There are several reasons you could find yourself needing to turn off the water and/or gas in your house: A weather emergency or other natural disaster, like the tornadoes Oklahoma City is prone to, a plumbing leak or repair, or even installation of a new gas appliance. For your family’s safety and your peace of mind, you need to know how to locate and operate both the main and supply shut-off valves for gas and water.
How to Locate the Main Water and Gas Shut-Off Valves
Called the main or master shutoff, this valve turns off the gas or water to your whole house.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: If you have a gas leak, it’s not be safe for you to turn off the main gas valve! Even a small spark from a phone, light switch or static electricity can produce a huge explosion. It’s best to play it safe – get out and away from the house and then call the gas company.
Main Gas Shutoff Valves
If your house has natural gas, there are actually two main shutoff valves: a “street-side” and a “house side.” The street side valve is located outside your house, near the gas meter. It’s for the gas company, HVAC or plumbing contractors, and the fire department to use. The valve will usually look like a small rectangle, and you’ll need a special wrench to turn it. When it’s open, the long side is parallel to the incoming gas pipe. To stop the flow of gas, close the valve by turning it perpendicular to the incoming line. Especially if your home doesn’t have an inside main shutoff, it may be a good idea to buy a gas meter shutoff wrench. You can find one at your local home center, and then attach it to the meter.
To shut off the gas supply to your house, use the house-side main valve (older homes may not have one). It’s usually where the gas line enters the house, and you may see a black iron pipe leading to it. In newer homes, the valve may have a bright yellow handle. Just like with the street-side valve, turn the handle perpendicular to the pipe to shut off the gas, and parallel to the pipe to turn the gas back on.
Some newer homes have a high pressure gas system. In this case, your gas supply line would be a flexible copper pipe instead of black iron. In a high-pressure system, the indoor main shutoff is located just before a device called a pressure regulator, which can usually be found near the furnace or water heater. If your home uses propane or liquefied petroleum gas, there are two main shutoff valves: One on the propane or petroleum tank, and the other on the gas line before it connects to the first appliance.
NOTE: When you turn off the main or supply gas line, the pilot lights on your gas appliances will go out. Unless your appliance has an electronic ignition system, you’ll have to relight the pilot light. You can usually find relighting instructions on the appliance or in the manual, but if you’re not comfortable with it, you can call a plumber or HVAC professional like Bailey Brothers to help.
Main Water Shutoff Valves
Just like with gas, most water meters have two main shutoff valves: One before the meter and one after. If you live in a cold climate region, the meter and shutoff valves will be inside your home to prevent freezing. In areas with a milder climate, the meter and valves will be found outside your house or in a box below ground.
There are two other valves located outside your house, but they’re for city workers’ use only: the curb stop valve is buried underground in between the street water main and the meter at your house. You may have seen city workers using long wrenches to access these valves. The other is called a corporation stop, and it’s found at the junction of your house line and the water main.
To turn off the water supply to your house, use the main shutoff valve that’s located after the meter, on the “house side”. It may be a round handle, similar to the one on an outdoor water spigot, or it could be a lever handle. If it’s a lever, turn it perpendicular to the supply line to stop the water, and parallel to turn the water back on. If it’s a round handle, it will take several clockwise turns to shut off the water (remember: righty-tighty, lefty-loosey).
How to Locate the Supply Water and Gas Shut-Off Valves
Also referred to as an individual shutoff, this valve stops the gas or water directly to fixtures or appliances.
Gas Supply Shut-Off Valves
Each gas appliance in your home should have a supply or service shutoff valve located within six feet of the appliance. This allows you to turn off the gas to that one appliance so you can repair or install a dryer, furnace, stove, gas fireplace or water heater without turning off the gas to the whole house. Again, there’s usually a lever that you turn to shut off the gas: Parallel to the line means the valve is open, perpendicular means it’s closed and the gas is cut off. The service valve is usually attached to an appliance connector, which is a flexible supply line. You’ll have to move appliances like stoves and dryers away from the wall to get to the shutoff valve.
Water Supply Shut-Off Valves
Most houses with newer plumbing have shutoff valves or “fixture supply stops” on the individual supply lines for toilets, dishwashers, faucets, washing machines, water heaters, and water softeners. This allows you to repair or replace one plumbing fixture without shutting off the water to the entire house. To locate the supply stop, look for a small oval or round metal handle. It will take several turns to shot off the water.
On a supply line for an ice maker or furnace humidifier, you may notice a small t-shaped connection where the small flexible copper line connects to the bigger copper pipe. This is called a saddle valve, and they are notorious for leaking and causing major water damage in homes. In fact, in many areas they must now be replaced with supply stops to be code compliant now.