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I'm renting a house in Washington DC but the house is going to be empty all of December since I am going home for Christmas. I'm very concerned about the pipes bursting. I would just leave the house at 55 degrees, but the thermostat doesn't work. I can turn on the heat, but it won't go to any specific temperature, it just keeps getting hotter and hotter. So obviously I don't want to be paying a ridiculous gas bill when no one is going to be here anyway.

So I think my best option is to just shut off the water to the house. I recently had a new water heater installed and I had the repairman show me where the main water valve is. The only thing I'm worried about now is whether or not I need to turn off the water heater? I'd rather not, since I'm not sure I would be able to get pilot light re-lit. I'm just not super handy. I was planning on setting it to lowest heat setting. Will this cause any problems if the water is shut off for a whole month? No one is going to be using the water. It is a natural gas water heater if that's important.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

  • What is the make and model of the water heater? – RedGrittyBrick Nov 28 '14 at 11:14
  • It is a Bradford White water heater. The Model number is MI403S6FBN – Jasmine B Nov 29 '14 at 14:52
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    I think you're missing something in your plan -- turning off the water will prevent a burst pipe from flooding the house, but it won't prevent water already in the pipes from freezing and bursting the pipes. When you turn the water back on you may find that a pipe in the wall had frozen and is leaking. To prevent this, you'd have to winterize the plumbing by blowing out the water and/or using antifreeze. Probably better to just fix the thermostat unless you have someone that can visit the house and turn on the heat if an unexpected cold front causes freezing temperatures. – Johnny Nov 29 '14 at 17:21
  • Yeah, after calling my Mom she said the same. I bought a new thermostat, but I haven't tried putting it on yet because I'm afraid I'm going to mess it up and then have no heat at all. It's the same brand though, Honeywell, just non programmable. So I might just try to take off the front part and put the new thermostat lid on without touching the wiring. Thanks! – Jasmine B Nov 30 '14 at 15:12
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I don't think that you need to turn off the gas to the hot water heater. I believe that it is likely acceptable to leave the appliance on the 'pilot' setting.

I would obtain the manual for this device (try searching online, you will likely find it that way) or call the support number for the manufacturer.

However, what is acceptable practice is not necessarily best practice.

Personally, I would be hesitant to leave a gas appliance unattended for more than a day or two without physically disconnecting the gas (usually a 1/4 turn valve on the feed line). However, I feel comfortable lighting the pilot light myself.

Perhaps your should check with the local utility that provides your gas and see if they offer a service to visit your home and relight the pilot light upon your return? Mine does and it is free. My wife knows to contact them in the event I am unavailable because she is not comfortable at all in doing this herself.

  • Thank you! Washington gas won't relight the pilot, but for the peace of mind I think I am going to turn it off and hire a contractor to turn it back on if necessary. – Jasmine B Nov 29 '14 at 15:00
  • I've never heard that gas appliances shouldn't be left unattended for more than a day or two...I've left my house unattended (gas heat + hot water) for weeks without a second thought. – Johnny Nov 29 '14 at 17:24
  • @Johnny I don't like leaving the appliances with gas on pilot light for longer than a couple of days for one reason. If there was an interruption of service for some reason (not too common I admit) and the pilot light went off during that time; then the entire time you are gone there will be accumulation of gas in the house. I err on the side of caution for this reason. Is it necessary? Probably not. Again, I said personally. For a month though I almost say definitely. – Gabriel Nov 29 '14 at 21:25
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    Any relatively modern pilot lit appliance should have a themocouple shutoff for the pilot light. If I had a gas appliance old enough that it doesn't have a thermocouple shutoff (or better, electronic ignition without a pilot light at all), I'd replace the appliance rather than relying on my sense of smell to know if the pilot light went out but it's still leaking gas into my home. – Johnny Nov 29 '14 at 21:50
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You can download the manual from http://www.bradfordwhite.com/documentation.

It explains how to turn off and restart.

If in doubt, I'd contact the maker and ask for advice.

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