They say necessity is the mother of invention. That may be a cliche, but when it comes to the plumbing in your Pacific Northwest home, it’s probably true.

Each advance in pipe repair, drain cleaning or high-efficiency plumbing fixtures is the result of some problem-solving plumber or engineer.

We all tend to take plumbing for granted. Plumbers, in some ways, are the unsung heroes of our sanitary and convenient lifestyle.

Modern plumbing, as a whole, is a marvel. When you think of all that goes into keeping water lines and sewers running in a city the size of Portland or Vancouver, it’s amazing that the piping and pressure works as well as it does.

A plumber and plumbing innovationsWe all tend to take plumbing for granted. Plumbers, in some ways, are the unsung heroes of our sanitary and convenient lifestyle. They don’t get their photos in the paper, and we don’t idolize them for their skills. But, when your toilet clogs or roots invade the sewer line, who are you going to call? A plumbing company, of course!

History often hails the Romans as the inventors of plumbing systems. They piped in fresh water and found a way to drain away wastewater. But plumbing is the work of legions of unnamed innovators and dreamers. Modern plumbing is the accumulation of lots of people’s hard work and big dreams.

Here are a few of what we consider to be the best plumbing inventions and innovations in use today.

CIPP

CIPP, cured-in-place-pipe, pipelining, whatever you call it, this technique is a significant advancement in pipe repair. In some ways, CIPP is the equivalent of laparoscopic surgery.

Surgeons can repair a blood vessel using tiny instruments inserted through small incisions. CIPP technicians replace damaged pipes through one or two access points using noninvasive techniques.

Here’s a quick overview of how trenchless pipe repair in Portland, Oregon works:

  1. A technician inserts a snake-like instrument carrying a camera through a clean-out opening and into a pipe. He identifies the problem by looking at the pipe on a closed-circuit video monitor.
  2. A flexible lining saturated with resin is pushed with air or water into the damaged pipe.
  3. The lining cures and forms a new pipe that can last up to 50 years. If service connections are needed, the technician uses a robotic cutter to make the reinstatement.
  4. The process takes a few hours and requires no digging or destruction.

The Plunger

Why change something that works? Plungers couldn’t be more simple, yet they’re as essential as ever. When a kitchen sink or toilet has a minor clog, a plunger takes care of the problem. A plunger designed for a toilet has a “lip” while those for sinks have a simple bowl.

Plungers are cheap and require just a little muscle to operate. When a clog doesn’t require the attentions of a professional, a plunger is your best choice. It’s also a green alternative to harsh chemical drain cleaners.

Think you know how to use this traditional tool? Here’s a reminder of how to use a plunger to unclog a sink or toilet:

  1. Remove excess water from the sink or toilet, leaving enough to submerge the cup.
  2. Place the plunger into the sink or toilet. Tilt the plunger to allow water into the cup. A water-filled plunger has more force than one containing only air.
  3. Cover nearby outlets with a wet rag.
  4. Use a vertical motion to forcefully plunge several times. Check the drain and plunge some more if needed.

Low-Flow Toilets

Toilets of sorts have been around almost forever. But, ancient toilets, before modern sewer systems, weren’t the best. Some used a constant stream of water. An early example of a flushing toilet required 7.5 gallons for flushing. Worse still, toilets might empty into a street or a nearby stream, pond or lake. Those bodies of water might also be a means of “fresh” water. It wasn’t an ideal situation.

Modern toilets took shape in the late 1700s but didn’t become widespread in the U.S. until the mid-1900s. Today, the best news in toilets are the many efficient low-flow models. Early water-saving toilets didn’t always work well. But today’s do the job while saving water and money.

Replacing an old toilet with a water-saving model conserves about 13,000 gallons of water per year, according to WaterSense.

Water Heaters

Running water is great, but in the dead of winter (or at any time) most people want heated shower and bathing water. A Norwegian who immigrated to Pittsburg is credited with the invention of the electric water heater. That 1889 model was a storage-style tank heater. The inventor’s name was Edwin Ruud. The company he founded still sells water heaters.

Water heaters are simple devices, but they’ve been improving steadily over the years. High-efficiency models take advantage of better insulation and help you save money on your power bills.

Tankless heaters also know as on-demand water heaters are among the most efficient models. Unlike storage heaters which use power to keep water hot 24-7, tankless models come on only when someone twists a hot water handle. These appliances cost more initially, but they have a longer lifespan and can reduce power bills.

The list of great plumbing inventions could go on and on, but we’ll leave our list short and sweet. If you need help with any of the plumbing innovations in your home or business, give Apollo a call.