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Should I Shut Off Water When On Vacation | Expert Plumber Advice

September 30, 2021

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Are you a homeowner asking, should I shut off my water when on vacation? If so, you’re certainly not alone! Homeowners often wonder about the best way to protect their houses from burst pipes, floods, and other damage while away. They might also wonder if shutting off the water might save them some money on their water bill.

Shutting off the water while on vacation is an excellent choice for reducing the risk of burst pipes and resultant floods. Turning off a water heater can also mean less risk of leaks while also saving you a few dollars on your utility costs.

Before you start turning off valves around your home or doing anything else in preparation for a long vacation, note some commonly asked questions about shutting off the water to bathroom plumbing before going away. You might also consider some tips for keeping your home safe and in good condition while on an extended vacation. Let's dive into the answer to should I shut off my water when on vacation together right now.

 should i shut off my water when on vacation

As always, discuss any concerns about whether or not you should shut off the water when on vacation have with a plumber near you, and use extreme caution when working around gas appliances or electricity and water together. This will ensure you stay safe and that nothing disrupts your vacation plans!

Is It Necessary to Turn Off the Water When On a Long Vacation?

The question arises, "should I turn off water when on vacation in summer?" Check out a few reasons why you want to turn off the water when on a long vacation. You might also note a few other simple steps you can take to protect your home and save money on utility costs while you’re away!

  • Turning off the water during wintertime can help reduce the risk of water freezing inside the pipes, which can mean costly repairs and the risk of a burst pipe and resultant flooding.
  • Shutting off the water even during summertime means less risk of a burst pipe due to clogs and other damage.
  • Without a water supply, a burst pipe might still result in a small flood; however, water won’t keep “gushing” out that damaged pipe. In turn, you might face a 50-gallon flood rather than thousands of gallons of water inside your home, if a pipe should burst!
  • Turning off the water supply not only means less water damage if a pipe should burst but also less cost for all that wasted water coming through a damaged pipe.
  • If you’re uncomfortable shutting off the water to the entire house, at least shut off the valves to the washing machine hoses before going away, as these can often kink or otherwise wear out and then burst. Without a water supply, flooding damage will be minimal if this should occur, as said.
  • If your home has a sump pump, check it before leaving. Pour some water into the pit and note if the pump kicks on. If not, call a plumber and have it repaired as needed, for added protection against flood damage while you’re on vacation.
  • Should you turn off water heater when on vacation? You can switch off a hot water heater during the summer months, to save on utility costs. However, during wintertime, this might allow water to freeze or form ice crystals. Turn the water heater temperature down before leaving home in the winter months instead. This will keep the appliance from cycling on as often, without allowing the water to freeze.
  • It’s also helpful to empty toilet tanks before leaving during wintertime, so the water doesn’t freeze and crack the porcelain. Simply turn off the water or the valve to the toilet and flush, and this will empty the tank without it refilling.
  •  Since flushing the toilet will still leave some water in the bowl, add a bit of marine antifreeze to the water, to keep it from freezing. Don’t use the antifreeze for your car but shop for marine antifreeze in particular, as this is nontoxic.

Shutting Off Water & Affects on the Water Heater

Are you curious about what happens if I turn off the water to my house? You might have heard that shutting off the water supply to your home can damage a water heater, but this isn’t entirely accurate. A water heater refills with cool water as water supply levels in the tank get lower; if the appliance doesn’t refill with cool water as it’s used, this can make the water overly hot and risk damage to the tank.

shutting off water on vacation doesn't hurt water heater

However, if you’re going away on vacation and won’t be using the water heater, shutting off the water supply shouldn’t damage the heater. The water in the tank will simply cool and then get reheated as needed but shouldn’t get overly warm. Not having water flowing into the home through a water pipe will also mean less damage if a tank should crack or burst, as said.

Shutting Off Water to a Toilet

Shutting off water to a toilet can save money if the toilet leaks, and can keep the water from freezing inside the tank when not in use during wintertime, as said. If the toilet should clog or back up, not having a water supply can reduce flood damage.

One downside to turning off the water when away is simply forgetting to turn it back on! You don’t want to use the toilet without ensuring it’s functioning properly, to avoid the risk of clogs and overflowing. Leave yourself a note on the seat or tank if needed, to remind yourself to turn the water back on when you get home from vacation before using the toilets.

Can Pipes Burst If the Water Is Turned Off?

First, note that turning off the water to plumbing pipes in your plumbing system doesn’t necessarily empty them of water completely. Some residual water is typically still inside a pipe unless it’s bled or drained after the water is shut off.

That small amount of water sitting in a pipe might freeze in subzero temperatures. However, a small amount of water won’t typically expand so much that it will then cause a pipe to crack and burst.

This doesn’t mean that there is no risk of a pipe bursting when you turn off the home’s water! Clogs, foreign objects in pipes, and other such damage can still cause burst pipes and other plumbing leaks inside the home.

pipes bursting

Turning off the water can reduce flood damage in such cases, as said. That residual water in a burst pipe can still drip out of the pipe, but won’t cause as much damage as a continuous, pressurized water supply.

