Going on vacation is the perfect time to relax and reboot so that you can return ready to face the challenges of everyday life. When coming home from a vacation, the last thing you want to encounter is a plumbing disaster. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your home and help prevent plumbing emergencies during your absence. A look at the top tips and precautions to prep your plumbing can give you peace of mind before embarking on your next vacation adventure.

1. Turn Off the Main Water Supply

Before going on vacation, locate the main water shut-off valve in your home and set it to “off” mode. The main water supply valve is often located in the basement or near your home’s water meter. You can also ask a plumber for assistance. Completing this step helps prevent water from flowing into your plumbing system and may lower the risk of leaks or pipe bursts when you are away from home. In the unfortunate event that a drain springs an unexpected leakage or a washer hose bursts, turning off the main supply means that you will not have water gushing for days.

If you must leave the main supply valve running, then you should disconnect connections to risky appliances or fixtures. For example, some families need to leave the supply valve on to enable outdoor sprinklers to water the lawn on the hottest days of the year. However, you can still turn off valves that supply individual toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, or sinks. This can lower the risk of leaks in the home.

2. Drain the Water From Your Pipes and Lines

After cutting off the main water supply, it is important to drain any excess water from your pipes and lines. This prevents ice from forming during hard freezes. It also eliminates stagnant water from causing damage or becoming a breeding ground for bacteria that emit bad odors. To drain the pipes, open all faucets and flush and drain water from your toilet tanks. Follow the same process for outdoor spigots and hoses. If you have any concerns, reach out to a plumber for help draining home lines.

3. Insulate Exposed Pipes

It is essential to insulate exposed pipes to decrease the risk of freezing overnight or during harsh weather. Freezing temperatures can weaken pipes, causing them to burst or shatter once you begin to use them again. Supplies used for insulation include pipe sleeves or heat tape. If you are unsure of which supplies are most effective for your household, reach out to a professional about pipe insulation.

4. Adjust the Water Heater

Since you will not use your water heater when you are away from home, there is no point in letting it drive up your heating bill. If possible, adjust your water heater to the “vacation mode” setting to conserve energy and save on heating expenses.

Some water heater models call this setting the “pilot” mode. You can also turn off the incoming water supply valve to lower the risk of plumbing problems while you are gone. If your appliance has not been inspected for a while and you notice potential issues like leaks, a plumber can drain the water heater and troubleshoot problems. This gives you the chance to replace any broken components or prevent corrosion if there are already cracks and damage.

5. Check for Leaks

Check for any indications of leakage before you go on a trip. The most overlooked areas that may have leaks include the areas beneath sinks as well as toilet bases. You should also check faucets inside and out for cracks that can escalate into persistent leaks. Fixing leaks can help prevent wasted water as well as household damage or mold growth that arises from too much moisture. You can also inquire about a smart leak detector that automatically cuts off the water supply to prevent additional plumbing damage.

6. Check Drains and Garbage Disposals

Check all drains to ensure that they are free of blockage or debris that can harbor bacteria while you are away. Similarly, remember to check garbage disposal to ensure that there are no food particles that can decompose. This step can help prevent foul odors from accumulating in the home.

7. Clear Your Gutters and Downspouts

Before you leave for a trip, be sure to clear all gutters and downspouts to reduce the risk of clogs or blockage. Remove all leaves, twigs, broken shingles, or other obstructions that can hinder water drainage and damage your home. Without functional gutters, any rainstorm can create problems that necessitate costly repairs.

8 Test Your Sump Pump

Check your sump pump prior to leaving for vacation. If it rains while you are away, the sump pump is vital for expelling excess water and preventing flooding on the lowest levels of your home. This is equally true in any region with high water tables. If you have never had a professional inspection or notice problems beyond your understanding, reach out to a plumber to troubleshoot the device and remove any obstructions that can block the sump pump from functioning properly.

9. Program Your Thermostat

Before setting off on vacation, it is a common practice to lower the thermostat temperature in order to save money. While it is usually okay to reduce the thermostat temperature by at least 8 degrees, experts recommend keeping the thermostat high enough to prevent your home interior from freezing, and this is typically around 55 degrees.

Smart thermostats may also have a “vacation mode” that can monitor home occupancy and keep temperatures from dropping too low or rising too high. According to the Department of Energy, you can also save money by installing a programmable thermostat that adjusts temperatures while you are away and then automatically restores comfort levels when you return home.

10. Prep Your Swimming Pool or Hot Tub

Homeowners with swimming pools or hot tubs should make sure to properly cover these structures and disconnect the water supply to prevent plumbing disasters. In addition, you should also switch maintenance systems like pumps or heaters to “off” mode. Ask a plumbing expert for assistance if you need help doing this correctly.

11. Inform Your Trusted Neighbor or Friend

Before any travels, inform a trusted neighbor or friend of your plans and leave them your important contact information. Ask the friend to check on your home periodically and provide updates with any plumbing concerns. As an extra precaution, save the number of a trustworthy plumbing company in your phone contacts. If your friend calls to report the worst-case plumbing scenario, you can call the plumber for help or emergency repairs. This can give you peace of mind against any unexpected or unforeseen home issues.

12. Stay Current on Plumbing Inspections and Maintenance

It is important to remain up to date with annual plumbing inspections and any seasonal plumbing maintenance. These expert interventions help pinpoint or identify problems that you cannot see with a visual inspection alone. For example, a plumber may use video camera inspections and advanced snaking tools to remove clogs deep within your plumbing system.

Professionals also have the training and experience to tackle potential safety hazards such as problems with sewer lines or septic systems. The last thing you want is to return to a plumbing emergency simply because the family overlooked a few maintenance sessions. By remaining on schedule, you can keep your plumbing ready for use when you return home.

Contact Us Today

Prepping your plumbing can help shield your home from disaster while you are away for extended periods of time. If you need help taking these comprehensive measures to safeguard your home, it is always best to contact a professional. Southport Home Services offers plumbing services for homes located in Madison, WI and the surrounding areas.

We offer plumbing inspections, drain cleaning, and fixture repair or replacement. Our licensed plumbers also provide sump pump services as well as water heater evaluation and repair. Whether your problem is a leaky faucet or a malfunctioning toilet, we can fix the issue before you leave for any trip. Contact Southport Home Services today for all plumbing needs.

Meet the Author
Thomas Suchla
Thomas Suchla


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