Turn off water heater on vacation?

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Valuethinker
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Valuethinker » Thu Dec 31, 2015 10:22 am

unclescrooge wrote:
Considering my average rate is 15 cents, I'm already at a big disadvantage. I've already replaced bulbs with LEDs, and use the NEST thermostat to conserve heating and cooling costs.

I guess my hvac must be the culprit. It's pretty old and we've had pretty severe summer followed by a severe winter (by SoCal standards).
The SEER on a new AC system can be twice that of an old one (it tends to fall over time). Assuming a correct "manual J" calculation (ie it is a really bad thing to oversize) and a variable speed system you can save a lot of juice.

rs899
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by rs899 » Tue Jan 05, 2016 6:36 am

We just got back from 2weeks overseas and I had turned off water supply and power to our 18 year old water heater. I took the first shower and then saw that the heater was leaking badly. I figured that its time had finally come (its old enough to vote). After almost buying a new one , I realized that the leak was the pressure valve which was routed behind so I couldn't see it. After working it a few times and reseating it, it is still working.

JW-Retired
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by JW-Retired » Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:44 pm

I'm shocked I have not seen anything here like what I do when we leave home for more than a couple of days. We put the water heater on pilot and shut off the water valve to the water heater tank. Anyone see some flaw in this?

I've had a old water heater start leaking when I was home and it isn't something that I'd want to go on for a long time. But I can't imagine what could go wrong if the water to it was shut off (no water pressure), and there was only pilot heat.
JW
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wander
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by wander » Tue Jan 05, 2016 10:24 pm

MikeWillRetire wrote:I always turn off the main water supply during vacation, but I don't turn off the power to the water heater.
I think this is not safe. But I am not an expert. It seems you have to deal with "closed system" situation. You have to, somehow, mitigate the risk of pressure too high or too low in the water tank. Normally, it's best at "open system" when the valve is open and your water tank connected with public water.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Leeraar » Tue Jan 05, 2016 10:57 pm

wander wrote:
MikeWillRetire wrote:I always turn off the main water supply during vacation, but I don't turn off the power to the water heater.
I think this is not safe. But I am not an expert. It seems you have to deal with "closed system" situation. You have to, somehow, mitigate the risk of pressure too high or too low in the water tank. Normally, it's best at "open system" when the valve is open and your water tank connected with public water.
If the pressure is too high, there is a pressure relief valve and drain on the water heater.

the safest thing to do is to turn off the water supply then relieve the pressure in the system by running both a hot and a cold faucet for a few seconds.

The biggest danger is that the system (not just the tank) will develop a leak and you will have substantial water damage in the home.

In any event, I think the OP was simply trying to save money on energy use, which is probably not worth it. There is a reason the heater has a "vacation" setting.

L.
You can get what you want, or you can just get old. (Billy Joel, "Vienna")

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wander
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by wander » Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:11 am

Leeraar wrote: If the pressure is too high, there is a pressure relief valve and drain on the water heater.

the safest thing to do is to turn off the water supply then relieve the pressure in the system by running both a hot and a cold faucet for a few seconds.

The biggest danger is that the system (not just the tank) will develop a leak and you will have substantial water damage in the home.

In any event, I think the OP was simply trying to save money on energy use, which is probably not worth it. There is a reason the heater has a "vacation" setting.

L.
If the pressure relief valve failed? You don't want to create high pressure unnecessarily. Or maybe I am too careful.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Mudpuppy » Wed Jan 06, 2016 12:00 pm

wander wrote:If the pressure relief valve failed? You don't want to create high pressure unnecessarily. Or maybe I am too careful.
If the pressure relief valve fails, you might get a real Mythbuster's experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGWmONHipVo. Granted, they removed all safety equipment and super-heated the water to build up an extreme amount of pressure for that experiment, but it still shows you that pressure release values are a very critical piece of equipment for water heaters.

So no, you're not being too careful. You, quite rightfully, don't want the possibility of your water heater turning into a rocket.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Leeraar » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:57 pm

wander wrote:If the pressure relief valve failed? You don't want to create high pressure unnecessarily. Or maybe I am too careful.
The failure mode of a pressure relief valve is to not maintain pressure and leak. It is not to go to too high pressures.

L.
You can get what you want, or you can just get old. (Billy Joel, "Vienna")

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Wed Jan 06, 2016 4:48 pm

Leeraar wrote:
wander wrote:If the pressure relief valve failed? You don't want to create high pressure unnecessarily. Or maybe I am too careful.
The failure mode of a pressure relief valve is to not maintain pressure and leak. It is not to go to too high pressures.

