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.
No downside that I can see. I usually cut ours off at the main when we go on
Be sure to set the water heater to off or pilot mode if gas or turn off at
the breaker if elecctric.
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.
<< 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.
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
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.
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
We were away for several days- had a double toilet failure--small leak by
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.
Makes you almost wonder if "outdoor plumbing" wasn't such a bad idea,
My first clothes washer rubber hose blowout (on the main floor of the
house, finished basement.) wasn't a picnic either, but insurance covered
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.
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.
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....
Back in the pre-whiz bang electronic days we just used a simple line
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:
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.
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.
I do just that when gone for about a month in the mid-winter. Shut off the
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
On 12/16/2004 8:28 AM US(ET), Steve took fingers to keys, and typed the
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.
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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