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Water Service Valves & Meters

by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips

Water travels under pressure through a system of pipes to your home. The water company delivers water through a large pipe, called a main, which often parallels the street. From the main, a smaller pipe branches off to serve your house. But before water actually reaches your yard and house, it passes through a water meter and main shutoff valve.

water service valves meter diagramThe water meter is often buried in a housing with a removable lid, located in front of the house, near the street. Dials or a digital readout on the meter record how many cubic feet of water travel through it to measure usage.

In cold-winter areas, the water meter may be inside the basement or crawlspace—typically placed where the meter reader can check it monthly without disturbing you.

The company meter reader records the numbers each month, and the company computes the difference between last month’s and this month’s readings to figure your bill. You can do this, too. Reading a digital meter is easy—just like reading a car’s odometer. To read a dial-type meter, record the smaller of the two numbers near the tip of each needle.

A main shutoff valve is often located on each side of the water meter. The one on the street side is the water company’s valve—the one used to shut off the system when the utility wants to work on or change your meter. The other one controls water that flows to your house. This is your main shutoff; turning it completely clockwise will stop all water flowing through your water supply system both indoors and out.

A gate valve is designed to be used either completely open or closed. As you open the valve, a tapered wedge retracts from the water channel into the valve’s body, allowing water to flow. When closed, the wedge creates a seal.

Other valves control the flow of water through parts of your supply system. A valve near the house may shut off all water indoors; another may control all garden water.

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