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I'm finding I use almost no hot water at home (shower at gym, launder in cold; a bit for dishes) and am wondering if I can just turn the hot water tank off, or at least to just pilot, for up to say the next six months in order to reduce natural gas heating costs (which I should have been doing already for two months, but this only recently occurred to me). If I need some hot water for greasier dishes, I will microwave a large mug of water.

The facts:

  • The house is a rental. I don't want to harm any equipment.
  • Where I live (Northeast U.S.), temperatures can and do get well below freezing from Nov--April.
  • The tank is located in the basement, which is heated somewhat.
  • I may be gone for some weeks during the winter. (A friend can check in). During this time I want to turn the thermostat down as much as I can (50F? lower?), and was going to cut the main water coming into the house to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • The tank is gas heated, has a "vacation" setting, as well as a button to light the pilot. I can get the make and model if necessary.

The goal is to save as much as I can on natural gas while still being safe for myself and the house (if a bit unusual in my choice). Thoughts?

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    Something to ponder. Part of what is keeping the basement somewhat warm is the operation of the cold water heater. – Michael Karas Nov 6 '14 at 4:15
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    if you want to prevent freezing of the pipes you should also drain them – ratchet freak Nov 6 '14 at 8:39
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At least where I live, the supply charge for the first therm is roughly 20x the supply costs for the next therm. I could be wrong, but I don't think that this will save you much money.

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No harm in turning it off. It was off before it was ever shipped to you!

If there is a risk of the ambient temperature dropping below freezing, you might consider draining the tank and the rest of your pipes. If you've never drained the tank, you might as well use this as an excuse to do so. Periodically flushing the tank is part of standard maintenance and removes sediment that settles to the bottom of the tank.

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