Could You Pass This Pop Quiz About Your House?

POP QUIZ

  • Where do you turn off the water coming into your house?
  • Do you know where your electrical panel is?
  • Could you tell a plumber where your sewer clean-out is?

None of these controls are difficult to find when you have time but what happens when you walk in and find 2 inches of water in your house because a water line burst? That’s why you need to find them now.

To help you figure out where 7 mission critical controls are in your house, here’e where they are in my house.

Electrical Panel

No matter how big or small, every house has one main electrical panel. This is where the power comes in from the utility company and is distributed throughout your house. Why do you need to know? This is what you’ll look for when you try to use a hair dryer and microwave at the same time and trip a breaker.

PRO TIP
Use a label maker to mark EVERY breaker in your panel. Trust me, do not use a pencil. I may or may not have experience with this one.

Mine is in the garage but in my other houses the panels were in the utility/laundry room. I even seen electrical panels on the outside wall of a house, near where the power comes in.

At the top you’ll see two breakers marked “MAIN”, this what controls power to entire house. If you ever need to kill the power to everything, this is one your push to the left.

breaker-panel

Water Shut-Offs

You’d use either of these if you wanted to turn off the water to your entire house.

You may have a water shut-off close to your street that looks like this:

water-meter-by-street

Or a valve near your house that looks like this:

water-meter-near

You’ll also have a shut-off for bathroom sinks and toilets that look like this:

under-sink

Don’t forget washing machines and ice-makers also have their own water shut-off valves.

Gas Meter

Here’s what the gas meter coming into my house looks like. The shut-off valve is circled in the picture on the right.

gas-shutoff

My gas logs also have a shut-off valve.

gas-logs

Gas stoves, HVAC heating systems, cooktops, clothes dryers, and water heaters all have their own gas shutoffs.

WARNING
Natural gas is nothing to mess around with. If you detect a gas leak (when you smell rotten eggs) call the gas company immediately and get out of the house!

Attic Access

I have two ways to get into my attic, a full size door and this ceiling access. Be sure you know where your attic access is.

attic

WARNING
If you have pull down attic stairs made of wood, be careful when you use them. I had a set break on me but thankfully I was only a couple of steps off the ground. The ones made of metal are inexpensive and relatively easy to swap out.

Sewer Access

This is another one of those you don’t want to have find in the middle of a crisis. If you have a clog, this is where the plumber will need to get to fix your unpleasant and messy condition. Mine is in a flower bed in the front of the house. Yours could be in the basement or underneath your house if you’re on a crawl space. They all look pretty much the same and shouldn’t be too tough to find.

sewer-cleanoutjpg

If you’ve got an older house, built before 1952, you might not have one. But it’s something you should consider adding.

Hot Water Temperature Gauge

This one is critical if you’ve small kids. To prevent injury, keep your water heater set to 120 degrees max.

Mine is electric so I had to remove the top panel to get to it. The temperature gauge on a gas water heater is usually next to the shutoff.

water-heater-control

Property Line

This is what could happen if you don’t know where your property lines are.

Picture this, you put in a privacy fence and after it’s all done, your neighbor says, dude that’s on my property line! If he’s right, he’ll have every legal right to make you take it down.

Or he could start a massive backyard project when you figure out he’s on your property. You can win neighbor of the year by telling him before he gets too far into the project.

If you’re not sure where your property lines are, here’s a few ways you can find out:

  • Contact your county’s tax assessor’s office. They should have the dimensions of your lot to help you get started.
  • Get out your deed. It’ll have a precise description of your property including measurements in feet, as well as landmarks. You can then get your tape measure out and start the search process.
  • The best but not cheapest solution is to hire a surveyor. He’ll be able to tell you exactly what the boundaries of your property are, including any utility easements or municipal setback you have to obey.

BONUS TIP

Do you know where the filter for you heating/air conditioner is? If your house is built on a slab, it’ll look like this.

ac-filterjpg

If your house is on a crawlspace, it’ll be on the wall, near the floor.

Changing the filter on a regular basis is as important to making your HVAC unit last as regular oil changes are to your car making it to 150,000 miles. I just discovered a company that lets you sign up to have your filter automatically shipped to you. I’ve got mine set up for delivery every 90 days and the cost is comparable to mid-grade filters at the big box store. Plus, it reminds to me change the filter!

If you don’t know where any of these are, why not take part of this Saturday and figure it out. You’ll be glad you did.