If you’re planning a big summer vacation (or even just a weekend getaway) you probably have a list of tasks to get your home ready for your absence. But it’s not enough to just stop the mail and reprogram the thermostat -- your household plumbing system needs some quick-and-easy preparation as well.

Avoid a Catastrophe

If a pipe were to spring a leak in your home, you would shut off the water supply at the first sign of trouble, right? But what if you aren’t around to spot that first sign? The water will just keep flowing, creating a potentially catastrophic mess to greet you when you get home from your trip.

While the odds of this happening to a well-maintained home are slim, the stakes are high -- and the solution is simple. Whenever you plan on hitting the road for more than a day, you can buy yourself some insurance by simply shutting off the main water water supply to your home.

In most homes, the main shutoff valve is located right next to the water meter. Sometimes this valve is a knob that can be turned by hand, but other valves may require a wrench to turn on and off. If you’re having trouble locating or turning your shutoff valve, you should contact a plumber for help; even if you’re home in the event of a plumbing emergency, knowing where the valve is and how to shut it off may help you prevent thousands of dollars in damage!

One thing to keep in mind: If you have a lawn and garden irrigation system, this will also be shut down if you close your main water supply valve. In this situation, you may want to use other shutoff valves to reduce your flooding risk while keeping water flowing to your lawn and garden. If you’re not sure where these other valves are located, a licensed plumber can show you.

Save Energy, Save Water

An added bonus to any summer vacation is the savings you’ll reap from leaving your home unoccupied. Not using your household lights, appliances and electronics for several days can make a big difference in your electrical bill, and you may also see a difference in your water bill while you’re showering in hotels and letting restaurants do the dishes.

But with a few more small adjustments, you can extend those savings even more. If you have an automatic ice maker in your freezer, for instance, shutting it off before you leave will help you save a little extra water. And if you have a water softening system, shutting that down will conserve energy and water softening salt.

The biggest savings potential comes from your hot water heater, however. The water heater consumes more energy than most of the appliances in your home, but if there’s no one home to take hot showers, there’s no need to keep it running. What’s more, if you shut off your main water supply and water leaks or siphons out of the water heater tank by any means, the heating element could burn out if it continues heating an empty tank.

The easiest way to shut down your water heater for vacation is to turn it off at the main breaker switch. Some modern water heaters also have a “vacation” setting on the heat control dial.

If you need help with this task or any other plumbing prep for your summer vacation, be sure to schedule an appointment with a trusted plumber right away!

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