Vent Pipes and Your Sewer System
If you have slow drains or are experiencing problems with toilets that won't flush right, your plumbing vents may be clogged. Below is more information about this seldom-seen component of your home's sewer system, what can be done about clogs, and how you can prevent problems from developing in the future.
Understand the Drain-Waste-Vent System
The network of pipes that empties your plumbing fixtures into a local municipal sewer or septic tank is known as the drain-waste-vent system. Most people intuitively recognize the numerous drain pipes that directly attach to fixtures and know these pipes are then tied together into the outgoing waste pipe network.
However, many people don’t understand there is another extensive network of plumbing pipes behind the scenes. These are the vent pipes. The vent pipes are critical to the proper functioning of a sewer system by providing air relief to the entrapped liquids and solids as they drain.
As an analogy, if you open a bottled soft drink and turn the bottle upside down, the soda will slowly run out in fits and spurts. The lack of equalized air pressure behind the soda as compared with the air pressure ahead of it makes it difficult for the soda to run out smoothly.
In the same way, drains can't empty quickly and toilets can't flush smoothly if there is no functional ventilation system in place. Air pressure needs to be equalized as much as possible on both sides of the drain.
The vent pipes in your drain-waste-vent system open into the atmosphere at rooftop level. This keeps noxious odors away from household occupants and allows them to disperse harmlessly into the air.
Fix Clogged Vents
If your home's vents become clogged, you will be able to tell based on the performance of drains and toilets. Gurgling and bubbling sounds are common signs of a vent problem, and your sinks and tubs may drain slowly. While these problems can also occur if the drains are clogged, you can rule out this possibility by having the drain lines cleaned.
If you still suspect the air vents are clogged, the next step is to contact a professional plumbing service for help. The plumber will inspect all openings to the vent network and clean out any clogs they find with augers or other tools.
Common causes of vent clogs include dead animals, such as birds or squirrels, insect activity, toys, and leaves. In addition, accidents or other activities can crush vent lines, which can restrict air flow through the pipes.
Prevent Vent Lines from Clogging
The best thing homeowners can do to handle clogged vent lines is to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. Since vent lines don't carry liquid or solid wastes, the best strategy is keeping vent lines completely clear and free of debris.
One of the most important steps you can take to prevent vent line clogs is to cover the rooftop openings; this is where a lot of debris ultimately finds access to the vent lines themselves. Such covers are commercially available and provide good protection against intrusion into the line.
If you decide to install a vent cover or cap, be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer's directions for installation. For example, use caution when working with surrounding shingles so you don't accidentally create a leak. In addition, avoid damaging the vent line itself and never use the vent as an anchor point while working.
If you have questions about venting and other plumbing needs, be sure to contact Power Pro Plumbing, Heating & Air for help. Our professionals are ready to assist you in any way possible.