Occasionally, homeowners encounter the need to turn off the water, gas or electricity to their entire home. When the need arises, it’s usually urgent. In this month’s Homeowner 101 article, we take a look at the typical residential shut-offs for these utilities.
There are three main utilities connected to most homes – natural gas, electrical and water. In the event of an emergency, it can be very important to turn these utilities off quickly. The first step to being a prepared homeowner is to locate the shut-offs for these utilities.
To find the natural gas shutoff, locate your home’s gas meter. Typically, the gas meter is on the outside of the home. The meter will look something like the one pictured below.
The shutoff for your home’s gas supply will usually look like the valve circled in the photo below. (We’ve also included a close-up in the next photo.)
To close the valve and turn off the gas to your home, place a crescent wrench on the flat portion of the shutoff and turn it clockwise to a 90° angle. The hole on the shutoff should line up with the hole on the valve. DO NOT turn off your gas unless you smell a rotten egg smell, hear hissing, notice that the meter is spinning much more quickly than usual (This means you need to look at your meter and get a sense of how fast the dials spin under normal conditions.) or if there is a large fire immediately threatening your home. DO NOT turn the gas back on yourself. Call your local natural gas utility provider for assistance.
To locate the water shutoff for your home, you will need to locate the water meter. The water meter may be inside your home or, in warmer climates, located outside your home. Regardless of the location, your water meter will look something like the one pictured below.
In this case, the supply side of the water meter (the side from which the water flows) is on the right. The shutoff valve is on the left. The valve looks very similar to the shutoff for a hose bib on the outside of your home and operates in the same way. To shut off the water to your entire home, turn the shutoff valve clockwise until you feel strong resistance. DO NOT over-tighten the valve or you may break it. Some water meters also have a shutoff valve on the supply side of the meter. DO NOT turn off the water on the supply side.
Your water shutoff may also look like the one pictured below. If so, you simply need to move the lever into the position pictured, i.e. perpendicular to the water pipe, to shut off the water to your home.
Last, but certainly not least, is your home’s electrical shutoff. Many homeowners are familiar with the breaker box in their home. If you’ve had any electrical work done at your home, or done any yourself, you’ve probably turned off a breaker switch to disable the electricity to the circuit on which the work was done. That same breaker box usually has the shutoff for the entire home. Normally, the whole-house breaker is at the top of the panel, as pictured below (circled in red), and is a double-throw breaker – meaning two breakers are connected by a single throw (switch).
Most whole-house breakers will be labeled “On” and “Off” (see photo below). Flip the breaker to the Off position to kill electrical power to your entire home. To restore power simply flip the breaker back to the On position. There is no need to call your electrical utility company for assistance.
Turning off the utilities to your home is not difficult. However, knowing where the shutoffs are located and being familiar with their operation is one of the keys to calmly addressing urgent or emergency situations that require utilities to be shut off. Locate each of the shutoffs for your home and familiarize yourself with their operation. Make sure to keep any tools necessary in an easily accessible location and inform any family members or other inhabitants of the tools’ location. Every adult who lives in your home should know how to shut off the utilities.