"Ghetto" Water Meter Key

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About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

This is a common water meter as found in the USA. Notice the white arrow. Just above it is the shut off valve. The photo is from Google Images. My meter is in a much deeper hole and the valve is much more difficult to reach for those times when I need to do a plumbing repair in the house and need the water to be "off." This Instructable will describe the water meter key I made from scraps welded together.

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Step 1: What You Can Buy

This is a commercially available water meter key. They are not very expensive, but I have a welder and had some suitable scraps materials on hand.

Step 2: The Working End of the Key

The end of a commercial meter key is a "U" shaped piece welded onto a long rod. This photo from Google Images shows a commercially produced key on the shut off valve. Most commercial keys are painted black.

Step 3: My Finished Meter Key From Scraps

This is my finished key that I made from six short sections of various kinds of tubing plus the piece for the handle. The door knob gives you and idea of its length. Because our meter is deeper than usual, I needed a longer key than is usually found in the local hardware store.

A note on use of the water meter key: In our part of Idaho we have little rainfall. Our water for irrigating our lawns comes through a system of underground piping about 10 inches in diameter. It is fed by water in reservoirs from spring snow melt in the mountains. Once a week we open the valves in the backyard and flood the entire lawn with about 3 inches of water. The meter box fills with irrigation water and the shut off valve silts over so that it is not visible. My longer meter key is handy for poking around to find the shut off valve in the muddy silt.

Step 4: Making a Straight Shank

The shank or shaft of my key is made of some square tubing and some round pipe. My favorite method for welding such pieces so the end product is straight involves a piece of aluminum angle someone gave me. Its valley holds pieces in alignment until I can tack weld them in place. Also, if I accidentally touch the aluminum with the electrode, nothing sticks to it.

Step 5: The Handle

It would have been good to have the handle just a little longer, but this is the piece of scrap I had available, and it works well enough. Some of the scrap pipe sections had been used to practice welding beads.

Step 6: The Working End of the Key

To make the key end I attached a 10 inch abrasive cutting wheel to an arbor and manually worked the end of a 1 inch piece of pipe against the edge of the wheel until I had a slot that would fit over the shut off valve in our water box. That would have been sufficient, but I wanted to add a little leverage and make the key easier to align on the shut off valve. So, I welded two small pieces of strap iron onto the end of the pipe.

I have not needed this water meter key often, but it works very well. And, I used up some scraps I had without a penny out of my pocket (other than for welding electrodes).


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    45 Discussions

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    tocsik

    10 years ago on Introduction

    In most cites it is illegal to do anything inside the meter pit. you should check local regulations. in most cases if you need your water shut off at the meter someone from public works will come do it for you. The point is be careful.

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    Jambrose68tocsik

    Reply 6 months ago

    You are allowed to turn your water line off in all cities.. This is why the on/off is on the house side of the meter.. The on/off isn't part of the meter.. The city/muni owns everything up to the valve and the on/off back to the house is yours..

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    tocsikJambrose68

    Reply 6 months ago

    Ungh 10 years old. I used to work for a water department. In our municipality it was illegal for the citizens to open the meter pit and do anything in it, regardless of the side of the meter it was located on. Citizens could, and we're required at the Time of construction to install a shut off on their side of the line outside of the meter pit. I should not have said most cities given that my knowledge was limited to one municipality in in one geographic region of the world. When it comes to local rules and regulations, they are piecemeal all around the world. All I'm trying to say is be sure of your local laws, regulations, contracts with landlords, water companies etc.

    As a side note the shut off was always on the city side where I worked so we could shut the water off and pull the meter out if the citizen cut the lock off that we would put on for non payment

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    Phil Btocsik

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I did not know that. It is curious that local hardware stores and building supply stores, like Home Depot, sell the water meter keys to anyone. That is been the situation in every place we have lived.

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    NachoMahmaPhil B

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    . Around here, you are allowed to turn the water on and off. For many houses, the only shutoff valve is at the meter. . But I wouldn't be surprised if it's illegal in some places.

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    staticNachoMahma

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

     I'm not so sure it's illegal in town, but I know it's highly discouraged. Unless it's really an emergency I would touch the water meter shut offs on town. they are old and decrepit, let the utility break something and fix it. if it's ready to break.

