittings. Testing pipes for leaks using air and water pressure gauges Awareness of legal regulations and safety issues Ensuring safety standards and building regulations are met.
Fittings (especially uncommon types) require money, time, materials and tools to install, and are an important part of piping and plumbing systems. Valves are technically fittings, but are usually discussed separately.
The material with which a pipe is manufactured is often the basis for choosing a pipe. Materials used for manufacturing pipes include: Carbon (CS) and galvanized steel Impact-tested carbon steel (ITCS) Low-temperature carbon steel (LTCS) Stainless steel (SS) Malleable iron Non-ferrous metals (includes copper, inconel, incoloy and cupronickel) Non-metallic (includes acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and toughened glass) Chrome-molybdenum (alloy) steel — Generally used for high-temperature service The bodies of fittings for pipe and tubing are most often the same base material as the pipe or tubing connected: copper, steel, PVC, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) or ABS. Any material permitted by the plumbing, health, or building code (as applicable) may be used, but it must be compatible with the other materials in the system, the fluids being transported and the temperature and pressure inside (and outside) the system. Brass or bronze fittings are common in copper piping and plumbing systems. Fire hazards, earthquake resistance and other factors also influence the choice of fitting materials. Adapter Two threaded adapters for connecting copper pipe (sweat) to a female thread In plumbing, an adapter is generally a fitting which interfaces two dissimilar parts. The term commonly refers to: any fitting that connects pipes of different materials, including: expansion adapters which have a flexible section to absorb expansion or contraction from two dissimilar pipe materials mechanical joint (MJ) adapters for joining PE pipe to another material bell adapters which are like mechanical joint adapters but contain a stainless steel backup ring to maintain a positive seal against the mating flange flange adapters which attach to a PE pipe with butt fusion to stiffen a junction and allow another flanged pipe or fitting to be bolted on a fitting that connects pipes of different diameters, genders, or threads (see § Coupling below) adapter spools (also called crossover spools), used on oilfields and pressure control, have different diameters, pressure ratings or designs at each end adapters to convert NPT to BSP pipe threads are available a fitting that connects threaded and non-threaded pipeSee also: Street elbow Short-radius (or regular) 45° elbow (copper sweat) Long-radius (or sweep) 90° elbow (copper sweat) An elbow is installed between two lengths of pipe (or tubing) to allow a change of direction, usually a 90° or 45° angle; 22.5° elbows are also available. The ends may be machined for butt welding, threaded (usually female), or socketed. When the ends differ in size, it is known as a reducing (or reducer) elbow. A 90º elbow, also known as a “90 bend”, “90 ell” or “quarter bend”, attaches readily to plastic, copper, cast iron, steel, and lead, and is attached to rubber with stainless-steel clamps. Other available materials include silicone, rubber compounds, galvanized steel, and nylon. It is primarily used to connect hoses to valves, water pumps and deck drains. A 45º elbow, also known as a “45 bend” or “45 ell”, is commonly used in water-supply facilities, food, chemical and electronic industrial pipeline networks, air-conditioning pipelines, agriculture and garden production, and solar-energy facility piping. Elbows are also categorized by length. The radius of curvature of a long-radius (LR) elbow is 1.5 times the pipe diameter, but a short-radius (SR) elbow has a radius equal to the pipe diameter. Short elbows, widely available, are typically used in pressurized systems, and in physically tight locations. Long elbows are used in low-pressure gravity-fed systems and other applications where low turbulence and minimum deposition of entrained solids are of concern. They are available in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS plastic), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), and copper, and are used in DWV systems, sewage, and central vacuum systems. Coupling Main article: Coupling (piping) Pipe coupling (copper sweat) A coupling connects two pipes. If their sizes differ, the fitting is known as a reducing coupling, reducer, or an adapter. There are two types of couplings: “regular” and “slip”. A regular coupling has a small ridge or stop internally, to prevent over-insertion of a pipe, and thus under-insertion of the other pipe segment (which would result in an unreliable connection). A slip coupling (sometimes also called a repair coupling) is deliberately made without this internal stop, to allow it to be slipped into place in tight locations, such as the repair of a pipe that has a small leak due to corrosion or freeze bursting, or which had to be cut temporarily for some reason. Since the alignment stop is missing, it is up to the installer to carefully measure the final location of the slip coupling to ensure that it is located correctly. Union Combination union and reducer (brass threaded) A union also connects two pipes, but is quite different than a coupling, as it allows future disconnection of the pipes for maintenance. In contrast to a coupling requiring solvent welding, soldering, or rotation (for threaded couplings), a union allows easy connection and disconnection, multiple times if needed. It consists of three parts: a nut, a female end and a male end. When the female and male ends are joined, the nut seals the joint by pressing the two ends tightly together. Unions are a type of very compact flange connector. Dielectric unions, with dielectric insulation, separate dissimilar metals (such as copper and galvanized steel) to prevent galvanic corrosion. When two dissimilar metals are in contact with an electrically conductive solution (ordinary tap water is conductive), they form an electrochemical couple which generates a voltage by electrolysis. When the metals are in direct contact with each other, the electric current from one to the other also moves metallic ions from one to the other; this dissolves one metal, depositing it on the other. A dielectric union breaks the electrical path with a plastic liner between its halves, limiting galvanic corrosion. Rotary unions allow mechanical rotation of one of the joined parts, while resisting leakage.
