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Plumbing and water supply

Water supply system

The water supply system follows the same general pattern in almost all localities. The source is a
well or public water main. Under direct pressure at the main or by pressure supplied by a pump,
water is forced through the service pipe to the building and from the service pipe through branches
and risers to the fixtures. If the service pipe runs from a public water main, there will be a curb cock
or valve where the service pipe joins the main, a stop valve just inside the building, and a water
meter. Once past the meter, the water runs through a continuation of the service pipe, through
water heaters and water softeners, through branches and risers, including turns, T's, couplings, and
so on, until it reaches the various outlets.

Lengths of pipe for this system can be plotted. The kind of material wether iron, plastics, brass, or
copper will be determined by the hardness of the water, local conditions, comparative costs, and
other consideratios.The size of pipe is another matter.

Size of pipe

The correct size, or diameter, of pipe is the smallest size that will do its maximum job adequately.
What this correct size happens to be in any individual instance depends on the pressure at the start
of the particular run, the flow required at its end, and whether the pressure is sufficient to overcome
the obstacles in its path friction in the pipe, turns and fittings, any rise in height - and still deliver the
required flow at the desired point. Loss by friction is a major factor in reducing pressure, and it
varies greatly with the diameter and length of the pipe and the amount of pressure at the source,
not to mention such possible developments as corrosion and rust.

Briefly then, the question is: Can the pressure overcome the obstacles and deliver the desired flow.
And the answer in general is: Yes, if the pipe is large enough. The following information will be
satisfactory for choosing pipe sizes for the average home, without your having to calculate all the
factors involved. After this, there is an explanation of bow to do your own figuring if you find it

The pressure at the street main can be found by calling the water company.

Total the fixtures and then total the rate of discharge, and you will have the maximum demand for
water that your entire system can make. The maximum demand, however, is usually a great deal
larger than the peak demand at any one moment, because, of course, you will not be likely to use
all the fixtures at once. The general average for homes is 25% of the maximum demand.
Minimum sizes

The left table shows the

minimum recommended
sizes of iron pipe for the
service supply and
fixture branches. Usually
copper and brass piping
one size smaller than
iron pipe can be used
safely. This is because
greater allowance must
be made in the case of
iron pipe for eventual
corrosion and rust.

In arriving at the averages and minimum sizes above, which will suffice in most circumstances, the
following assumptions have been made:

1. That there are no very great runs or lengths of pipe.

2. That there are no very unusual rises in height.
3. That there is no great number of turns and fittings.
4. That there will be no unusual demand on the supply at any one time.

If your system exceeds the average by a considerable amount in any of these factors, you will have
to consider carefully whether a larger size of pipe is needed.

Other factors

Other factors that may affect the size of pipe are local codes, the kind of water you have, and the
height above sea level. Local codes do not usually place restrictions on the size of water pipes, but
it is always wise to check and make sure.

The kind of water you have will be a factor because of its hardness or softness. The corrosive and
clogging effects of water vary greatly and result from many complicated factors, but in general it
can be said that soft water is usually more corrosive than hard water, and that the more corrosive
the water, the larger the size of the pipe should be. Thus, if 1/2" pipe will do for quite hard water,
3/4" should be used for medium hard or soft water, and 1" for very soft or corrosive water. Check
local experience in this matter; it will be more valuable than any book or table.

The height above sea level, when it gets to be considerable, must be taken into account, because
the pressure supplied by the volume of water itself decreases as you go up (the atmospheric
pressure on the water decreases). Compensation must be made insofar as the pressure, of the
volume of water itself is used or must be overcome. This is a particularly important factor when
calculating pump lifts at high altitudes.

How to size pipe

The method outlined below can be used to find the correct pipe size between any two points in a
system, provided that no water is drawn off between the two points. Sizing of pipe, even by experts,
is not an exact science. Many factors enter in, and the tables for such quantities as friction loss are
at best only averages of many experiments. While it is possible to arrive at a reasonable answer in
most cases, if your situation is quite complicated or if a very precise answer is necessary, it is far
better to get professional advice, than to try, to work out the problem yourself.

In figuring pipe size, our basic: problem remains the same as stated above: To find the most
economical size that will deliver the required flow. To do this, we must know the pressure at the
source and find out the resistance it has to overcome.

