Are you getting jet-set for a summer getaway? Put your plumbing on your pre-vacation to-do list.
In just a couple of minutes and with a few turns of the wrist, you can save money during your trip and make sure catastrophic water damage doesn’t occur in your absence. Read on to learn how.
Shut Down Your Hot Water Heater
If you have a traditional tank water heater that runs on electricity or natural gas, it’s likely to be among the highest energy consuming appliances in your home. But you might not realize this if you’ve never shut your water heater down for a week, and come home to significantly lower utility bills.
As long as there’s no risk of freezing, there’s nothing wrong with shutting off your water heater for a few days. You can either use the main shutoff handle on your water heater itself, or shut it off at your main circuit panel if that’s more accessible. Some water heaters have a “vacation” setting on the temperature control dial. Alternatively, you can just turn the temperature dial to its lowest setting.
If you’re making this part of your vacation routine for the first time, leave yourself a note to turn the power back on as soon as you get home. It will take a little while to heat up a full tank of cool water.
Shut Off Your Water Supply
When it comes to home repair headaches, broken plumbing pipes are especially costly because of the huge mess they create. If you’re not home to notice the deluge and take action, you might suffer catastrophic property damage. But if you completely shut off the water supply to your home, you can prevent plumbing-related water damage altogether.
If you don’t know exactly where your main shut-off valve is, you should locate it today. Because even if you're at home when a pipe breaks, the best way to minimize damage is to go directly to the valve and shut off the flow of water at the source.
The main shut-off valve is near the water meter in most homes. Sometimes it will be a hand-crank knob or handle on a large pipe in the basement. In warm climates, it’s often located outside the home, sometimes below ground and covered by a grate. These valves may require a long-handled tool called a valve key. If you can’t find your shut-off valve, your local plumber can show you and make sure it’s working properly.
If you shut off your water supply before vacation, open a faucet on the other end of the house to drain what water remains in the lines. When you return, reopen the main valve slowly to minimize surging pressure on your pipes and fixtures.
Shutting off all your water may not be an option if you rely on a sprinkler system or have some other plumbing system that needs to stay on. But you can still prevent isolated leaks in other areas of the home by shutting off individual valves on lines leading to toilets, sinks, dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines. Just look for a handle located along the water line leading from the wall.
Give yourself a little extra peace of mind when you’re on vacation by taking these simple steps before you depart. And if you need any help getting to know your home’s plumbing or taking other steps to prevent leaks before they start, you can always call upon your local Benjamin Franklin.