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I suspect I have warm water slab leak (warm floor near gas water heater, audible rush noise when heater cold supply reopened after few min shut off). Is it safe to shut off cold supply to heater for several hours if control set to "pilot"?

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It would probably be wiser to set the control to "Off". "Pilot" is used to start gas running to the pilot jet so the pilot can be lit. Though you also have to push the button to get the gas to flow while unlit, the gas control is only that one step away from unlit gas flow. Who knows what object might accidentally get put against the water heater in just the required manner to push the button? "Off" will fully take all possible unlit gas flow out of the equation, making the situation safer.

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