A drain cleaner is a chemical-based consumer product that unblocks sewer pipes or clogged wastewater drains. The term may also refer to a mechanical device such as a plumber’s snake, drain auger, toilet plunger, or similar device. Occasionally, the term is applied to a plumber or other individual who performs the drain cleaning and hygiene. Chemical drain cleaners, plungers, handheld drain augers, air burst drain cleaners, and home remedy drain cleaners are typically applied to the problem of a clogged single drain, such as a sink, toilet, tub, or shower drain. An effective drain cleaner can remove soft obstructions (such as hair and grease) accumulating near the fixture’s drain inlet. If more than one plumbing fixture is clogged then electric drain cleaners, battery powered drain cleaners, sewer jetters or such mechanical devices are usually required to clear obstructions along the entire length of the drain piping system, that is, from fixture drain inlets through the main building drains and lateral piping outside the building to the collector sewer mains. Each type of drain cleaner has advantages, disadvantages, and safety considerations as described below.
he history of drain cleaners parallels the development of common drain systems themselves. As a result, there is not an extensive history of cleaners in the US, as municipal plumbing systems were not readily available in middle-class American homes until the early 20th century. Prior to this time, Americans often discarded the dirty water collected in basins after use. Limited piping systems gradually developed with lead materials, but after WWI when the poisonous properties of lead became more well-known, piping was reconstructed with galvanized iron. Galvanized iron is actually steel covered in a protective layer of zinc, but it was soon discovered that this zinc layer naturally corroded due to exposure to the atmosphere and rainwater, as well as cement, runoff, etc. Once corrosion occurred down to the base metal, plaques and rust would form, leading to sediment build-up that would gradually clog these drains. Thus, the first motivation for drain cleaners came to be. The struggle against corroding galvanized iron pipes eventually led to a replacement by copper or plastic (PVC) piping by the 1960s. Copper and plastic do not possess that zinc layer that naturally corrodes to expose the base metal to decay. Still, however, natural substances such as hair, grease, or other oils continued to be an issue in drain clogs, and so, the development of more effective chemical drain cleaners became necessary. Alkaline drain openers Pellets of sodium hydroxide Bottles of alkaline drain cleaners containing sodium hydroxide can dissolve greases and hair. Alkaline drain openers primarily contain sodium hydroxide (lye) and some may contain potassium hydroxide. They may appear in liquid or solid form. Solid formulations of corrosive alkaline drain cleaners are composed of a caustic substance (often sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide), aluminum particles, and ‘additives.’ These additives often include wetting agents such as alkyl aryl sulfonates, but the exact nature of these additives are not known for commercial drain cleaners, as they are regarded as the trade secrets that make each drain cleaner unique to its brand. The aluminum granules that are included in the solid caustic drain cleaner is an aluminum oxide that breaks down and re-oxidizes to release hydrogen gas. The components of this reaction are shown below. Because the release of hydrogen gas is overall an exothermic reaction, the extra heat released helps to break down the greases, oils, etc. that form the clog. 1. Breakdown of Aluminum Oxide: Al2O3 + 2NaOH + 3H2O → 2Na [Al(OH)4] 2. Oxidation of Aluminum metal: 2Al + 2NaOH + 6H2O → 2Na[Al(OH)4] + 3H2 The actual breakdown of a clog occurs by reaction with the hydroxide ions (-OH) generated by the cleaner. Clogs are often composed of natural substances such as hair, fats, oils, etc. and breakdown occurs via a saponification reaction of a base and triglycerol. Essentially, the hydroxide ions from the dissolution of lye in water attack the carbonyl carbons of the fat, which eventually kicks off the hydrophobic tails of the triglyceride (e.g. glyceryl trioleate) to isolate glycerol and a fatty acid salt. Alkaline drain openers can dissolve hair (containing proteins) and fats inside pipes via alkaline hydrolysis of amide and ester functionalities respectively: RCONH2(amide or proteins)+ OH− → NH3 + RCOO− RCO2R’(ester or fats)+ OH− → R’OH + RCOO− Because solid lye is hygroscopic, it is crucial that the solid granules of the cleaner are placed directly in proximity to the clog. Otherwise, the lye itself will absorb water and actually create a mass itself, exacerbating the clog issue. Liquid formulations of corrosive alkaline drain cleaners can contain sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) in concentrations up to 50 percent. Other corrosive mixtures come as two-part cleaners that are mixed as they are poured in the drain opening. Inside the drain the two solutions react to release a gas, and surfactants trap the gas as dense foam. The intent of this foaming action is to coat the inside of the drain pipe to dislodge more of the substances that form the clog. Because liquid alkaline drain cleaners are essentially a base dissolved in water, this is denser than water and can sink to the source of the clog.