No matter how large or how small, every valve, pump, and pipe of your home’s plumbing system must perform exactly as it was intended, because each part is designed to carry, store, and dispense only a certain amount of water and waste. Every component relies on another component to carry out its own task, and unless each small task is done correctly, leaks, clogs, and other plumbing problems will arise. Since plumbing systems can be pretty complex, it’s useful to know a few of their finer details. Check out some of the industry lingo on plumbing parts and concepts you might not have thought about or heard about before.

Circulator pump: Also known as a circulating pump or circulation pump, a circulator pump continuously cycles water to and from the water heater during non-use periods to shorten the delay of hot water to a plumbing fixture.

Check valve: Designed to control the direction water flows in your plumbing system, the check valve is a mechanism that allows water to pass one way without any backflow. Check valves ensure plumbing systems flow as intended, preventing contaminated water from mixing with fresh, sanitary water.

Thermal expansion: In relation to your home’s plumbing system, thermal expansion refers to the water’s increase in volume when heated by a water heater. As the water temperature rises, the piping in a home becomes pressurized.

Thermal expansion tank: As water is heated in your home’s water heater, the volume of the water expands, which increases the pressure within the tank. Sometimes, water heaters build up too much pressure with no place for the water to go. That’s where thermal expansion tanks come in. Designed to relieve the system of an over-pressurized state, thermal expansion tanks take on and store water from the system’s main tank to prevent potential problems—problems that could be as tiny as a leaky faucet or as major as a burst tank and consequent flooding.

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