Everyone looks forward to a vacation. Being able to get away from your daily grind and enjoy some time in a new or even familiar favorite location can help refresh your mind and re-energize your soul while filling your life with rewarding experiences. However, leaving your home for a long period of time can present a number of vulnerabilities, and it’s important to do what you can to prevent these issues from arising while you’re not home to resolve them. This is particularly true when it comes to your plumbing, as even a small problem can turn into a catastrophe over a week or more. Here are just a couple quick and easy things you can do to help prepare your plumbing for your absence, prevent major issues, and even save you money on your utility bills.
Shut Off Your Water Heater
If you have a traditional tank water heater (as most homes still do), it runs on gas or electricity, and is the largest energy consumer in your home behind only your air conditioning and heating system. Your tank is insulated and designed to retain heat as much as possible, but over time the water in the tank will cool, triggering the heater elements to turn on and warm the water back up again. When nobody’s home to actually use the hot water, then really it’s just wasting energy. Not to mention if it were to malfunction or spark, a fire could start.
The easiest way to both save money and reduce this hazard is to shut off your water heater entirely before you leave for your trip. There are two ways to do this: the main shutoff handle on the heater itself, and the circuit breaker in your home. If your heater is on the same circuit as other devices, you may not want to use the latter method, but if it’s not then either way should work. Either way, just remember you’ll want to turn the power back on as soon as you get home—heating a full tank water will take some time.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to shut your unit off entirely, some modern water heaters have a “vacation” setting on their temperature control which essentially keeps the water at a lukewarm temperature but also prevents it from freezing. A frozen water heater isn’t a particularly large threat here in California, but some freak cold-spells in recent winters have done some significant damage before, especially for those who are unprepared.
Shut Off Your Water Supply
Then there’s the matter of the pipes in your walls. While you may not experience any issues with your plumbing for years or even decades at a time, you may not know about the slowly-decaying pipe in your kitchen, it only takes a moment for it to give way and start flooding your wall with water. Sure enough you come home a few days later and find your house flooded, floors ruined, walls damaged, and many other issues. Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent this: shut off your main water valve. Water that flows into your home is under a certain amount of pressure, and it’s the pressure that causes water to continuously flow when you turn on the faucet. If you shut off your main water valve and then open your faucets for a few moments to alleviate the pressure, you no longer have to worry about your pipes bursting while you’re away. Instead, they’ll sit quietly waiting for you to return.
Your main water valve is located in one of a few normal spots, usually located near your water meter. Sometimes it’s a hand-crank knob located in your garage or near the front of your home closest to the street, other times it’s located under a cement cover or a metal grate near the street in front of your house. Some water valves require you to use a long-handled tool called a valve key to shut it off, although they’re not all that common since you need to be able to turn your water off in an emergency.
Bear in mind that when you shut off your main water valve you are also turning off the water to your entire property, not just the pipes in your house. If you have a sprinkler system for your yard, automatically-cycling fish tank, or other feature that requires an active water connection, you’ll disable it as well. This means shutting off your water may not always be a feasible option either. If this is the case, you can’t shut off your water entirely, but you can shut off the valves leading to your toilets, sinks, dishwasher, and more. It’s actually far more likely that one of these devices will develop or already has developed a small, slow leak that wastes dozens or even hundreds of gallons of water per week, and shutting off the valve will stop that issue from starting or continuing while you’re gone.If you have a leak in your plumbing, your pipe bursts, or you’re having trouble with a clog, or you simply need help making sure your home is ready for you to head out on a long vacation, our San Fernando Valley plumbers can help! Call Duran & Sons Universal Plumbing & Rooter today at (818) 946-0545 and ask for an estimate or schedule your service appointment!