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Thread: Probably a stupid question...

  1. #1
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    Probably a stupid question...

    It run worldwide the terrible scenes of Texan houses being flooded by blowed pipes at this unsual local Winter. It is really sad to see desperated people losing most of their possetions in a such way.

    On the other hand, at last here in our country, people, included myself, cannot understand why people there simply did not shut off the main water entrance when the leak started. Donīt they have a main water switch in the water entrance for each home? Donīt they have a switch valve inside home that shut off water completely?

    I can see a such disaster occurring in a house without people inside but it is a challenge to me to understand that if there are people inside home.

    Thanks i advance if you can give me the answer...

    Take care!
    All the best.

    Osvaldo.

  2. #2
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    Osvaldo, you came to the right place for a stupid answer to a stupid question! LOL!

    In short, yes most homes have a shutoff valve outside the home and most have one within the home.
    Last edited by Ken Fitzgerald; 02-24-2021 at 1:52 PM.
    Ken

  3. #3
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    A lot of those probably occurred after the occupants vacated the house for a warmer location, and failed to close the main water shut off before leaving.

    Unfortunately a lot of people just have no clue as to how things (like main water shut off valves) work.

  4. #4
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    Yesterday it was 79 F (21 C) a week prior 12 F (-11 C) here in San Antonio. There are shutoff valves at the water meter. The issue is that some folks don't know where their meter is, or they don't have the proper wrench. The apartment complexes may have the shutoffs where the tenants can't get to them.

    I can shutoff at the street, and I have put in a shutoff by the water softener. So I am able to shut things down if necessary. There are just a lot of folks who never deal with their home's systems themselves and are left to get someone to come in to do it for them.

    We had something like 107 hours below freezing. 3 days or so without power. (the Joy of deregulation )

    John (thankful it is warmer this week)

  5. #5
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    The problem with water lines freezing and breaking is a little complicated. Here where I live, because the area can see subzero weather, our water lines are typically buried 4' underground. So, normally water lines buried that deep won't freeze. Then potentially they could still freeze within a unheated/uninhabited house. Even in heated houses when weather gets extremely cold local residents will leave a faucet dripping overnight to keep water moving and not freezing within the structure. In the mountainous areas nearby where it regularly gets below freezing, those with homes not regularly occupied will have a waste/drain valve inside that is below the lowest point in the house. Closing this valve shuts off the water and drains the waterlines within the home. These same people will shut off their water heaters when they are not staying in the home. For example, a friend has a home in the mountains he and his family only use in the winter when skiing and in the summer to escape the heat. They shut the waste/drain valve and shut off the water heater every time they leave the home for the season. It prevents the water lines from freezing and they don't have unnecessary expenses of paying for unused heated water.

    As pointed out by Dave in an earlier post, a lot of people don't know where the waste/drain valve for their domestic water is located. Our water shutoff is located in an underground vault with a manhole cover near the street. Our irrigation waste/drain valve for our untreated irrigation water is located in a different vault with a manhole cover. Though our irrigation waterline is buried at a 4' level it comes up to a 1" level at the two control boxes I installed and in which I placed the sprinkler system control valves. I shut this irrigation water waste/drain valve each fall, it drains the lines to the control valves and then I have the sprinkler lines blown out with a commercial air compressor so the sprinkler lines don't freeze during the winter.
    Last edited by Ken Fitzgerald; 02-24-2021 at 6:34 PM.
    Ken

  6. #6
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    the other problem is some of these breaks are before the valve.

    Most codes call for underground pipe to be buried below the frost line but a place like texas probably has a shallow frost line. A freeze like they just got may have caused some of these to freeze and crack/split as well.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Yetka View Post
    the other problem is some of these breaks are before the valve.

    Most codes call for underground pipe to be buried below the frost line but a place like texas probably has a shallow frost line. A freeze like they just got may have caused some of these to freeze and crack/split as well.
    The frost line variation can cause problems. One of our friends sold their local home and moved to Tucson, AZ. He was shocked to find just digging in his yard to remove a dead tree he hit the incoming water line.
    Ken

  8. #8
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    Simply because they don't know what they don't know. If you've never dealt with those types of temperatures you aren't aware of the consequences.
    Confidence: The feeling you experience before you fully understand the situation

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Yetka View Post
    the other problem is some of these breaks are before the valve.

    Most codes call for underground pipe to be buried below the frost line but a place like texas probably has a shallow frost line. A freeze like they just got may have caused some of these to freeze and crack/split as well.
    Being below the normal frost line is no guarantee of safety either. If those lines happen to go under a driveway or a road the frost can be driven deeper than normal. Cities around here will typically have one or two water main breaks every winter. I've already seen frozen septic systems if we don't have enough snow cover before the sub zero temps. hit.
    Confidence: The feeling you experience before you fully understand the situation

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cav View Post
    A lot of those probably occurred after the occupants vacated the house for a warmer location, and failed to close the main water shut off before leaving.

    Unfortunately a lot of people just have no clue as to how things (like main water shut off valves) work.
    This has never happened before in Central to South Texas, in its extreme, and nothing even _remotely_ like it has happened here in over thirty years. Most Texans have no experience with it. The standard advice has always been to keep the taps dripping during a hard freeze. People get that from the local news. Nothing in the local media talked about shutting the water off at the street, and the way those valves are usually configured, you’d need a special utility wrench to do it, which few people have (you could always call the utility to come out and do it for you.) In fact, during the third day of the freeze people were told by the local media, instructed by the utilities, to stop their taps from dripping, so that they could more easily repressurize the systems.

