We are going on a month's vacation and wanted to find out what is the
best way to ensure our water pipes don't freeze while we are gone.
I am thinking of 2 things:
Keep the heat on (forced natural gas furnace central heat) at 50 F
Shut-off water supply by shutting off the main water suply (this is
located in the basement). I already tested this and when I shut it off,
it shut off all faucets/taps in the house.
House is in the suburbs of Chicago.
Reason I want to turn off main water supply is to make absolutely sure
that the 50 F heat will be ok AND also if the furnace breaks down when
or in case of power outage,when we are gone, pipes will not freeze.
What do you guys think? Any other safegaurds I should take?
Thanks a bunch.
Shutting off the water main is a good idea. If you have a hot water
heater, turn the gas valve to "pilot" so in the event the water heater
leaks it will not fire up. Also turn off the automatic ice maker if you
have one in your fridge.
I would try to cover the incoming water feed pipes with pipe
insulation, as well as the water meter if you have one just in case the
As an added measure, after you shut off your water main, you can open
all the faucets and open the lowest faucet in the house and drain as
much water out as possible.
If you have a trusted neighbor, he/she can check on the house once in a
Yes, good idea. The furnace can break and everything freeze. How
often should the friend visit. I guess it depends on how cold, how
many power failures, etc. but the furnace can break even if there is
no power failure.
If you have a burglar alarm, you can put on a sensor for low
temperature, and if you have monitoring, you can have it send a third
notice to the station.
A friend gave me the impresion that new panels come with this, but it
seems that they have a provision for connecting the sensor, and for
the third message.
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reasonable moves. leave furnace set at 50, turn off water main, you
might open faucets indoors to let the excess water drain.
one great thing is a freeze warn outlet.
you plug a light into a outlet thermostat. if it gets too cold it
flashes the light, provided a nice neighbor would inform whoever you
got a problem.
there are also auto call telephone devices that would call you
automatically if it gets too cold.
have a trusted friend stop by and make some phone calls, some insurance
policies dont cover a home vacant for over 30 days
have furnace serviced a few weeks before you go away.
ENJOY YOUR VACATION! hope its a nice warm place!
I wonder why water would freeze in a pipe running inside the house when
furnace is set to minimum. When I go away, I just keep the pilot going
for the water heater and that's all. If heater leaks I have floor drain
right next to it. I never saw heater tank burst.
A friend had a new house built. in N. Va. They were there and the
pipe burst anyway. Turns out pipe through kitchen to upstairs was in
outside wall, and insulation was put on the wrong side of the pipe.
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On 14 Jan 2006 18:04:33 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
You got all the details correct except you got to DRAIN all those
pipes, and put antifreeze on the toilet and in sink traps, etc.
Can you get someone to check the house every few days? At least then
you are sure the heat is working. Even if you drain all the pipes, if
the heat quits, you will have plaster cracks, frozen cans of food, and
who knows what else. Some SAFE electric heaters (AWAY FROM ALL
FLAMMABLES) can also add heat if the furnace dies, but you almost need
the thermostat type. Those space heaters are not accurate as far as
temperatures. I really think your easiest solution is to just give a
friend a key and some money for their time and gasoline, and have them
check regularly. Give them the name of your furnace repair company
just in case...
I suggest that you don't want to have the heat turned all the way off,
even if you empty the pipes, which is a good idea.
Many items in our homes can not handle very cold temperatures.
Turning the heat down can mean that the pipes near outside walls may go
below freezing when it gets really cold outside. You also have to consider
the possibility of a power failure. The question is how much perfection do
you want. Draining pipes and using anti-freeze made for the use in the
traps (including the toilet) may be prudent.
Another reason to turn off the water when going away:
I recently went away for a week, so I turned the forced air heat down
to 45 and shut off the water. Upon returning, when I turned the water
back on, I had a leak in one bathroom. It was where the plastic nut
connects the supply line to the ball cock unit in the toilet. It
appears to have been caused by the low temp and the nut wasn't quite
tight enough. It had never leaked before at normal temps. Had the
water not been off, this small but continuous leak could have been a
real big problem.
I once went on vacation, left on a friday returned the following
The very next friday the day after I got home from vacation my furnace
quit. thermocouple failure.
temps at the time of my vacation were 10 degrees. if the furnace had
quit a week earlier I would of been screwed.
one word of warning, be prepared for trouble if you drain the hot water
tank, those drain valves are pure junk.
For my monbey I would turn the tank to vacation, which is pilot only
and leave the tank full of water.
if you get back and the valve leaks it will need replaced, and messing
with a old tank might lead to more leaks.
this happened to a friend of mine.
tanks are cheap, easier to replace in the unlikely event the furnace
Just to reiterate what some of the other posters have said---I'm away for a
bit more than a month (Jan & Feb) and I shut off the main, turn off the hot
water heater, open the hot/cold supply lines to the washing machine, open
the lowest faucet and let the water drain out, at least as much as possible.
Then I flush the toilets. Next, put RV Anti Freeze (Home Depot) in every
drain---dishwasher, washing machine, sinks, shower, bathtub, toilet bowls.
Set the thermostat to 60 deg.--used to set it at 55F. Somehow can't convince
my wife that it's OK to set it a bit lower--not worth the argument.
Forgot to add--pulled the plug on all appliances, TV's, DVD washing machine,
Dryer etc. Computer, including the phone line if you're on dial-up or DSL.
Power surges do strange things and most of the electronic equipment all have
some power drain and are alive even though not actually turned on.
We only turn ours down to 55. I've been told that you shouldn't turn
it down cooler than 55. I also just installed a new thermostat. It
allows me to call and check the temperature using a phone. It wil let
you turn the temperature up or down over the telephone too. This way
you can have the place start warming up while you are heading home.
It is really nice. You can see it at:
They sell freeze alarms here that will call you if the temperature
drops below a set temperature too. Well worth the investment for the
peace of mind.
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