Earthquake Home Safety: Are Automatic Gas Shut-Off Valves a Good Idea?

Recently we’ve had a few requests for information regarding the pros and cons of having an automatic gas shut-off valve, or earthquake valve, installed.  An earthquake valve automatically shuts down natural gas service to a home or business when an earthquake registers at or above a level that could damage equipment.

Electrical lines, gas lines and water lines are all flowing into our homes from a much larger source, and when these lines are damaged and leaking, our homes are in great danger of a fire, explosion or a flood.  During an earthquake, gas appliances can topple over or move around, breaking rigid connections that supply fuel.  Sometimes walls collapse and land on top of gas lines or meters, causing damage that could spark a fire.  Mobile homes commonly fall off jacks if they’re not properly anchored to a foundation, breaking gas lines leading into the home.  Studies have found that more than half of all fires after an earthquake came from natural gas leaks.

Utility companies recommend shutting your gas off immediately after an earthquake if you smell gas.  But if you’re at work or away when the earthquake hits, you may not be able to get home in time.  That’s where an automatic gas shut-off valve can be of real benefit.

There are two types of valves that are commonly installed today—one is sensitive to motion and the other to excessive gas flow.  The valve is installed directly onto your gas meter, can be easily reset, and does not need to be replaced after an earthquake.  These devices should be installed by a licensed HVAC or plumbing contractor, and typically range between $300. to $500. per meter, including installation.

We think it’s definitely an idea worth considering, and the pros do seem to outweigh the cons.  An HVAC or plumbing contractor can provide more detailed information, and assist in determining which type of valve would be the best application for your home.  As we say at Faultline everyday, it’s all about being prepared beforehand.