Vacant house, should I shut water off?

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Deceased Step dads house. We live in New England. The house is empty now and I stopped by last night and the furnace was not working. I relit the pilot light and got it working again but we are concerned that it may go out again and we cannot get to the house every day to check. Temps were down to 18 degrees last night. I'm thinking of shutting the water off and leaving the faucets open to avoid any pipes freezing and bursting. Would there be any downside to shutting the main water off? Heat is forced hot air.
Thanks
Steve
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No downside that I can see. I usually cut ours off at the main when we go on vacation Be sure to set the water heater to off or pilot mode if gas or turn off at the breaker if elecctric.
Colbyt
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The city water co. will shut off the water at the main if you can not. Burst pipes can cost thousands in damage. Pouring antifreeze in all traps , dishwasher, clothes washer, drain water heater. will prevent freezing damage. It is not worth the risk especialy with a bad furnace. Talk to your insurance co.
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<< Talk to your insurance co. >>
Ransley's right on that point. Insurance companies all have weasel clauses that let them off the hook for unoccupied house damage. Get professional help to freeze proof the place (document it!), send letters asking neighbors to check the place daily (more documentation!), visit daily if you can and keep a record of visits (still more documentation!), ask your police or fire department for any help they can offer and note who you talked to and document it. That will give an even chance that should a bad event occur you can collect on the insurance. There will be a rate increase, so be brave when you pay the bill. Good luck.
Joe
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House has no insurance! Found out he would not let them in to inspect so they dropped the insurance!!!

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Get it insured. a 1 day flood could cost 5- 50000$ in damage easily. My neighboors toilet line broke when they were away in summer for the weekend, 3rd floor. Oak floors, carpet, wallpaper, plaster-paint etc 15000$
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We have been told they wont insure it because nobody is living there. We are going to sell ASAP Needs about $80,000 work to bring up to top condition. High ground water causing water in the basement is the big problem. also in disrepair. needs new kitchen, bathroom. still has original furnace.

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Don't forget the drains. Drop some RV antifreeze into each toilet, sink, tub and shower drain.
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Could you get a house-sitter until you can sell the house? I used to do a lot of house-sitting. The owners wanted me in their houses for insurance and security reasons. I don't know where in New England you are, but I would imagine that if you are near one of the many universities, you could get a graduate student or someone on the faculty who would be delighted to take on the responsibilities of house-sitting in exchange for little or no rent. I suggest that you do not get undergraduate students to housesit, however, unless you are absolutely certain that they are responsible. Ask for lots of references.
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the flapper lowered the water level to the point that started the refill procedure--- fill valve stuck so the water never shut off--overflow tube couldn't handle all the water coming into the tank. Result was two bathrooms completely wiped out (one over the other). Walls, vanities, tiled floors, tiled shower etc. Net cost came to over $22,000. First time I went away and didn't shut off the main--shame on me. Took almost 6 months from fighting the insurance company to getting everything rebuilt. At one point we had to shower in the upper bathroom tub. wash in the kitchen sink and use the down bath toilet. A restoration company was in the house for almost a week tearing everything apart and working on mold control/elimination. MLD
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MLD wrote:

Makes you almost wonder if "outdoor plumbing" wasn't such a bad idea, huh? <G>
My first clothes washer rubber hose blowout (on the main floor of the house, finished basement.) wasn't a picnic either, but insurance covered it all.
Been using the steel braided hoses since then. I know there are even safer methods like single lever hose bib shutoffs (which SWMBO and other family members would forget to shut off.) and even solenoid valves which stay closed except when the clothes washer is drawing current through its power cord, but I haven't yet turned to them. If a braided hose ever does more than weep a little on me I probably will.
Happy Holidays
--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
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Only downside is if there was a leaking the heating system and the water ran low. Otherwise the potential from water damage if there is a freeze up is much more severe.
Smart thing would be to pay a neighbor to check the house every day or two and look at getting some sort of remote alarm.
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Can someone translate this for me?
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If you were using a heating system that uses hot water, ie steam or baseboards. If these systems leak, they are suppose to automatically add water to the system. If it cant get any water and runs low it can damage the boiler.
Doesnt really pertain to the original posters question because he mentioned that he is using forced hot air (doesnt use water)
Never the less, good tip to remember though. Nothing like coming home to a cooked boiler and having to spend a few grand to replace....
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