L.
There are definitely ways they can fail closed, most of them due to poor installation. For example if the outlet is not pointed down you can have any (tiny) leakage evaporate rather than drip. This can lead to lime deposits stopping the valve from opening when needed.

My motto is that safety devises should work, and I should test them to make sure they work, but I should not rely on them working.

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wander
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by wander » Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:32 pm

Mudpuppy wrote: If the pressure relief valve fails, you might get a real Mythbuster's experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGWmONHipVo. Granted, they removed all safety equipment and super-heated the water to build up an extreme amount of pressure for that experiment, but it still shows you that pressure release values are a very critical piece of equipment for water heaters.
Thanks for the link. I can't image what my house will look like after such explosion. :D

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by jeffyscott » Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:02 pm

JW-Retired wrote:I'm shocked I have not seen anything here like what I do when we leave home for more than a couple of days. We put the water heater on pilot and shut off the water valve to the water heater tank. Anyone see some flaw in this?

I've had a old water heater start leaking when I was home and it isn't something that I'd want to go on for a long time. But I can't imagine what could go wrong if the water to it was shut off (no water pressure), and there was only pilot heat.
JW
The only flaw is what if something else starts leaking: washing machine hose, toilet supply line, any other pipe. I just go a step further and turn off the water at the main and turn the water heater to pilot.

I don't see any downside to turning off water at the main if water heater is on pilot (if we had an electric one, I would just turn it off).
press on, regardless - John C. Bogle

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ElJay
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by ElJay » Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:27 pm

I'm interested to learn that people turn their entire water supply off... I usually turn off some things separately (toilet, washer, hydronic heating system water fill), but I have to say turning off the entire house makes more sense. In the winter I am a little nervous about turning off the fill for the heating system, but the boiler does have a low water shutoff. I decide to swap the risk of flooding the house via a broken pipe in the heating system with the (lower?) risk of burning the house down.

I have a small (18.2gal) indirect water heater connected to my gas boiler, and if I'm gone for a couple days or more, I turn the vacation mode on. Producing domestic hot water (DHW) takes only about 10 therms a month for me, so it's not a vast cost savings. In the summer season, DHW costs me about 25 cents of gas a day. What interests me more is that vacation mode lowers the tank set point to 50 degrees which stops the boiler from needlessly cycling on a few extra times a day to maintain the tank at 150 degrees. When I get back home, it recovers to full temperature within a half hour or so.

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just frank
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by just frank » Sat Jan 16, 2016 11:17 pm

The boiler has overheat safeties that shut it off until manually reset....of course, then your house would freeze.

I have had two pipe leaks in copper pipes in my walls in 10 years, and none with those hoses and flex pipes on the washer or toilets.

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Geneyus
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Geneyus » Sun Jan 17, 2016 11:39 pm

I didn't see anyone mention FloodStop, or a similar product. You can install a water shutoff valve on the incoming water line to the water heater and put a water sensor in the pan below. If one drop of water gets on the sensor, the valve will shut off the flow of water to the water heater. That eliminates the need to shut the water off when going out of town. If the water heater bursts, you will only have the contents of the water heater leaking out into the pan instead of endless amounts of water since the pipe will close. I bought it after my water heater burst at my last house and destroyed the ceiling over my garage. You can also buy it for clothes washers and other appliances that use water. I wish every house came with a similar product, and our insurance rates would probably be lower. (No, I'm not affiliated with FloodStop. I'm just a fan.)

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jeffyscott
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by jeffyscott » Tue Jan 19, 2016 8:27 pm

But the water heater is only one thing that may leak. That sensor would do nothing if anything else in the house leaked. Also there is no pan under our water heater, it sits right next to a floor drain in the basement, so it's leaking while we are on a trip would not be a disaster just a big water bill. For those that have a pan, that sensor might be handy for everyday use, but I would still just shut the main off when away for any extended period.

Sounds like folks with a boiler may have some issues, but aside from that I still see no downside to just shutting the main off.
press on, regardless - John C. Bogle

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Geneyus
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Geneyus » Wed Jan 20, 2016 8:39 pm

jeffyscott wrote:But the water heater is only one thing that may leak. That sensor would do nothing if anything else in the house leaked. Also there is no pan under our water heater, it sits right next to a floor drain in the basement, so it's leaking while we are on a trip would not be a disaster just a big water bill. For those that have a pan, that sensor might be handy for everyday use, but I would still just shut the main off when away for any extended period.

