Although we all hope that we never have an emergency or accident, it is good to be prepared for an emergency. I am writing this to help you to be prepared for certain emergencies at home. In some emergencies, it is critical to know how to shut off the utilities to your home. You don’t want to wait until a water line ruptures, or a fire starts, or a gas line springs a leak to try to figure out how to shut off the water, electricity or gas to your house. I suggest that you spend five or ten minutes to go outside and find where and how to shut off each of the different utilities to your home. A few minutes of preparation now can save a lot of headaches and money later. In this short article, I will explain to you where and how to turn off the utilities to your home. (NOTE: I am writing this based on my experience in the Central Texas area. Other parts of the country may have different set-ups and locations for the shutoff valves.)
How to Shut Off the Electricity to Your Home
If a fire breaks out in your home, or of there is some other electrical emergency, shutting off the electricity quickly can possibly save your home or even a life. Newer homes are required to have a shut off on the exterior of the home. This shut off is normally found in a panel adjacent to your electric meter. In older homes, the shut off may be in a panel in the garage or even inside the home in a closet or elsewhere. In older homes, there may not be one main breaker that will shut off all of the power to the home. In this case, you will have to turn off all of the breakers in order to shut off the power to the home. It should be obvious that if there is a large fire in the home that you should never take the time to shut off the power if it must be done from within the home. In this case, just get out of the house and let the fire department take care of it when they arrive.
In the photos below, the red arrow points to the main breaker that will shut off the power to the entire home. Your home should have something similar.
The next set of photos below shows some electrical panels that do not have a main breaker. If you have one of these, then you will most likely have to flip every breaker to the off position in order to shut off the power to the entire home. NOTE: Some homes have more than one panel because of an upgrade or an addition, so it is possible to have a panel inside the house that has no main breaker, and to have a second panel with a main breaker either outside, in the garage, or even inside the house, so make sure you find all of your electrical panels.
How to Shut Off the Gas to Your Home
In the event of a gas leak or a fire that is fueled by gas, it is essential to shut off the flow of gas as quickly as possible. There are not as many possibilities to turn off the gas as there are to turn off the electricity. The first thing that you need to do is to find you gas meter. See the photo on the left below for a typical gas meter. The arrow points to the shut off valve. The photo on the right shows a close up of the shutoff valve. A crescent wrench or pipe wrench works well to shut off this valve. In the photo below, the valve is parallel to the pipe which indicates that it is open. To close the valve, it needs to be turned one-quarter of a turn so that it is perpendicular to the pipe.
If your home uses propane instead of natural gas, then I advise you to inquire with your propane supplier as to how to shutoff the propane to your home.
How to Shut Off the Water to Your Home
Overflowing sinks, tubs, and toilets, and ruptured water lines cause millions of dollars of damage to homes every year so it is important to know how to shut the water off to your home quickly. Often a leak or overflow can be stopped by turning off the water to the offending fixture such as by shutting off the water to a sink by using the shutoff valve under the sink. Sometimes, it becomes necessary or is just faster to turn off the water to the entire home, so it is a good idea to know how to do this. You can always find a shut off valve at your water meter. While many municipalities don’t want you messing with or operating their equipment (and the shutoff valve supplying the meter IS their equipment), I personally would not hesitate to use their valve if it was the only way to prevent thousands of dollars of damage to my home – or at least to minimize the damage. To operate the valve, a “T” handle wrench (about $10) as shown above comes in very handy. It would be a good investment to purchase one so you will have it immediately available in the event that you ever need it. In some cases, you can use a pair of pliers or other type of wrench, but the “T” handle wrench is MUCH easier to use. To shut off the water, you need to line up the two holes as shown in the photo to the right.
Newer homes, and many homes that have had some upgrades will usually have a shutoff valve between the water meter and the house. Often this valve has a handle like a regular water faucet, or another handle that can easily be operated by hand. In this case, you would not need a T-handle wrench. These valves are sometimes found in the meter box, within a foot or so of the meter, or very close to the house (on the same side of the house where the water meter is). They are often under a small round, green plastic lid (see photo to the right). Some mobile homes have the shut off just under the edge of the home or in the laundry room behind the washing machine.
In the photo to the right, the red circle marks a typical shutoff valve on the city side of the meter. The red arrow marks the homeowner’s shutoff.
The two photos below show two other examples of typical shutoff valves that can be used to shut off the water to the home.
I hope this information helps you to be more prepared in the event of an emergency. Again, I encourage you to spend a few minutes learning where each of the shutoffs is at your home so that you are more prepared should you be faced with some type of emergency at your home. There can certainly be other types of shutoffs or locations that are different from those described here. If you cannot find the shutoff for one of your utilities you can call your utility company, a plumber or electrician for information specific to your situation.
© 2019 Mike Morgan
This article was written by Mike Morgan, the owner of Morgan Inspection Services. Morgan Inspection Services has been providing home, septic and well inspection services throughout the central Texas area since 2002. He can be reached at 325-998-4663 or at email@example.com. No article, or portion thereof, may be reproduced or copied without prior written consent of Mike Morgan.