The world has been rocked by a number of significant seismic events in the past five years, which have only increased public awareness of the need for protective services like earthquake valves. These special pieces of equipment are specifically designed to react to major seismic events in major earthquake zones and prevent the kind of devastating damage that comes not from the earthquake itself, but from the broken pipes, damaged service lines, and leaking gas that often occurs in the immediate wake of a major seismic event.
Utility companies in active earthquake zones recommend that their customers shut off their gas immediately after the shaking from an earthquake stops. This can be quite a challenge for many people, however, as they may be at work or unable to actually get to their gas meter from where they are currently located in their home. Additionally, damage may prevent them from actually accessing the gas meter to turn off gas service. A gas shut off valve takes care of this automatically.
Earthquake gas valves are installed on the gas meter of a home or business. When it detects the kind of major shaking that accompanies a significant earthquake, it will automatically cut off gas service to the home or a business. These valves should be installed on every active gas meter which serves a home or business, and should typically be done by a well-qualified Ritz Plumbing contractor who will ensure their proper installation and function.
Our skilled contractors will also be able to decide between the two types of natural gas valves that are currently employed in most home and business gas meter setups. While one of these quake valves employs a simple motion-sensing ball, the other employs a sensor which can detect an excessive flow of gas (often caused by a line break) and respond by shutting of all gas services.
A motion sensing caged ball is the most typical type of seismic shut off valve installed in most homes. Its function is rather simple: the ball sits on a small ring above an opening in the pipe. On a normal day, the ball doesn’t move and the gas line remains active. If significant shaking occurs, however, the movement of the pipe will cause the ball to fall off the ring and into the opening — thus restricting the flow of natural or liquid gas into the home and preventing a fire or explosion.
A slightly more sophisticated method involves using a sensor to determine the gas flow through a pipe. These sensors are equipped with data on just how much gas is appropriate for the location they’re serving — from a small home to a large business. If gas begins to flow at an accelerated rate, they assume a break or leak has occurred and gas service is immediately shut off. These setups do have one flaw however: they often fail to detect very small leaks, which are equally common after earthquakes, and equally lethal once enough gas has leaked into the structure.
The differences between these two types of quake valve installations, and what they mean for your building, is why it’s always important to contact a qualified Ritz Plumbing contractor to help you make the decision and perform a sound installation.
Why You Need Earthquake Valves at Your Home or Business
Mandated by law: As of 2002, California law and building codes state that constituents must install an earthquake valve at their home or business on all applicable gas meters on any building that they own. This is to ensure the wider safety of a population living in an area with a history of earthquakes, as well as to decrease the amount of potential damage and costs to the government itself as well as its citizens.
Mandated by insurance providers: Insurance companies which cover earthquake damage have begun mandating that their customers install earthquake valves on every meter under their control in an effort to reduce the risk of damage after a major seismic event. Natural gas valves will often have to be installed as a condition of being granted the insurance policy — and if an insured building is found to be without them, it is often deemed to be within breach of the policy and ineligible for reimbursement based on earthquake damage.
Mandated by gas companies: Many gas companies in seismic zones will require homeowners and home builders to install these valves from day one, in order to maintain the integrity of their own gas lines and services to consumers in the event of an earthquake.
Increased safety in the home: A gas shut off valve ensures that your home will be protected even if you can’t directly access the gas meter after an earthquake has occurred. It’s important to remember that the damage from an earthquake can be unpredictable, and it simply may be impossible to reach the gas meter to shut it off manually. This could result in increased gas flow and fires or explosions while you and your loved ones are in the home. It could also endanger neighbors who will be in the direct path of a gas fire or explosion.
Safety while at work: Earthquakes don’t wait for you to be at home, and you may find yourself in the office during an earthquake. Because you’ll be, by definition, unable to turn off any gas service to your home, having earthquake gas valves installed will give you the peace of mind that your home has not caught on fire, exploded, or put any of your loved ones or neighbors in immediate danger.
If you need an earthquake valve installation in your home or business please don’t hesistate, call us!