Main breaker and water valve

Hey guys, so it’s the first time I’ve been asked if I could turn the main water valve to the home on, and the main electrical breaker/disconnect. The seller is from out of town and due to a time crunch, can’t get anyone out there before my scheduled inspection. My question is that the home is suppose to be in pretty decent condition but am I legally covered if I get it in writing from the seller that I have permission to turn both on? It’s with a very large brokerage I’ve been trying to get in good with so I want to be helpful but also not get myself into to much of a pickle with this. What do you guys think?

I have turned on both a few times after I got permission from home owner in writing/text. When it was a newer home and vacant. BUT very carefully watched how I turned on the water.


Go for it.
Turn it on slow, and immediately do a quick walkthrough.
Do this at the start of the inspection, so that any problems will come to drip.

If main breaker is off, does the client promise there is power service turned on?


Get permission!!! Written.
When you turn on the main water valve, 1: open other faucets first, the valve opens easier and fittings don’t blow. Then close open faucets. Remember, close any open faucets.
Main disconnect. Turn it on. When finished, turn it off.

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You’re getting some off the wall ways to turn the water on an unverified system. This is my method for turning water on to thousands of homes in 35 years as a plumber.

After you receive written permission……

  2. Crack the main valve open and slowly pressurize the system for a few seconds.
  3. Check the indicator on the water meter for movement. If one is not available you can hear the water running through the pipes. There should be no movement after you turn the valve off.
  4. Walk the property for a hissing noise.
  5. Keep adding water and turning the valve off and listen for water movement when the valve is closed.
  6. When fully pressurized bled the water off at all hose bibs to remove air.
  7. Bled the water off at tubs and showers next.
  8. Light the water heater (with permission).
  9. Turn on toilets and faucets last. Faucets have aerators that can clog easily.

Follow some methods above and you may be letting water out of a broken pipe instead of air. Air is much easier to clean up :slightly_smiling_face:

Good luck Bradley!


Very good and helpful comments Martin. I guess I was always under the impression that the air pressure could possibly “pop” some of the fittings especially in PVC/CPVC installs and the reason I always open one internal faucet slightly to bleed some of the pressure. Then bleed the rest.

Thanks for the insight!


Thomas if there is a broken fitting or a broken pipe it’s better to have air rushed through that portion of the piping system than water. When I first started plumbing we were soldering with 50-50 and never air tested our residential homes. This was the method we used to turn the water on to the house. I can hear an air leak pretty damn fast and close the valve off, bleed the air out of the system and make the repair without draining water. It’s a bitch making a repair once water gets into the system.

Now imagine the OP opening all the valves and letting the water rush through the faucets and then closing the faucet valves and pressurizing the system. If there’s a leak he’s gonna have a big mess and maybe some sheetrock on the ceiling if the leak is on the second floor.


here in the land of frozen pipes it is a hard no for me…


Let the realtor turn everything on. They got more skin in the game than I do, I don’t need the liability.


Yep. Me too.

Let me say this, my method was from a plumber. These are existing systems with water just closed due to unoccupied residences.

Yes sir I agree 100%.

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The air pressure can be quite high, but never higher than the water pressure will be.

Adding to Martin’s list: now’s a good time to install that pressure gauge you have to the hose bib nearest the main shutoff.

This came up a lot during the housing meltdown +/- 10 years when every house was in foreclosure. Basically, if you weren’t willing to turn some things on you’d never work. Banks are banks and don’t care and wouldn’t help. I’d usually only turn on water in newer houses - maybe 1970s and newer (generally copper or plastic plumbing). If I had an agent with my I’d have them in the house and I’d energize the water for +/- 5 seconds then turn it off and go look for problems. With electrical I wasn’t as worried except for dry-firing a water heater.

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