Houses are equipped with a gas and a water emergency shut-off valve, which are there in case either the gas or water needs to be immediately turned off in an emergency. You don’t want to wait until an emergency to find out that your home’s gas or water shut-off valve isn’t functioning properly. Here’s how to test these valves to ensure they’re working properly.
Locate Your Home’s Emergency Shut-Off Valves
To test your home’s gas and water emergency shut-off valve, you must first locate each of them.
Gas Emergency Shut-Off
There are several places where your home’s gas shut-off valve may be located. There’s typically one valve just before a gas meter, but this valve is usually only meant to be opened and closed by the gas company’s employees, professional HVAC contractors and fire department personnel.
You will likely have another gas emergency shut-off valve located between your gas meter and the first gas appliance in your home. The house-side valve might be:
- on the other side (house side) of the gas meter
- where the gas line enters your home
- near your furnace or water heater
The valve is often a simple ball valve that twists open and close.
Water Emergency Shut-Off
Water meters typically also have an emergency shut-off on either side of them, and the house-side one is meant for homeowners to use. Where your water meter is located depends on where you live. In cold climates, water meters are usually located in basements or garages. In milder climates, they may be on the side of a house or in the ground (under a cover that you can remove). These valves are usually also ball valves.
Test Your Home’s Emergency Shut-Off Valves
Once you know where your home’s shut-off valves are, it’s easy to test them:
- Turn off each emergency shut-off valve.
- Record the respective meter’s reading.
- Go inside and try to use an appliance (e.g. the stove or sink). There may be some gas or water in the line at first, but it should peter out.
- After leaving an appliance on for a little bit, turn it off.
- Check the meter reading.
If the meter reading is the same, the emergency shut-off valve did its job and prevented gas or water from flowing through. If the meter reading has increased, the valve is likely faulty (or there’s a leak between the meter and shut-off valve).
- Turn the emergency shut-off valve back on.
- Use an appliance again to see that the gas (or water) is flowing. There may be air in the pipes that has to purge before the flow is even.
If your test indicated either a faulty valve or a leak, you may want to contact folks with the appropriate home maintenance expertise to help you find and fix the specific issue.
Testing your emergency shut-off valves does not take too much time and it can bring you peace of mind. Either it affirms that all is well (and that you know how to shut them off in an emergency) or it reveals an issue that needs attention before that issue becomes an emergency in itself.
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