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Thread: Leaking Wall Shutoff Valves

  1. #1
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    Leaking Wall Shutoff Valves

    A fairly common service call is the leaking wall shutoff valve.

    Pretty often, this problem can be solved in a few minutes by removing the chrome bezzle and then using a suitably sized socket wrench to tighten up the packing nut that is then visible on the side of the valve facing the hole in the wall with a suitably sized socket wrench.


    I mention this because it took me a while to figure that out, and until I did I made large holes in people's walls to replace the valve.



    Seattle Pioneer

  2. #2
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    Seatle I can appreciate you helping your customers but it may be to a fault. If that valve leaks or cracks it was you that modified a factory certified part thus nullifying the certification. You might as well use a hose and some clamps but you wouldn't because it is not a gas approved /certified component. You can charge the cust fairly but don't open yourself up to any problems over a $10 part.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeattlePioneer View Post
    A fairly common service call is the leaking wall shutoff valve.

    Pretty often, this problem can be solved in a few minutes by removing the chrome bezzle and then using a suitably sized socket wrench to tighten up the packing nut that is then visible on the side of the valve facing the hole in the wall with a suitably sized socket wrench.


    I mention this because it took me a while to figure that out, and until I did I made large holes in people's walls to replace the valve.



    Seattle Pioneer



    I agree, you aren't modifying. I've repaired many leaks exactly the same way many times.

  4. #4
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    key valve blues

    There are two basic types of "key" valves on the market:
    -ground key stem rising, which takes 21 throws of the wrist, relies on packing, and is not fully ported
    -ball valve 1/4 turn

    I've only seen ball valves leak after really high pressure tests (<30 psi). I've seen ground key valves leak at less than 5 psi test pressures. Worse yet is when they run soft copper to them. You cannot put flare fittings into concealed spaces. Must be black iron or CSST.

    If a ball valve is leaking, our installing distributors had the valve replaced with a new one then tried to back charge the culprit. We finally got most builders to have the plumber provide the valve and install it so we weren't married to it.

    All new shutoffs should be 1/4 turn non-displaceable fully ported ball valves listed to ANSI Z21.15

    We still find these "Dante" ( a leading brand) valves next to gas direct vent fireplaces that shipped with a Z21.15 ball valve attached. Apparently, there are many code officials struggling with this section of the IFGC. If the shutoff is within 6 ft., it only has to be "accessible" meaning you are allowed to open that bottom grille to get to it. If the valve is > 6 ft. from the Fp, it must be "readily accessible" which means no panels, grilles, hatches, etc. It also in that case must serve only that one appliance and be clearly marked. If you have to get a ladder to climb up to it, it doesn't meet the IFGC.


    I often hear people referring to these as "emergency shutoffs". Nothing could be further from the truth. The gas codes want you to get the hell out and call the cavalry from a neighbor if you think there is a fugitive gas emergency. Those shutoffs are for the convenience of the service technician. This is right out of the IFGC Commentary.

    You can tighten what you want to but for my money, I'm not tinkering with valve packing. Pipe threads are expected to be used in the field. Packing is a manufacturing process monitored and controlled by the listing agency and mfr. It's like changing operator heads on a Robertshaw valve. Sure, you can buy them and it only takes 4 screws to change it. However, that ANSI Z21.78 listing goes right out the window once those screws are tampered with. The mfrs. are using tamper indicators on seals, screws, etc. R/S tried to get techs to swap out the EPUs for that LP valve recall. Bad idea. I've seen three valves that caused delayed ignition including one injury because of a tampered valve.

    Yes, I know it is simple to fix but that doesn't make it ok to do. I know how to turn up second stage regulators but won't touch them because of the liability. It's all part of the game we play.

  5. #5
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    Payment risk?

    After I replaced an obviously faulty fireplace switch the cust is upset we only take cash or check. I tell him our company name to put on the check and he say that we're not the company he called to come out. I said thats the name we answered the phone with , the name on the truck I pulled up in and the name on the top of the contract you signed before I started the work. He was all upset and calls my dispatcher (also my fiance) and *****es to her about be misled and "scammed". He reluctantly gives the check and later I realize (a rookie mistake but I was frazzled) he misses 1/3 of our name, the month , and the cents amount on the check. I get a black pen and fill in the blanks and take it to the bank and got it certified. So I won that battle until he calls Friday (3 days later) saying the pilot went out and we didn't fix it. I beleive there is also a problem with the thermopile but he was rude on phone (probably because he didn't think the check would pass) and I won't go back because of it. Any thoughts ? (I also posted in the business section)

  6. #6
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    Sorry that was to be a new post (;

  7. #7
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    Thread Starter
    Personally, I don't regard tightening up the packing nut on these valves any different than tightening the pilot gas adjustment cap screw on a Robertshaw millivolt gas valve so it doesn't leak.

    I've never had a call back after I tightened the packing nut because the valve leaked again.

    So I'm quite comfortable doing that as a repair. Other people are entitled to their own comfort levels of course.



