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  • had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

    ever since the big northridge quake of 1994, the rush was on to install automatic seismic gas shut off valves. honestly the rules vary city by city and i didn't agree with some of the shortcuts that they allowed in the early days. never really a big fan of the valves.

    up to now all i ever had were false trips due to improper installations, gardeners and painters bumping them. but that all changed today. i actually had a call late this afternoon about no hot water and clothes not drying. normally i would tell them the valve was bumped. but not today.

    last night at 12:03 am, we had a 3.5 earthquake centered in beverly hills. this is the second quake in the last few days.the first was at 3:26 am and measured 3.2

    the valves are suppose to trip at a magnitude 5.5 not a 3.5.

    long story short, had the customer send me a photo of the valve and i was able to walk him through the reset. i guess he figured out the water heater pilot since i haven't heard back.

    just think when a 5.5 hits and there are hundreds of thousands that trip in my work area.

    rick.
    Last edited by PLUMBER RICK; 09-08-2012, 08:33 AM. Reason: hot water
    phoebe it is

  • #2
    Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake


    just think when a 5.5 hits and there are hundreds of thousands that trip in
    my work area.
    sounds like a money maker.

    I wonder who was pushing for them to be required, those who get
    to install and service them or those who are 'protected' by them?
    ---------------
    Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
    ---------------
    “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
    ---------
    "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
    ---------
    sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

      I install, a lot of them. Just did one last week. I use the california valve . For bracket I use uni strut. I cut two 45s and weld each leg 12" long on My shop saw . Rock solid. Then I drill a hole in a short flat blade screwdriver. screw a pan head screw attaching a small chain to it.
      This gets screwed to the wall. Then I give the family a lesson on resetting it. Also how to re light the W.H. THE BIG ONES COMING !!@
      Last edited by toolaholic; 09-08-2012, 09:32 PM.
      I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

        Originally posted by Bob D. View Post
        sounds like a money maker.

        I wonder who was pushing for them to be required, those who get
        to install and service them or those who are 'protected' by them?
        I am also listed under Earth Quakes retro fits. these valves are house savers. I charge $475.00 for one installed. Most folks have a Lil gas valve wrench on a hook beside the meter, to turn it off. The people think they can turn these off. Ain't gonna happen with a 50 year old valve. I bring out the husband or wife and ask them to turn it 1/4 turn off. No home owner has been able to in our 1958 Eichler hood! That's My E Z Sell. And will You be home to turn it off ?? REALLY ?
        Last edited by toolaholic; 09-08-2012, 11:57 AM.
        I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

          update. 2 more calls today from customers that had no hot water and didn't notice yesterday, funny part is they all live .25-.5 miles from me. the quake really felt like a sonic boom and not a rock and roll.

          all 3 customers have a different brand of valve. 1 is 7 years old and the reset screw was stripped/ rotted on the 1 side. i managed to talk them trough it and went on the other call.

          $25.00 with a $5.00 tip for resetting the valve in the crawl space and then climbing into the calif. basement to lite the heater. i guess i'll make it up in the long run as he's a big time judge

          surprised with the 3 calls from a relatively little 3.5 shake. wait till the big one

          rick.
          phoebe it is

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

            Rick, is there anything about these valves that could cause them to become oversensitive after
            being in service for a number of years? Does the manufacturer require any periodic maintenance?
            I'm just trying to figure out why for such a small quake (for your area) there are so many trips. When
            was the last quake of similar magnitude and do you remember having roughly the same number
            of calls to reset the valves. Are these valves you installed or someone else? Anything in common
            between the installs as far as the piping layout that might be a contributor to these low level trips?
            Maybe pipe has settled from the weight of the meter which over time has caused some pipe joints
            to move, even slightly, which could take the valve out of level (it seems to me from looking at the
            two designs in the examples below that having the valve installed plumb and level would be critical
            to their design and operational reliability.

