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I recently purchased an off-the-grid summer home. Solar, water collection, and propane for hot water, fridge and freezer. Everything works incredibly well.

But we often leave for a few days at a time and I always turn the breaker for the water pump so that if something springs a leak it won't drain the cistern. I actually turn that breaker even if we go away for a few hours. But I just realized that if we leave for a day or two and the water heater sprung a leak and drained out what would happen? Do gas water heaters have an auto shut off if they detect no water in the tank or could this conceivably melt something and cause a fire? My hope is that it would just remain on pilot mode and nothing would happen but then I wasn't sure if it was safe to leave gas heater in pilot mode with an empty tank.

My main home uses an oil furnace and hot water is just moved into a tank so it's a new system to me.

Thanks for any help/advice.

  • You might consider a whole house leak detection system. – Daniel Griscom May 25 '16 at 11:55
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    If it's available, RTFM for info on thermostats in your unit; one would hope that all water heaters of all types have an overtemp sensor and shutdown circuit. – Carl Witthoft May 25 '16 at 13:59
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    Not all breakers are rated to be used as switches. If it isn't, you're greatly shortening its life but switching it on and off a lot. – DoxyLover May 25 '16 at 16:47
  • You'd have to look at your water heater but I would expect there to be a thermostat, either powered by a thermocouple or AC power. If you interrupt that thermostat line, the burner will never run. I would put it on a switch, ideally a 12 hour rundown timer switch so you can set and forget. – Harper May 26 '16 at 3:50
  • This is just marine water pump that pressurizes garden hoses from the cistern. Pretty sure it's fine dealing with the breaker issue. Also the hot water tank (propane) isn't connected to any electrical circuit at all. And it's not in a house, it's an outbuilding that has a shower/sink/toilet. – earthtrip May 26 '16 at 13:11

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