Winterize a Michigan house, is water shutoff at inside water meter sufficient?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by mnalep, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. mnalep

    mnalep Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    Water meter tarnow.jpg
    Hello,

    I am likely going to winterize my 'galvanized steel' plumbing in a 2 story home. It's in Michigan, and no one is living in it right now. I watched some videos, and searched the net, but still have a question about shutting the water off at the meter in the basement versus 'at the street'.

    Some videos show shutting off at the street (but they may have all been meters in crawl spaces). My water meter is in the basement, with the water line coming up into the meter from the basement floor, about 1.5 inches from the outside wall.

    Is it sufficient to turn the water off only at the inside water meter? (without calling the city to shutoff water at the street?)

    Will my galvanized pipes be more likely to rust with air left in the lines versus water?

    Here is one example of instructions I've found that seem to indicate just shutting off at the inside water meter...

    http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/plumbing/systems/winterize/heat_off.htm

    Do these instructions seem sufficient? I think I can avoid the compressed air, as it does not seem there are any valleys, or dips, in the water supply lines.


    Thanks for looking at this ...

    Matt
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2015
  2. themp

    themp Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2008
    Location:
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    I would think shutting it off at the street is the best. Why have any water pressure up to the meter, which is in the basement. It might not freeze but who knows what might happen with the house not being lived in.

    On the street shutoff can you not do this yourself, meaning can you open the city's meter box and see the shutoff? The city I live in used to say the homeowner had to call a plumber to turn off the valve at the meter, but over time they have seemed to have dropped this requirement. We have sprinkler systems that have their own meter and most of my neighbors turn off the sprinkler system meter themselves. We have a few that call a plumber to do it each winter and spring. All the hardware stores carry the key needed to do it.

    The only other factor is that even if you turn off the water at the street or in the basement will you be charged a standard connection fee monthly from the city? To remove that fee in my city, you have to have them come out and turn off the water and there is a charge for this. And also a charge to turn it back on. So, the base fee connection costs needs to be looked at over time compared to the disconnect/connect fees.
     
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  4. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Redford, Michigan
    I did not know I could possibly do it myself. I will look to see where the city's street shutoff ( 'meter box') would be. I've never noticed one. Is it covered with a plate? Where would it normally be located? near curb, near house?

    Would a Home Depot have this 'key'?

    I am contemplating leaving the heat on at 45 degrees, but don't 100% trust the furnace. So I thought to be safe I would drain the water pipes. I have read that freezing temperature inside a house can damage walls, paint, and who knows what else in addition to pipes, but maybe that should not scare me into paying to heat it all winter?

    I did call the city today, but the lady who answered knew almost nothing about this. She said a supervisor would call me back in a few days! She knew nothing about charges, schedules, or much else. They were not much help.
     
  5. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Yakima, WA
    You have a pipe that will still contain water coming out of the floor and leading to the meter. That will freeze in a Michigan winter. You not only need to turn the water off at the street, you need to drain the water from the pipes in the house. The may well me they should be blown out with compressed air. Just turning the water off does not drain the pipes.
     
  6. themp

    themp Member

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    Location:
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    Sorry did not read your initial post closely. So, that is the meter in the basement. Does someone have to go in your basement to read that meter every month? Or the meter is broadcasting the usage so it can be read outside the house by the city. The valve near the floor seems to be the city shutoff at this point if no shutoff is at the street anywhere.
     
  7. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    themp, The water meter is read by the city electronically. They attached a box on the outside of the house, a few years ago, as I recall. They used to have to enter the basement to read it. I will try to remember to ask the supervisor from the city's water department(Detroit) if their is an outside shutoff (although the worker I spoke to today made no indication that there was, or was not an outside shutoff, but I would hope she would have said something if their was not an otside shutoff - but she did not know much).
     
  8. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    Gary, I see, so that pipe coming out of the floor into the water meter will freeze. What if I insulate it? I understand that I also need to open the faucets and drain the water out of the pipes. Thanks for warning me though.
     
  9. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    Oh, will these old galvanized pipes rust up (I mean on the inside) with only air in them, any faster than if there is water in them? Or is that just an unkown?
     
  10. standardairconditioner

    standardairconditioner HVAC'ker

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2015
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    The street shut-off would be kinda like a in-ground fire hydrant. It's usually on your lawn somewhere, sometimes lawnmowers go right over it and that kills blades. Sometimes it can be buried under grass. It might even be on your paved driveway. Or even paved over. If you can find one on a neighbor, yours will be in the same distance from the curb.

    I'm not sure what kind of 'key' it may be, but most likely something like a tire iron, it looks like it'll need a lot of torque.

    I would be so scared to touch this thing. Mostly because it never gets tampered with. And like any old valve, it can break if it hasn't been played with for a few decades. Fire hydrants get their annual excersise during spring thaw.

