Many people leaving their homes for extended periods of time don’t think about their hot water tank, after all, it doesn’t require any maintenance when you’re home. When you leave your house though, you are leaving yourself open to potential disaster if you don’t consider your hot water tank.
Hot water tanks run on the premise that water is always available to them, so they never drain. If they did drain, the burner in the tank would have no medium with which to spread heat, and the burner itself would burn out.
Why this matters to you is that if you get a leak in your pipes when you’re not home, you’re not there to turn off the water, and water will continue to flow, filling up your basement, destroying everything it touches, and leaking out of your house until someone turns it off.
It’s happened before, people come home from vacation and find water pouring out of their basement windows.
There is one simple step you can take to avoid with this: turn off your water.
How to Shut Off Your Water Line and Drain Water Lines
Find the main valve in your basement and turn it so the water stops flowing (generally taps work open clockwise, closed counter-clockwise). Once the water is off you can even drain you water lines if – this is important if you live in a very cold area and are leaving for an extended period of time, as the water in your lines can freeze, and because it is not flowing anywhere, it causes the pipes to crack, and when you return you will have leakage to deal with. To drain your lines after you turn off your water turn on a faucet in your house and let it run until the water tank drains itself.
How to Refill a Hot Water Tank
Be careful when refilling your hot water tank! When you return you need to let your water tank fill up before you turn the heat on, otherwise you will burn out the heater in your tank. Turn on the water lines and wait 15 – 20 minutes. Test the water flow by turning on a faucet and letting it run, if the water runs in a constant steady stream you can turn the heat back on in your tank.
Turning Down the Temperature in your Hot Water Tank
If you do not want to turn off your water and you are not concerned about pipes bursting, then consider turning down the heat in your hot water tank. Keeping water warm but not cold (keep it above 60 degrees celcius to prevent the growth of bacteria) will reduce your heating bill, since your water tank will draw energy to keep the water at whatever temperature you have it pre-set at.
Hot Water Tanks – Vacation Mode
Some hot water tanks, especially power-vented models, come with a vacation mode. Using this setting will allow you specific controls over how cold your water in your tank will get and when it will turn off and on.
Make sure you take a trip to your basement before you go on vacation, it could save you a trip to the insurance company when you get home!