First of all, we must understand that the pressure of water can be expressed in two different
terms: pounds of pressure per square inch and feet of head. The "pounds of pressure" represents
the weight of the water itself; if any extra, mechanical pressure is added, it is also included in
"pounds of pressure." For our purposes, we may say likewise that "feet of head" represents the
pounds of pressure that so many vertical feet of water will exert perpendicularly upon a given point.

This is equal to 0.433 pounds per square inch for every foot of head, if no extra, mechanical
pressure is added. To convert feet of head into pounds per square inch, multiply by .433; to convert
pounds per square inch into feet of head, multiply by 2.3; we may use whichever term is more
convenient, since they express the same thing.

Finding out the resistance that the pressure must overcome is complicated by the fact that part of
the resistance is made by the pipe itself and varies with the size and length of pipe and yet it is this
size that you want to find out. This means that at one point in your calculations you must assume
you are using a certain size and then see if it will work. Let us outline the method and then give a
concrete example using the method.

Step 1 : Factors involved

Step 1: To find the correct pipe size in any particular instance, you must first determine the
following factors:

a) The length or run of the pipe;

b) The total vertical rise in the run, less any drop below the starting point;
c) The number of various, turns, fittings, etc.;
d) The pressure at the start of the run;
e ) The required rate of flow at the end of the run.

Factors (a), (b), and (c) are determined by plotting your system.

Factor (d) may be determined: if a street main, from the water company; if a well, from rate of flow
or by pressure gauge; if at some later point in the system than the main or well, by using table
below (as explained later). Always use the minimum pressure that the source is going to provide.

The pressure at the source is almost always the maximum pressure for the entire system. The
maximum will be greater than at the source, however, if there is a booster such as a pump, in the
system. And it will also be greater at any point that is lower than the source because of the
additional weight of water at this point, provided an equal amount of pressure has not been lost
before this point is reached.

Factor (e) can be determined from your plot, Table 1 (above), and your estimate of the peak
momentary demand, that is, the sum of the flow of all fixtures that may be in use at one time.

Steps 2 to 4
We must now find out, given the pressure at the start and the rate of flow at the end, what size of
pipe most economically overcomes the loss from friction, turns, fittings, and vertical rise. Briefly, this
is done by making allowances for the turns and fittings and the rise, and then going to tables below
to see what is the smallest size that will do the job.

Step 2: To compensate for the rise in height, consult tables below. This table gives the pressure in
pounds per square inch for different heights of water and thus tells you the amount of pressure
needed merely to overcome the vertical rise in the system. Find the box for the appropriate number
of feet, take the pressure given and subtract this from the pressure at the start of the system. Use
the result of this subtraction as the pressure for later figuring.

Step 3: To compensate for turns, fittings, and so on, go to tables below and total up the sum of the
various items. Loss in pressure from a turn or fitting may be considered as a loss due to friction.
Table below gives the equivalent in length of pipe for a 90' turn, a 45' turn, and so on. In this way,
you will get all the loss from friction in one term - the length of the pipe and then the tables can tell
you what you will lose in that length. When you go to tables below, you must assume a certain size
of pipe because, as the table shows, the friction or length varies with the size. So assume a
reasonable size and add up the number of feet given in the table for each elbow, turn, valve, and
the like in your problem. Add this sum to the length of pipe already measured out (Step 1). The
result is called the developed length. Now you can work with one figure in calculating friction loss.

Step 4: Now also, you have made allowances for all the various factors except the friction loss in
the pipe, which is taken care of in tables below. Using the last pressure figure you obtained (Step
2), and the developed lenght of pipe (Step 3), find in table below the most economical size that will
give you the required discharge (Factor (e) ), which is the answer you want.

A practical problem

Now let us take a concrete problem and follow through the steps outlined above. Let us say we
want to find out what size of pipe to use for a run from the service pipe to a bathtub. We will
assume that we have a pressure at the start of the run of 50 lbs. per sq. in., a run of 110 feet, a
vertical rise of 25 feet, two 90' elbows in the run, and a required rate at the end of 10 gallons per

The pressure at the source is 50 lbs. The vertical rise is 25 feet. From table below we find that 25
feet is approximately equal to 11 lbs pressure. Taking 11 from 50 leaves us 39, lbs pressure for the

The length of run is 110 feet. Assuming for the moment that we will use 3/4" pipe, we find from
table below that the two elbows total 10 feet, which, added to the 110 gives us a developed length
of 120 feet.

