Importance of Earthquake Valves

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Earthquake Valve

According to my iQuake App, we are scheduled for a magnitude 6.2 earthquake on February 7th, 2016 at 3:45 PM. Kidding! Technology may have advanced quite a bit in the past few years, but, sadly, there is no way to predict when an earthquake will strike.

Did you know, during an earthquake, more damage is done to homes from gas fires than from seismic activity? Start protecting your home with an automatic seismic gas shut off valve which will turn off your gas in the event off an earthquake. An Earthquake Gas Valve automatically activates when there is seismic activity rated 5.0 or higher, shutting off your gas and keeping your home safe from gas fire.

Your earthquake valve should be installed by a licensed professional: the unit has to be sized correctly for your home. Both a visual and a bubble test on visible gas piping is always recommended to ensure the safety of the gas piping, too. And don’t worry. All of this takes less than an hour!

At Big Blue Plumbing we install earthquake valves all the time and we’re often asked the same questions:

  1. Do I have to call PG&E or a plumber to have the gas turned back on after an earthquake?
    No, the State of California-approved valve that we install is easily reset by the homeowner, it only takes a second.
  2. Does the valve shut off accidentally when a truck drives by or the gardener hits it with the wheel barrow?
    No, Big Blue Plumbing installs a valve with a bracket that secures the unit to the building, the building will have to shake in order to activate the gas shut-off.
  3. Do I have to call PG&E to re-light the pilot lights on my gas appliances?
    Pilot lights will need to be re-lit after an earthquake valve has tripped. Homeowners can re-light their own appliances, or if they do not feel comfortable with that, they can call Big Blue. Many modern appliances do not have a pilot light. Be sure to not try lighting an appliance that is equipped with an automatic ignition device.
  4. Do I need a permit for a seismic gas valve?
    The City of Alameda is the only municipality that requires a permit for installing an earthquake valve. Actually, Alameda requires an earthquake valve installed any time you replace or install gas piping.

Install an earthquake valve and protect your home today!

Gas Safety Tips

What can you do to ensure your gas system is safe?

  • Check your pipes: Get down in your crawl space and look at your gas pipes. Start at the gas meter and follow the pipes around the crawl space, checking for excessive rust, loose, wobbly pipes, and/or poor pipe supports.
  • Check your gas flexes: Older gas flexes are a major cause for gas leaks. If your gas flex is metallic or brass, it is a high risk for splitting.
  • Bubble test: Purchase a gas leak bubble sprayer from a plumbing supplier. Spray the solution on the pipe connections and supply lines, look for expanding and popping bubbles. Do not use soap and water, as it can corrode exposed metal threads.
  • Do not use a lighter to look for gas leaks! It’s hard to believe, but I have heard of people, even plumbers, looking for leaks with an open flame. Bad idea.
  • Bonding: At the water heater, the gas pipe needs to be electrically bonded to the cold water line. This is a copper wire with brass clamps connecting the hot-cold and gas piping. This is to ensure that if the gas pipe is touched by an electrical wire, the current will go to ground and the gas piping will not be electrically charged.

What to do if you smell gas?

If you smell natural gas, see downed power lines, or suspect another emergency situation, leave the area immediately and then call 9-1-1 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.

24-hour Customer Service Line: 800-PGE-5000.
24-hour Power Outage Information Line: 800-PGE-5002.