            I found this which shows two types of valves. Looks like they have one for horizontal and one for
            vertical pipe runs. Are there others? If all valves follow these designs I can see there is little to do
            as far as maintenance. They look like they should be reliable.
            http://www.earthquakevalvespecialist...akeValves.html


            Are the examples shown here representative of typical installs?
            http://www.earthquakevalvespecialist...allations.html

            It there a reason why the meter is not supported or restrained? Isn't the mass of the meter subject
            to the forces generated in a quake as such wouldn't its mass tend to cause it to shake or sway
            such that it might threaten the integrity of the piping and thereby cause a break or other failure.
            I only see one mechanical connection made between the structure and the pipe, I assume to ensure the
            seismic valve will trip when it should.


            Here (NJ) we have no need for these valves so I have no exposure to them. I understand what
            they are meant to do but other than that nothing. Last quake we had here was a ~3.5 last year
            and that was the biggest in probably 30 years. There is a fault that runs under the Delaware River
            but it is not the same as those you have on the west coast, the plates do not move in the same way
            as yours do, so the displacement is not as dramatic or severe so less damage.
            Last edited by Bob D.; 09-09-2012, 06:35 AM. Reason: added URL
            ---------------
            Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
            ---------------
            “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
            ---------
            "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
            ---------
            sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

              The California valve works like this. There is a heavy chrome steel ball setting next to the gas port orifice. in a 5'5 or greater Quake the ball rolls into the recess shutting off the flow. Keep in mind the gas pressure after our meters is only about 1/2 lb.
              Our Gas Co. PG&E will re set and light off W.H. at no charge. In a major E.Q. You will have to wait a long time for this. That's why I show how to to owners. I weld up and install support brackets to the Gas meter E Q Valves so they're rock solid. I have followed up after Licensed plumbers plumbers that Haven't installed support Brackets !
              I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                the little fire fighter link About Earthquake Valves | Earthquake Valve Specialsts shows the horizontal and vertical valves. the valve that tripped on 1 of the installs was a horizontal. it uses a very weak magnet to hold open the flapper disk. based on past experience this design is not nearly as fool proof as the vertical unit that uses a ball bearing that rolls off a ledge and drops into the opening.

                both designs are shown very good in the animated link you provided and i reposted.

                interesting that this link shows that they no longer sell or install seismic valves as of 2011. not even sure if they had a proper c-36 license as i don't see it posted. just looked up the name on the cslb website. 2 of the 3 are the same owner and all 3 are either suspended, canceled or inactive. funny as the guy that is named on the 2 that are incorporated also is named as an electrical contractor that's also inactive. all 3 show no workers comp insurance and state they had no employees. big website and claims to be the biggest in the area yet no employees?

                the other valve was a pacific seismic. here is the typical 1'' horizontal unit Model 301 Series 1" Horizontal Valve Specification Sheet

                and the assi. that is a remote cable actuated valve. ASSI Earthquake Activated Gas Shut-off Valves and Water Valves these had a very short run as my understanding is they are on a slow boat from china.

                proper strapping is required so the valve is secured to the structure and will move when the structure moves. on remote locations, a 3'' post can be substituted



                rick.
                Last edited by PLUMBER RICK; 09-09-2012, 10:46 AM. Reason: more info
                phoebe it is

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                  [QUOTE=PLUMBER RICK;382644]ever since the big northridge quake of 1994, the rush was on to install automatic seismic gas shut off valves. honestly the rules vary city by city and i didn't agree with some of the shortcuts that they allowed in the early days. never really a big fan of the valves.

                  up to now all i ever had were false trips due to improper installations, gardeners and painters bumping them. but that all changed today. i actually had a call late this afternoon about no hot water and clothes not drying. normally i would tell them the valve was bumped. but not today.

                  last night at 12:03 am, we had a 3.5 earthquake centered in beverly hills. this is the second quake in the last few days.the first was at 3:26 am and measured 3.2

                  the valves are suppose to trip at a magnitude 5.5 not a 3.5.

                  long story short, had the customer send me a photo of the valve and i was able to walk him through the reset. i guess he figured out the water heater pilot since i haven't heard back.

                  just think when a 5.5 hits and there are hundreds of thousands that trip in my work area.
                  Re setting valve ,and re lighting W.H. Should be a service charge. And in a more severe Quake We need to check whole system on hangers N leaks !
                  I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                    Originally posted by PLUMBER RICK View Post
                    update. 2 more calls today from customers that had no hot water and didn't notice yesterday, funny part is they all live .25-.5 miles from me. the quake really felt like a sonic boom and not a rock and roll.

                    all 3 customers have a different brand of valve. 1 is 7 years old and the reset screw was stripped/ rotted on the 1 side. i managed to talk them trough it and went on the other call.

