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Turning off the water mains when traveling
Old 10-30-2014, 11:03 PM   #1
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Turning off the water mains when traveling

I am thinking of turning off the main water valve in the house when we go on vacation this winter. We have a hot water tank & I plan to turn it off.

After turning off the valve, should I open faucets to bleed the system? Hot & cold?

Any precautions that I should take when I turn the water mains on?

Heating is through a gas fired forced air system which will be on with thermostats set to maybe 55F.

Thank you.
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Old 10-31-2014, 01:01 AM   #2
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We shut off our main and drain the water lines when we leave Oregon for the winter - Clorox and drain safe antifreeze in the traps with cling wrap over the toilet bowls. Last year we had someone stay while we were gone and we had pipe damage when we got back, though they had draining instructions. It was a cold winter... We leave the furnace off while gone. This year I pushed a little compressed air through the pipes in hopes of preventing a repeat of the pipe freezing.

Your plan sounds good - consider leaving the sink cabinet doors open.
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Old 10-31-2014, 06:56 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by walkinwood View Post
I am thinking of turning off the main water valve in the house when we go on vacation this winter. We have a hot water tank & I plan to turn it off.

After turning off the valve, should I open faucets to bleed the system? Hot & cold?

Any precautions that I should take when I turn the water mains on?

Heating is through a gas fired forced air system which will be on with thermostats set to maybe 55F.

Thank you.
We do that before leaving for an extended period. Shut off water, then open the faucets to empty the pipes. I leave one or two faucets slightly open. The furnace stays at 50 degrees.

Last year I apparently forgot to bleed the outdoor faucet and that pipe burst. Thankfully where it burst is close to the main, when my brother turned it back on he could hear water running and shut it down again before too much damage occurred.
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Old 10-31-2014, 07:09 AM   #4
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Just turn off the main valve, that will prevent washer lines from causing damage if they break. No need to drain the lines, since you will have heat. You can get a freeze protector that will notify you if somethings happens.

It doesn't hurt to open a faucet on the lower level and let any water run out. That is not draining any pipes though.

If the house freezes, it could be bad, no matter what.

When you turn it back on, there might be some rust colored water. No worries, but you may clog an aerator.
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Old 10-31-2014, 07:15 AM   #5
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At the house, I shut off the main water valve and drain a little water out to relieve pressure. Also shut off breaker to electric water heater and well pump. And unplug water softener and water filter. At the condo, I turn water heater setting to "vacation", shut off the main water valve and let a little water drain out to relieve pressure. Also shut off ice maker.

I open a faucet when turning water back on to get any air out of the lines.I don't leave faucets open the whole time I'm gone, but it seems like it could be a good idea.

Also leave the ac at 90 in the summer, heat at 50 in the winter
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Old 10-31-2014, 07:18 AM   #6
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I have a well and I just flip off the power to the pump. The heat remains on at 50 degrees, but should the furnace fail and a pipe burst, the water wouldn't run and run.
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Old 10-31-2014, 07:23 AM   #7
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If the house is 55F the principal risks are a burst pipe failure or the heat failing and pipes freezing. I would turn off the water at the main and that would address both issues. A friend of mine has a unit that monitors the house temperature and calls a number he designates if the temperature goes below a set limit so he knows to send someone over to check on things but IIRC that unit needs a landline.

Good idea to turn off hot water tank - no sense heating water you are not using - I just did that at my Mom's seasonal house yesterday and will drain the heater and pipes later.
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Old 10-31-2014, 08:01 AM   #8
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I turn off the water main, and drain the pipes by opening a faucet in the basement bathroom. I turn the gas water heater off, and set the gas furnace thermostat to 55 degrees. But the best investment I ever made was to install a smart thermostat. While gone I check the indoor temperature on my smartphone app. Takes all of 10 seconds, but provides so much peace of mind. It is also set up to send me a text message if the indoor temperature falls below a user selected temperature such as 50 degrees. (Works in reverse in the summer).
We are also fortunate to have our daughter live close by so she or her husband walk through the house about once per week.
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Old 10-31-2014, 08:46 AM   #9
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I can only speak from experience.

First, what we do now, when we go from IL to FL.
1. Call the city, and have them turn the water off at the line that runs from the street. Four feet underground.
2. Shut off toilet valves, flush and drain tanks, open faucets. Turn off main inside house.
3. RV antifreeze into toilet tank, bowl, and all sink drains. (not much... one gallon for whole house).
4. Leave furnace on set to 45 degrees.
5. Using remote thermometer, give receiver to next door neighbors and transmitter in center of the living room. As a back up to this, a thermostat with a plug in for a lamp that we put in the window facing neighbor's house.

Now, if this seems like overkill, it takes about an hour to do it all. The heating bill comes in at about $30/month. The cost of the antifreeze is $3.

Now... why?
For one thing we are well aware of the potential for flooding. In Florida, a helpful neighbor decided to turn on our water to freshen the flowers. (sprinklers on a different system)... Riser to the toilet broke and filled half the home with water $9K damage. that wasn't freezing but....

Second... many years ago in Illinois. Just on a weekend when we were away in winter. Furnace went off, and the main water feed from the street froze, and the pipe burst... before the main valve. Flooded the basement. Not too bad, but a lesson learned. As long as the water coming into the main shut off is still under pressure, nothing to stop flooding... the reason we have the city shut off the water underground. No charge, and we have to call the day before we return to have it turned back on, but a mior incovenience.

