How to Tell at a Glance if a Valve is Open or Closed

Valve nomenclature. It’s a thing. And it works for door locks, too.

It’s the simplest thing in the world, but it’s so logical that you’ll be surprised that you hadn’t seen it before.

A valve, be it gas, air, or water, has two states: open and closed. The same is true for a door lock: it’s either open or closed.

If the valve has a tee-shaped handle, or is wedge-shaped like a deadbolt handle, your eyes can tell you it’s status with hardly a glance.

When the handle is lined up with the pipe, or when a deadbolt points up and down, that means the valve or the lock is open. And it means that because it’s showing you a straight line along either the pipe or the doorway.

When that handle lies across the pipe, or the the deadbolt points across the doorway, that means the valve or lock is closed: the path is barred.

See how easy that is? And how efficient?

Of course, you can’t rely on this nomenclature, because there’s always the possibility that someone put the handle on incorrectly. Always, always test it before assuming it’s open or closed.

If the valve has a round handle, you’re pretty much out of luck. You’ll have to turn the handle clockwise to see if it’s open, or counterclockwise to see if it’s closed. Those round handles are mostly old school or decorative, and quickly falling out of use because, well, they’re out of date.

So now you are the valve master!

Please note: do not do this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it doesn’t seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability for your usage of it.


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Published by John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as

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