Your home’s plumbing network consists of more than drain pipes and fixtures such as sinks and toilets. It also includes an extensive network of ventilation pipes hidden behind your walls. Vent pipes are necessary for the proper functioning of your drain-waste-vent (DWV) system.
Without vent pipes, your waste pipes would drain poorly or not at all, and they would allow noxious gases to enter your home. Below is more information on this critical component of your home’s plumbing and what you should know about its maintenance.
Why Ventilation Is Essential
If you have ever turned over a plastic water bottle and attempted to drain its contents, you probably noticed that the water doesn’t pour smoothly. Instead, the water empties in spits and spurts due to a vacuum that forms as the void inside the bottle increases.
However, if you were to poke a small hole in the bottom of the bottle and then invert it and drain the water inside, you would notice that the water flows smoothly. This occurs because of air entering the bottle and filling the empty space formerly occupied by the water.
In the same way, waste pipes in your home require ventilation to permit smooth draining. Without vents, the wastewater in your drains would also exit your home’s plumbing in spits and spurts.
How Ventilation Is Implemented
Ventilation in most American homes is accomplished through the use of external vents. Each plumbing fixture in the home is connected to a vent stack, which is a vertical extension of the waste pipe that penetrates the roof. Air can freely enter and leave the vent stack as necessary, which keeps the drains functioning.
There are other ways of implementing waste venting, including the use of localized vents called air admittance valves. These vents are either attached at the point of the fixture or terminated in the attic on top of the vent stack. This prevents the need to bore unattractive holes through the roof which may also allow leaks to form.
As mentioned, ventilation is essential to allowing wastewater to move freely within the pipes. However, there are other important benefits of pipe ventilation, and if something interferes with venting, the end result can be problematic for homeowners.
If pipe ventilation is hampered, then wastewater flow can create a vacuum that pulls the water from a trap located next to the fixture. An empty trap is unable to block sewer gases from entering your home, which can negatively affect your health.
Another problem caused by poor pipe ventilation is the growth of anaerobic bacteria. Helpful bacteria in the waste breakdown process are aerobic, meaning they need oxygen to survive, and a waste vent can provide the necessary supply of oxygen.
On the other hand, anaerobic bacteria create noxious waste products and odors as a part of the waste digestion process. Adequate ventilation can suppress the growth of anaerobic bacteria and keep the stench of decaying waste from becoming overwhelming.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Ventilation System
As a homeowner, you don’t need to perform a lot of maintenance on your waste ventilation system, as most of it is self-contained and fairly simple in implementation. However, there are a few things you can do to keep the air moving through the vents.
Most importantly, be sure that nothing obstructs the opening of your vent stack. Birds and other animals can clog the openings with nesting materials, and this will create problems such as those mentioned above.
In addition, monitor the vent stack in winter to ensure ice doesn’t block the opening. You may need to use a heat gun or hair dryer to loosen and remove ice from the vent stack. Covers can be purchased to help shield vent stacks from outside debris and ice, but be sure they are approved for use in your area before installing one.
If you have questions or problems relating to your plumbing ventilation system, be sure to contact Cleary Plumbing for help. Their team of plumbers can help solve the most difficult plumbing problems you may encounter.