Plumbing Terms Glossary for Homeowners

At FloHawks we take pride in helping homeowners maintain their plumbing systems. Below are some common industry terms you may find helpful as you encounter plumbing issues of your own.


  • ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene) pipe: A flexible, thermoplastic pipe, black in color, used for gravity and pressure sanitary sewers.
  • ABS composite pipe: A sewer pipe with similar characteristics of ABS Pipe with the exception that filler material, like cement, is used. It is used for gravity sewers only.
  • ACP (Asbestos Cement Pipe) pipe: A Rigid Pipe manufactured from asbestos fiber and cement used for both gravity and pressure sanitary sewers.
  • Aerobic: Requiring the use of free oxygen. (Aerobic bacteria require oxygen to survive.)
  • Anaerobic: Not requiring the usage of free oxygen. (Anaerobic bacteria do not require free oxygen to live.)
  • As-Built: Drawing of septic system following installation – showing how it was built.
  • City sewer: A sewage disposal system operated by the city or county.
  • Cleanout: An access point in a pipe used for cleaning purposes.
  • Conventional gravity system: An on-site sewage system consisting of a septic tank and a subsurface spoil absorption system with gravity distribution of the effluent.
  • Conventional pressure distribution system: An on-site sewage system consisting of a septic tank and a subsurface soil absorption system with pressure distribution of the effluent.
  • Copper: A reddish-brown metal widely used for household plumbing pipes. It is primarily used for potable (drinkable) water.
  • CPVC: Chlorinated poly-vinyl chloride pipe is a type of plastic. CPVC can be used in both hot and cold potable water piping.
  • Drain field: Part of the home’s septic system, the drain field is a system of pipes that discharge bacterially treated wastewater from the septic tank into the soil for natural decontamination.
  • Effluent: Liquid discharged from a septic tank or other on-site sewage system component.
  • Energy Star: A program which provides certification to electrical appliances and other products (e.g., dishwashers and washing machines) which meet certain energy efficiency standards.
  • Fitting: A device designed to control and guide the flow of water. Examples include faucets, shower heads, shutoff valves, shower valves, and drinking fountain spouts.
  • Fixture: A device that provides a supply of water and/or its disposal. Examples include toilets, sinks, and bathtubs.
  • Gallons per flush (GPF): A measure of the total volume of water (in gallons) required to flush a toilet.
  • Gallons per minute (GPM): A measure of the rate at which water flows through a fixture or fitting at a certain pressure. It is measured by the number of gallons flowing from the device in one minute at a given water supply pressure.
  • Gray water: Waste water from sinks, showers, and bathtubs – but not toilets.
  • Grease trap: A device that captures grease entering a system before it reaches the sewer lines. Commonly used in commercial applications such as restaurants or cafeterias.
  • P-trap: A sink drainpipe designed in the shape of a “P” that runs from the sink and down through the floor to the main drain piping. The shape is designed to trap a small quantity of water in the pipe, preventing sewer odors from entering your home.
  • Polybutylene: This soft, gray, or blue plastic pipe was widely used from the mid- 1970s to the mid-90s. Since then, it has become known that polybutylene deteriorates over time and leaks.
  • Porcelain enamel: A coating used on metal fixtures, such as cast-iron sinks and bathtubs. Porcelain enamel gives metal plumbing fixtures their colors and desirable glossy surfaces.
  • Pressure distribution: A system of small diameter pipes equally distributing effluent throughout a trench or bed.
  • Pump chamber: A tank or compartment following the septic tank which contains a pump, floats and volume for storage of effluent.
  • Repair: Restoration, by reconstruction or relocation, or replacement of a failed on-site sewage system.
  • Residential sewage: Sewage having the constituency and strength typical of wastewater from domestic households.
  • Scum: Accumulated solids that form a floating mat on the surface of the effluent in the septic tank. Including but not limited to fats, oils and grease (FOGs).
  • Septic system: The complete system of sewage removal, including the drain field, septic tank, and associated piping.
  • Septic tank: The underground holding tank that serves a home that does not have a connection to the local city or county sewage pipes. The term “septic” refers to the anaerobic bacteria that live in the tank and decompose the waste discharged into the tank.
  • Septic tank inspection: Inspection of the actual holding tank of the septic system and drain field to ensure it is still water tight and working properly.
  • Sewage: Any urine, feces, and the water carrying human wastes, including kitchen, bath, and laundry wastes from residences, buildings, industrial establishments or other places. Also see residential sewage.
  • Sewer connection: The place where a household sanitary sewer system connects to the city or municipality sewer system.
  • Shutoff valve: Valves installed under sinks and toilets used to shut off water supply in the event of a malfunction or repair. Also called an Angle Stop, Straight Stop, or Supply Stop.
  • Sludge: Settled solids accumulated in the bottom of a septic tank or in the settling tanks at a wastewater treatment plant.
  • Treatment component: An approved method or device for treatment of sewage to a level that is suitable for more treatment and dispersal into the subsurface by the disposal component.
  • Valve: A device that regulates the flow of water. In plumbing, valves are used in faucets and showers, and control the mix of hot and cold water.
  • Wastewater: Any water that is used in a process or sewer system becomes wastewater or graywater and must be treated before reuse.