Sounds like folks with a boiler may have some issues, but aside from that I still see no downside to just shutting the main off.
It isn't hooked up to the pan. It comes with a plastic strip hooked up to a wire, and it shuts the pipe if any moisture gets on it. You can put the strip anywhere, but most people put it in the pan because that's where the most water will collect if the water heater bursts.

There are different versions and brands for anything from ice maker lines and washing machines to entire house shutoff valves. The one I have is plugged in AND has battery backup. It's a one-time, reasonably-priced purchase that could save a lot of money and hassle later on.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Leeraar » Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:57 am

If you do have a leak, the damage should be covered by your homeowner's insurance.

Turn off the water, turn the water heater to "Vacation", and relieve the pressure in the system by running hot and cold faucets for a few seconds.

This advice does NOT apply if your heating system is based on steam or hot water.

L.
You can get what you want, or you can just get old. (Billy Joel, "Vienna")

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Horsefly » Thu Nov 17, 2016 12:17 pm

Posting in this old thread to see if there is some different advice for a similar but different situation.

We will be leaving next week (just before Thanksgiving) and will be gone until around mid-February. Our home (the one we are leaving unoccupied for 2.5 months) is in Colorado certainly have some cold temperatures while we are gone. I tend to be paranoid about such things, so I want to prevent any risk of catastrophic water leak while we are gone (e.g., a frozen burst pipe and no one to even notice the house filling up with water).

My plan right now is to:
  • turn off the water to the house
  • drain most of the water pipes in the house by opening faucets at the upper most and lower most points in the house
  • turn our gas water heater to "pilot"
  • turn off the inlet valve to the water heater
  • set the thermostat to 55 for the duration
I believe the only risk this leaves is the 3 feet or so of water pipe where it comes into my basement from the street before the valve that i have access to. I suppose if it gets below freezing in my basement that pipe could burst, which would defeat my efforts.

Any thoughts?

Steve

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Pajamas
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Nov 17, 2016 12:41 pm

Have you ever drained or maintained your hot water heater? If not, this might be a good opportunity to do it. Drain and check it and then leave it off until you return.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by DSInvestor » Thu Nov 17, 2016 12:42 pm

livesoft wrote:
btenny wrote:I guestimate we save about $40 per month on our electric bill with the heater turned off.
That's simply amazing as our last electric bill for a 4 br 3.5ba 3000+ sq ft house was less than $40.
I also saved around $40-50/month by turning off my electric hot water heater. I used to travel extensively for months at a time and there were times that I would forget to turn off the breaker to my hot water heater, resulting in a higher bill. I'd call the custodian and ask him to turn it off - which results in lower bills for the subsequent months.
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Horsefly » Thu Nov 17, 2016 12:46 pm

Pajamas wrote:Have you ever drained or maintained your hot water heater? If not, this might be a good opportunity to do it. Drain and check it and then leave it off until you return.
The only maintenance I do on it is to turn on the bottom drain valve to let some of the sediment drain out through a hose to the drain in the floor, maybe every 6-8 months. You seem to suggest leaving the water heater empty while we are gone. Is that right? I thought it was bad to leave it empty.

Steve

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Pajamas
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Nov 17, 2016 1:58 pm

You can leave it empty if you want to. It's a standard part of winterizing a house.

If you are already draining it you can turn it off or leave it on while on vacation.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by inbox788 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 2:07 pm

I have a tankless water heater. I do nothing! :D

Had vacation mode on old gas water heater that seemed most appropriate option for going on vacation.

I knew a frugal guy in the frozen cold northeast winters that would turn on the water heater twice a day to use in the morning and evening. He thinks he was saving electricity heating twice a day than maintaining a higher temperature day and night. If that's true, going on vacation certainly will save some power being completely off.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by j0nnyg1984 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 11:13 am

fundseeker wrote:Our hot water heater has a "Vacation" setting on the knob, so I just use that. But I DEFINITELY turn off the water to the house (not at the main but inside the basement we have a spigot. I know someone who recently had their townhouse flooded because of a busted washing machine hose. What an expensive pain!!!
I realize this is an 11 month old post, but wouldn't it be easier to just turn off the knobs to the hot and cold supply lines behind the washer?

I turn these on and off for every use, and the washer / dryer are never left running when I leave the house. Additionally, replace your washing machine water hoses every couple of years, as advised by this pro (and me!):

http://www.bobvila.com/articles/bob-vil ... ine-hoses/
“The hoses that deliver hot and cold water to your clothes washer may not be something you think about very often, but failing washing machine hoses are responsible for $150 million yearly in flood damage.

