Open Roads Forum

Print  |  Close

Topic: How to leave hot water heater while gone

Posted By: golfknut on 10/17/13 05:35pm

First-time snowbirder mulling over how to leave our home hot water while gone on a 3-month long trip south this winter.

We have city water and it will be shut off at the street.

Furnace will be left on with thermostat set at 50 degrees.

It is a gas hot water heater and is approximately 11 years old.

I don't want to drain the hot water heater.

The two options I am considering are:
1: Turn the temperature down to "vacation".
2: Turn the water heater off completely.

How warm does the heater keep the water at the "vacation" setting?
Is it like only having the pilot light on?

How much energy is being used at the "vacation" setting?...what is the approximate cost?

Is there any danger or can any damage be done by turning it off but leaving it full of water?

My one concern is that if it is left on and a leak develops in the tank, it will call for water but will get none because the water will be shut off. The tank would then completely drain because of the leak and then I would have a hot heater in the "on" setting (albeit at a low setting) with no water in the tank. Possible fire danger?

Any insight would be appreciated.

2018 Newmar Canyon Star 3513

Posted By: PackerBacker on 10/17/13 05:50pm

Mine is electric not gas but I shut the power for it off at the breaker; the water is also off at the city main. I leave the tank full and should it leak, there is a sewer drain just beside it.

2014 Enterra 314RES (Cruiser RV) TT, Equal-i-zer 12K, Honda 2000 Genny
2022 Ford F-150 Sport 4X4

Posted By: LQuig on 10/17/13 05:59pm

Shut it off,, no need to have pilot on,,retired HVAC guy,, I do.

Posted By: You can't take the Fisherman out of this Camper on 10/17/13 06:07pm

Just replaced my gas water heater at 20 years of age. [emoticon] I turn my water service valve and my water heater off.. last I heard a pilot light cost about $5.00 per month to operate. I leave the water in it. Been doing that for years with no problem... until a couple of months ago when I heard that tell-tale hiss as I went down into the basement [emoticon] Fortunately I have a floor drain 3 feet away so not a big deal.... no flooding!!

1960's: Tents.. 1970's: Soft top & Hard top P/U.. 1980's: 17' RV.. 1990's: 24' RV.. 2000's: 2002 Cougar 276EFS; 2005 Laredo 29GS; 2002 GMC 2500HD Ext Cab 4x4; 2015: 2006 Class 'B' Chateau Citation; "(Nfld/Labrador-Yukon/NWT/Alaska-Gaspe', Que./Florida!!)

Posted By: darsben on 10/17/13 06:18pm

Is someone going to check your home to make sure the furnace does not go out?

Traveling with my best friend my wife!

Posted By: raygreg on 10/17/13 06:20pm

if you shut off the gas to the water tank, won't it freeze? or is it a heated space. Mine is in the garage, I just set it on low. I doubt that the gas it uses will bankrupt me.

Posted By: darlingtontrio on 10/17/13 06:25pm

We have gas and I changed it to vacation mode. My gas bill barely breaks $15 a month while we are home. My water heater is all we have that is gas that we use. We do have a gas heater, but never use it.

2013 Ford F150 STX
2001 Jayco Kiwi Hybrid 23B

Posted By: Tom N on 10/17/13 06:29pm

My furnace installers told me to leave it on pilot ONLY. This will keep any moisture out.

Sarver, PA/Crystal River, FL/Shelocta, PA · W3TLN · FMCA 335149 · Mystic Knights of the Sea
2005 Suncruiser 38R · W24 chassis, no chassis mods needed · 2013 Honda Accord EX-L · 2008 Honda Odyssey EX-L

Posted By: golfknut on 10/17/13 06:44pm

Tom N:
Is your comment referring to your furnace or your hot water heater?

Posted By: rvten on 10/17/13 07:31pm

Vacation mode??
My control valve is Off, Pilot, On.

Tom & Bonnie
Crossville, TN.
Aspect 29H 2008 Type C
Ford Flex SEL 2010
There is NO B+

Posted By: golfknut on 10/17/13 07:55pm

The "vacation" setting is on the temperature control......."Hot"....."Warm"......"Vacation".

