Many people who live in Southwest Florida, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, or Naples, are part-time residents. Each year hundreds of thousands leave the area for months at a time, leaving their home unoccupied and potentially vulnerable to all sorts of mishaps.
One of the most important steps you can take to protect your home when you leave is to turn the main water valve off to the home, nobody wants a second swimming pool in their living room! However, if you turn off your main water valve, just as important is knowing how to set your hot water heater before you leave. If you do not take the proper precautions this can lead to a fire or worse an explosion!
Therefore, coordinating with your Home Watch Company and educating yourself on how to set your hot water heater before leaving is essential.
Hot water heaters warm up water similarly to a pot of boiling water. Mechanisms in the hot water heater take cold water and bring it up to the desired temperature. Yet, unlike a pot of water, hot water heaters expedite the process by heating from both the bottom-up and top-down. The heater then circulates the hot water throughout the house.
These clever devices not only heat the water, but they use that water to cool the elements used to heat it.
Hot water heaters come in many styles from tankless to tank-based hot water heaters. Some are powered by electricity while others by natural gas. All of these options makes it clear that life was never meant to be easy!
Homeowners should turn off the main water valve to any home that is unoccupied for long periods of time (10 or more days) or risk having an aquarium! However, this can be problematic for homes with tank-based hot water heaters in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island, Florida where water evaporates quickly.
Once the water inside the tank evaporates with no opportunity for replenishment the burning element at the top of the hot water heater becomes exposed to air. If the hot water heater continues to be used while the main water valve is shut off, friction develops because air does not cool as efficiently as water. This is why it can cause a fire or worse an explosion as mentioned above.
Your Home Watch Company should understand the dangers of an active hot water heater in an unoccupied home. Therefore, during the first Home Watch visit of the season, they should perform a post-departure check of all the major vulnerabilities of the home, this includes making sure the Hot Water Heater is set properly!
Depending on the type of Hot Water Heater determines how to turn the Hot Water Heater off, or if it even needs to be off at all.
Tank-Based hot water heaters are the most common type of hot water heaters. This style of hot water heater works by holding the hot water till you need it. Cold water goes in through the bottom of the tank and is heated up as it flows through the system. When you turn the sink faucet on for hot water, the water will flow through the pipes leaving through the top of the hot water heater.
These residential tank-based hot water heaters can hold any where from 20-100 gallons of hot water, and in Florida, are typically located in the garage. While it may be clear that you have a tank-based hot water heater, it is important to note that there are different types. As stated earlier, they can be either electric or gas. Knowing which you have is important as they vary in what needs to be done to protect your home.
If your hot water heater is electric, simply turn it off at the circuit breaker. Your Home Watch company should be labeling your circuit breaker to make it easy for you to identify.
If your hot water heater is gas, simply turn the setting to vacation or pilot mode, DO NOT TURN IT OFF! Reigniting your tank-based gas hot water heater is dangerous, therefore remember to take proper precautions! Here is a guide to help you reignite your tank-based gas hot water heater incase you accidently do.
If you left for the season but forgot to change the setting of your tank-based hot water heater, don’t worry! That is what your Home Watch Professional is for! Reach out to them and they will gladly help you protect your home.
While tank-based hot water heaters can pose a significant risk, newer tankless hot water heaters present far fewer headaches. A tankless hot water heater works by having an internal heat exchanger. When hot water is needed, cold water passes through the tankless heater and is heated to the desired temperature before going directly to the sink or shower.
Although significantly more expensive, no additional steps need to be taken, and you get instant hot water to boot! If you have a tankless hot water heater, the setting does not need to be changed when you leave for the season.
However, most homes constructed before 2010 have tank-based hot water heaters.
Any time you turn off your main water valve for a long period of time, or the house is unoccupied, it is smart to turn off the recirculation pump too. Damage can occur to the pump if it runs dry for a long period of time.
Turning off your recirculating pump is also a smart way to conserve energy. Most recirculation pumps come with sensors or timers. Consider automatically turning off your pump at night.
The hot water heater is an essential part of every person’s home as it provides them with the warm water necessary to take hot showers, to clean dishes and to wash clothes. However, it can be dangerous if you leave your home for a long period of time without adjusting the setting of the hot water heater. Therefore, it is important before going away for the season to properly set your hot water heater.
There are different types of hot water heaters so by knowing the type of hot water heater installed in your house, you can learn the proper way to set it to protect your home.
Those with tankless hot water heaters can rest easy as there is nothing that needs to be done.
However, if you have a tank-based hot water heater, it is important that it is off. Gas tank-based hot water heaters should be put in vacation or pilot mode, while electric tank-based hot water heaters can be turned off at the circuit breaker. If you have trouble remembering, you can follow along with the decision tree below.
It is also important to remember, that if you turn off your water heater, you should also turn off your recirculation pump. This will conserve energy while also ensuring that damage does not occur to the pump.
Most Home Watch Companies give their clients a Seasonal Departure Checklist to help you before you leave. However, in case you forget your Home Watch Company will always have your back!
“Types of Water Heaters” Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Water Cleanup, https://www.rotorooter.com/blog/water-heaters/types-of-water-heaters/
“How Long Does it Take a Water Heater to Recover?” Red Cap Plumbing and Air, https://redcapplumbing.com/help-guides/troubleshooting/how-long-does-it-take-a-water-heater-to-recover#:~:text=Traditional%20tank%20water%20heaters%20are,elements%20to%20heat%20the%20water.
“What is a Hot Water Recirculating Pump?” TLC, https://www.tlcplumbing.com/blog/what-is-a-hot-water-recirculating-pump/
“Does Shutting Off Your Water Affect Your Water Heater?” Ambient Edge, https://www.ambientedge.com/faqs/does-shutting-off-your-water-affect-your-water-heater/
“How a Water Heater Works” Popular Mechanics, https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/a28690395/water-heaters/#:~:text=As%20its%20name%20implies%2C%20a%20tank-type%20heater%20has,adjustable%20thermostat%20regulates%20and%20maintains%20the%20water%20temperature.