What Is A Gas Meter Lock (And How to Remove It)
When you’re reading about gas meter issues, chances are that you’ve heard mention of a gas meter lock. However, you might not have actually seen a lock on your meter. If you’re like many people who are new to HVAC work, you’re probably wondering what the meter lock is, and how you should remove it. The scoop on this part of your meter reading might surprise you.
A gas meter lock is a specialty lock designed to close off the flow of gas completely. These locks are mostly used by utility companies as a way to keep gas leaks under control or to shut off service due to a failure to pay. Your best bet for removing it is to call your gas company or use a key. Keys are specially designed to remove gas locks and they are the only foolproof method to remove the lock.
Gas meter locks are not like other locks. They’re serious business, and tampering with them can have explosive results…literally! This guide will introduce you to the ins and outs of your gas meter lock.
What Kinds Of Gas Meter Locks Are There?
There are a ton of different gas meter types out there, many of which are fairly obscure. For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on barrel ball locking mechanisms. However, you might have a G-series lock and key, an I-series lock, a keyed barrel lock, or some other type.
If you have a less common type of gas meter lock, do not try to remove it on your own, even if you have permission to do so. These specialized locks will not work with common removal methods outside of using the key that came with it.
What Is A Gas Meter Lock Used For?
There are two reasons why you may have a gas meter lock on your meter: bill payments and gas leaks. Let’s take a look at both…
The most common reason is that you’re very overdue on your bills. When you get past a certain point of nonpayment, your utility company will make a point of locking your gas meter. This, in turn, completely stops your access to the gas line. They will remove the lock once you pay what you owe.
A less common reason deals with gas leak repairs. If your home has a gas leak, the utility company will place a meter lock on your meter as a way of closing off the gas. This prevents gas-related explosions while they work on fixing the leak. Once the leak is fixed, they’ll remove the lock. If your company needs to tee off all of your gas lines, they’ll use a meter lock.
What are the Consequences of Removing a Gas Meter Lock on Your Own?
Generally speaking, the answer is a very hard no. Gas meter locks are placed there for a reason, and in many cases, there’s a darned good reason for it! Moreover, most jurisdictions give gas utility companies the power to take matters into their own hands. Depending on the infraction, you can have any of the following consequences levied against you…
Utility companies do not take the removal of meter locks lightly, at all. That’s why most companies do whatever they can in their power to dissuade people by imposing hefty fines on people who remove a meter lock. Depending on where you live, both the local city hall and your utility company can impose fines. Sometimes, it’s just a $25 fee. Other times, it can be over $500 a pop.
Extended Lock Periods
Let’s say that you remove the lock, and the utility company finds out. Along with fining you, they may also choose to lock your gas meter and your gas source again. This tends to be done when your utility company is trying to work on your setup, only to have you remove the lock. Since it impedes their progress, you end up getting locked out harder.
Though this may be a little extreme, utility companies technically have the right to press charges if you remove the meter lock without their permission. You do not own the meter lock; they do. This means that if you tamper with the lock, you’re technically committing an act of vandalism.
Removing your meter lock can be seen as vandalism as well as theft of services, if you’re doing it to access your gas line when you’re account is frozen. It’s rare to see companies go so far as to press charges, but it can and does happen. Depending on where you live, this can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Cancellation Of Services
This may be the most extreme way utility companies strike back, and it’s generally only done to repeat offenders. Moreover, it isn’t an option everywhere. Even so, it’s scary to think about.
Utility companies that have repeat offenders, particularly when it comes to nonpayment of bills, may actually choose to cancel your service permanently. In other words, if this happens, you can never get your gas from your current provider again.
How Can You Remove The Gas Meter Lock On Your Own?
