Claims Corner: Hot Water Heater

hot water heater As Claims Manager, Michael McMahon witnesses many damaged properties. Over the years, multiple shore towns report claims in excess of $250,000 from water pipes that run through unconditioned spaces like outside walls and attics. Here’s one example:

A pipe from the hot water heater on the top floor of a 3.5 story single family home froze and burst. The water ran for a week before it was noticed by someone driving by. The water ran throughout each level of the property. The home ended up with losses totaling around $300,000. After months of construction, the homeowners were finally back in,  just in time for 4th of July.  


Many people ask us these two questions. Here’s how we answer them:

Should I Turn Off My Water Heater When It’s Not in Use?

Instead of turning off your water heater, do this…

If you’re going on vacation (shorter than 12 days), turn your water heater thermostat down or to “vacation” mode. By turning the thermostat down or to “vacation” (an option on some newer models), you can lower the amount of electricity/gas that your model will consume while you’re gone. Most newer water heater models have this vacation option, usually labeled as “VAC” on the thermostat.

Typically, the “VAC” mode will reduce the water temperature to 50° F so that your water heater doesn’t work as hard as it does in normal operation (when it’s constantly keeping water heated to 120-130°F). But this mode also keeps the water relatively warm so that your unit doesn’t overwork itself when you turn the unit back on.

You can also lower the output temperature on your water heater thermostat to anywhere from 50–70° if you don’t see a “VAC” option. This will achieve the same results as the vacation mode.

Should I Turn Off the Water Heater if Water is Off?

There isn’t one simple answer to this. The true answer is, it depends on some scenarios, such as if your water tank is empty vs full and electric vs gas.

Some people will turn off the electric water heater and turn off the water to the house, flush the toilets, and flip all the breakers (except the one to the fridge) when leaving for 2-3 months.

However, other people will turn down the gas water heater to vacation mode and leave the pilot burner running and leave the water turned on. Then have someone check on the house regularly for issues. The water heater and the house heater together keep the garage warm and the house pipes warm so no freezing occurs.

In short, we recommend having a professional plumber winterize your house to prevent any unforeseen damage.

Loss Prevention Tips-

  • Hire a property watch company or have friend or neighbor regularly check on your property.
  • Install smart thermometers to adjust temperatures remotely in times of high winds and low temps.
  • Install cameras to monitor interior of property remotely.
  • Install an automatic water shut off like Flologic or other shut off sensor to notify you of an issue.