Seismic ValvesIn earthquake prone areas, seismic valves are essential tools in the event of an earthquake. What are seismic valves, what do they do, and what should you look for when purchasing one?

What are seismic valves?

Seismic valves, known as earthquake valves, are valves that are attached the natural gas line of a home. In the event of an earthquake (or excessive gas line pressure) this valve will shut, cutting off the flow of natural gas to the home. If the earthquake has caused a gas line inside the house to break, the seismic valve prevents the continued flow of gas into the house. This effectively prevents the house from becoming an explosion hazard in the event that a gas line inside the house has broken during an earthquake.

What types of valves are there?
Seismic valves are broken down into two categories: motion sensors and excessive flow sensors. Motion sensing seismic valves rely on a caged ball that, when exposed to motion, is shaken loose and covers the valve opening. These can be tricky because if they are too sensitive, the ball can be shaken loose by cars driving by or the neighbor playing basketball. Excessive flow sensors read the amount of natural gas that passes through the valve. Large leaks are registered as excessive flow, so the valve is tripped and natural gas flow to the house is shut off. These don’t tend to detect small leaks, which can be just as dangerous if left unchecked.

How much do seismic valves cost?
The cost of the valves varies depending on the size of the pipe and the amount of pressure that is normally carried within that pipe. Small pipes, such as those found in residential homes and small businesses, cost less than larger pipes, such as those used in industrial settings. Contact us for a free estimate.

Can I install a seismic valve myself?
It is not generally recommended. If you are installing one on your home due to the requirements of your homeowner’s insurance company, they will likely require you to hire a licensed contractor to complete the installation.

How can I tell if my valve has closed?
Most valves are color coded. An open valve that has not been affected by a seismic event will show green in its status window. If the valve has been tripped and is currently closed, the status window will be red.

Are seismic valves required?
Most earthquake prone states do not require the installation of a seismic valve. A number of companies that offer homeowner’s insurance in those states do require that you have a seismic valve installed, to lower the chance of explosion or fire during an earthquake. Overall, if you live in a seismically active state and use natural gas to cook with or heat your home, the onetime cost of installing a seismic valve is infinitely less than the cost of rebuilding a home that exploded due to a natural gas leak.

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