[unreliable source?] Acidic drain openers Acidic drain cleaners usually contain sulfuric acid at a high concentration which turns a piece of pH paper red and chars it instantly. Apart from grease and hair, an acidic drain cleaner containing sulfuric acid can be also used to dissolve tissue paper inside water pipes. Acidic drain cleaners usually contain sulfuric acid at high concentrations. It can dissolve cellulose, proteins like hair, and fats via acid hydrolysis. According to a manufacturer, potential hazards include violent reaction with water and the production of explosive hydrogen vapors upon contact with most metals; chronic (delayed) and acute (immediate) health hazards if inhaled, ingested, or contacted, including severe eye, flesh and skin burns or even permanent visual loss, inflammation of respiratory membranes, and corrosive burns to all human tissue. It may even be fatal if swallowed. Due to the vigorous reaction between the acid and water, such acidic drain openers should be added slowly into the pipe to be cleaned. Acidic drain openers (in very high concentrations) hydrolyze proteins and fats via acid hydrolysis, similar to their alkaline versions mentioned above: RCONH2(amide or proteins) + H3O+ → NH4+ + RCOOH RCO2R'(ester or fats) + H2O + H2SO4 → RCO2H + R’OH Concentrated sulfuric acid dehydrates substances containing carbohydrates, like tissue paper which consists of cellulose: (C 6H 10O 5)n + H2SO4 → 6n C + 5n H 2O Danger and Usage considerations Advantages of chemical drain cleaners include ready availability of some formulations through retailer stores and potential ease of use for removing soft hair and grease clogs that accumulate close the drain openings. Disadvantages of chemical drain cleaners include a lack of effectiveness for removing clogs far from the drain opening (for example, clogs that occur in toilets or in the main sewer drain), an inability to remove most solid obstructions, and the safety considerations outlined below. Sulfuric acid reacts with aluminium oxide on the surface of some pipes. Danger arises from chemical drain cleaners’ potential to injure eyes, lungs, and skin; and damage to clothing and household materials such as wood, paint, aluminum, and fiberglass. Chemical drain cleaners should be used only according to the manufacturer’s instructions, as other use may cause injury. Strongly corrosive and acid drain cleaners are among the most hazardous household products available to the public. Chemical drain cleaners can cause strong reactions—sometimes explosively—with other chemicals that may have been used previously, which can result in serious injury to anyone in the vicinity. In one such incident, a five-year-old boy was left scarred for life after an acidic drain cleaner leaked through his bedroom ceiling as he slept. Strong Alkali Drain cleaners are equally capable of causing rapid, severe burns, as seen in the cases of a woman doused with concentrated lye in an attack. A small girl was also permanently disfigured by a common lye drain opener., Moreover, because the acidic or basic drain cleaners themselves are washed down the drain, this contributes to pollution in the water supply. The heat generation can also soften plastic PVC pipes, and the pressure buildup by gas generation can cause older pipes to burst. Commercial chemical based solutions can cause corrosion and other damage to your pipes and sewer lines Oftentimes, individuals may unknowingly mix two different types of drain cleaners, which can even lead to deadly results. For example, consider the mixing of an acidic and basic drain cleaner: Sulfuric Acid + Sodium Hydroxide → sodium sulfate (a salt) + water H2SO4 + 2 NaOH → Na2SO4 + 2H2O The neutralization reaction of the acid and base may seem harmless, but in reality this reaction is extremely exothermic and can cause pipes to violently explode. Consider another example of mixing, this time between an acid drain cleaner and bleach: Hydrochloric acid + bleach → water + table salt + chlorine gas 2HCl + NaClO → H2O + NaCl + Cl2 This reaction generates chlorine gas, which is toxic to the lungs. Handheld drain augers Further information: Plumber’s snake Handheld drain auger Handheld drain augers are typically designed to clean portions of a drain within 8 metres (25 ft) of the drain opening. The cable of a handheld drain auger is driven into a drain by the mechanical force created when the operator rotates a drum that anchors the cable. Many handheld augers have cables that are thin enough to pass through common sink traps, though some manufacturers do not recommend using handheld drain augers in toilets because of their potential to scratch ceramic surfaces. Instead, a special closet auger (from “water closet”) should be used. Similar to handheld augers, drain rods can be used for clearing blockages in long, straight pipes. Advantages of handheld drain augers include low relative cost and ready availability through hardware stores. However, drawbacks