Don’t see what you are looking for? Not sure what’s going on with your plumbing? Contact us with any question about your plumbing system or maintenance and our friendly professionals at FloHawks will be happy to help.

Water Heater Maintenance Tips from FloHawks

Residential Water HeaterLike other household appliances, regularly maintaining your home’s hot water heater can extend its useful life. Because we rely on water heaters daily, it’s important to make sure they are properly maintained. A regular maintenance schedule can keep it running for its 15-year expected lifetime and possibly beyond. Follow FloHawks’ water heater maintenance tips below.

  • You can improve the efficiency of an older unit by insulating it with a fiberglass jacket. Newer units are already insulated so check your owner’s manual to make sure.
  • Test the valve. Both gas and electric water heaters have a safety device called a temperature and pressure relief valve. If too much pressure ever builds up in the tank, the relief valve opens and releases the pressure. This will prevent damage to your tank. Open the valve, let the tank release some water. If the valve stops then you know it is in good working order. If not, then you will need to replace it.
  • Flush the system. At least once a year, drain several gallons out of your water heater using the drain valve. This will help to remove sediment and debris and will also help to make the unit operate more quietly. Sediment buildup in the tank can reduce your water heater’s energy efficiency and also clog your water lines. You can flush the system by connecting a garden hose to the drain valve and letting the water run into a bucket until the water is clear. Be sure to run it to a place where the hot water will not cause damage.
  • Check the water temperature. One major sign that your hot water heater has reached the end of its useful life is fluctuations in temperature. If your heater is not producing hot water or produces less hot water than it used to, chances are you need to get it repaired or replaced. Set the thermostat to 120 degrees. You will save up to 5% in energy costs for every 10 degrees you lower the temperature, plus you’ll reduce the risk of scalding.

If your heater is old, leaks, makes loud noises, or fails to consistently produce hot water, it is probably at the end of its useful life. If you are experiencing any of these issues or any others with your water heater, the professionals at FloHawks will be happy to inspect your unit. They can help you diagnose and fix any problems with your water heater or help you replace the existing one within your home.

Both electric and gas heaters can be very dangerous so do not risk trying to fix a problem on your own – it’s best to leave it to a professional like FloHawks. Learn more about FloHawks’ professional water heater installation and repair services here. Our FloHawks technicians are available 24/7 to help you with your water heater or any other household plumbing or septic issue. Call us today at 1-800-356-4295 or contact us online.

Septic Stench: What That “Rotten Egg Smell” Means and What to do About It

A sewer gas odor can come from your household septic system or the sanitary sewer system. If you notice a foul smell that is causing a problem in your home, it may be sewer gas.

What is sewer gas?

what is rotten egg smellSewer gas is a complex mixture of toxic and non-toxic gasses that can be present at varying levels depending upon the source. It is formed during the decay of household waste, typically the anaerobic decomposition of sewage and sludge.

Sewer gas is mostly methane, which is odorless, but it’s almost always mixed with other gasses, the most common being hydrogen sulfide (chemically, H2S). Sewer gas can also contain ammonia, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, and, hydrogen. Methane gas can displace oxygen, especially in a confined space, and be deadly.