voltage thermostat and a red light bulb in a front window. Nice neighbors would be informed about who to call and tell the house was getting too cold if they saw that light on.
**************************************************************
Strange, just yesterday I responded to a post on this thread and included a link to a photo I'd snapped of my neighbor's house which froze up when they moved away and left it unoccupied during a New England January in 2002. Here's the link:
http://home.comcast.net/~jwisnia18/freezer.jpg
Those are thick ribbons of dirty brown ice coming down that garage door, from the burst pipes inside. It took over a year to repair the damage. I watched them haul away three big construction containers of ripped out flooring and wallboard which had been destroyed by water.
They finally finished repairing the place this spring, but it hasn't sold yet, despite the price being lowered from $1.8 mil to $1.6 mil. I think maybe the word is out about the flood and buyers are scared about the possibility of mold.
To repeat what I posted yesterday, my own thoughts about the smarts of a homeowner who'd leave a house unoccupied during a New England winter without so much as a low temperature remote alarm system or even simply turning off the house's main water valve are best left unsaid.
Happy Holidays,
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
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Even with a good furnace, freeze alarm dialer, etc. power outages happen, furnaces break, and at cold temperatures a freeze can happen in minutes. If you think about 5 gal per minute that is 3000 gal in 10 hrs, 7200 in 24 hrs. If it happens when everyone is asleep many thousands in damage will be guarnteed. If I leave for a day in just 1 minute I shut the main , open a house drain and all sinks. I have a good furnace but everything breaks sometime. Bottom line it is not worth the risk of leaving water under pressure entering your house, even in the summer if it is vacant.
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Ed, did you sleep at all last night? This is waaay out of character for you.
--

Christopher A. Young
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main, drain the lines as best I can, flush the toilets and put RV anti-freeze in all the drains, washing machine, dishwasher and toilet bowls. Keep heat set at 55-60. In your case, potentially insurance at risk if you have a problem in the house. Fixing up after water damage is very expensive.. Can your house be defined as "not lived in"? If so, insurance coverage could be voided. Best thing to do is to get a plumber or other professional to winterize the house. Pilot going out is usually an easy fix--in most cases it's related to a bad thermocouple or a dirty/clogged orifice. Get a repair man to check it out. MLD
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On 12/16/2004 8:28 AM US(ET), Steve took fingers to keys, and typed the following:

It may be a little late to think about shutting off the water, but it will limit the damage from any pipes that may have frozen and have breaks. If the pipes have frozen anywhere and split the pipe or a connection, the water will not run out as long as the pipes remain frozen by the break. You won't know until the furnace warms up the house to above freezing and the frozen pipes thaw out. Then the water will spray out of the break. If any pipes had burst and are still frozen, closing the water at this point will limit the amount of water that flows from the break when it thaws out, however. Many years ago (in the 1960s), we had 28 straight days of below freezing temperature here in NY. Many residents had gone off to Florida and the south, and left their furnaces set to low temperatures. One or two days of below freezing temperatures may not freeze the pipes that are closest to the outside walls, but 28 days has a better chance if the furnace setting was too low to prevent the most vulnerable pipes from freezing. When we got a few days of temperatures above freezing, the frozen pipes thawed, and the water began to run from all the breaks. The fire department was quite busy for a few days, pumping out basements of numerous houses that they knew about, or those whose neighbors reported water running down driveways and such. Other residents came home to indoor swimming pools.
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It might be easier to simply purchase a 'freeze alarm' such as the one offered by this company http://www.protectedhome.com/ Basically, it monitors the temperature inside the house and if the temperature goes below a predetermined level, the alarm uses the telephone to call you up and tell you that the temperature has dropped. The one on this particular website I found costs about $110 but there are a lot of different brands/models around.
We are in the middle of trying to figure out which one to get for our vacation home (since if the electric power goes out there, neither our Rinnai nor our electric baseboard heat will work).
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