    Needless to say, people who were “just doing as they were told” suffered some calamitous consequences. Trust the gubment, huh? :^)

    I suppose you could just go on the internet for a second opinion, but that was down (as was cel phone service) in many areas. Chipping your way into the car (if you could) to listen to the car radio was often the only way to get any information as to what was going on. The roads were impassible anyway.

    What _we_ did here in South Texas was shut off the water at the street and drain all the plumbing. No water issues, even though we were without power for three days.

    What really mystified _me_ is all of the so-called facilities managers who had no idea what to do. Some of the most dramatic media footage after the fact was of commercial and institutional buildings that had severe water damage. I guess they never saw it coming.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Osvaldo Cristo View Post
    It run worldwide the terrible scenes of Texan houses ...
    I don't want to minimize the impact of the weather and power situation on those it DID impact, but not everyone was frozen, flooded, and in the dark. Beware the IF-IT-BLEEDS-IT-LEADS media reports.

    And some of the disasters are self-inflicted. I have family in Houston, in a rental home, with typical setup: meter at the curb, shutoff valve there, buried line to the house ... but then discovered it emerging from the ground outside the house. Landlord had pulled it out to tap for a yard spigot. As prep for the cold snap, family insulated the water line coming into the house. Based on time below freezing, it was not even close to enough. Should have heat traced it - - but wait - - that requires electricity. Where did that go? (Note: in 20yrs family has seen snow in Houston once. Melted in <2 hrs.)

    ....Still haven't heard why they shut down all the wind turbines? TX has largest installed wind energy potential in the US, but I drove by hundreds of them just standing there, blades feathered - in a howling wind. One media outlet said they were 'frozen' (...but the nacelles have heat!). Proof of intermittency? Mismanagement? Or just STOOO-PID?
    Last edited by Malcolm McLeod; 02-24-2021 at 4:55 PM.

  12. #12
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    Frost line... not in San Antonio

    Our all time record for time below freezing is 109 hours (last week was a close second). When you are not below freezing for very many hours in a year, the ground does not freeze.

    The line to my water meter is maybe a foot down if I'm lucky, But he meter and the pipe connecting it are exposed in a little hole with a metal cover.meter.jpg Actually looking at the picture it may be a bit less than a foot deep. Shut off is adjacent to the meter.

    When you deal with that level of cold once a decade, those coping skills are not developed (practiced).

    It would be nice to have a drain for the system (or at least for the outside faucets, which can be at risk even in our normal brief freezing spells)

    John

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm McLeod View Post
    Still haven't heard why they shut down all the wind turbines? TX has largest installed wind energy potential in the US, but I drove by hundreds of them just standing there, blades feathered - in a howling wind. One media outlet said they were 'frozen' (...but the nacelles have heat!). Proof of intermittency? Mismanagement? Or just STOOO-PID?
    Why are you singling out wind turbines? The majority of the lost power generation capacity was thermal power plants (gas, coal and nuclear). One reason for the lost production for both the windmills and thermal power plants was because they weren't winterized. Why weren't they winterized is the question. Another reason for the lost production was a shortage of gas again because the gas system wasn't winterized.
    This is a classic example of what happens when you have a lack of regulations to force for profit utilities to spend money to avoid disasters and then just when you thought it couldn't get worse these same utilities use the excuse that demand exceeds supply to jack up prices on those who didn't lose power.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Why are you singling out wind turbines? The majority of the lost power generation capacity was thermal power plants (gas, coal and nuclear). One reason for the lost production for both the windmills and thermal power plants was because they weren't winterized. Why weren't they winterized is the question. Another reason for the lost production was a shortage of gas again because the gas system wasn't winterized.
    This is a classic example of what happens when you have a lack of regulations to force for profit utilities to spend money to avoid disasters and then just when you thought it couldn't get worse these same utilities use the excuse that demand exceeds supply to jack up prices on those who didn't lose power.
    Are you with ERCOT?

    I 'singled out' wind turbines because I drove by 300-400 of them just standing there (from Carlsbad NM to Dallas TX); even passing thru Sweetwater TX - - their city limit sign is a 150-ish foot turbine blade! :: "Wind Turbine Capital of TEXAS!"

    Want to spread the wealth? PV was down cuz it was cloudy and it snowed on them. Apparently no one thought of that either.

    Some thermal plants aren't winterized because there is no demand for them in the (typical) winter. They do maintenance in winter, so we can run the dog-snot out of them when its 108F and we set the AC to 'cool breeze'. We only use ~45-50% of our peak summer capacity in the (typical) winter, so the unused plants are not paid to be on standby. ...the AUDACITY (spelt 'greed'?) of not paying for what we're not using. Tsk. Tsk.

    Check a little deeper on the high bill 'victims'. They are on wholesale rate plans and have been saving money every month .... until they didn't. I watched one such victim interviewed - - terrible, horrible, very bad, no good electrical supplier, aka the boutique wholesale supplier she chose, warned her to change plans 2 days before her 'victimization'. She chose not to avail herself of that. ...Here's your sign.

    ...I'm NOT with ERCOT!

    Forgot: My electric rates didn't change at all.
    Last edited by Malcolm McLeod; 02-24-2021 at 6:16 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Why are you singling out wind turbines? The majority of the lost power generation capacity was thermal power plants (gas, coal and nuclear). One reason for the lost production for both the windmills and thermal power plants was because they weren't winterized. Why weren't they winterized is the question. Another reason for the lost production was a shortage of gas again because the gas system wasn't winterized.
    This is a classic example of what happens when you have a lack of regulations to force for profit utilities to spend money to avoid disasters and then just when you thought it couldn't get worse these same utilities use the excuse that demand exceeds supply to jack up prices on those who didn't lose power.
    That’s exactly right.

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