Vent Systems

In modern plumbing, a drain-waste-vent (or DWV) is part of a system that removes sewage and greywater from a building and regulates air pressure in the waste-system pipes, facilitating flow. Waste is produced at fixtures such as toilets, sinks and showers, and exits the fixtures through a trap, a dipped section of pipe that always contains water. All fixtures must contain traps to prevent sewer gases from leaking into the house. Through traps, all fixtures are connected to waste lines, which in turn take the waste to a soil stack, or soil vent pipe. At the building drain system’s lowest point, the drain-waste vent is attached, and rises (usually inside a wall) to and out of the roof. Waste is removed from the building through the building drain and taken to a sewage line, which leads to a septic system or a public sewer. Cesspits are generally prohibited in developed areas.

The venting system, or plumbing vents, consists of pipes leading from waste pipes to the outdoors, usually through the roof. Vents provide a means to release sewer gases outside instead of inside the house. Vents also admit oxygen to the waste system to allow aerobic sewage digestion. Vents provide a way to equalize the pressure on both sides of a trap, thereby allowing the trap to hold water, which is needed to maintain effectiveness of the trap. Every fixture is required to have an internal or external trap; double trapping is prohibited by plumbing codes due to its susceptibility to clogging. With exceptions, every plumbing fixture must have an attached vent. The top of stacks must be vented too, via a stack vent, which is sometimes called a stink pipe.

DWV systems maintain neutral air pressure in the drains, allowing flow of water and sewage down drains and through waste pipes by gravity. As such, it is critical that a downward slope be maintained throughout. In relatively rare situations, a downward slope out of a building to the sewer cannot be created, and a special collection pit and grinding lift ‘sewage ejector’ pump are needed. By contrast, potable water supply systems operate under pressure to distribute water up through buildings.