Going on vacation should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment, free from worries about what’s happening back at home. One crucial aspect often overlooked by homeowners in their pre-vacation planning is plumbing. Returning to a house with plumbing issues can be a distressing end to a relaxing trip. This comprehensive checklist ensures your plumbing is well-prepared for your absence, giving you peace of mind while you’re away.
1. Check for Leaks
Before you leave, thoroughly inspect your home for any leaks. Check under sinks, around toilets, and near appliances like your washing machine, water heater and dishwasher. Even a tiny drip can become a significant problem if left unattended for an extended period. If you find any leaks, repair them or have a professional do it before you leave.
2. Turn Off the Main Water Supply
One of the most effective ways to prevent plumbing disasters is by turning off the main water supply. This simple action can prevent leaks or burst pipes from causing extensive damage to your home while you’re away. If you’re unsure where your main shut-off valve is located, now is the time to find it.
3. Drain Your Pipes
After shutting off the main water supply, open all faucets to drain the remaining water from your pipes. This step is especially crucial during winter to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Don’t forget to flush toilets to drain water from the tanks.
4. Adjust Your Water Heater
To save energy and reduce costs, turn down your water heater or set it to “vacation” mode if it has one. This mode maintains the heater’s pilot light without heating the water to its usual temperature, saving you money on your energy bill. If you have an electric water heater and you’ve turned off the main water supply valve to the house, turn off the electric water heater completely.. If the water level inside an electric water heater drops below the heating elements inside the tank, they can overheat and burn themselves out.
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5. Clear Gutters and Downspouts
Ensure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris. This is important for preventing water buildup and potential damage during heavy rains. Proper drainage is vital for protecting your home’s foundation and preventing leaks.
6. Inspect Sump Pump
If you have a sump pump, test it before leaving to ensure it’s in working order. Pour water into the sump pit to see if it activates properly. A functioning sump pump is crucial in preventing basement flooding, especially during rainy seasons or in areas with high water tables.
7. Secure Outdoor Plumbing
If you have outdoor plumbing, such as garden hoses or sprinkler systems, ensure they are disconnected and drained if you’re taking a winter vacation. This step is essential to prevent water from freezing in hoses or pipes, which can lead to cracks and leaks. These steps aren’t necessary for a summer vacation.
8. Ask Someone to Check Your Home
If possible, ask a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member to periodically check your home while you’re away. Have them check on your water heater, furnace, and sump pump. A quick walk through the house is all that is necessary to make sure nothing is leaking or malfunctioning. Provide them with your contact information and instructions on what to do in case of a plumbing emergency.
9. Maintain a Warm Temperature
In colder climates, it’s crucial to maintain a warm temperature inside your home to prevent pipes from freezing. Set your thermostat to a temperature that’s warm enough to keep the interior above freezing, typically around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
10. Prepare for the Unexpected
Leave a note with emergency contacts, including a reliable plumber and instructions on where to find the main water shut-off valve. This preparation is invaluable in case an unexpected plumbing issue arises while you’re away.
11. Secure Drains and Toilets
For longer vacations, consider pouring a half cup of chlorine bleach into your drains and toilets. This will help prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause odors. Close the toilet lids to reduce the chances of evaporation.
12. Check Appliances
Ensure that all appliances that use water, like your dishwasher and washing machine, are off and not scheduled to run while you’re away. An unexpected cycle could lead to leaks or water damage.
13. Outdoor Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs
If you have an outdoor pool or hot tub, ensure they are properly covered, and their maintenance systems (like pumps and heaters) are set appropriately. Consult with a pool maintenance expert if you’re unsure.
14. Evaluate Your Home Insurance Policy
Review your home insurance policy to understand what it covers in terms of water damage. Knowing your policy details can provide additional peace of mind while you’re on vacation.
Preparing your home’s plumbing for your vacation is crucial to safeguarding your property. Following this checklist lets you relax and enjoy your time away, knowing your house is protected against potential plumbing disasters. Remember, the key to a worry-free vacation is in preparation. So, take the time to go through these steps for a truly relaxing and undisturbed getaway.