                    $25.00 with a $5.00 tip for resetting the valve in the crawl space and then climbing into the calif. basement to lite the heater. i guess i'll make it up in the long run as he's a big time judge

                    surprised with the 3 calls from a relatively little 3.5 shake. wait till the big one

                    rick.
                    Rick " resetting valve in the crawler ?? . Why isn't the meter and valve outside ? Old Homes in S.F. 1929 circa have gas meters in walk out basements. But I've never heard of a gas meter in a crawler ! Our 1958 Eichlers have them outside.
                    I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                      Rick You've started a great thread for us in E.Q. country. How about setting up a check list for home Plumbing, fuel line appliance checks ? This would be a great service to all. And a lot of Us will be at the home anyway! It would be Horrible to re set , walk away , and leave a cracked pipe or fitting ! Seattle is also a Seismic zone Tanks Tool
                      I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                        tool, the real old homes tend to have had the gas meters located under a crawl space outside screen/ access.

                        today they are hung outside next to the structure.

                        my home along with many 1950's neighborhoods had them installed at the parkway/ curb box. the gas co is slowly trying to phase them out and move them above ground next to the structure. but money is tight and the project was put on hold.

                        rick.
                        phoebe it is

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                          Originally posted by toolaholic View Post
                          Rick You've started a great thread for us in E.Q. country. How about setting up a check list for home Plumbing, fuel line appliance checks ? This would be a great service to all. And a lot of Us will be at the home anyway! It would be Horrible to re set , walk away , and leave a cracked pipe or fitting ! Seattle is also a Seismic zone Tanks Tool
                          the typical protocol is to do a physical inspection of the appliances and make sure nothing was jarred to the point of stressing a gas line/ flex. if you see the appliances moved out from the wall, the water heater slanting, and home has suffered some damage, along with everyone else in the neighborhood. then a pressure test would be a smart thing. but at least a meter clock test would be required for everything else.

                          basically you confirm all appliances are off and pilots are off. then you mark the meter on the 1/2 cubic foot needle. watch for 5-10 minutes and verify that the needle hasn't moved. biggest issue is that the system might have already had a slight movement before the quake and nothings changed.

                          to do an actual pressure test is much more involved and time consuming as the older appliance line valves/ shut offs will not hold a pressure test and would need to be replaced to a newer ball valve style shut off or capped off.

                          it's going to be very interesting when the big one comes and 100,000's -1,000,000's are without gas. leak or no leak. personally, i think it will be a disaster more so than the actual quake.

                          rick.
                          phoebe it is

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                            Originally posted by PLUMBER RICK View Post
                            the typical protocol is to do a physical inspection of the appliances and make sure nothing was jarred to the point of stressing a gas line/ flex. if you see the appliances moved out from the wall, the water heater slanting, and home has suffered some damage, along with everyone else in the neighborhood. then a pressure test would be a smart thing. but at least a meter clock test would be required for everything else.

                            basically you confirm all appliances are off and pilots are off. then you mark the meter on the 1/2 cubic foot needle. watch for 5-10 minutes and verify that the needle hasn't moved. biggest issue is that the system might have already had a slight movement before the quake and nothings changed.

                            to do an actual pressure test is much more involved and time consuming as the older appliance line valves/ shut offs will not hold a pressure test and would need to be replaced to a newer ball valve style shut off or capped off.

                            it's going to be very interesting when the big one comes and 100,000's -1,000,000's are without gas. leak or no leak. personally, i think it will be a disaster more so than the actual quake.

                            rick.
                            Thanks, that's all good info. Yes We'll have all the Mech. problems. And the dirt Bags will pry on the weak and disabled
                            I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: had a seismic gas valve trip due to a real quake

                              I was just wondering after looking at the cutaway in the link that Rick provided, if they are not perfectly level would that be the reason they are tripping at the lower seismic rate?
                              Last edited by mbhydro; 09-11-2012, 09:01 PM. Reason: spelling

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