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The following online plumbing terminology will let you grasp the home plumbing system for the better. This dictionary will help enhance your understanding about various plumbing services. Use this glossary as your plumbers guide on plumbing supplies, plumbing parts, and the plumbing system as a whole.

ABS = Aristocraft Bristone Styrine – rigid plastic piping employed in the DWV system.
Access Panel = Opening in the wall or ceiling next to the plumbing fixture enabling access to the plumbing or electrical systems.
Adaptor = A fitting that joins pipes of different types.
Aerator = Fitted at the end of a faucet spout, this device mixes air into flowing water, separating the flow into several streams to reduce splashing.
Air Lock = Obstruction in the flow of liquid typically caused by an air bubble in the pipe.
Anode Rod = Installed in water heater tank to protect against corrosion and consequently prolong the lifespan of the tank.
Angle Stop = A shutoff valve with an inlet connected to a water supply pipe and an outlet at 90 degrees toward the faucet. In case of water related plumbing emergencies the angle stop will be shut off to close water supply to a fixture.
Auger = Also called a plumber’s snake. A long and flexible rod for clearing stoppages

Hot Water Main = Main pipe transporting hot water to plumbing fixtures.

I.D. = Abbreviation for Inside Diameter – measurement unit that sizes the inside diameter of the pipe.
I.P.S = Abbreviation for Iron Pipe Size – Typical pipe threading measurement sizing the outside diameter of a pipe.
Instantaneous Water Heater = Also known as demand water heaters or tankless water heaters – heating water as it flows through a heat exchanger coil.


Leach Field = Also known as a drain field or a disposal field. Dispenses effluent from the septic tank into the soil by using a network of trenches.


Main = The central line of water supply or drain system in which all the branches join on.
Manifold = A fitting that serves as a distribution point and joins several branches to the main.
Mixing Valve = attached to the tip of the faucet to mix hot and cold running water.

Backflow = The backflow of liquids, mixtures, and substances into the potable water supply line.
Back Flow Preventer = A device to prevent the backflow of liquids, mixtures and substances into the potable water supply.
Ballcock = Also known as a fill valve is a mechanism for filling the water tank of the toilet while avoiding overflowing of the tank’s water. Activated by a lever that is connected to the ballcock by means of a float, this mechanism consists of a flapper valve connected to the water supply. As water fills the tank and reaches its ideal level, the float forces the lever to close the flapper valve and shut off the water flow to tank.


Cesspool = Also known as a cesspit or a holding tank – a pit used for sewage or any other discharges from the drainage system. Liquids leach out while solids decompose in the base of the cesspool. A build up of solid matter will obstruct the cesspool to cause the overflow of liquids. Modern environmental regulations either discourage or ban the use of cesspools due to their health hazards.
Closet Auger = Designed to access traps and remove clogs enabled through a configuration of a flexible rod with a curved end.
Cock = A valve that regulates water flow (see ballcock).
Coupling = a short tube equipped with a socket at one or both ends to join together two pipes or tubes.
CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride) = Rigid plastic pipe utilized in hot and cold water supply systems.


Demand Water Heater = Also called tankless or instantaneous water heater. Heats water without the use of a storage tank. Supplies hot water on demand.
Dip Tube = Located inside the water heater, this tube directs cold water to the bottom of the tank.
Discharge Tube = Outlet tube joining the garbage disposer or sump pump to the drain line.
Disposal Field = Also known as a drain field or leach field. Distributes effluent from the septic tank into the soil by means of trenches.
Diverter = Used in showers, tubs, bidets, and sinks, this valve directs water to outlets.
Drain = The pipeline through which waste liquid is removed from plumbing fixtures and out of the house.
DWV = Abbreviation for Drain, Waste and Vent system.


Effluent = Liquid waste.
Elbow = Coming in a range of angles, this pipe fitting has two openings in order to change the direction of the line.


Fall/Flow = The slope of a pipe for adequate drainage.
Faucet = A device for regulating water flow from a pipe.
Female Fitting = A fitting that accommodates another fitting.
Finish Plumbing = Installation of plumbing fixtures.
Flapper Valve = Located at the bottom of the toilet tank, this valve opens to release water from the tank into the bowl.
Float Ball = The floating ball activates the lever that is attached to the ballcock with changing water levels. As water fills the toilet tank and reaches its ideal level, the float ball forces the lever to close the flapper valve and shut off the water flow to tank.
Floor Flange = A fitting joining a toilet to a floor drain.
Flushometer = Toilet valve that closes after regulating a certain amount of water flow.


Gas Control = Device used to regulate gas pressure on a water heater.
GPF = Gallons per Flush – measurement unit of water flow rates of toilets.
GPM = Gallons per Minute – measurement unit of water flow rates of shower heads and faucets.
Gray Water = Waste water from bathtubs, sinks, and showers.

Nipple = A short tube installed between couplings or fittings.


Outlet Sewer = Pipe section that runs between the septic tank and the drainage field.


Packing = Tough fabric used on faucets to avert leaks.
PB (Polybutylene) = Flexible plastic used for exposed supply tubes.
Pipe Wrench = A plumbing tool used for holding and turning pipes by means of two serrated jaws.
Pitch = The downward slope of a drainpipe.
Plumber’s Putty = Used to seal joints between drain and fixture surfaces.
Plumber’s Snake = Also called auger. A flexible rod for dislodging clogs.
Plumbing Code = Legal regulation to follow by the plumber at a given job.
Plunger = A plumbing tool used to relief blocked drains by means of locking air and creating pressure to force out the obstruction.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) = A rigid plastic pipe used in drain systems, cold water supply, and venting systems.


Reducer = A fitting joining together different sized pipes.
Riser = A vertical metal or plastic pipe connecting faucet to the water supply stop valve.


Sanitary Sewer = House drain transporting waste water out of the building to a sewer system or septic tank.
Sewage = Solid and liquid waste carried off by drains into sewers.
Sleeve = A pipe that serves as a tunnel in a wall through which is inserted another pipe.
Solar Water Heating (SWH) = The heating of water using solar energy from the sun for residential, commercial and industrial purposes.
Spent Water = Effluent or wastewater. Water used for washing, flushing or cleaning, and is therefore mixed with waste matter.
Stop/Shutoff Valve = Located under sinks and toilets, this shutoff valve can be turned off to cut water supply to a singular fixture without closing the water supply to other fixtures.
Strainer = a small filter placed over drain openings to retain debris and solid matter while letting liquids pass down the drainpipe.
Supply Lines = Pipes carrying water to plumbing fixtures in the building.
Sweating = Formation of external condensation on pipes and water tanks of toilets.


Tap = A valve and spout regulating water delivery at the end of a pipe.
Tank = A container reserving water – typically found on toilets and water heaters.
Tankless Water Heater = Also called instantaneous or demand water heater. Heats water without using the conventional hot water storage tank.
Trap = Curved section of drain pipe to prevent sewer gases from permeating the building. Apart from toilets that are joined to S-shaped traps, all other plumbing fixtures have P- shaped traps.


Valve = A device that controls the flow of a fluids, gases and solids by opening, closing, or partially obstructing pipes.
Vent = A pipe admitting air into a drain system to regulate air pressure, and prevent water seals in traps from being siphoned off. Without water seals sewer gases can permeate the building.


Wastewater = Effluent. Water used for flushing, cleaning, washing or in an industrial process, and therefore contains waste matter


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