include a reach that is normally limited to 8 metres (25 ft), and the potential for the twisting cable to scratch the ceramic surfaces of plumbing fixtures. They are also only effective on small-diameter pipes – 40–50 mm rather than main sewer pipes of 110 mm. Safety considerations include a requirement to wear protective gloves and eye protection, and to practice good hygiene after coming into contact with drain fluids. Air burst drain cleaners Air burst drain cleaners use accelerated carbon dioxide, air or other gas to rupture the clog membrane. Accelerated gas creates a force on standing water that can dislodge clogs that accumulate close to drain openings. Advantages of air burst drain cleaners include the potential to immediately clear clogs and slow-running drains, in contrast to chemical cleaners that can take more time to work. Air burst cleaners can dislodge obstructions that are further away from drain openings than can a plunger, and in contrast to a drain augers do not risk scratching the ceramic surfaces of sinks, bathtubs and toilets. Disadvantages of air burst drain cleaners include a limited cleaning range in pipes that do not contain standing water and, in general, ineffectiveness for unclogging blocked main sewer drains. Safety considerations for air burst drain cleaners include a requirement to wear eye protection and, when using an air burst cleaner that uses compressed gas cartridges, careful handling of unused cartridges.Home remedy drain cleaners Home remedy drain cleaners include boiling water poured into drain openings to clear soap and hair clogs; or, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) poured into a drain, followed by vinegar. Frequently suggested home remedies of mixtures of baking soda (a weak base) and vinegar (a weak acid) are ineffective but not particularly hazardous. The use of baking soda to saponify fats in the line, followed by vinegar to neutralize is fine, but typically ineffective. It takes the strength of lye to turn a vegetable or animal fat to soap. The use of stronger agents together, for example lye (sodium hydroxide) and hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid is a bad strategy. The two agents do not complement each other but neutralize each other making the combination ineffective. The mixture will generate a lot of heat, which can destroy pipes. Acids (E.G vinegar) mixed with bleach will make harmful chlorine fumes. Advantages of home remedy drain cleaners include ready availability and environmental safety, though they are limited in effectiveness compared to other drain cleaners. Boiling water is not recommended. Boiling water (212 °F/100 °C) exceeds the Vicat hardness (thermal deformation temperature) of PVC drain line (65 °C (149 °F)). It can melt the wax ring on which the toilet is mounted. Safety considerations for home remedy drain cleaners include the requirement to handle ingredients (for example, lye) with the appropriate care. Hydro-mechanical drain cleaners Hydro-mechanical drain cleans use high-pressure water to break up obstructions and flush these smaller particles down the drain. Most municipal building codes mandate that drain plumbing increase in diameter as it moves closer to the municipal sewer system. I.E., most kitchen sinks evacuate water with a 1
1⁄2-inch drain pipe, which feeds into a larger 4-inch drain pipe on the main plumbing stack before heading to a septic tank or to the city sewage system. This means that, barring intrusion by tree roots or other debris into buried piping, the vast majority of household drain clogs occur in the smallest-diameter piping, usually in the pop-up or drain trap, where they can be reached easily by a hydro-mechanical device’s water hose. Advantages of hydro-mechanical drain cleaners are their eco-friendliness (most use only tap water), their ability to dislodge and remove clogs like sand or cat litter that ‘back-fill when using a conventional snake, and their friendliness to plumbing joints. Unlike air-burst cleaners, hydro-mechanical drain cleaners do not pressurize plumbing joints. On some models of hydro-mechanical drain cleaner both hot and cold water can be used, providing added cleaning power for fat, protein, or other easily melting drain clogs. Disadvantages of hydro-mechanical drain cleaners included limited reach into drain plumbing, and the necessity of a water source to act as the motive agent. Safety considerations for hydro-mechanical drain cleaners include the risk of injury from high-pressure water coming into contact with skin or delicate areas of the body (i.e., eyes, and face). Electric drain cleaners Electric drain cleaner Electric drain cleaners, also called plumber’s snakes, use the mechanical force of an electric motor to twist a flexible cable or spring in a clockwise direction and drive it into a pipe. Electric drain cleaners are commonly available with cable lengths of up to 40 metres and can go as far as 80 metres. Advantages of electric drain cleaners include the ability to clean long sections of sewer drain, the ability to remove solid objects such as tree roots and jewelry, and ready availability through hardware stores and tool rental counters. Machines using springs