There are many different types of water valves design to stop the flow of water for repairs and emergencies. A main water valve stops the flow of water from the water meter to the entire house. Other water valve types shut off the water at individual appliances, fixtures and faucets. This guide reviews the types of water shut-off valves, how they are used and where to find them inside and outside your home.
Shut-Off Valve Operation and Configuration
Water valve shut-off types are all designed to stop the flow of water. Several considerations dictate which is the best water shut-off valve for your needs, including the size of the inlet diameter and outlet diameter, as well as how the valve is operated.
- Multi-turn shut-off valves have a handle that, when tightened, forces a rubber gasket onto a seat in the middle of the valve that restricts water. Loosening the multi-turn handle allows water to flow through the valve.
- Quarter-turn valves are also operated by a handle on the valve stem. Twisting the handle pivots a steel ball with a hole drilled through its center. Water flows through the hole in the open position, parallel to the supply line, but it stops when the handle makes a quarter-turn in the other direction. Quarter-turn valves tend to be more expensive but more reliable than multi-turn valves.
Shut-off valve types also differ by configuration.
- On a straight stop valve, the inlet and outlet are aligned. Straight valves are typically found where the supply line comes through the floor.
- On an angle valve, the outlet is at a 90-degree angle from the supply line. Angle valves are used on supply lines that come from the wall.
Shut-Off Valve Connections
The types of water shut-off valves connect to supply lines in different ways, often dictated by the material of the connecting pipe.
- PEX supply lines can use shut-off valves with barbed, compression or push-to-connect (PTC) fittings. Barbed fittings require the use of a crimp ring and a crimping tool to create a tight seal. Compression fittings can be connected using common homeowner tools. Push-to-connect fittings do not require any special installation tools.
- Copper supply lines can accommodate compression, PTC and sweat fittings. Sweat fittings must be soldered onto copper pipe.
- CPVC supply lines can use valves with threaded or PTC connections.
- Galvanized steel pipes can use valves with FIP (female iron pipe) connections that simply screw onto the supply line.
Tip: Beginner DIY homeowners may want to hire a professional to install sweat fittings that require using solder and flux with a propane torch to form a connection.
Shut-Off Valve Materials
The following are some of the most popular materials for water shut-off valves.
- Valves are most commonly made of brass for its durability and reliability in residential plumbing systems. Brass valves are used for essential fixtures throughout your home.
- Some water valve types are constructed of plastic or polypropylene. These valves are suitable in low-pressure, low-temperature applications such as reverse osmosis systems, ice makers, hydroponics and aquarium/aquatics.
Shut-Off Valve Locations
Individual water shut-off valves can be found underneath or behind fixtures and appliances throughout your home. These stop valves can make small repairs or the installation of replacement fixtures much more efficient.
- Inside the house, the main water shut-off valve is usually located along the perimeter of the home on the side that faces the street. If you have a basement, find the water distribution system and trace it back to an exterior wall. For homes without basements, the main water valve might be concealed behind an access panel. These can be useful if your neighborhood has a water supply issue or if you need to shut off the water to the home for some other reason.
- The valve may have a multi-turn handle similar to an outdoor hose faucet or a single lever control. In either case, turning the handle will stop water from entering the house. Single lever controls offer the advantage of letting you know by sight if the handle is off or on.
- Outside water meters are typically found along the curb and sidewalk of your home, within your property lines. You may have to dig a little to uncover it and sometimes they may hide close to shrubs. After discovering your meter's location, carefully lift the top off. The water valve is located between the meter face and the curb. After you clear any dirt or debris off the valve, you’ll see an arrow on the top that displays the direction of the flow of water. It takes a fair bit of leverage to turn off the valve and the water shut off key provides that. Use your water shut off key to slowly turn the valve until the arrow is pointed at the curb. When the arrow is pointed at the curb, the water has been shut off.
Tip: Every resident in a home should know where to find the main water shut-off valve and how to turn off water in case of an emergency. Water gushing from a broken or frozen pipe can cause substantial damage inside the dwelling. A curb key is a handy tool to have when shutting off the street level water main.
Learning different types of water shut-off valves can help you select the best configuration for your needs. Now you know how to operate them while making a small plumbing repair or turning off a water line in case of a leak, burst pipe or other emergency.
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