Inspect them monthly and shut off the valve at the washer when it’s not in use, especially when you go away for a while. Most pros recommend replacing rubber hoses with stainless-steel braided hose. These cost between $10 and $20 and are reinforced with a twisted, flexible steel mesh.

Washer hoses should be replaced every 3 to 5 years, and they’re as easy to replace as your garden hose. Be sure you shut off the water to the machine first, run it on fill cycle for a few seconds to bleed the pressure and then unplug the machine.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by SueG5123 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 11:59 am

I had a washing machine hose burst in the middle of the night while we slept. Woke up with two inches of standing water in most of my one-story house. My point is: your house can be flooded in such a way that it really doesn't matter whether you're in Europe or in the next room. So I'm not sure I get the value of only turning off the water when you leave town. Ask the neighbors to check periodically. And buy those steel-shielded washing machine hoses!!!

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Mudpuppy » Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:42 pm

j0nnyg1984 wrote:I turn these on and off for every use, and the washer / dryer are never left running when I leave the house. Additionally, replace your washing machine water hoses every couple of years, as advised by this pro (and me!):

http://www.bobvila.com/articles/bob-vil ... ine-hoses/
If you're that concerned about a leak that you're turning valves off between uses, you might want to buy an automatic system that does this for you. There are several washer leak prevention systems, ranging from an automatic "turn off between use" valve (which leaves the valve off until the washer turns on) to systems which detect the water leak under the washer and automatically turn off the valve. There are even systems which do both: they don't turn on the valve until the washer draws power and they'll shut off the valve if water is detected below the washer.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by j0nnyg1984 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:50 pm

Mudpuppy wrote:
j0nnyg1984 wrote:I turn these on and off for every use, and the washer / dryer are never left running when I leave the house. Additionally, replace your washing machine water hoses every couple of years, as advised by this pro (and me!):

http://www.bobvila.com/articles/bob-vil ... ine-hoses/
If you're that concerned about a leak that you're turning valves off between uses, you might want to buy an automatic system that does this for you. There are several washer leak prevention systems, ranging from an automatic "turn off between use" valve (which leaves the valve off until the washer turns on) to systems which detect the water leak under the washer and automatically turn off the valve. There are even systems which do both: they don't turn on the valve until the washer draws power and they'll shut off the valve if water is detected below the washer.
Seems very boglehead-ish to spend money on a device that can do the same thing my hand does in under 5 seconds.

Edit: and to that point, no, I'm not concerned at all about a leak, because I close the valves :)

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by squirm » Fri Nov 18, 2016 1:46 pm

Here's what I do before leaving on a trip. Nothing.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by squirm » Fri Nov 18, 2016 1:49 pm

SueG5123 wrote:I had a washing machine hose burst in the middle of the night while we slept. Woke up with two inches of standing water in most of my one-story house. My point is: your house can be flooded in such a way that it really doesn't matter whether you're in Europe or in the next room. So I'm not sure I get the value of only turning off the water when you leave town. Ask the neighbors to check periodically. And buy those steel-shielded washing machine hoses!!!
Exactly,
Buy steel braided and replace ALL hoses, including dishwasher, sinks, fridge, etc, every five years or so.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by an_asker » Fri Nov 18, 2016 2:28 pm

livesoft wrote:
unclescrooge wrote:What's your secret?
Sunlight and having the energy-efficient house located in temperate climate for November. We have no solar panels (in case you are wondering).

Natural gas water heaters help, too, but gas bill averages about $21 a month for the two water heaters and clothes dryer.
I would be more interested in finding out how many kWh you consumed - a chunk of the $40 could be the result of low electricity costs and taxes.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by livesoft » Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:02 pm

an_asker wrote:I would be more interested in finding out how many kWh you consumed - a chunk of the $40 could be the result of low electricity costs and taxes.
The last electricity bill shows for 27 days 17.4074 kWh per day at a cost of 12.6 cents per kWh. We were still running the A/C in October. Next month without using A/C the bill will be lower. In 2015, usage for same month was 14.0689 kWh/d.
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by an_asker » Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:24 pm

livesoft wrote:
an_asker wrote:I would be more interested in finding out how many kWh you consumed - a chunk of the $40 could be the result of low electricity costs and taxes.
The last electricity bill shows for 27 days 17.4074 kWh per day at a cost of 12.6 cents per kWh. We were still running the A/C in October. Next month without using A/C the bill will be lower. In 2015, usage for same month was 14.0689 kWh/d.
We are (passively) in the market for a new A/C unit. Earlier this summer, it had a freon leakage (or so we were informed), and our bill ballooned to about $200 per month (that was for over 1500 kWh). Once the freon was refilled, we're back to more believable numbers. This last month, it was just over 600 kWh for 29 days. I am looking for it to go down further this next month.

