Finishing Your Basement

4 Tips To Avoid A Home Plumbing Disaster When Taking A Winter Vacation

When you decide to finally go on that winter getaway to an exotic, warm locale, the last thing you want to worry about is having to fly back home to tend to a plumbing emergency. When your home is being left behind in the cold weather, you need to take steps to protect your pipes from the cold when they are not in use. Follow these tips before you leave for vacation, so you can relax and soak in the fun and sun without worrying about coming home to a disaster. 

1. Leave The Heat On

When you just splurged on tickets to a faraway destination and all the items you needed to buy to prepare for your getaway, you may be tempted to shut the heat off at your home while away to save a few bucks on heating expenses. While you can turn your thermostat down while away, never shut it off completely. 

Leaving your thermostat set at about 50-degrees Fahrenheit will help keep your plumbing pipes from freezing, which can cause them crack or even burst. While you may be tempted to set it just above freezing, or at 35-degrees Fahrenheit or so, remember that the temperatures in different parts of your home vary from the exact temperature your thermostat is set at. Also, pipes in walls and behind cabinets will not receive as much heat as the interior of your home. 

2. Consider Insulating Pipes

Insulating your pipes has many advantages, but one large advantage is that it can prevent pipes from freezing during the winter. This can be done by you or a professional plumber. Insulation options include foil (insulation foil, not kitchen foil), fiberglass, and special foam-insulation tubing. Foil and fiberglass options are simply wrapped around your pipes and can be held in place with duct tape. 

Foam tubing can be faster to apply to long pipes, as it comes already formed and ready to slip over your pipes. You can combine different types of insulation, using foam tubing on long pipes and foil or fiberglass on shorter ones. 

3. Shut Off The Main Water Valve

This is one small step that can greatly minimize your chances of a flooding disaster while you are away from home. Your home's main water valve is typically near the water meter, although it can be located in a basement, if you have one. 

Shutting off this valve keeps all water from flowing into your home pipes. However, there will still be residual water left in pipes after this valve is turned off, so you still need to take precautions to prevent pipe-freezes. Shutting off the main valve will lead to less water damage if a pipe does burst, though. 

If your home is heated with a boiler system, then skip this step. Your boiler needs water to heat your home. Shutting off the water can also damage a running boiler. 

4. Turn Off Your Water Heater

When the heating element in a hot water heater runs without water present, it can burn out. While you may leave with the heater tank full of water, turning off the heater is another easy way to minimize damage if your water tank or pipes leading to or from it were to burst and drain the tank. You can turn off the heater itself, or you can simply flip the dedicated water-heater fuse-breaker, if you have one. 

Turning off the water heater also saves electricity while you are away, so turning it off is not only a good disaster-prevention technique, but it is just plain smart. 

Take the necessary steps to keep your plumbing safe while on vacation, and you can then relax and have fun on vacation without worrying about your pipes the entire time. If you still have anxiety about leaving your home pipes unattended during very cold weather, it can never hurt to have a friend or neighbor check your home periodically. An emergency plumber service can then be called to repair any damage before it worsens.