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Prepare Your Plumbing For Vacation

If you are heading off on vacation for more than just a few days, you should probably shut off your water before leaving your home. If it's warm outside, you don't need to do much else to your pipes. It it's winter however, you should drain your pipes to prevent them from freezing. If your pipes freeze they could burst, causing a major flood, and no one wants to come home from vacation to a watery house.

Usually, the safest option is to ask your utility provider to shut off the water to your home from the street. If you don't want to do this, shut off the main water supply to the house. Drain all of your pipes, beginning at the topmost floor of your home and working down.

1. Open all the faucets that you have in your house, including all the spigots, sink, and bathtub faucets that you have.
2. Go outside and take off any garden hoses that may be attached to your outdoor spigots. Turn on your sprinkler system (if you have one) and drain outdoor faucets.
3. You will have to drain your water heater as well. Turn off the power to your house, whether it be gas or electric. If you have a drain nearby, attach a hose to the water valve on your heater. Direct the hose to the drainage area and open the water heater valve. If you don't have a drainage area close by, just get a big bucket.
4. You should leave at least one valve open in your home to allow air to flow through and excess water to drain. This valve should be located in the lowest part of your house, preferably the basement. If you don't ahve a basement, open a valve on the first floor, preferably in the garage or utility room.

Cold Climates
Freezing of pipes is very common in climates that experience extreme cold. If you are going away, follow these steps to prevent freezing:

1. Clear out the traps underneath your sinks. You can do this by removing the trap fully, or by opening the cleanout valvew. See our section on Traps for more information.
2. Your bathtub, toilet, and basement drain have hidden traps that should be weatherproofed. Use windshield fluid that is rated for winter weather. Toilets require a gallon of fluid in the tank. Flush first, then dump the fluid in the tank, and flush again.
3. Bathtubs, floor drains, and other hidden traps require about one quart of windshield washer fluid. Poor the quart down the drain.
4. Clothes washers and dishwashers should be drained of water. Try to get as much water out as you can. Whatever you do, do not put windshield washer fluid into these appliances, as it will break them.

After your vacation, hopefully you will have been welcomed home to a dry house. Now you will want to restore water to your pipes. Turn off all faucets inside and outside. Call your utility and ask them to restore the water if you had it shut off in the street. If you turned off your own water, turn the main water supply back on again, slowly. You should hear a bunch of sputtering, so don't be too surprised. This is a sign that everything is getting back into the swing of things.

You won't be able to get any hot water for a while, since your heater was shut off during your vacation. Be sure to turn on the gas or electricity supply to your heater, or it might take even longer.