Plumbing is any system that conveys fluids for a wide range of applications. Heating and cooling, waste removal, and potable water delivery are among the most common uses for plumbing however plumbing’s not limited to these applications. Plumbing utilizes pipes, valves, plumbing fixtures, tanks, and other apparatuses to convey fluids. Trades that work with plumbing such as boilermakers, plumbers, and pipefitters are referred to the plumbing trade. In the Developed world plumbing infrastructure is critical for public health and sanitation.
Plumbing originated during ancient civilizations such as the Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese cities as they developed public baths and needed to provide potable water and wastewater removal, for larger numbers of people. Standardized earthen plumbing pipes with broad flanges making use of asphalt for preventing leakages appeared in the urban settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization. The Romans used lead pipe inscriptions to prevent water theft.
The use of lead for potable water declined sharply after World War II because of increased awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning. At this time, copper piping was introduced as a better and safer alternative to lead pipes.
Plumbing equipment includes devices often hidden behind walls or in utility spaces which are not seen by the general public. It includes water meters, pumps, expansion tanks, backflow preventers, water filters, UV sterilization lights, water softeners, water heaters, heat exchangers, gauges, and control systems.
Specialized plumbing tools include pipe wrenches, flaring pliers, pipe vise, pipe bending machine, pipe cutter, dies and joining tools such as soldering torches and crimp tools. New tools have been developed to help plumbers fix problems more efficiently. For example, plumbers use video cameras for inspections of hidden leaks or problems, they use hydro jets, and high pressure hydraulic pumps connected to steel cables for trench-less sewer line replacement. Flooding from excessive rain or clogged sewers may require specialized equipment, such as a heavy duty pumper truck designed to vacuum raw sewage.
Much of the plumbing work in populated areas is regulated by government or quasi-government agencies due to the direct impact on the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Plumbing installation and repair work on residences and other buildings generally must be done according to plumbing and building codes to protect the inhabitants of the buildings and to ensure safe, quality construction to future buyers. If permits are required for work, plumbing contractors typically secure them from the authorities on behalf of home or building owners.