Don't Shut Off the Water Before Vacation: Here's Why & What to Do Instead

Posted on: 5 August 2015

If you are leaving your home for an extended period of time, whether to go on a long vacation or to live in a second home, you may be concerned about the possibility of plumbing problems popping up while you are gone. With nobody home to deal with plumbing problems, you could return home to a disaster.

Many people have heard that the best thing to do before leaving for an extensive period is to shut off the main water valve. However, here is one reason why this may not be a good idea: if your heating system uses water, such as a boiler, shutting off the water main could damage the heating system. Without water, the boiler could dry-fire and this could result in a cracked boiler. Even if you do not leave the heat running on a minimal setting while you are gone, sediment could build up in the boiler, which could also cause damage.

Do not turn off the main water valve if your heating system relies on water. There are other ways to protect your home from water damage in case of plumbing problems. Here are a few ideas:

Install an automatic water shut off valve leak detector

This device should be installed by a professional plumber above the water main shut off valve. An automatic water shut off valve leak detector will constantly monitor the amount of water that is being used in your home. When it detects that too much water is being used, such as when a pipe ruptures, it shuts the water main off automatically.

These devices allow you to set the parameters for when you want the water to turn off automatically. Since no one will be home, you can change the setting to well below your normal water usage. Then, when you return home, you can adjust the setting again.

This device can help reduce the amount of water that enters your home in case a pipe breaks while you are gone. Therefore, you may still return home to a mess, but it shouldn't be as overwhelming.

If you have a home security system, this device can be connected to your security software so you can be alerted when a leak is detected and the water main gets automatically shut off. That way, you can have someone go into your home to turn the boiler off to prevent any damage from dry-firing.

Disconnect or shut off all valves for appliances and fixtures

To help reduce the risks of the leak detection system automatically shutting off the water main, it's a good idea to disconnect or shut off all valves for all the appliances, fixtures and faucets in your home, including every sink and all the toilets.

If your refrigerator has an ice maker or a water dispenser, you'll need to turn off the water supply to your refrigerator as well. This valve is normally located in the back of the refrigerator beside the water intake line. If you aren't sure where this is located or how to turn it off, contact your plumber.

Install a check valve in your basement's floor drain

Your basement's floor drain is connected to the sewer system or your septic tank. If something goes wrong with the sewer or septic system, it could cause sewage to seep into your basement through the floor drain. To prevent this, install a check valve in the drain in your basement floor.

A check valve will continue to allow water to enter the drain and move on to the sewer system or septic tank, but will prevent anything from coming out of the drain. The check valve will only function one way, so it needs to be installed correctly in order to work as intended. Therefore, have your plumbing service install a check valve in the floor drain for you.

Learn more about your options or get more assistance by contacting local plumbing services before you leave for vacation.

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Knowing When It’s Time to Call the Plumber

My name is Jason Lawrence, or around my house I’m sometimes known as “Daddy Fix-It.” My wife Sarah and I have four children all under the age of ten. I didn’t start out as a guy who was handy around the house, but I am learning to become a do-it-yourselfer for sure. Did I mention that I’m a bit stubborn? There are times I struggle with projects a little too long, and it takes my wife stepping in to convince me that it’s time to call a professional. I’ve become especially handy with plumbing projects. I don’t know why kids think toys belong in the toilet and doll hair is good for the bathtub drain, but around here those are weekly events. I’m going to share some of my experiences, how I fixed some of our plumbing problems, and when it becomes time to call the plumber.

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