Do not wait until disaster strikes to try and find the emergency shut-off valves in your house. Part of your emergency preparedness plan should be to familiarize yourself with the set-up of your home. There are several different setups for home utilities. If you have trouble finding your shut-off valves, contact your local plumber or electrician for help. Getting a bit of help now could prevent a major bill in the future.
Emergency shut-off valves are usually located in the dark, forgotten corners of the home. Be sure you can find them in a hurry, keep a flashlight around just in case. Emergencies don’t send a warning. Keep in mind many home repairs also require gas, water, and/or electricity to shut-off first. Knowing where the valves are in your home will help you complete all of those DIY weekend warrior projects you have planned.
Gas – Gas leaks could cause a deadly explosion. It is vital you know how to shut off the gas in an emergency. Most homes have a ball valve somewhere on the gas line, typically near where the gas line enters the house. If the handle is parallel to the pipe the gas is flowing. Turn the handle to close the valve and shut-off the flow of gas. New homes have high-pressure lines. Look for a flexible copper pipe usually near the furnace, the shut-off valve should be there. Older homes might not have a gas shut-off valve inside of the house. There should be a street-side shut-off near the meter. If the rectangular nub is parallel gas is flowing, use a wrench to turn the nub a 90 degrees to shut the valve. Most gas companies don’t want you to operate the street-side valve so only use it during an emergency, if you’ve been given permission. Using it without instruction from your gas company can cause extreme damage. Contact your gas company for assistance.
Water – Leaking water pipes can cause a lot of damage to a home. Make sure you know where your main water supply shut-off valve is. If you live in a house with a basement or crawl space the valve is typically on a wall near the front of the house. If your home is on a cement slab look for the valve near the water heater or in the garage. Turn the valve clockwise to turn off the water flow. If you can’t find a shut-off valve inside the house, check for a buried box near the curb. This is the water meter box, the residential water supply for your house. You’ll need a meter key, a long T shaped rod, to turn it off. A crescent wrench and screwdriver can be used in place of a meter key if you don’t have one. Turn the valve clockwise to shut off water to the house. It is important to release the pressure from the pipes, run both the hot and cold water until the water flow stops.
Electricity – An electric shock can be deadly. Make sure the power is off before starting home improvements that involve wiring. Locate the main breaker panel, typically a grey rectangular box. Look in the garage, laundry, or next to the furnace. In older homes, the circuit breaker or fuse box might be on the exterior of the home. Larger homes may have multiple boxes, make sure you can locate all of them. If you are having trouble finding it contact an electrician for help. To shut off power to the whole house locate the main power switch at the top of the box, and pull them to the off position. Fuses are round and screw into sockets. Circuit breakers will have rows of switches for individual areas of the house. You can shut the power off in one area of the house for repairs and still have power in the house.
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