The hydrogen sulfide gas results from decomposing organic material and can be produced by human and animal wastes. At low levels, it has a strong odor similar to rotten eggs. Under normal conditions, hydrogen sulfide is colorless, flammable gas. Beside the offensive odor, sewer gas can be hazardous, especially over an extended period.

Is it Dangerous?

Fortunately for us, we can generally smell Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) at very low levels and far below what could be toxic so smelling the gas does not always mean that it will make you sick. However, at higher levels, your nose can become overwhelmed by the gas, and we lose our ability to smell it. At higher levels, H2S gas can make you sick and could be fatal. Although hydrogen sulfide is a toxic gas, it will not harm people at the concentrations that exist in a house with sewer gas odor problems.  Not enough gas is generated in the sewers for concentrations to approach the dangerous level in the home.

However, if a person were to enter a tunnel, hole, or tank that contained sewage undergoing anaerobic breakdown (such as your septic tank), there is a chance he or she could become poisoned and the impact could be fatal. Never enter your septic tank. This is a job best left to trained professionals. If your tank requires inspection, call FloHawks. We have the proper training, equipment, and expertise to safely get the job done.

Where does it come from?

sewer gasSmelling sewer gas in your home means that something, somewhere along the plumbing lines isn’t working as it should. A common source of sewer gas odors in the home is a “dry trap.” All drains to a sewer system have a “P” shaped trap that is usually filled with water, which provides a seal to keep out sewer gas. A dry trap occurs when a sink, shower, floor drain, or toilet is not used for a long time, and the water in the trap eventually evaporates out, allowing the sewer gas to enter. If you have a dry trap, the solution is relatively simple – you can pour a quart or so of water into your sinks, showers, tubs, and floor drains to make sure the unused drain traps are filled with water.

Another possible source of sewer gas is a break or leak in the sewer drain line that allows sewer gas to seep into a crawl space or basement, and then into your home. Clogged drains or a blockage at the septic tank can also cause sewer gasses to back up into the building. Unfortunately, this solution is not a simple do it yourself. But FloHawks can help.

Our trained and experienced professionals provide inspections, line cleaning, and can repair your system to get it back in working order – without the extra sewer smells. Call FloHawks anytime at 1-800-356-4295 or use our convenient Schedule Your Service to schedule a time that’s best for you.

A Guide: How Septic Tanks Work by FloHawks

Although few homeowners may ever want to see their septic system in operation, septic systems are one of the most important systems in your home – collecting, treating, and disposing of your household wastewater every day. And that is no small feat as an average home can produce 250 to 300 gallons of wastewater per day! Your septic tank collects anything that goes down the drain in your home. When properly designed, constructed, and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater to effectively reduce or eliminate human health and environmental threats.

Your Septic Tank

A Guide: How Septic Tanks Work by FloHawksAll the wastewater from your toilet, bath, kitchen, and laundry flows into the septic tank. The septic tank is a large, underground container where the bacteria does its job breaking down solids. Heavier matter that goes through your plumbing, like toilet paper and other solids, sink to the bottom of the tank where bacteria reduce them to sludge and gasses. Lighter solids and organic matter like oils, fats, and proteins float to the top to create a scum layer. Solids that do not decompose remain in the tank. Even when the bacteria are doing their job, undigested solids will slowly start to accumulate on the bottom of the tank through regular use.

However, most of your septic tank is comprised of effluent – gray water that once carried sludge and scum. Over time, through regular use of your septic system, the sludge and scum levels will begin to rise and eventually you will need to have your septic tank cleaned or pumped out. Be conscious of what goes down your drains; excessive fats, oils, and greases can require you to need your tank to be pumped more often. Your actual pumping schedule will depend on the size of the tank and your individual system’s level of use, or abuse, but a rule of thumb average is once every 3 to 5 years.

The Drain Field

After passing through the septic tank, effluent flows out into the drain field. Drain fields (also called leach fields or subsurface soil absorption fields) are a type of wastewater disposal system designed to treat and disperse the effluent from septic tanks. The basic function of a drain field is to deal with the septic tank effluent by allowing it to percolate into the ground. Well-designed and maintained drain fields are an effective way to remove disease-causing microorganisms from septic tank wastewater (effluent).

