Should You Put Your Water Heater In Vacation Mode?

Consider putting your water heater in vacation mode if you plan on leaving your house alone for a few days or longer. Whether you’re going on a short business trip or a longer vacation, setting the vacation mode has the potential to:

  1. Save on energy costs
  2. Save energy resources (fuel)
  3. Prevent freezing and busted pipes
  4. Prolong the life of your water heater

What is Water Heater Vacation Mode?

The vacation mode setting allows you to quickly and easily lower the temperature of the water in your water heater. This can be particularly helpful if you leave home for a longer period of time during the winter when more problems can occur.

The pilot light stays on, but it no longer heats the water to full temperature.

Let’s say you want to leave for a week over the winter months. If you don’t use your vacation mode, your water heater will continue using the same amount of energy resources as before to heat your water. Of course, this increases your heating bill unnecessarily, which isn’t so great for your wallet or the environment.

water heater vacation setting
You’ll find this temperature dial located on your water heater. Before leaving for vacation, simply turn the dial to “vacation.” When you return, turn it back to your desired temperature.

Pros & Cons of Your Water Heater in Vacation Mode

There’s no doubt that putting your water in vacation mode can help. However, there are downsides you need to consider. Let’s consider each.


  • The water heater vacation mode setting is convenient to use
  • It’s an environmentally friendly decision that lowers fuel/energy waste
  • Although minimal (depending on how long you’re gone), you won’t be paying for keeping water in your tank at full temperature when no one is home to use it
  • It can add to the longevity of your water heater by not having work as hard to heat water to a temperature that’s not needed.


  • When in vacation mode, the water inside your hot water heater cools down to a tepid temperature. This can create an environment in which bacteria grows. When you return, you might experience an unusual odor in your water until the bacteria is killed by returning the heat to its normal temperature or by using bleach.
  • If you live in an multi-unit housing complex where the water source is shared, you might not have access to a water heater. In this case, you’ll want to simply turn off the water shut-off valves that are located near every fixture (under your toilet, kitchen faucet, etc.).

A Sure-Fire Alternative to Vacation Mode

Let’s say the cons outweigh the pros. Here’s a great alternative: simply shut off the water supply coming into your home. This will eliminate these two potential problems:

  1. Water pressure build up (especially from freezing water). The freezing water continues expanding until the pipe eventually bursts open.
  2. Unknown water leaks that accumulate and cause damage while you’re away. While a leak when you are at home may go undetected for a day or two, if nobody is home at all it can cause serious damage since nobody is there to stop it. The time between when a leak occurs and when it’s discovered directly impacts the severity (and cost) of water damage.

Most often, the main water line shutoff valve will be located inside your home. It will probably be on a wall that’s closest to the street because this is where your water supply comes in.

Check a lower wall first, such as in your basement, near a water heater or in a laundry room. It might also be close to your whole-house water softener if you have one. In areas where it’s always warm, the main water shutoff valve will be near an outside wall.

water heater in vacation mode - find water shutoff valve
This is a typical main shut off valve for a water supply line. Here’s a good article with more details on where you can find your main line water shutoff valve.

What Else Can You Do?

Although the idea of taking a vacation is to leave your everyday life behind for a while, if you fail to take certain actions ahead of time, you could end up being hit with a nasty surprise. These are some of the precautions you can take, other than turning off a mainline (the main sewer line) or putting your water heater in vacation mode:

  • During cold-temperature seasons, adjust your thermostat to 65 degrees. Keep in mind that the spaces where pipes exist are even colder than your thermostat setting. If you go any lower than 65 degrees, you risk pipes freezing and bursting.
  • Check for any leaks prior to departure.
  • Ask a neighbor you trust or a relative to check on your home every few days (they can also grab your mail and put it inside).
  • Consider installing a water shut-off device, if you don’t already have one. If you do have one, replace all batteries and set the device to “away mode” before leaving. Contact your plumber to learn more about this option.
  • Make sure your sump pump is working before you leave town by dumping a bucket of water into the sump pit. If the pump doesn’t kick on, call a plumber. Here’s an article how to tell if your sump pump is working.
prevent freezing pipes - thermostat
Never leave your home for a longer period of time with the thermostat set below 65 degrees. Remember, the inside of your outer walls are colder than inside the room. That means pipes in those areas can freeze easier without a proper temperature setting.

Final Thoughts

Putting your water heater in vacation mode is an easy but often unknown step in protecting your home. Even a small leak can cause tremendous water damage if left unattended for several days. The time between when a leak occurs and when it’s discovered will directly impact the severity and cost of any resulting water damage.

But it’s not a must. Carefully consider the pros and cons above and decide for yourself if you’d rather just shut off the main water line supply valve. It might be a better solution for your situation…just remember to turn on the water when you get home.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber for More Help

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you’d like help with your water heater. We will immediately handle any emergency plumbingdrain, and water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines.

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