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In Texas and had burst pipes in Feb 2021 so I'm a little spooked ahead of this weather and just planning to shut off water at main and drain pipes to be safe.

Have read a few different things on what to do with the water heater in this situation. I have a tank gas heater in my attic.

If I drain all my pipes, am I fine leaving the gas on current setting? Or do I need to turn it to pilot/low temp? Or turn it off completely? Currently planning on having water shutoff and pipes drained for 36 to 48 hours.

Thanks

Edit: In Feb 2021 we lost power and thus lost heating and we had a pipe burst despite dripping all faucets in the house. It is very low probability that we lose power again so interior of house will be at 65-70F but if we just drip faucets and somehow have a burst pipe my wife will murder me so that's why I am asking. So just trying to be extra safe here even though I doubt we will lose heat.

Will the water heater completely drain if I just open faucets in the house or is the only way to completely drain it by attaching a hose and opening the valve on the bottom?

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    Drain the pipes but leave the water tank turned on because you don't want your entire tank freezing, right? If you turn off the gas or lose your gas supply for days/weeks like last time then drain the tank as well.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:46

4 Answers 4

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If you are draining your pipes to avoid freezing, then you will also want to drain the water heater as it will freeze and burst also, given enough time in freezing temps. 36-48 hours is certainly long enough for it to freeze.

Do not, however, leave it ON when draining or drained as that can cause damage.

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    You'll need to turn the pilot off too. If it's drained, even set at the lowest temp, you don't want the burners firing up on an empty tank. Shut it down completely.
    – jay613
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:11
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Agreed that you should turn off the water heater before draining. However, I think the easier/better approach is to find a faucet furthest from the water heater and turn it on a slow drip. Open all your cabinets containing pipes to allow heat to reach them. The constant flow of water should keep the pipes from freezing.

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  • This is not a good approach. It keeps some water running to some parts of the system. but some segments of pipe not. Even the segments that are heated this way, might not be heated enough, depending on how much water you allow to flow, how hot it is, and how cold the weather is. If there were no better way, this might be better than nothing but there is a better way, that is just as easy and costs less: drain everything. Worst case with this approach, your selected faucet keeps dripping but the DRAIN beneath it freezes .... then you flood your house.
    – jay613
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:15
  • @jay613 shouldn't the pipes inside the home should be fine, assuming the house is heated and insulated? Running a slow drip protects the water main from freezing, which is outdoors and subject to the cold. I live in Colorado, maybe homes are built different in the south and the risk is different
    – Nick
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:29
  • Although not stated explicitly in the question, my reading is that the house is not heated and that OP's concern is freezing of internal pipes, not the water main. Where freezing is a concern water mains are usually buried deep enough that they don't freeze. I grew up in Canada, I never heard of anybody's water mains freezing or of anybody taking steps to prevent it. We shut off our water at the meter when going on vacation in winter just in case the heating failed while we were away. Maybe Colorado is different but I doubt it. I suggest your "precaution" actually increases risk.
    – jay613
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:34
  • It is possible that a water service line could run through a crawl space or along an above ground outside wall before the meter shutoff. IT shouldn't be that way, but it's possible. In a location that has freezing temperatures, that should be rectified by the homeowner.
    – jay613
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:37
  • Yeah I think you're right, OP is concerned about pipes inside the home. "Where freezing is a concern water mains are usually buried deep enough that they don't freeze" also true, but I think that's part of OPs problem as well, Texas historically hasn't been concerned of freezing. Either way I don't know the answer, just relaying what we were advised to do here in Colorado ahead of tomorrow's subzero temps.
    – Nick
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:47
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There is no need to drain or even turn off the water heater. If you have the house main water supply valve turned off, and the cold supply valve next to the heater turned off, the water will just sit in the heater at the set temperature and will not go anywhere, even if all the rest of the house piping is drained and open.

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Yep, it will cycle and keep heating the tank. It doesn't know there isn't water in it. You may have a better unit that has a sensor but most don't.

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