Drain fields are very important, and typically, the most expensive component of the septic tank drainage system. Drain fields typically consist of a series of perforated pipes laid in long, shallow, gravel-filled trenches that are buried below the ground’s surface. The gravel helps to distribute the wastewater over a large area as the effluent seeps through the gravel and into the underlying layers of soil.

Wastewater Treatment

As the effluent flows slowly through layers of soil, a variety of complex physical, biological, and chemical processes combine to provide treatment and purification. Soil particles filter, or chemically react with, solids and organic matter from the wastewater. Bacteria and other organisms in the soil consume the organic matter in the wastewater and perform most of the treatment. As a drain field matures, microbes living in the soil break down the solids and kill the bacteria in the wastewater. Although some treatment also may occur in the gravel layer, the soil provides most of the wastewater treatment. The soil in the drain field provides the final treatment and disposal of the septic tank effluent.

The septic drain field also has the biggest influence on the septic system life expectancy. Regular maintenance of your system is important, especially for the drain field. The size of the drain field and the capacity of the ground to absorb settled wastewater depend largely on individual site conditions including the type and texture of the soil, the area’s topography, and the volume of wastewater produced.

Proper Care and Maintenance

The useful life of a system depends on several factors like proper design, sizing, and installation, soil composition, the water table, number of nearby trees, amount of use and abuse, and most importantly, proper routine maintenance and pumping. Lack of maintenance is a common cause of early system failure. If your tank is not periodically pumped out (every 3 to 5 years), solids will accumulate, sludge and scum layers can grow thick, and eventually overflow into the drain field, causing foul-smelling water rising to the surface and extensive damage.

Being mindful about what you and your family put into your septic system can also extend its useful life. It doesn’t take much to upset the delicate balance of bacteria within the tank. For more information on how to best maintain your septic system click here for FloHawks’ tips on the Proper Care and Feeding of Your Septic Tank.

Call the professionals at FloHawks anytime at 1-800-356-4295 or use our  convenient Schedule Your Service tool, which allows you to set an appointment that best fits your schedule. We are available 24/7 for all your septic tank needs.

Sierra is Two Years Old!


Can You Believe Our Little Girl is Two?

sierra It just seems like yesterday we were holding a contest to figure our what to name our little bird. Well, Sierra is turning two today, and she has become an important part of the FloHawk Family.

She spends her time now hanging out with her other bird friends and doing appearances at FloHawks trade shows, fairs, and educational events. But her favorite activity is being anywhere where there are kids. And let us tell you – she loves showing off for kids. If you are interested in having Sierra come to your event, please call our Marketing Department, and we will set something up.

Sierra also likes giving out inspirational messages to help get you through the day. Follow her on FloHawks’ Facebook page to see what her next “Thought of the Day” will be.

So, Who is Sierra?

sierra Sierra is a Lanner Falcon who has been a part of the FloHawks family since her birth on May 11, 2015. Sierra was born in captivity and adopted by FloHawks Vice President JR Inman. Shortly after Sierra hatched, we held a contest on social media to come up with a fitting name for our new falcon. The name Sierra was chosen from the wide array of names suggested.

What is a Lanner Falcon?

One of the oldest species of heirofalcons, and members of the Raptor family, Lanners have been used in falconry for more than a thousand years. They are especially prized for their ability to capture other birds such as pigeons and grouse. Lanner Falcons are fast, agile flyers, and not afraid to follow prey into the underbrush. Lanners use a horizontal hunting style, coming at their prey low, flat, and fast.

Unlike other types of birds, falcons do not build their own nests. Instead, they will take up residence in the abandoned nest of a bird of a large size such as raven or vulture. Lanner Falcons are native to Africa and Southeast Europe and like open and arid terrain, especially rocky cliffs.

Why Do We Have Sierra?

sierra Although Falcons (or Hawks for that matter) are in no way related to plumbing or septic service, Sierra does resemble the FloHawks logo. We at FloHawks are committed to the environment and love the outdoors and wildlife so she fits well within our family. She also loves coming to trade shows and events and likes to sit on her perch and pose for photos.

Where is Sierra Going to Be Next?

Sierra makes appearances at events several times a year, and you will be able to see here this year at the Pierce County Fair in August.

Be sure to follow FloHawks on Facebook to see where Sierra will be at next!