can easily negotiate multiple 90-degree bends while maintaining their effectiveness and without damaging the pipe. Disadvantages of electric drain cleaners include high relative cost and weight, and the considerable physical effort that may be required to control the cable. Safety considerations for electric drain cleaners include the requirement to wear work gloves and eye protection, to carefully control the cable during operation to avoid overstressing it, to use appropriate caution when working around rotating machinery, and to use properly grounded electrical outlets. Battery powered drain cleaners Pressure Washer Sewer Jetter Attachment, Nozzle End Sewer jetting is the process of shooting high powered streams of water through the drain, down into the sewer in order to blast away any debris blocking the passage of water. This is more effective than using a snake, blades, or even drain rods because, first the water is shot at such a high intensity that the force isn’t even comparable to manual labour, secondly the water is much more capable of bending around curved or angular pipes to reach all the tight spots. A sewer jetter is composed of a controlled high-pressure water source such as a pressure washer or reciprocating displacement pump, a flexible high-pressure line (called a jetter hose which connects the high-pressure engine to the mini-reel) of up to hundreds of metres (several hundred feet) in length, the Mini-Reel (a hose reel which can be taken a distance from the engine) and a nozzle that uses hydraulic force to pull the line into sewer drains, clean the sides of pipes, and flush out residue. High-pressure sewer jetters can be mounted on trolleys, inside vans or on trailers. The power of a sewer jetter ranges from 1,000 psi (68 atm) to 5,000 psi (340 atm). Sewer jetter nozzles come in different sizes and applications; a bullet-type nozzle with a streamlined profile can clear a hole for the larger root cutting nozzle. Root-cutter nozzles are designed to cut roots with a spinning nozzle that shoots a jet stream horizontally inside the pipe. High pressure sewer jetters with root-cutting nozzles can clear a hole through the center of a root-infested sewer line and with its rear-facing jet streams cut the roots and clean the pipe walls, flushing the root debris through the sewer line. The sewer jetter has been labeled as a technological advancement of the plumber’s snake (also known as an electric eel) drain clearing method. Portable sewer jetters and pressure washer sewer jetter attachments are primarily used by service personnel and homeowners to remove soft obstructions throughout the length of a building’s sewer drain and to prevent the recurrence of clogs by cleaning the sides of drain pipes and flushing out residue. Pressure washer sewer jetter attachments are generally lower in cost and weight than electric drain cleaners with an equivalent reach, and can present a lower risk of scratching plumbing fixtures. Truck and trailer-mounted sewer jetters used by municipalities and larger service companies benefit from the high hydraulic horsepower delivered by powerful displacement pumps and so can remove tree roots and other solid obstructions. Pressure washer sewer jetter nozzle Advantages of sewer jetters include the relative ease of penetrating long sewer lines and the ability to remove residue that accumulates along the sides of sewer pipes, thereby reducing the need for subsequent drain cleaning. Disadvantages of pressure washer sewer jetter attachments and many portable jetters include an inability to extract tree roots and other hard obstructions. Disadvantages of truck- and trailer-mounted sewer jetters include high relative cost and weight, and the requirement for extensive training to comply with manufacturers’ safety guidelines. Safety considerations for sewer jetters include a requirement to wear protective gloves and eye protection, to avoid contact with sewer drain fluids, and to ensure that the jetter nozzle operates only inside the sewer pipe. Furthermore, larger truck- and trailer-mounted units that operate with sufficient power to cut tree roots require extensive training and strict adherence to manufacturers’ safety guidelines to avoid serious injury. Enzymatic drain cleanersEnzymatic drain cleaner Enzymatic drain cleaners contain either bacteria or concentrated enzymes that degrade the organic residue that builds up on sewer pipes to help prevent slow-running drains. Most enzymatic drain cleaners are intended for general maintenance to maintain proper flow and are not intended to clear fully clogged drain pipes. Advantages of enzymatic drain cleaners include relative safety for use in a wide range of plumbing fixtures, low environmental impact, low cost and ease of use. Disadvantages of most enzymatic drain cleaners include longer cleaning times compared to most other drain cleaners. Because enzymatic cleaners rely on liquid flowing through the pipe to disperse, they are also generally not intended to open completely clogged drains. Safety considerations for enzymatic drain cleaners include a requirement to avoid contact with eyes and prolonged contact with skin.
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