Utility Shut-Offs


You may not pay much attention to the service pipes and wires that enter your home, but at times, during remodeling or an emergency, you may need to shut off the electricity, gas or water. Locate the main shut-off valves and switches, then tag them for future reference.



The primary switch is usually in the main electrical panel that contains the breakers or fuses. This panel is usually on an inside wall behind the outside electrical meter, or in the basement below. Snap the circuit breaker switch, normally at the top, labeled “Service disconnect” or Main to OFF to cut electrical power to the entire house.

Electrical

The primary switch is usually in the main electrical panel that contains the breakers or fuses. This panel is usually on an inside wall behind the outside electrical meter, or in the basement below. Snap the circuit breaker switch, normally at the top, labeled “Service disconnect” or “Main” to OFF to cut electrical power to the entire house.

Older homes with fuses usually have a plastic block labeled “Main,” which you pull out to cut power. Never reach into this open space with fingers or tools; it contains powerful “live” terminals.

Water enters your home through a 3/4- to 1-1/2-in.- diameter pipe connected to a water main that usually runs under the street. This pipe, normally plastic or steel, is buried below frost level to avoid freezing. The easiest way to locate the water shut off valve is to locate the meter. In mild climates the meter will probably be in a box located close to the street. In colder regions the meter is inside the house. In either case, you'll find the shut-off valve on the water main side of the meter. There's often one on the house side as well.

Water

Water enters your home through a 3/4- to 1-1/2-in.- diameter pipe connected to a water main that usually runs under the street. This pipe, normally plastic or steel, is buried below frost level to avoid freezing. The easiest way to locate the water shut off valve is to locate the meter. In mild climates the meter will probably be in a box located close to the street. In colder regions the meter is inside the house. In either case, you'll find the shut-off valve on the water main side of the meter. There's often one on the house side as well.

The main gas line generally runs 18 in. (45 cm) underground and surfaces next to the house in a steel sleeve by the meter. Just before the meter there is a rectangular shut-off knob that must be turned with a wrench to stop the gas flow. In some cases, the meter and shut-off valve are inside the house. Most utility companies prefer only their employees, professional contractors and fire personnel use this street-side valve. They prefer homeowners use the shut-off valve located after the meter.

Gas

The main gas line generally runs 18 in. (45 cm) underground and surfaces next to the house in a steel sleeve by the meter. Just before the meter there is a rectangular shut-off knob that must be turned with a wrench to stop the gas flow. In some cases, the meter and shut-off valve are inside the house. Most utility companies prefer only their employees, professional contractors and fire personnel use this "street-side valve.' They prefer homeowners use the shut-off valve located after the meter.

Caution: If you smell gas, get everyone out of your home and call the gas utility from a neighbor's house or a cell phone outside. Don't switch any lights or appliances on or off because the smallest spark can trigger an explosion.

 

Related topics: Emergency Plumbing Shutoffs; Circuit Breakers and Fuses; Fire Safety

Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:55 PST