Shutting off water to house--procedure?

I keep hearing these horror stories about frozen pipes, burst washer hoses, etc. Scary stuff! So we've decided to shut off the main water valve in our house whenever we go away for more than a day. We plan to do this both in summer and in winter.
But I'm not sure what the proper procedure is. Before our last trip, I turned off the main water valve (the one nearest the water meter) and then flipped the emergency switch on the water heater (oil fired) so it wouldn't come on while we were away. I thought we were supposed to open a faucet to relieve pressure on the system, but when I opened the kitchen faucet, the water just kept coming out--I expected it to stop flowing right away, and it didn't, it just kept running. (It was a single lever faucet--the only kind we have in the house--though I tried to run only the cold water.) I was afraid we might end up draining the water heater, so I turned off the faucet again. I don't know whether it would have stopped running on its own if I'd waited longer.
So what's the right way to do this? Should we keep a faucet open when the main valve is turned off? Or will that drain our hot water heater?
Incidentally, I do understand that the *safest* thing in winter would be to turn off the water, drain the pipes and HWH, put antifreeze in traps, etc., in case the heat goes out. But realistically speaking, we're unlikely to do all that every time we go away for a couple of days, and for longer trips, we arrange for someone to come and check on the house. All I'm trying to do here is limit the amount of potential damage in case of a pipe break, etc., while causing minimal inconvenience.
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Pat McC. wrote:

You're doing it correctly. It's very possible that the Main valve does not close completely or is worn out.
Turn it off, open the faucet nad stick your ear by the valve. If you hear *any* noise, the valve is leaking. You may also be able to see the small hand on the meter moving.
If it *is* leaking, it is not a DIY job to repair/replace as it requires shutting off the curb stop, which in most cases is the prvince of the utility. YMMV
(Running the water from the faucet will not drain the heater...)
Jim
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Thanks for your response, Jim. I checked the main valve (it's the type with a lever handle not a round one) and it seems to be working fine. After closing it I tried leaving the kitchen faucet open for a few minutes and the flow finally slowed to a trickle and then stopped. I guess I just wasn't waiting long enough for the residual pressure in the system to dissipate.
Thanks again, Pat

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Pat McC. wrote:

Speedy is correct, but I think are doing over kill.
--
Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
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On Tue, 11 May 2004 20:10:41 GMT, "Joseph Meehan"

Ya think so?????? Especially if he is going to do it in summer !!!! WTF?
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Thank you for your response, Joseph. Please see my response to Speedy Jim. I'm not sure, though, why you would consider shutting off the water to be overkill. It takes but a minute to turn off the main valve and the water heater and turn them back on when we return. We've had so many plumbing problems in this house that it's worth it to me not to have to worry about a flood while we're away!
Thanks again, Pat

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water
plan to

trip, I

and
so
to
the
stop
don't
waited
when
heater?
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Pat McC. wrote:

If it makes you happy, go ahead. The kind of problems that you would be preventing are very rare, assuming you take normal care. I just don't think it is worth it. Some men wear both braces and a belt, I generally think one or the other is enough and often I don't bother with either. Never had a problem ... yet.
--
Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
  Click to see the full signature.
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