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3 Reasons You Shouldn't Turn Off Your Heating System During a Winter Vacation

December 04, 2018

how long should my ac run to cool my house

Some homeowners think they’ll cut down on their winter energy bills by shutting off their heating system before they head out of town.

However, turning off your furnace or heat pump is problematic for 3 reasons:

  1. You’ll put your home appliances at risk of breaking down
  2. Your pipes may freeze
  3. Your heater will work extremely hard to heat your home back up again

In this article, we’ll go into more detail about why those things are problematic and what you should do before you head out of town.

Reason #1: You’ll put your home appliances at risk of breaking down

When you shut off your heater for an extended time during the holidays, indoor temperatures can easily drop below freezing.

Freezing temperatures are bad news for home appliances such as your:

  • Refrigerator: Cold outside air tricks the refrigerator’s thermostat into thinking the inside air doesn’t need chilling, and as a result, the compressor (the part that starts the refrigeration process) won’t turn on. If that happens, the fridge will warm up and food will start to thaw (or freeze completely if the outside temperature is super low). Cold temperatures may also thicken the oil inside the compressor, which could cause it to burn out.
  • Washing machine: If ice starts to form in your washing machine’s hoses and pumps, it could cause your water intake valve to break, which could mean you’ll have major water leaks once the temperature warms back up.

Reason #2: Your pipes may freeze

Since Kansas City temperatures are usually below freezing during the holidays, your home’s pipes are extra prone to freeze—especially if you turn off your HVAC system completely while you’re out of town.

And the last thing you want to come home to after a vacation is frozen pipes.

If your pipes freeze, you may come home to a house that doesn’t have running water, or in the worst case scenario, your house may be flooded.

You see, when the water in pipes freezes, it creates considerable pressure in the pipe which can cause the pipe to crack or burst. A leaky pipe will cause water to leak into your home or under you home’s foundation (depending on the location of the pipe).

Reason #3: Your heater will work extremely hard to heat your home back up again

Let’s say you turn off your thermostat, and your home’s indoor temperature drops to 30°. If you normally keep your thermostat set to 70° during the winter, your heating system will have to heat your home by 40°—which is a lot.

To get your home back to the proper temperature, your heating system will have to run non-stop at full capacity for a long time, which will cancel out any energy savings you thought you were going to get by turning your thermostat off.

Want to avoid those problems? Do these 2 things before you leave on vacation

We recommend doing the following before you head out of town:

  1. Set your thermostat between 50° and 60° F
  2. Make sure your heating system has been maintained recently

Why set your thermostat between 50° and 60° F?

We recommend setting your thermostat between 50° and 60° when you’re away for more than 1-2 days.

Why?

Well, when indoor temperatures remain above 50° F, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of freezing pipes and damage to your home’s appliances.

Plus, you’ll still save money on your utility bills because you’re setting the temperature lower than you normally would if you were at home.

Pro tip: One convenient way to lower your thermostat is to invest in a programmable or smart thermostat. A programmable/smart thermostat lets you set a vacation schedule that will automatically lower the temperature based on your preference (meaning you can set it to be within the 50° to 60° range). And the best part? When set to “vacation mode,” you can program the thermostat to automatically raise to a comfortable temperature right before you get home.

Related reading: Smarts Thermostats vs Programmable Thermostats: What's the Difference?

Make sure your heating system has been maintained recently

You don’t want your furnace or heat pump to give out while you’re gone, right?

The best way to avoid an early breakdown is to have your furnace or heat pump maintained by a professional.

During an annual maintenance visit, a tech will clean and test important parts to make sure they’re working properly, which greatly reduces the chance of a breakdown.

If you haven’t had your heating system maintained this winter, we can help. Our techs are trained and certified to tune-up any furnace or heat pump.


Or visit our maintenance plan page to learn how you can save on your HVAC tune-ups.


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