That reminds me, i need to start a new thread about A/C systems (to be precise, a heat pump). Never bought one before, need to do so sooner or later.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by August » Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:12 pm

Can't speak for the water heater itself, but I always turn the main water supply off when I leave my house overnight. Seen 1 too many houses where a supply pipe bursts while the homeowners are out of town for 3,4,5 even 8 or 9 days. Not pretty.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by GKSD » Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:26 pm

Have a Bradford White gas water heater. December is the month when we typically travel for 3-4 weeks of overseas vacation.

The water heater is set to Pilot mode
Water main is turned off
AC is turned off (we hardly use AC)

No sure what else I should be doing.
We live in Southern California so no wintery-problems here.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by sport » Sat Nov 19, 2016 2:53 pm

We have found one other related area. When we leave for road trip, we take ice cubes for the cooler. We also turn off the water to the whole house. The first time we did this, the icemaker jammed up because there was no water available to replace the ice cubes we removed. It took a few days for it to return to normal operation after the water supply was restored. So, now, when we turn off the water, we also turn off the icemaker.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by jeffyscott » Sun Nov 20, 2016 10:04 am

No ice maker but something else that may or may not be an issue is a water softener.

I now unplug that too, as I don't know what the impact of it calling for a regeneration cycle with water off would be. It's demand based, but could potentially call for regeneration the night after we leave. It also will regenerate periodically regardless of usage, I think the maximum interval is every 2 weeks.
press on, regardless - John C. Bogle

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by BrendanP » Sun Nov 20, 2016 12:40 pm

I turned off the water heater once when we went away for a month. Had trouble getting the pilot re-lit because the electric ignitor wasn't working and I had to relight it manually. Now I just put it on a really low temperature setting

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by itstoomuch » Sun Nov 20, 2016 1:21 pm

We have a Rennai Tankless. We've tankless for 30 years. Green, new builds, are all tankless.
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by travellight » Sun Nov 20, 2016 1:48 pm

"So, now, when we turn off the water, we also turn off the icemaker."

Good detail to consider, sport.

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Mel Lindauer » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:12 pm

I just glanced at the various responses, so forgive me if it's already been stated, but I didn't see anyone mention that you need to shut off the ice maker in your refrigerator if you shut off the water to the house. Usually only requires moving the arm to the upward or off position. And don't forget to move it back down when you return so you'll have fresh ice when needed.
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Kitty Telltales » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:52 pm

It's not so much about saving money. My mother once came home to water running out from under the front door. She worked on the East Coast of Florida, but had a condo on the West Coast where she spent weekends. There were a couple of inches of water in the condo and all furniture had to be either trashed or refurbished. I have a new water heater in my condo, but when I go for even a few days, I turn off the water intake to the tank and turn off the electricity to the tank. Just looking out for my downstairs neighbors. :D

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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by tim1999 » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:59 pm

I would not turn it off. The first thing I like to do when returning from a vacation is take a long hot shower. Not worth saving $2 and having to wait for it to heat up again.

Billionaire
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by Billionaire » Mon Nov 21, 2016 1:22 pm

I know somebody whose $1,000,000 house was ruined by a broken toilet pipe on the top floor of his house. He and his wife came home from a vacation to a flooded home. Took about two years for them to move back in.
When I go away, I turn off the water AND turn the water heater setting to vacation. For me it's not about saving utility costs and I almost never care about immediately taking a shower after returning from a vacation.

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jeffyscott
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Re: Turn off water heater on vacation?

Post by jeffyscott » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:43 am

Right, the reason I turn water heater to "pilot" is not primarily to save the cost of keeping that tank of water hot. I do it because I turn the water off to avoid the potential damage from a leak anywhere in the house. Should our 20 year old water heater be the thing that leaks, I don't want the burner to go on and try to heat the nonexistent water in the empty tank.

Also even with just the pilot on the water is still heated, so you still do have a tank of hot, or at least warm, water (probably warm enough to take a shower). The difference is that the main burner will not go on. When I turn the water heater back on it only has to heat the already warm water to the 130 degree setting, this does not take long. Assuming it's rated with a 40 gallon per hour recovery rate (based a 90 degree rise), if the warm water is at 100 deg it needs only a 30 degree rise and that recovery rate would be 3 times the rated value, 120 gallons per hour or 2 gallons per minute...and it would take just 25 minutes to heat the 50 gallon tank of water to 130 deg.
press on, regardless - John C. Bogle

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