Emergency Shut-off Valves
Emergency shut-off valves are those little valves beneath your sinks and toilets that supply water to the fixtures. They are an important component to your plumbing system as they give you the ability to shut water off to a leaking faucet or drain until repair can be made.
Because these valves are not used frequently, we find many times they are extremely hard to turn, or are “frozen” in the open position. Or sometimes they can be closed and become “frozen” in the closed position when you try to re-open them. It is not uncommon to find older homes with no working emergency shut-off valves whatsoever.
A similar problem is the valves that control the water supply at the house service and water heater. Valves called “gate” valves were commonly used (and in some areas still are) for these purposes. They are valves with a round handle and a “stem” that pushes a “gate” down into the valve to close, or raises it to open.
Our corrosive water quality in San Diego County plays havoc with these types of valves and it’s only a matter of time until the stem deteriorates and the valve becomes frozen in whatever position that is in when this occurs. A better valve to use is a “full port” ball valve. Ball valves work by using a lever handle that rotates a ball inside the faucet ¼ turn and has no “stem.” A recent innovation is ball valve angle stops and washing machine valves.
Once you’ve converted your system to ball valves, it is simple and easy to shut water off and on at various fixtures with a simple ¼ turn of the valve with the fingertips.