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Well water shutoff valves:
This article describes The Main Water Shutoff Valve or Control, How to Locate & Shut Off Well Water in a Building for private pump and well systems. We explain how to locate and use the main well water shutoff valve to turn off water in a building.
In our photo at page top the white arrow points to a lever type main water shutoff valve found near the outlet from the water pressure tank. This valve will turn off all water entering the building plumbing system.
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Lever type water tank shutoff valves: Every private pump, water tank, and well system should have at least one main water shutoff valve.
Usually the valve is located close to the water pressure tank, on the main water line leaving the water tank (and supplying water to the building).
In this photo the blue handled valve which we labeled "WATER" is connected on the water tank bottom outlet fitting on the left side in this picture.
We like these lever type valves as they are more reliable and less leaky over time than the older round-handled valves (discussed next) that just use an internal washer to close off the water supply.
This article discusses typical shutoff valves for private well and pump systems. If your water supply is from a municipal water system and you need to turn off all water to the building, see WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE.
Round handled water tank shutoff valves are used on many water systems.
In this photo of an older type galvanized steel water pressure tank we see a blue jet pump to the left of the tank and we can just make out a galvanized pipe leaving the top of the water pump and (probably) entering the water tank on the back side that we can't see.
At the right side of this water tank, starting near the bottom, we see first a tank drain valve (see that white tape on the drain valve's outlet where someone has recently attached a hose?). Just above the tank drain valve we see a round-handled shutoff valve. This will be the main water shutoff for this building.
We also notice a copper wire connected to the water tank piping, probably someone's attempt to either ground the plumbing (electrically) or to provide a connection to ground for the service panel. (This won't work to provide a connection to earth for the electrical panel if the well piping is plastic.)
At the right side of this water tank we also notice an air volume control (that disc-shaped device) and a copper tube connected to the right side of the air volume control (AVC) reappears but is hard to see, connected to the water pump itself.
Lever type water valves such as the one in this photo are on or "open" permitting water to flow when the valve handle is parallel or "in line with" the water piping, and the valve is "off" or "closed" or "shut" when the valve is at right angles to the piping. So in this photo you can see that the water valve is in the "open" position.
Round handled shutoff valves are in their "open" position when the valve has been turned fully counter clockwise and these valves are "shut" when the valve has been turned fully in a clockwise direction.
Multiple water shutoff valves may be present especially on older water systems.
An owner or plumber may decide it's less work to leave an old valve, one that won't shut off, in place and simply install another one. In this photo of a rather ugly water tank and well installation, we can see three different water shutoff valves.
Leaks at main shutoff valves occur, particularly at round shutoff valves around the valve stem (the rod just under the valve handle). Sometimes you can repair such a leak by carefully and gently tightening the nut that is found just under the round valve handle and through which the valve stem protrudes.
This will squeeze valve stem packing more tightly around the stem and may stop a leak there. But be careful not to over do it - if you crack the packing nut or break the valve assembly you'll have a much bigger leak.
How to turn off the water if you cannot find the main shutoff valve: if the main shutoff valve can't be located, or if it is broken (or you just broke it), or if it is jammed and does not turn, you can still stop water from running into the building. Find and turn off the electrical power to the water pump. The water pump main electrical switch is usually located near the water pump or water pressure tank (if the pump is a submersible unit down in the well). The water pump electrical switch is described in more detail below.
If you turn off electrical power to the water pump, some water may continue to flow into the building until all of the pressure in the water pressure tank has been exhausted (perhaps one to four minutes) but that'll be it.
If your water supply is from a municipal supply and not a private well and water tank, and if your water shutoff needs repair or replacement, you'll need to find (or get help finding) a main water shutoff that may be located (buried) between the building and the water main in the street.
See WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE. We advise against taking apart or messing with a stiff or leaky main water shutoff on municipal water supply systems unless you can shut off the water outside of the building first.
Turning off the main water valve is enough to protect a building from significant water damage when the structure is to be left unattended, but with heat on at the property.
Usually the main water valve is between the water tank and the rest of the building. So even if things freeze or a pipe breaks in the building, only the actual water in the pipes would leak - a minimal quantity.
Our photo (left) shows the main building water shutoff valve at a property served by a private well and water pressure tank. For lever-type valves, when the valve handle is parallel to the piping the water is ON. When the valve handle is turned to a right angle to the piping the water supply is OFF.
For round handled water shutoff valves, turning the valve "in" or clockwise turns the water OFF and turning the valve "out" or counterclockwise turns the water ON.
In extreme cold, or some bizarre event that caused a leak or break in the water tank itself or in the well piping entering the water tank,
the drop in pressure at the water tank would turn on the pump and it would run continuously (presuming a leak somewhere). Even though water was not being delivered to the rest of the building, the location of the water tank could be flooded.
Turn off electrical power to the well pump: For this reason, in addition to turning off the main water valve, we recommend turning off electrical power to the well pump too.
We don't drain the water tank nor building plumbing unless a total building shut-down is being planned.
Our photo (left) shows the pump electrical switch in our forensic laboratory. Because the building is sometimes checked by people who do not know the water controls well, you'll see that we labeled the switch to make it easy to recognize.
Emergency water turn off procedures - building with a well: In an emergency, if your main water valve breaks or is not operating at a house served by a private well, pump, and tank, be sure to leave the electrical power to the water pump turned off, and see if you can drain water pressure from the system at plumbing fixtures or at the water tank drain.
Thanks to reader Ron Blodgettfor suggesting this clarification about just where and how to turn off building water when leaving a building unattended.
Continue reading at WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see PLUMBING CONTROLS & VALVES - home
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