    Can you confirm without a doubt that the pipe come up from your basement concrete will freeze, since that particular area will be part of the heat below the frostline? Canadian snowbirds usually shutoff that valve right there, just above the basement floor, as seen on the right of your pic.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    Thank you for that picture of the street shutoff. I will look around for something that resembles that. I was also thinking it might be a challenge to turn it since it probably not been turned off for decades. Maybe a neighbor might know. I can ask one I know.

    I cannot confirm if that pipe coming out of the floor, and going into the meter, would freeze. That's been part of my uncertainty about shutting the valve off only before it enters the meter in the basement. I'd like to do only that, and know I was safe. Seems to me that if your up in Canada, and that is what you do, I would be safe here in Michigan, since I am south of you. (Where in Canada are you talking about, btw)?

    I know that not much heat is normally put into that basement, the furnace heat vents are usually closed, or just cracked open. I was also wondering that if it is below the frost line, it might be safe. (I just looked up the frost line on Wikipedia. It list two locals - for North Minnesota it;s 5ft and for south Minn. it's 3.5 ft; for Ottowa it's 5.9 ft, and Windsor is 3.3 ft).

    Windsor is just south of me about 15 miles, so my frost line would seem to be a little ways above 3.3 ft, yet a lot lower than 5.9 ft. My basement is probably 8- 10 ft deep, I am guessing. (Not there now to measure it). So if the frost line is the same depth inside the basement as outside the house in the ground, it seems that pipe should not freeze. But 'should' is not as secure as saying 'will not'.

    Also, what if I leave the furnace on 45 degrees after shutting the meter and draining the pipes. That might add some safety. I also saw in the Home Depot last night some tape that is wrapped around a pipe and carries a current to keep pipe warm. Maybe that would be wise if I cannot find, or close, the street shutoff.
     
  12. standardairconditioner

    standardairconditioner HVAC'ker

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    You seem to be unaware about geothermal heat below the frostline.

    I think you are doing too much reading, and making the mistake by avoiding to choose to find help from your local municipal services or a local professional. Best of luck.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2015
  13. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

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    Location:
    Yakima, WA
    Insulation does not provide heat and will not prevent freezing. Insulation slows heat transfer. Your winter down coat keeps you warm by retaining your body's heat, it does not generate heat. Wrap a bottle of water in that jacket and place it outside in freezing temperature and the water will freeze. I can not imagine the city does not have a street turnoff valve. What do they do if a user fails to pay their bill? What if the supply line from the street develops a leak? If you have no heat in the house and the temperature goes into deep freeze outside, that pipe will freeze. Maybe not as quickly as a pipe totally exposed to the outside, but it will freeze.
     
  14. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

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    And also that is a lead line coming into your house and there is a drain on the valve before the meter. The little cap on the in coming side of the meter valve.
     
  15. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    At our place in northern WI the water main is 8 feet below grade, thus the curb key to reach the shut off is about 12 feet long. c47b80a5-1bab-4dd9-8bcf-43d6ea57408b_1000.jpg
     
  16. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    Standarair.

    True, I am just learning about frost line and geothermal just now. My understanding of geothermal is it's heat from the earth, the ground.

    I didn't think the pipe in the ground would freeze, but I didn't know about that 4-5 inches between the ground and the valve. (I am not sure the ground's heat would keep that part of the pipe above 32 degrees?)

    I do have a habit of reading much.

    My local water department's 'supervisor' is supposed to call me back, hopefully they have better knowledge than the customer rep I spoke to yesterday, who knew next to nothing about recommendations, process, etc., regarding water shutoff by the city.

    I am a bit confused, your earlier post suggests this is a DIY task, and that in Canada that first gate valve is usually all that's closed. But this last post seems to be telling me I'm off track and should seek professional service.

    Have you changed your initial opinion that I could close the gate valve, just below the meter, and be safe?
     
  17. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Gary, Thanks. that's a good analogy.
     
  18. mnalep

    mnalep Member

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    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    cwhyu2, I saw that drain cap. I assumed it was to drain the meter. If it's for the valve in front of the meter, do I need to consider draining the meter additionally?
     
  19. mnalep

    mnalep Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    cacher_chik. Ah, so that is what a curb key looks like. Thanks for posting. Is the street shutoff simply another gate valve that the curb key reached down to turn?
     
  20. mnalep

    mnalep Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Redford, Michigan
    How does that cap/lid come off the top of the street shutoff? Does it just screw off. It looks like in the picture that there is a nut in the middle - does the nut unscrew, or the entire lid? Why is it slotted across the top?
     
  21. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2004
    Location:
    Yakima, WA
    Different cities use different types of shut offs. This could be a screw on-off cap. I doubt that it is the valve itself, it's too close to the surface. The valve is likely a stop and waste located deep down under that cap and will require a curb key. Some cities use their own version of key to key DIY from turning the water on-off. Others use a generic. Usually they do no want an unauthorized person messing with it. No absolutes here, it's pretty much local regulations that you have to follow.
     
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