Friday, October 23, 2015

A Valuable Lesson from a Home Repair

One of the challenges for this blog is to cover the topics we do in a responsible way. With the systemic risks to the global financial system that are well known and documented here on the blog, it would be irresponsible to pretend they don't exist. 

On the other hand, there are many who are constantly preaching that a horrific collapse is going to happen on certain dates and times. When these dates and times pass and no collapse has happened, it is natural for people to dismiss such forecasts. Constantly using fear is not a responsible approach either.

This past week I learned a valuable lesson from a basic home repair problem we encountered. I arrived home from work to discover that the sprinkler system in our front yard had sprung a leak and water was free flowing from that leak. Assuming I knew what to do, I located the shut off valve for the main water supply to our house that connects to the city water line. Much to my surprise (and anxiety) I learned that I was unable to turn that valve off because it had been placed too close to the metal box in the ground that surrounded it. Even the emergency night water employee from the city could not turn it off. 

Fortunately, after much concern and scrambling to understand my sprinkler system I found a shut off valve to the sprinkler system itself. By turning off that valve I was able to stop the water leak until help could arrive to repair the leak.

The next day both a plumber and some city workers arrived to fix the problems. They were much appreciated and took time to educate me on what went wrong and what to watch for in the future to avoid a disaster. Just imagine if this leak had been inside our house and I was unable to shut off the water supply to our home. The result could be a disaster.

I learned a number of valuable things in this experience:

- I should have checked out the main water supply valve ahead of time to make sure I could turn it off in case of an emergency. I just never bothered to check it and assumed I would never have an emergency.

- I should have taken time to become informed about how my sprinkler system is designed and works so I could have immediately known what to do to fix that problem

- I learned that sprinkler systems have something called double check valves which prevent water from flowing backwards into your drinking water after having entered your sprinkler system (to prevent contaminated water from getting into your drinking water). Good to know.

- I learned that our house does not have its own private water shut off valve of its own. We only have the one valve at the city water line connection to shut off the water if need be.

- I learned that if you need to shut off that valve its a good idea to buy an inexpensive and simple device that makes it easier to turn the valve instead of trying to do that with a wrench underground. They are available at your local hardware store. 

After thinking about this incident I realized that this is exactly the reason why we all need to stay alert and informed about the status of the global financial system. We can never know what day an emergency might arrive even as we assume it will never happen. We also need to do some reasonable advance planning to deal with an emergency if one does arise. 

Waiting until a crisis arrives to find out what you need to know to deal with the crisis creates a very stressful situation as I found out with the water leak. Had I done some simple information gathering and a few preparations ahead of time, I could have more calmly dealt with the emergency when it did arise. 

That's what we try to encourage here on this blog. We encourage readers to stay alert and informed and make a few simple preparations in the event we do get another major financial crisis some day. If we don't, that's great. If we do, you will be very glad you did not wait until it's too late to be informed and have a game plan in mind to deal with the situation.


Note: In my case the shut off valve (as shown above) was jammed up against the side of the surrounding metal box making it impossible to turn the valve off. It had been that way for years and I had no idea. Fortunately, we never had a plumbing leak inside the house during that time. I encourage you to check out your shut off valve to make sure you could turn it off it you ever needed to. You can get a turn key like the one shown below for about $10 to turn the valve easier.


  1. That's entertaining. In my case, the emergency shutoff valve is the breaker to the well pumps. The people who built our house never put in a shutoff valve between the well and the house, only shutoffs between the well and the sprinkler systems. I had a hot water tank leak a couple of years ago while we were out for a morning run. We received a call from our daughter that there was 1 inch of water standing all over the bottom floor of the house. I instructed her to turn off the well breaker which slowed the leak until the well pressure tank and water tank emptied. We have since replaced all of our hot water tanks with Rheem Marathon heaters, guranteed not to leak for life since they are made of plastic. Just in case the plumber and Rheem are wrong, I also installed automatic water heater shutoff valve that detects water in the catch pan and activates the shutoff valve.

  2. What a frightening situation, at least the leak was outside the house. We recently had a plumbing problem when the cold water pipe to our downstairs sink started to leak. I couldn't access the main water supply so had to call out the local plumber. Like you, they were happy to talk through the problem and how they fixed it.

    Lovella Cushman @ Perfection Plumbing