History of plumbing
Plumbing and water-works in Continental USA have a long and rich history. The Hohokam Native Americans of Arizona are believed to have had irrigation canals in 350 B.C. and these waterways helped promote trade with neighboring tribes. Though this tribe vanished in the 15th Century for unknown reasons, even before Columbus set foot in America, their use of waterways for trade continued. The early colonial settlers brought with them their aversion to bathing and unhygienic practices.
It wasn’t until the year 1730 when the ‘outhouse’ made its appearance in the US. Still, it would be another hundred years before the first hotel with indoor plumbing was opened, and caught the imagination of the American people. The Tremont Hotel in Boston was the first building with indoor plumbing. Five years later, another hotel, The Astor House in New York City, had upstairs rooms with water closets. Indoor plumbing and water closets led to life as we know it today!
Beginning of modern plumbing
Philadelphia was the first city to use cast iron pipes to supply water from the mains, in the late 19th century. Chicago was the first city to have a water supply and sewerage system in the country. Windmills then helped to draw water from the mains to farms.
The idea that deadly diseases like typhoid and cholera were spread by contamination of human waste in the water supply resulted in the city council’s trying to design separate waste management plants and prevent contamination – thereby leading to the modern plumbing of most cities. A city-wide plan for waste collection and disposal, along with a water distribution system was perfected and put in place in New York City in 1857.
Indoor plumbing in the US
The march towards modern plumbing was on. Between the years 1929-1954, the plumbing market in the US grew by a whopping 367%. Demand for increased housing led to apartment buildings, and this led to the demand for much more streamlined bathrooms and plumbing solutions. The aftermath of the world wars and the increase in industrial production led to a boom in the US economy.
The modern bathroom
This boom led to more demand for housing and better standards of living in all areas. The bathroom became an individual’s private retreat, and not just a convenience. There was the bath tub, the water closet, a shower, and then the vanity, all became de rigueur in any bathroom. A Jacuzzi is just another add-on for those who can afford it. The bathroom was now being given its due importance in the designing of a house or an apartment block, a hotel or a place of business.
The single-handle mixing faucets that allow us to enjoy our showers today are actually one such modern innovation, making their appearance in the last fifty years. Further refinements led to replaceable cartridges, the push-button to use the shower or the tap, pressure balancing mechanism to ensure even spray, and swivel shower-heads.
The most common material used for pipes was galvanized iron, until the 1950s, when stainless steel became the material of choice. Though other materials like copper, German silver and flexible pipes are used, for a long time stainless steel was the most popular material for pipes. Now, most households use copper pipes for their durability and health benefits, which has become the accepted material of choice for residential pipes.
Constant innovation drives the plumbing industry today. For instance, many plumbers have tools like high-pressure jets to clear blockages from the pipes, though this has to be done periodically to prevent blockages before they become an issue. Regular service and maintenance helps prevent problems.
In-line sewer cameras are another great addition to a plumber’s bag of tricks. These cameras can be sent into a clogged or broken sewer line to identify the nature and location of the problem, without having to dig up the entire stretch of the sewer line.
The radio, television, phone, and now the comprehensive entertainment unit have all become part of our bathrooms. Smart homes have smart bathrooms with water closets that can flush using sensors, intelligent toilet seats that will warm up before one enters the bathroom, and showers that can be programmed for position, water temperature, angle, and pressure.
As with most other precious resources, water too needs to be conserved – not only because it is precious by itself, but also for the cascading effect it has on other energy resources. It is estimated that in California alone, 19% of the state’s electricity and 30% of the natural gas consumption are related to water and its purification or distribution. What this means is every little bit of water conserved not only helps by itself, but also in conserving other forms of energy. There are low-flow water closets that limit the amount of water flushed, while offering better pressure to ensure good hygiene. Likewise, there are shower-heads available now that will ensure that one gets the same amount of water per minute, which is controlled by measuring the water pressure.
We at Biard & Crockett have more than fifty years in the plumbing industry in California. If you have a need for any kind of plumbing services, visit us today for a free quote!