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    Phil BLinuxH4x0r

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I believe the signage near the store displays have always said they were for water meters. It is strange that you could turn off natural gas mains, but are not allowed to touch water shut offs.

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    NachoMahmaPhil B

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    . Just the opposite around here - water OK; NGas a no-no. My gas has a seal on the valve that I have to break to turn off the gas when working on my water heater or HVAC (yes, there are shutoff valves at the units, but I don't trust them). When I'm finished I just call the gas company and tell them they need to install a new seal. They will tell me I'm not supposed to do that, but I've never been arrested. Within a few days, they will send someone out to make a cursory check and install a new seal. . Same for the electric meter. If I need to break the seal to work on the power, I just call the electric company when I'm done. . But I live in a small town in the rural South. YMMV - a lot.

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    Phil BNachoMahma

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I was not going to mention it, but when we were in our first house the main electrical panel went out. There had been arcing between a circuit breaker and one of the bus bars due to old equipment and a loose fit, and the bus bar was eaten away. My father did quality electrical work in rural Iowa, and I often worked with him. A few times we had to work with electrically hot terminals. With that background experience I changed our main panel without interrupting the power. Electrical utilities I have known are very difficult with you if you break the meter seal. I would not recommend it to anyone unless he knows exactly what he is doing.

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    NachoMahmaPhil B

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    . The electric company does seem to gripe about it more. And did threaten to take their meter back to the shop one time. But they've never really done anything other than carp and put the seal back on. As I said, it may not be advisable in all areas.
    . Most definitely not something for just anybody to do. Among other things, removing the meter can cause dangerous arcing if under a load.
    . Built my first Heathkit at about 8 year old. 15+ years experience as an industrial electrician. I won't claim to know exactly what I'm doing but I know enough to be very uncomfortable when working on an "infinite bus." I'd rather face the wrath of the power company than that of my Maker. :)

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    Phil BNachoMahma

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    When I replaced the main panel in our house, I shut off all loads. I put carpet and wood over the concrete floor where I would be standing. I wore rubber gloves. I left the ground wire connected until the last so if anything to away from me it rather than I would be the best path to ground. I also connected the ground wire on the new panel before I began to install the hot mains for the same reason. I pulled one hot main out of its terminal at a time. As I pulled each out I slipped a piece of rubber hose over the bare end and taped it up liberally. Then I did the same to the other hot main. Likewise, I removed the tape and rubber hose one at a time and installed installed each in its terminal one at a time. It all went very smoothly with no incidents.

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    LinuxH4x0rPhil B

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, turning on an unlit pilot could be very risky. But if you need to in an emergency its good to have

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    Phil BLinuxH4x0r

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The natural gas pilots I have seen have safety features to block any gas flow unless everything is in order. At the risk of sounding like a wiseacre, imagine that ordinary folk are not allowed to handle a water shut off because water contains the highly explosive element hydrogen. Why, just imagine if it came into contact with a combustible, like oxygen. Why, we could suddenly have....uh....water. (It is a joke.)

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    tocsikPhil B

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Lol. I didn't mean you couldn't use the meter pit to shut off your water ( That's how i shut of the water to my house too.) I just meant that if you see a cop turn down the street be prepared with an excuse. I also use the same key to turn off the stop and waste valve on my sprinkling system.

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    LinuxH4x0rPhil B

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thats good! OMG! That stuff is dangerous! Good thing the government to bans it on airplanes :P

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    R4Man18tocsik

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Anything after the meter is okay to turn on and off because it is the water to your house (what you are paying for) anything from the meter back is illegal to tamper with.

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    walkthewalktocsik

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Forget silly regulations. Once my dad was moving a freezer in the basement and busted the water input to the house. We pried up that manhole cover and flipped that switch as fast as we could.

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    sullengirlsam

    3 years ago

    I am going to shut off the meter in the ground, but the wire on the meter inside has been cut so it would not be able to be read, it's been like this for at least 3 years without detection, now they want to read it. I want to repair the cut wire can it be done?

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    sullengirlsam

    3 years ago

    I need to repair the wire on the water meter used to read the amount of water usage it was tampered with after the water was turned off and they placed gravel in the outside ground meter because of tampering