    Seattle Pioneer

  8. #8
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    Hearthman understand its a old thread but had to comment on a situation regarding Dante/key/ball/globe valves.

    So got a barach informant 2 leak detector, went on a gas valve, pilot assembly change out.

    Work all completed, no leaks
    detected in box fine, Dante is being picked up by electronic gas leak detector, dante valve is spewing and bad could smell, verified with gas leak detection solution as well bubbling etc

    So I was trained that all gas leaks are bad, it's not going to leak less only get worse over duration

    So notify boss, asked me to do the " tighten packing but thing" it works to an extent less amount but still leaking.

    So make customer aware call local gas company PG&E to come out and refer them to a trusted plumber in the area . I am certified and have the background in hvac but by no means am I qualified, experienced, and code aware about piping in walls, valves outside the fireplaces. It's a unknown realm that I am looking into learning more about later in the future.

    PG&E shows up with a PPM reading meter for gas tells me, the plumber, and the homeowner that the amount of leaking is below a .5 threshold etc... And it's of a nonhazardous nature etc.. at first seemed like it would become a pissing contest but after I explained that was trained all leaks were bad and my gas detector just senses the presence of gas and my interests were just to find out if the valves were safe and needed to be replaced. The guy from the gas company was cool and explained acceptable levels in and their industry standards. So I deferred any action for the customer to the gas company's recommendation, and plumber to perform work. If needed

    Apologizing about hijacking thread just wanted to know in these type of situations is all out show of force necessary, did I overreact and called the dogs. I understand its always best to error on the side of caution, it's just lately been coming across a large amount of these shutoff/keys/Dante's leaking and would like clarification from you guys. And should I be carry a leak detector that measures PPM etc or percentages?

    Appreciate your time

  9. #9
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    The generally accepted action level that constitutes an "incident" is 20% of the LEL. That means about 8,800 ppm for methane. Note sure what 0.5 he's referring to unless that utility goes by another number. The gas codes require a pressure test on "piping" which includes up to 6 feet of the appliance. A key valve should have a listed gas cock upstream of it but is seldom done. If it is used to throttle a log lighter pipe it must have an approved shutoff upstream. Now, most of these key valves are rated 5psi max. Most utilities now require test pressures above this even though the gas codes themselves only require 3psi x 10 min. for residential applications. The very test for leaks may in actuality be causing them. I recommend against any key valve with a displacing rising stem in favor of a listed ball valve. The gas code does not make allowance for any leaks. Even though the gas utility said they are not concerned, I would recommend replacement and re-testing until it doesn't leak and put that in a cert. letter return receipt. Following this regimen, an electronic sniffer that can sense methane down around 20ppm such as your machine should suffice to localize leaks then pinpoint with non-corrosive commercial leak detection solution. When pressure testing, I recommend using the lowest test pressure you are allowed. High test pressures are useless and can cause leaks as I noted.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for clarification Hearthman, I need to game up on my national/local fuel gas code and plumbing too. Starting to get a better understanding of things but there is a massive of info and experience I still lack but love this job and want to do my best and make the right calls. Was shooting for the N.A.T.E certifications for gas service but going to hold up on that. Going to focus on Hearth products so next month the NFI Manuals and exam prep is getting ordered through the shop for me to get the necessary info etc.. Appreciate the reply and have a nice one HM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by hearthman View Post
    The generally accepted action level that constitutes an "incident" is 20% of the LEL. That means about 8,800 ppm for methane. Note sure what 0.5 he's referring to unless that utility goes by another number. The gas codes require a pressure test on "piping" which includes up to 6 feet of the appliance. A key valve should have a listed gas cock upstream of it but is seldom done. If it is used to throttle a log lighter pipe it must have an approved shutoff upstream. Now, most of these key valves are rated 5psi max. Most utilities now require test pressures above this even though the gas codes themselves only require 3psi x 10 min. for residential applications. The very test for leaks may in actuality be causing them. I recommend against any key valve with a displacing rising stem in favor of a listed ball valve. The gas code does not make allowance for any leaks. Even though the gas utility said they are not concerned, I would recommend replacement and re-testing until it doesn't leak and put that in a cert. letter return receipt. Following this regimen, an electronic sniffer that can sense methane down around 20ppm such as your machine should suffice to localize leaks then pinpoint with non-corrosive commercial leak detection solution. When pressure testing, I recommend using the lowest test pressure you are allowed. High test pressures are useless and can cause leaks as I noted.

    20% lel action limit to "us" means do not enter and evacuate. also we have a zero tolerence on indoor leaks. pg&e are idiots

    Bob i agree any valve leaking must be replaced. now just an fyi, i can make any 2% lel leak a 100% gas leak by cramming my CGI probe right on to the leak but 6" away, nothing. still needs immediate attention but this is not 20% lel action limit. now atmospheric readings anywhere close to 5% lel and my butts puckering, let alone 20%. who knows what reading is in the next room?, downstairs?, in the attic??

    for gods sake guys, be safe with gas leaks
    my boss thinks its possible to repeal the laws of physics

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