Is It Safe to Turn Off Water to a Water Heater?

The inner working of water heaters is a complicated process that baffles most homeowners. In fact, unless there’s a problem, you may not give it much thought at all. However, have you ever thought about what would happen if you turned off the water supply to your water heater?

It is safe to turn off the water to a water heater with a tank as it will continue using the water stored in the tank. However, turning off the water to a tankless water heater is unsafe because it can cause excessive pressure and heat, possibly resulting in an explosion.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss when you can turn off the water to a water, and the benefits of doing so. I’ll also explain the risks of turning off the water. Finally, I’ll tell you how to turn off the water supply to your water heater.

When to Turn Off Water to a Water Heater

It’s not advisable to continuously turn off the water supply to your water heater as it can lead to problems. You should only turn off the water to your water heater in the following situations:

When Going on Vacation

Preparing your home before going on an extended vacation is crucial. Some of the essential preparations you may decide to make include:

  • Adjusting the heating and cooling systems.
  • Activating the automatic lights.
  • Turning off the water supply to your home’s appliances, including the water heater.

The reason for turning off your water heater is to prevent accidents in your absence. Water heaters have been known to cause fires when left unattended for an extended period. According to this source, the leading cause of fire in water heaters is the ignition of synthetic material due to prolonged contact with an active element.

It’s worth mentioning that although turning off the water supply to your water heater when going on a vacation may help save on energy bills, it may also be disruptive. You may find turning on the water supply after the vacation challenging.

You should, therefore, use the ‘VAC” mode to avoid running into issues when turning the system back on. This feature is common with the latest water heaters. Alternatively, you can lower the water temperature to 50°C (122°F).

When Moving Homes

Moving homes is stressful and often leaves you with many loose ends. In the excitement, you may even forget to turn off the water to your appliances. However, it’s crucial that you do so because water heaters are often overlooked in such situations.

Shutting down your water heater before moving is vital as it prevents any possible damage during transport. Water heaters are delicate and need to be handled with care.

When It Is Leaking

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a leaky faucet can waste more than 3,000 water gallons annually. Such an amount of water is enough to do laundry for more than six months.

Therefore, you must fix any leakage in your home as soon as possible to avoid such wastage. One of the places you’re likely to experience a leak is in the water heater. A leaking water heater may indicate a faulty heating element or valve.

If you can’t fix the leakage, the best option would be to turn off the water to your heater until you can get a professional to help you fix it.

You should begin by shutting down your water heater’s power and gas supply. You should also close the cold water inlet valve before opening the hot water outlet valve to allow all the water in the tank to drain.

Benefits of Turning Off Water to a Water Heater

There are several benefits of turning off water to your water heater. These benefits include:

Prevents Leaks and Floods

One of the main reasons for turning off water to your appliances is to prevent any leaks that may occur while you’re away. Water heaters are known to sometimes cause floods, and turning off the water supply can help prevent such disasters.

It’s also worth mentioning that most water heaters have a leak detection feature that automatically shuts off the system when a leak is detected. However, this feature may not be foolproof. Therefore, you should still turn off the water to your heater when away for an extended period.

Saves Energy

Another benefit of turning off the water to your water heater is that it helps save on energy bills. According to Energy Saver, water heaters are one of the most significant energy consumers in most households, accounting for 20 percent of energy use. Therefore, turning them off when they’re not in use can help reduce your energy consumption.

It’s also worth noting that turning off your water heater when away for extended periods can help prolong its lifespan. Water heaters have a lifespan of about eight to ten years. However, this may be reduced if the system is left on for long periods without use.

Prevents Home Water Damage

Water damage is a severe problem that destroys houses. In most cases, water damage results from leaks and floods, leading to:

  • Mold development
  • Damage to floors and walls
  • Mildew growth
  • Peeling paint
  • Buckling wood

It’s essential to turn off the water to your appliances to prevent such damage if you’re planning to go away for a long time as this can help prevent water damage.

Risks of Turning Off Water to Your Water Heater

Although rare, turning off the water supply to your water heater is associated with some risks. Some of these risks include:

No Hot Water

Imagine getting into your shower on a chilly evening after your vacation, only to be greeted with cold water. That would be a nightmare, right?

Well, that’s one of the risks of turning off water to your water heater as it means you won’t have any hot water when you get back. However, this risk can be mitigated by turning on the vacation mode feature on your water heater.

The vacation mode is a feature that lowers the water temperature in your heater to prevent any scalding accidents. It also helps save on energy bills.

Corroded Pipes

Another risk of turning off the water supply to your water heater is that it can corrode your pipes. When water sits in the pipes for an extended period, it leads to a buildup of minerals which can eventually corrode the pipes.

The best way to prevent this is by draining your water heater before you turn off the water supply. Draining helps remove any sediment that may have built up in the pipes, preventing them from rusting.

How to Turn Off Water to a Water Heater

You must be careful when turning off the water to your water heater, as using the wrong procedure can damage your heater or cause an electric shock. The CPSC has warned of a possible electric shock from water heaters if not used appropriately.

The below procedure will help you turn off the water to your water heater safely:

1. Turn Off the Energy Source to the Heater

This is the first step and ensures safety as you work on the water heater. You can turn off the power supply in the following two ways:

  • For a gas-powered heater: Locate the thermostat near the bottom of the water heater. The thermostat will have a knob which you should turn clockwise to cut-off the gas supply.
  • For an electric water heater: Inspect the circuit breaker panel for the heater’s electricity breaker. Switch the breaker off.

2. Turn the Water Off

All water heaters have a water supply shut-off valve. You should twist the handle’s valve clockwise until the water stops flowing into the water heater’s tank. The valve is usually located on the top part of the right side cold line. If you cannot find the valve, consult the user manual.

3. Drain the Water Heater

Draining the water in your heater tank is necessary if you won’t be using it for an extended period. This can prevent water damage or flooding. You can drain the water by attaching a pipe to the drain faucet, opening it, and waiting until it runs dry.

Final Thoughts

Turning off the water supply to your water heater is safe if the heater has a tank. However, you should not turn off the water for an extended period until the tank is fully drained, as this can lead to a build-up of pressure and excess heat, resulting in a possible explosion.

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