“Turn off water heater when not in use! ” is what my mom used to say and I never quite understood why. When I became a homeowner myself however, I came to realize why this is a good idea, especially if I am going away for vacations, from three days to month-long ones.
Not only does it give me a significant amount of savings, but it also provides me with a peace of mind that nothing is running while I am away that can cause some overheating issues or other hazards.
For new homeowners, the idea of turning off the water heater when one is going away can be daunting. I could distinctively remember how worried I was that I did not do it right and I might come home with my house on fire or something.
It is funny now, but not amusing then when I was worrying incessantly while trying to enjoy my escapade. Having done it several times now, I can turn off the water heater when not in use in my sleep now. it is quite easy — the procedure is simple for such an important process.
I personally use a gas water heater, so this procedure will apply to turn this kind of heater off. Other types of heaters might have a different set of procedures altogether. Below are the steps to follow when turning off the gas water heater.
1.Shut Off the Valve
The gas control valve is the first to be shut off. It is either black or red but usually found in front of the tank near the bottom. Sometimes, it is hidden by insulation. If this is the case, then pull back the insulation to see this valve. Since the water heater is open, then the dial selector is pointed at the “On” position.
The first step to do is to turn the dial past the “Pilot” to the “Off” position. Not only does this shuts off the pilot, but it also prevents the burner from suddenly igniting and causing some scary issues. Once done, I remove the heat shield from under the valve and check inside to see if there is any flame from the pilot tube. There should not be.
If I only want to turn off the heater for a little while for servicing, turning the dial to the “Pilot” position is enough. However, if I am going away, this is not advisable. Doing this will make the pilot flame remain lit, even though the burner will not be cycling on.
2.Shut the Gas Line Valve
Leaving the house for an extended period means I need to turn off the gas valve in the gas supply line. This is the safest. This is what I also do whenever I hear hissing coming from the heater, which is quite scary. Imagine if I am not at home and something like that happens. The shut-off valve on the gas line is located near the heater. To turn this off, I make a 1/4 turn of the gas valve until the lever is perpendicular to the gas line. This shuts off the gas.
Some of my friends say that their gas valve is not located near the heater. if this is the case, then follow the gas line until this valve is located. I do not think it will be impossible to find since it is normally required to be in an accessible location. Still, in case it seems actually lost or non-existent, which can be the case when I am in a panic mode and literally cannot see anything, contacting the gas utility for recommendations is the best way to go.
3.Drain the Heater
One more step that needs to be done to turn off water heater when not in use is draining the heater. This is what I do whenever I leave the house during the wintertime, as the temperatures can be so cold to freeze the water in the tank.
Draining the heater can be a precautionary procedure. Before doing this, I usually wait for 12 hours after turning off the gas valve so that the water in the tank can cool down first. The last thing I need before leaving for a lengthy period is getting scalded for no reason. To drain the tank, I follow the steps below:
- Put a bucket under the open end of the pressure relief valve’s discharge pipe before opening the pressure relief valve. By opening the pressure relief valve, I release whatever pressure or steam that is located on the tank.
- Release the lever as slowly and as gently as possible.
- Connect a hose to the drain valve, which is found at the tank’s bottom.
- Bring the hose to a place where you drain the water without issues or risks. naturally, running the hose to a place where there is going to be foot traffic or indoors is not a good idea. The best location is at a lower elevation. I often drain the water into my small garden so that the water does not go to waste.
- Next, I close the cold-water valve to the heater. At the same time, I open at least one hot-water facets around the house. I then open the drain valve and patiently wait for all the money to be drained. This can take patience.
- Once all the water run out, I close the drain valve. The last thing I do is close all the faucets.
- There are cases when the water just won’t drain, which I found out was because there were some mineral deposits that are clogging the drain opening. When these circumstances arise, I remove the hose and clean the deposits using a length of wire. Once the blockage is gone, I shut off the valve and attach the hose back the moment the water starts running.
Should I Turn Off Water Heater When Not In Use? Absolutely!
Some people say that there is no need to turn off the water heater when going off to vacations. However, I do not see the logic of keeping the water heater switched on, heating water that no one is going to use at all. This is just so wasteful, both electricity and gas being used when no one is at home.
If you turn off water heater when not in use while away for a few weeks, this can eliminate undue running costs and remove risks of water damage because the tank somehow ruptured while no one is around to address the problem.
I think it does not even matter where the water heater is located. Back in my parents’ home, the water heater is located inside the house. One time, while we all went away, the water heater leaked and ruptured, causing a massive amount of damage.
This is why my mom got very paranoid about turning off the water heater not in use in the first place. In my friend’s house, the water heater is outdoors. My friend went away for a while and the outdoor water heater started to leak, causing damage due to flooding. Either way, why take the risk if you can just turn off water heater when not in use in the first place?
Note that if the water heater has been installed through flexible braided hoses, the chances of it rupturing under pressure is higher, since they are made of rubber. This is another reason why I think turning off the water heater is highly recommended.
The steps to do so as detailed here are easy to carry out, while the risks associated with leaving the water heater not in use, turned on are not easy to bear.
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