The Invisible Infrastructure: 5 Services We Take For Granted

Most often, when we talk about infrastructures, we think about buildings, roads, and communication networks. We only notice the significant parts of these structures. We don’t think about the small pieces that make up the whole. 

For example, we start our day getting breakfast, taking a quick shower, and rushing to get to work. We’re not mindful of the infrastructure in our house that lets us do all these things. 

Do you know when we start paying attention to them? When it breaks. 

Infrastructure

Whether it’s a small part of the machine or a big component breaks, it relatively slows down our lives and pulls us back to focus on these invisible infrastructures. 

So, let’s look at the list of these infrastructures that we’ve almost always taken for granted. 

1. Communication cables

Most newly constructed houses in the U.S. have telephone lines and coax cables running through it. Before you could even move in, you could have the telephone and cable company to connect you to their service. 

By the time you move in, you activate your account and use the services. Sometimes, if your service provider bundles their services, you can also get internet service from them. 

So, it’s not a surprise that most often we do not think twice about the hidden cables that power our telephone and cable. Most of these cables are hidden in the walls and tucked into crawl spaces. 

When WiFi was introduced for public consumption in 1997, everyone started going wireless. Laptops, personal computers, and phones stay connected to the internet without the use of multiple cables. 

It was a revelation! Everyone was able to get the mobility they need, whether at home or at the office. Most jobs are dependent on it. Multiple industries like retail, digital marketing, and advertising have gone online.

If you have routers, you probably have ethernet cables like CAT-5 or CAT-6 snaking through your house to get wireless connectivity on all your devices. 

At first, the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provided only modems. As the demand increased, ISPs started bundling WiFi routers with the modems for their internet packages. 

Homes and offices are not the only ones that needed WiFi. Trade industry companies used WiFi to gain more customers. It’s rare to find cafes or restaurants that do not offer free WiFi access to their diners. It’s become a standard to have WiFi in hotels. Shopping malls also provide WiFi, albeit for a limited time.

Telephone, cable, and internet services have been in our lives, and we’ve gotten used to it. We only notice the infrastructure of each service when one of them breaks and can’t get our daily tasks done. 

For example, when the internet is down, we often call on technical support. Sometimes, the problem isn’t with the service provider, the router, or the modem itself. Losing the connection may be from worn-out or frayed cables.

Damages from the communication cables are from bending or stretching. If you have pets at home, your dogs or cats may have chewed or peed on exposed cables that may have caused damages. 

Keeping maintenance of these cables can ensure that you won’t have any downtime with your telephone, cable, and internet caused by damages to your house’s infrastructure. It’s best to check these cables at least once a year.

2. Fluid Pipes

Another infrastructure that we often overlooked (unless something’s wrong) is the pipes. Most pipes are hidden in the walls and not exposed. It’s easy to forget about them. As long as our water system is okay, there’s no reason to check on the pipes. 

Plumbing is a crucial part of any home or building. There are two parts of any plumbing system: one that brings in freshwater and another takes the wastewater out. These plumbing systems are connected with pipes that run along the walls. 

The freshwater plumbing system usually delivers the water from a tank or the main water supply. Meanwhile, the wastewater plumbing system provides it to a drainage or sewage system.

Unless you are building your dream house from scratch, you probably don’t regularly think about your plumbing at all. As long as there’s water available in our homes, it’s not at the forefront of our minds.

We often do not think about pipes because their expected life span lasts for more than 40 years. Depending on the material used for your pipes, you probably won’t have to replace them unless there’s sufficient damage. 

Pipe materials include cast iron, plastic, cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), steel, and copper. Cast iron was mostly used in the 1960s and could last up from 75 to 100 years. Galvanized steel lasts around 20 to 50 years. Polymerizing vinyl chloride (PVC), a type of plastic pipe lasts a long time since it’s resistant to corrosion and chemicals.

Possible damages to pipes are: 

  • Leak or breaks caused by natural disasters like typhoons or earthquakes
  • Frozen pipes during winter 
  • Corroded pipes due to leaks 
  • Loose connections of valves, couple fittings, and tee fittings
  • Reached its lifespan 

Regularly checking your plumbing system can help save you money and time. Leaks from damaged pipes can lead to more significant damages to your house. Paying for resealing of the pipes and renovation of the water damages on your walls, ceiling, or furniture can cost a fortune. 

3. Pumps 

If you’re living in an apartment or work in an office, one of the crucial components of the plumbing system that’s overlooked is the boiler feed pumps.

Boilers convert feedwater into steam. The steam then travels through a series of pipes that heats the water heating equipment to produce hot water supply. If you’re living in an apartment, your building probably has a boiler for your hot water needs. 

For newly constructed houses, there are water heating tanks installed that may no longer require boilers. 

Aside from hot water, cold water is also carried through different parts of a building through a pump. Water pressure is regulated by these pumps to ensure that every floor of the building has the right amount of water in the faucets or showers.

Other pumps used in residential and commercial buildings are those that deliver water on the sprinkler systems. Water is pumped into a series of pipes that lead to the actual sprinkler systems that are activated when there’s fire. 

If you are living or working from the third floor, your building has a powerful pump that delivers the water during such emergencies. If your building does not have the right shoe, the safety of the tenants and the structure is compromised. So, your building management must have the best multistage pump from a trusted company. 

4. Air Conditioner Ducts or Vents

When it comes to the temperature of the room, most of us focus on the air conditioner (and the thermostat!). We don’t really think about the air conditioner ducts or vents in a room. 

Air conditioner ducts or vents are passages where heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The ducts provide an excellent airflow system in your house or office. It makes the distribution of cold or hot air in different spaces easy and manageable. 

Air ducts are typically installed during the building process of a house or a building. So, for most, it’s already normal. Since the air conditioner was invented in 1902, it has become a standard in most homes and offices. 

Aside from broken air conditioning, we only pay attention to air ducts when it needs to be cleaned. A significant threat to anyone’s health is the indoor pollution that happens when air ducts are not regularly cleaned. 

If the ducts or vents are not regularly maintained, dust, debris, or pollen can get into the system and circulate it in the home or office. These elements could trigger health concerns such as allergies, asthma, or irritation of the eyes. 

5. Electrical cables

Last but not least, the infrastructure we often take for granted is the electrical cables. Now that we live in modern cities where electricity is a given, we often don’t think twice about the wires running through our houses, buildings, and streets. 

Before you move into a new space, most of the electrical wiring is already set up. Unless you have other modifications like the type of outlets, the number of outlets, and its location, you won’t even worry about it. 

Since electricity is a crucial part of our lives, we must be aware of how it works. Knowing the location of your fuse box or circuit breakers and the corresponding switches is a start. If any emergencies need to cut off power to your house, it’s better to know how to do it. 

Replacing a blown-out fuse is also another upkeep we should know. Although it’s safe to replace fuses while the power is still on, it’s better to be safe and cut off the power for a few minutes. 

Prepare for emergency brown-outs by having stock candles or flashlights with fresh batteries. It’s also best to have a printed guide near your fuse box or circuit breaker that you can refer to when repairing it. 

That’s it! These are the invisible infrastructures that are all around us. These systems are readily available to us, and we often get used to them. We are so accustomed to these services that we don’t think twice about them. 

Remember to check these systems in your house regularly. The building management and maintenance staff in your office buildings probably do this, too. 

Maintaining these systems in tip-top shape can ensure their longer life span. Plus, it won’t disrupt your daily routines because it won’t be prone to damages. 

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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