In some situations, you might need to remove the gas meter lock by yourself. Once again, we do not recommend this as it can pose risks to the internal mechanisms of the lock and improper unlocking can jam it completely. There are several ways to make this happen if you have a barrel ball locking mechanism, all of which are down below:
- Get the key for your gas meter lock, and use it. This is the best possible way to make sure that you don’t blow up your home is to get the key and use it to unlock it. This is the only way to ensure that you will be able to unlock your meter without damaging the components of it.
- Use a small screwdriver and a piece of plastic. To do this, cut off a 1/4 inch piece of plastic from a mechanical pencil. Use the screwdriver to hammer into the plastic, then use the screwdriver/plastic combo as a key. Push the screwdriver at the bottom of your lock, hit the bottom a couple of times, twist, and release.
- Use a small crochet hook to pick the lock. Much like the screwdriver and plastic aspect, a petite hook can help jam the lock open. Another makeshift lockpick you can use is a 9/32″ socket. If you can’t find a socket, you can also use a wood screw with this technique.
Can You Just Cut The Meter Lock Off?
NO! Cutting the meter lock off can lead to permanent damage to your gas line, and will put you at risk of a gas-related explosion. If you cannot open the lock without cutting it, don’t cut the lock. Just call your utility company instead, much like you might want to do for a squeaking gas meter.
How Can You Avoid A Penalty When Removing A Gas Meter Lock?
Truth be told, the only way to guarantee that you’ll avoid a penalty is to call up the utility company and request the lock to be removed. Doing it on your own is just not a good idea. However, there is a chance that you might be able to remove it on your own if you call up the gas utility company and ask for permission. When asking for permission, keep these things in mind:
- Don’t demand, ask. Demanding will not help you out, since it comes off as obnoxious. A little manners goes a long way.
- Explain the “why.” Most companies will give you the green light if you have a genuinely good reason as to why you need to cut the lock off. You’d be surprised how many people will agree to it.
- Be open to setting an appointment to get the lock removed. Sometimes, waiting is the only way to ensure that you will have no penalties. This can be true, even if you’re a professional HVAC company owner. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if it could lead to a fine levied on your company.
How to Remove a Gas Meter Lock With a Screw
In worst-case scenarios when there’s simply no way to remove a gas meter lock by traditional methods, there’s another option you can try. You can optionally use a screw to remove the meter lock, but this should only be used when absolutely necessary. If at all possible, attempt to contact the gas company and have them remove it for you.
1. Cut off the top of the screw and smooth out the remaining portion.
First and foremost, you’ll need to cut off the top of the screw. You can use a Sawzall or a strong wire snipper to do this or whatever method you have at your disposal. The goal is to have as smooth a cut as possible, but you’ll likely have to use a file or alternative method to smoothen out the top of the screw. After smoothing the screw stub out, make sure there are enough rotations on the bottom of the screw to do what you need to do.
2. Put the smooth side of the screw into the meter lock and give it a turn.
After the smoothing out process is completed, you’ll want to insert the smooth part of the screw into the gas meter lock. Make sure to insert it the whole way until you feel it touch the bottom of the lock. The goal is to use the ridges on the screw to engage the base of the lock. You can do this by giving the screw a couple of turns until you feel it engage. Keep performing this process until you hear a clicking noise and feel a subtle change in the screw.
3. Once you feel the screw against the spring, pull it free.
Once you hear the clicking sound and the subtle change of feeling on the screw, yank the cylinder up. The cylinder is located on the bottom of the gas meter lock, so make sure you locate it before beginning the process. While you pull the cylinder up, you’ll have to pull it against the spring inside the lock. When the cylinder comes into contact with the springs, the ball bearings are able to be pushed in which allows the lock to be removed.
Once again, this is a worst-case scenario and you should never attempt this unless it’s absolutely necessary. Simply put, gas locks exist for a reason, and it’s usually safety or legal related. Either way, you’re in big trouble if you remove a gas meter lock without a good reason. One such reason would be if it’s an old property and the gas company that applied the lock has since gone out of business. Outside of that, or for extreme safety reasons, there really isn’t a good reason to remove a gas lock on your own.
Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.
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