Posted By: golfknut on 10/17/13 08:07pm

darsben wrote:

Is someone going to check your home to make sure the furnace does not go out?

I hope to have someone come in once every couple of weeks but that won't be often enough to necessarily catch a furnace outage before it caused damage.
I plan to install a wifi enabled thermostat that will email me if the temperature in the house drops below a certain set point.

raygreg wrote:

if you shut off the gas to the water tank, won't it freeze?

The hot water heater is in a heated basement.

* This post was edited 10/18/13 07:35am by golfknut *

Posted By: You can't take the Fisherman out of this Camper on 10/17/13 08:22pm

My new HWT does not have a pilot light. It is Direct Spark Ignition. I have a freeze alarm (about $50.00) connected to my telephone line. It will call my son who lives close by if the temperature drops below 45*F. This one

* This post was edited 10/17/13 08:33pm by You can't take the Fisherman out of this Camper *

Posted By: John&Joey on 10/17/13 08:24pm

This won't answer your question, if anything it will make it more complicated.

Pilots are left on now because they tend to corrode otherwise. Our gas log fireplace does this every three to four years. I need to have the gas guy come out and clean it. He tells me to keep it lite all winter, I did that once and it cost me $200 in propane. He cleans it for $75 every 3 years. [emoticon]

Our hot water heater went for 20 years and was still working when I replaced it this summer. I believe the reason why is because it gets drained every year and all the crud in the bottom of the tank is flushed out.

So no help here, but if it was me, I would shut it off and drain it.

Posted By: powderman426 on 10/17/13 09:16pm

When I go on an extended vacation, I turn off everything including the heat. I drain the water tank, empty the toilets,blow out the water lines with air and put some rv anti-freeze in the toilet bowl and drains. Of course if you have plastered walls this might not be a good idea but for dry wall it is fine. Then I never have to worry whether the furnace has quit or whatever.

Ron & Charlotte
WD8CBT since 1976
32' Gulfstream Ameri-Camp & 05 Ram QC LB

I started with nothing and I still have most of it left

I never fail, I just succeed in finding out what doesn't work

Posted By: carjockie on 10/17/13 09:32pm

Leave the pilot light on, shut off water to the entire house. A leak in the water tank or a busted hose on the washer can cause more damage then you can think of.

Posted By: B.O. Plenty on 10/18/13 08:57am

I shut the water off, open the faucets and drain what wants to come out. Shut the gas off to the water heater. No worries about water leaks or water heater problems.


Former Ram/Cummins owner
2015 Silverado 3500 D/A DRW
Yup I'm a fanboy!
2016 Cedar Creek 36CKTS

Posted By: Tom N on 10/18/13 10:39am

golfknut wrote:

Tom N:
Is your comment referring to your furnace or your hot water heater?

The water heater.

I always leave my furnace on with the thermostat set to 55.

Posted By: Ken O on 10/19/13 06:30am

You said you don't want to drain it, but thats the best way not to have any surprises.

Just hook a garden hose to the drain, and run it to a drain or outside. If you open one faucet at a time, it will siphon the water out of the pipe, when its clear, you will here some gurgling in the tank. Then close that Faust and go to the next.

I also pump RV anti freeze through my lines, then shut off the heat, and go. Nothing to worry about, and not paying to heat the place. When pumping I let each run a little to fill the goose necks. I also throw a handful of rock salt in each drain.

Probably more info than you wanted. But after over eight years of leaving the heat on, and coming home to broken pipes each time from power loss, I cant help but warn you.

Silverado 250HD '07 Duramax
2017 Jayflight 21QB

Posted By: RoadLife on 10/20/13 08:53am

I love my tankless water heater. Just turn off the water to the house and unplug it. Why not just bite the bullet and drain yours. They need to be flushed yearly, so this is your chance. It will extend the life of your water heater too. Then just turn it off and unplug it.


RV Part Timers Blog

2003 40' Allegro BUS - 2 slides
2013 Ford F150 XLT 4X4 OffRoad 2014 XC60 Volvo
Shasta - Australian Shepherd; Boomer - Brittany;
Pancho - border terrier

Print  |  Close