Gas-valve on heater must have separate pilot-only position from
"normal-run" or you could get seriously burned/blown-up on lighting
pilot. All I've ever seen have sequence "off", "pilot", "on", with
valve safety provision that gas can flow to pilot or main burner only
after pilot has sufficiently heated a sensor.
If there's possibility of unburned gas near the burner or pilot, you
could be seriously injured. That area must be properly ventilated
before doing anything else.
Lighting unit: from "off" turn valve selector to pilot; press down- now
gas flows to pilot- light it. Some require cover(s) removed and match
at pilot- some have piezo-electric igniters (press to make spark.)
Keep holding down (maybe for 20-30 sec) until pilot remains on when
control is released. Turn to "on" and check t-stat setting. _Now_ you
know how to light pilot on lots of heaters. Not rocket-science.
Sometimes the problem is one involving installation. In my previous house,
the water heater was located in such a way that you had to sort of slide
yourself between it and the cinder block wall in order to light the thing.
This might be impossible for some people.
The night before you leave:
First, shut off the water main in your basement. Then, using a hacksaw,
cut a notch out of the main supply line. Follow the same procedures
with your gas line.
On the morning of departure, turn the water and gas back on, and head
off to vacation.
This method is the easiest of all sugegsted ... and it has the added
benefit that you won't have to wonder if anything has gone wrong back
at home while you were away.
A water heater can burn otu the bottom of the tank if the tank goes dry.
This is unlikely with turning the water off, but leaving the gas on.
(assuming you leave the water in the tank, and don't open the drain at the
"evaporate it all out", well, where is the vapor going to go? From water to
vapor, the volume expands times 1800. And it's a sealed system, not like a
soup kettle which is open on top.
But why take the chance? I suggest either leave the water on, or turn them
both off. Of coruse, the relighting problem. Got any neighbors to relight it
for you? Relatives?
If you're going for a month, why pay to have the gas keep a tank of water warm
that you won't be using? Shut the gas off to the heater.
I shut the gas off to my water heater even if I'm just going away for a long
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