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Winter Holiday : what to do with Heating and Hot Water

(11 Posts)
Sunny777 Thu 10-Nov-16 14:22:44

New homeowner so not very experienced and thus asking the question.
house has a Boiler(Non Combi) with cold water Tank in Loft and Hot Water tank in Airing cupboard.
Honeywell Thermostat and a rotary type controller to turn on/off heating and hot water.
Currently system runs for couple of hrs in morning and evening.Temp is 20 deg in thermostat.

If we are going for a holiday of 3 weeks in January, what should we do ?

1. Turn Cold water mains Off.
2. Leave Hot Water On.
3. Leave Heating On.

Leave Hot Water Off and Cold water mains off too.
Leave heating on but turn it down from thermostat(what temp ??)
Leave Loft hatch Open

We are worried about frozen pipes exploding and flooding our house, so please advise guys.


ShortLass Thu 10-Nov-16 14:47:57

I researched this recently for a similar scenario.

Leave your heating on at 10 degrees 24 hours. This stops pipes freezing up, house getting damp etc.

Turn off water at the stop cock, but leave one tap (usually the cold in the kitchen) open full, so if there is an issue, the water runs down the sink and doesn't flood your home.

PigletJohn Thu 10-Nov-16 14:57:55

as you have a tank and pipes in the loft, there is considerable risk of a freeze, burst and flood.

I presume your loft is well insulated. This means the loft will be at outdoor temperature (which can easily be -10 on a winters night).

There is more risk of freezing when you are away, because you will not be using taps and causing water to flow in the pipes, which can bring warmer water into them. Even if the pipes are well lagged (which they should be) it slows heat loss, but does not prevent it. It may take several uninterrupted days of frost to freeze a loft pipe. An unprotected pipe can burst in an hour.

There should be a gap in the loft insulation under the cold water tank, so that some heat can leak up to it, but the pipes will most likely be on top of the insulation. The tank is unlikely to freeze, but a pipe may, most often at a control valve or elbow that is exposed through the lagging.

You can't drain some of the pipes, such as radiator pipes under the floor.

leave the house heating on. This will prevent freezing inside the house, and some heat will escape into the loft.

Turn off the stopcock in your garden or under the pavement (water meters usually have a screw-down handle beside them.

Turn on both hot and cold kitchen taps and leave on. They will run dry. You can then turn on the bathroom taps. Very little water should come out.

This will drain water out of the pipes, reducing the risk of a burst. It will also drain most of the water out of the loft tank. This means that if one of the pipes supplied from the loft bursts, there will only be a cupful of trapped water in the pipe to leak out, rather than twenty gallons from the tank.

Set the thermostat to 12C, no less (your insurers may possibly specify a different temperature for an unoccupied house in winter, look at your policy).

Set the timer to 24hours continuous for both CH and HW. You might think this expensive, but remember that both the cylinder and the CH have thermostats.

So the heating will actually only come on if the internal temperature drops below 12C. In most parts of England, some of the time this may only happen during cold nights. On sunny winter days solar gain through the windows will keep the temperature somewhat up.

The cylinder will only be heated when it drops below temperature. As you are not using the hot taps this will probably cost you less than 10p a day, as a little heat leaks out. It will warm the pipes around it, and a little will leak up through the ceiling to the pipes above.

On you return you will turn on the main stopcock, and then (when they start to run) your kitchen and bathroom taps. Tie a label round the kitchen tap "stopcock turned off" and write where it is, in case somebody else comes into the house on your behalf.

The heating system (possibly) has its own small tank in the loft. This will be slightly heated by movement from the water feeding the radiators and cylinder, so no need to drain. It does not hold much water anyway.

If you are unlucky enough to get a burst pipe after draining the tanks and turning off the supply, there will less damage then if you dropped a bucket of water, and it is easily repaired.

Otherwise, it can cost thousands.

Sunny777 Thu 10-Nov-16 15:50:51

Thanks ShortLass and PigletJohn for such wonderfully informative posts.

To sum up :

1. Cold Main Off and Drain Cold water loft tank by running dry cold water taps.
2. Leave Heating ON constant and Thermostat on 12 deg or whatever mentioned in Home insurance policy.
3. Leave Hot Water ON constant and it will keep heating the water present in Hotwater tank and rest of the pipes (not too sure)

If i leave a hot water tap open too, wont it drain the hot water tank.
And if its drained, wont it try to refill from the cold water tank in loft(which is already empty).

Please confirm.

thanks a lot.

Sunny777 Thu 10-Nov-16 16:14:25

my home insurance policy says the following
loss or damage caused by escape of water while your home is not being lived in for more than five consecutive days unless throughout your absence, you have taken reasonable care to maintain sufficient heat in the house or have shut off the water supply at the mains

PigletJohn Thu 10-Nov-16 16:19:47

The hot taps are fed from the top of the cylinder, so you won't empty it.

When the cold tank is empty, water stops coming out of the hot taps.

The boiler will heat the cylinder once, then, while you are away, the cylinder will stay hot, with occasional top-up heating at negligible cost.

Sunny777 Thu 10-Nov-16 16:32:37

got it, thanks so much PigletJohn

TheElementsSong Thu 10-Nov-16 18:22:06

What about a house with a combo boiler and no tank? Should we still turn off the mains? (It's a pain because there appears to be no stopcock in the house, only the one in the pavement outside).

TheElementsSong Thu 10-Nov-16 18:22:29

PS - sorry for thread hijack, OP!

PigletJohn Thu 10-Nov-16 18:58:21

even with a combi, it is wise to turn off the supply, so that in the event of a burst, only the small amount of water in the pipes can leak out.

However with no pipes in the loft, a frozen pipe is less likely. The garden tap, or a pipe under the floorboards, will be unheated so may freeze.

TheElementsSong Thu 10-Nov-16 20:17:32

Thanks PigletJohn, outside tap has an isolating thingy so we will ensure that is shut off, also will try to access the mains. And will keep the heating on.

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