Not to overdo this, but our current home is on a crawl space, same as all the homes in the community. Three years ago, during a very hard freeze while a neighbor was away, the feeder pipe burst, even though the main had been shut off, flooding the crawl space. Seemingly no serious damage, until the foundation and the under house supporting columns shifted, and caused major total house structural damage. Wall cracks and vaulted ceiling serious cracks and movement.
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Old 10-31-2014, 08:50 AM   #10
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You know, I have yet to see any thread on "living in 2 places" that doesn't mention relying on family and neighbors to help watch over the unoccupied place. These are resources we don't have - family lives far away; and to be completely crass about it, we could be dead in our home for 3 weeks and the neighbors wouldn't even notice the smell.

This is the first post I've seen that points out that even neighbors aren't entirely reliable.

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IFor one thing we are well aware of the potential for flooding. In Florida, a helpful neighbor decided to turn on our water to freshen the flowers. (sprinklers on a different system)... Riser to the toilet broke and filled half the home with water $9K damage. that wasn't freezing but....

[snip]

Not to overdo this, but our current home is on a crawl space, same as all the homes in the community. Three years ago, during a very hard freeze while a neighbor was away, the feeder pipe burst, .
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:13 AM   #11
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It must be daunting to have to do all this every time you leave town, just to keep from coming back to frozen/burst pipes. I could never remember all of it. You all must be geniuses (or at least seem like that to me) since you are able to figure out this entire multi-step procedure, and implement it without forgetting one step or another.
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:21 AM   #12
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This is the first post I've seen that points out that even neighbors aren't entirely reliable.

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Neither is family, for that matter.

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It must be daunting to have to do all this every time you leave town, just to keep from coming back to frozen/burst pipes. I could never remember all of it. You all must be geniuses (or at least seem like that to me) since you are able to figure out this entire multi-step procedure, and implement it without forgetting one step or another.
Every discussion I've been in on second homes I've shared my view that they are added weight, a PITA, and a constant source of worry that never goes away. There are legitimate reasons to own one and can be a positive part of a particular lifestyle (we have one) but they are not the pleasure cruise most people anticipate.

We've had three problems with water while absent over the past 10 years, no amount of friends and family would have helped.
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:33 AM   #13
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The only thing I do before going to Florida for several months is set the thermostat to 45 degrees and lock the door behind me. Last winter was one of the worst on record for Wisconsin. I was gone for 4 months and had no problems when I got back.
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:40 AM   #14
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I have had two problems with leaks, one while out of town for several days, and one overnight while sleeping soundly at home. As a result, if I am going for more than several days, I turn off the water to limit the damage in case something should leak. I also turn off the cold water heater (I never bother to heat hot water, it's a waste of money and resources.) Of course, I leave the heat on in the house at about 55 degrees.
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:41 AM   #15
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Whenever I leave my home at 7,000 ft elevation, I always shut off the water at the meter between October and May.

The hot and cold water lines under the floor are sloped, then brought out to a corner of the crawl space such that opening two exterior frost-free faucets would drain the lines. The water heater gets turned off, but I do not bother to drain it. The heatpump is in Heat mode year round, set at 45F to keep the inside from freezing.

It is possible that if there is power outage during a cold spell, I may suffer some freezing damage because I do not pour antifreeze into the toilet bowls and all the drains, but that is a lot less damage than having the water running and running.

PS. The water meter has frozen and broke once. It is at 2 ft deep. It was repaired at no charge. However, I ran an electric line there and wrapped a heater tape around it. It's not at all convenient to have no running water, then to have to take a hair dryer out to that remote corner of the lot to try to thaw out the line.
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:20 AM   #16
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W2R, not a genius, but I will admit the first year we went to Florida for the winter required quite a few hours of thought and preparation for how we would protect our Ohio home while gone. But I created a checklist and now it probably requires an hour or so of work to prepare prior to leaving.
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:37 AM   #17
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.... I also turn off the cold water heater (I never bother to heat hot water, it's a waste of money and resources.)....
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:38 AM   #18
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W2R, not a genius, but I will admit the first year we went to Florida for the winter required quite a few hours of thought and preparation for how we would protect our Ohio home while gone. But I created a checklist and now it probably requires an hour or so of work to prepare prior to leaving.
Good idea. Maybe your list is sort of analogous to the hurricane checklist that I keep front and center on my laptop computer. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted on the list, but doesn't take so long to complete the list.
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:45 AM   #19
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W2R, not a genius, but I will admit the first year we went to Florida for the winter required quite a few hours of thought and preparation for how we would protect our Ohio home while gone. But I created a checklist and now it probably requires an hour or so of work to prepare prior to leaving.
Checklists are the way to go. We RV and are often off for a couple of weeks or more at a time. Insurance agent shared that water damage from broken laundry hoses, and the like are one of the biggest sources of claims they deal with. She actually shuts her off for even short trips away from home.
We will shut things down for 3 days or more. Simple flip of circuits for water heater and disconnect for water softener and turn-off water main.
Our list also includes unplugging Instant Hot as well as items like heat/cooling setbacks, disconnecting putters (lightening is not uncommon), door and window locks etc. Takes me about 10-15 minutes to complete.
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Old 10-31-2014, 12:21 PM   #20
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That's a new use, to me, of the term "putter." What is it?

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Our list also includes unplugging Instant Hot as well as items like heat/cooling setbacks, disconnecting putters (lightening is not uncommon), door and window locks etc. Takes me about 10-15 minutes to complete.
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