How Long Should You Run the Water After It’s Been Shut Off For An Extended Period

You answered yes to should I shut off my water when on vacation, and now you're back. If you’ve left your home’s water off for several days or even longer, run the cold water for some 30 minutes and flush the home’s toilets 2 or 3 times. This will remove any stagnant water or sediment that has built up in the water while it was off.

It’s also vital to run the water until it’s clear. If you notice what looks like mud, dirt, or other residues in the water, or if it has an odd smell, keep running that water until it’s clear and clean. If running the water doesn’t clear up any residues, call a plumber to check for cracks, leaks, and other damage.

Unplugging & Shutting Off Appliances Before Vacation

There are other questions before leaving other than should I shut off my water when on vacation you should be asking yourself. Unplugging various appliances before you head out for vacation can reduce the risk of electrical fires, short circuits, and other property damage. This can also reduce your utility costs, as electrical appliances do draw some power even when not in use! Consider some things to unplug before going on vacation:

Toasters, electric kettles, electric grills, coffeemakers, and other small kitchen appliances are at high risk for causing house fires if they overheat or short-circuit. To avoid this risk, go through your kitchen and unplug every countertop appliance you own!

Ensure you’ve unplugged all appliances in the bathroom as well, especially hair dryers, curling irons, and anything else that produces heat. Note, too, if you have plug-in fans and heaters around the house and ensure they’re unplugged.

Electronics such as televisions, gaming consoles, an air conditioner, and other add-ons aren’t necessarily fire risks but they do draw lots of power even when switched off. Unplug these before going on vacation so you don’t waste energy when away. You might also unplug any alarm clocks in case they should start to signal while you’re away, and don’t shut off automatically!

It’s also recommended that you unplug your Wi-Fi router before leaving for vacation, to avoid the risk of hackers. This will also reduce your utility costs while you’re on vacation. Unplugging your phone chargers will also reduce power consumption, and help remind you to pack the chargers you’ll need while away.

What Shouldn’t You Unplug When On Vacation?

When going away for any length of time, avoid unplugging the refrigerator unless it’s absolutely empty of anything that needs to stay cool. You might turn down the temperature to save some costs on utilities, but most foods including produce need cooling to stay fresh. Keeping the refrigerator running will also mean less risk of the freezer defrosting and creating a messy puddle while you’re away.

It’s also not recommended that you shut off your heating and air conditioning unless you’re sure the weather will be mild and temperate while you’re gone. Air conditioners remove humidity as well as heat, so allowing your home to go without cooling during the summertime can mean trapped moisture. This can damage wood framing, doors, and other building materials and surfaces.

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In wintertime, it’s vital that your home not get overly cold so that pipes don’t freeze! If they burst because you're gone for longer than an overnight trip, you could be looking at a ton of water damage when you open your font door. You don't want to deal with the emotional stress that comes from plumbing problems like that! An overly cold environment is also not good for electronic appliances, wood furniture, and other items inside your home. Keep the furnace on but adjust the thermostat so it doesn’t cycle as often, to save money while you’re away.

Homeowners should also remember that burglars might notice a home that’s obviously unoccupied and target it for theft! Leaving some appliances to cycle on, plugging lights and radios or your sprinkler system into timers, and other such touches can help deter potential thieves.

Should I Shut Off My Water When On Vacation & How To Get the House Ready

Now that we've gone over should I shut off the water when on vacation, here is what else you should do. In addition to all the advice already offered about preparing your house for when you’re going away on vacation, note some added tips and suggestions. These will help keep your home in good condition while it’s empty and help ensure a welcoming environment when you return!

  •  Never let your mail or newspapers pile up outside your home. Have a trusted friend or relative bring in these items every day, or put a stop to both at your local post office and with whatever newspaper and magazine deliveries you receive.
  • Make sure you’ve emptied all trash bins; toss out any food in the refrigerator or pantry that might spoil while you’re away as well.
  • Ask an accommodating neighbor or relative to take your trash bins to the curb for collection and then bring them back the next day. If you can’t find someone to do this while you’re away, double-bag any trash you need to leave in bins and ensure they have secure lids.
  • Close all curtains and blinds. This will help keep your home cool during warmer weather and reduce the risk of someone noticing your home is unoccupied!
  • Have someone water your plants once a week or as needed. You can also invest in automatic watering canisters and other options, to ensure your plants are healthy when you return.
  • Never leave pets home alone even for one day! Animals can suffer anxiety and it’s vital that they’re checked every day, in case of accident or illness. Board your animals or have them stay with a friend or relative if you’re not taking them with you.
  • Lock up everything before leaving, even entryways you might otherwise leave open. Locking a garage, fences, screen doors, and other entry points can reduce the risk of theft and trespassing.
  • Check on a short-term safety deposit box to hold valuables such as jewelry or artwork while you’re away.

Even if you don’t need a friend or relative to take care of plants or collect mail while you’re away, it’s helpful if you leave contact information and your basic itinerary with someone you trust. This can allow them to contact you quickly in case of an emergency, or alert them to a potential emergency if you don’t return as expected!

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Princeton Plumbing Pros is happy to help answer the question, should I shut off my water when on vacation? In addition, we have answers to turning water back on after vacation. If you need help with your home’s plumbing, be sure to call our Princeton plumbing repair contractors. We offer FREE consultations and expert advice and guarantee all our repair work to last. For more information, call us today!


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