Going to table below, we now find that 120 feet of 3/4" iron pipe with 40 lbs pressure at the source
will deliver 17 gal. per min., which is more than needed.

Trying 1/2" pipe, we get a developed length of 118 feet. Returning to table below, we find that 120
feet (the nearest to 118 ft) of 1/2" iron pipe with 40 lbs pressure at the source will deliver 8 gal. per
min., which is a little under demand.

In determining the correct size for his instance, you must now decide wether 8 gal. per min. will be
satisfactory, in which case 1/2" pipe will be all right, or whether, to be on the safe side, you had
better use 3/4" pipe, in which case the flow will be ore than sufficient.

The correct pipe size may be easily determined in theory, as shown above. Whether the theoretical
size will be all right in practice depends on the consideration discussed above: local codes, height
above sea level, softness of water, and whether iron, copper, or brass is to be used. These
considerations are briefly reviewed in the paragraphs immediately following.

Our figuring has been based on using clean iron pipe at sea level. If your system is going to be at a
considerable height above sea level, you may have to make allowances for the difference in static
water pressure. Also, there may be special circumstances in your locality or local building codes
that will dictate a different size than that obtained by theory and averaged tables.

In any case, don't use less than the minimum recommended sizes, and, insofar as possible, keep
the pressure drop in your system within 10 lbs per 100 feet, which will keep the noise down.

Determining pressure

You may also run into the problem of determining the pressure at some point in the system other
than the source - the street main or pump. To find this out, determine by the method given above
the rate of flow at the desired point and also the developed length of pipe to that point. Table below
gives the loss in pressure in pounds per sq. in. for each 100 feet of iron pipe discharging at various

Subtract the appropriate figure in table below from the pressure at the source. Subtract also the
loss in pressure for the vertical rise, if any. The result is the pressure at the desired point. You
must, however, know or find out to begin with what the pressure at the source is.

One section at a time

To work out the sizes for the entire system for the house, you will have to proceed section by
section, for instance, from the street main to the point where the service main branches, from the
branch to the next branch or the fixture, and so on. Obviously, as you proceed from the source
nearer and nearer to the final points of the system, the required pipe sizes will diminish. Table
below will show you the relationship between mains and branches, that is, the number of branches
that a main can supply without falling short of the rate of flow demanded.

In most cases, a consideration of tables used on this page and a check on the common practice in
your neighborhood will tell you all you need to know without any calculations.
Sizing Water Supply Lines
Sizing water supply and service lines based on Water Supply Fixture
Units (WSFU)
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Due to intermittent use of the fixtures in a water supply system it can be difficult to predict and
size the supply and service lines. The fixtures total theoretical demand should always be
compensated with a statistic more expected demand.
With the Water Supply Fixture Units (WSFU) system defined by the Uniform Plumbing
Code (UPC) there are tables available where the total demand calculated by adding each units
"Water Supply Fixture Units" (WFSU) are compensated to an expected demand.
The tables below can be used to size building supply and branch lines and meter and service
Supply pressure 30 - 45 psi
Maximum Water Supply Fixture Units (WFSU)

Length of pipe (feet)

Meter and street Building supply
service lines and branch
(inches) lines 40 60 80 100 150 200

3/4 1/2 6 5 4 3 2 1

3/4 3/4 16 16 14 12 9 6

3/4 1 29 25 23 21 17 15

1 1 36 31 27 25 20 17

1 1 1/4 54 47 42 38 32 28

Supply pressure 45 - 60 psi

Maximum Water Supply Fixture Units (WFSU)

Building supply Length of pipe (feet)

Meter and street
and branch
service lines
(inches) 40 60 80 100 150 200

3/4 1/2 7 7 6 5 4 3

3/4 3/4 20 20 19 17 14 11

3/4 1 39 39 36 33 28 23

1 1 39 39 39 36 30 25

1 1 1/4 78 78 76 67 52 44

Supply pressure over 60 psi

Maximum Water Supply Fixture Units (WFSU)

Building supply Length of pipe (feet)

Meter and street
and branch
service lines
(inches) 40 60 80 100 150 200

3/4 1/2 7 7 7 6 5 4

3/4 3/4 20 20 20 20 17 13

3/4 1 39 39 39 39 35 30
1 1 39 39 39 39 38 32

1 1 1/4 78 78 78 78 74 62

The tables can be used for pipe lines but for special equipment like manifolds etc. a table or
formula converting the WSFU to water flow should be used for proper sizing.