shut off tank when on vacation

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by netmouse, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    Houston, TX

    LOL

    You must be getting old. lol
  2. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    Long Island, NY
    You mean like Lactobacillus Don. Good for the gut if they survive the trip. Not the legionnaires disease mentioned.
  3. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    Me too; going on 71 and gassier than ever
  4. Caduceus

    Caduceus Master Plumber

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    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Maybe if I explained this earlier, though I felt there was no need to, this thread would have stayed cleaner. While I may be a big fan of scientific studies and research, much of the 'human factor' is left out of studies and leaves too many blanks in the data. Not many people know that they exists and science rarely admits that they do. While a laboratory will use their microbiological lab rats (tetrahymena pyriformis) to study ligionalla in a controlled environment, they leave out the thousands of variables that exist in the real world and that is where these empty spaces of information come into play. That's what I have to deal with out in the field at people's homes and businesses. One of the main contributing factors to legionella susceptibility is concentration. Legionella take a little parasitic ride within the vacuole region of microorganisms/protozoa and their goal is to survive and reproduce, just like nature intended. Cities that treat water take samples of water , but with such an immense volume of water spread over such large areas they cannot accurately gauge the number of microorganisms that may be existing in an entire water system. Chlorination and chloramination cannot be in such concentration that the water becomes toxic, so there may be acceptable levels of microbes that exist. It's unreasonable to expect sterile water from the tap. As water systems age and deposits build within them, opportunities for microbes to gather increase. This is just the nature of things. So when the fresh water gets to your home, there will be something in your water, but who knows how much and what? The effects of the treatment to your water will be different by the end user depending on where you live. Somebody who lives a mile from you may have more or less residual chemicals or microbes in their water. Then it gets to the tank. Not everybody's water system in the house will be the same, not all hot water tanks will fire or operate the same. How accurate is the tank's thermostat? How old is it? How much scale is on the bottom (gas and electric tanks kept at 120+ degrees, thick scale deposits will safely harbor bacteria and create odors in the water)? How often is water used by what size of a family that allows fresh water replenishment? Are there dead ended pipes (very common in homes) on the water supplies filled with room temperature water (like a petri dish for bacteria)? Who knows how fast your tank cools and to what temperature compared to the other million homes with different tanks in different parts of their homes? These things can also change repeatedly within the same home numerous times, and sometimes daily. These are just a few of the still hundreds of variable situations that can be found in any home in anywhere USA that are not taken into consideration in lab studies because it would take a lab the size of New York to duplicate every possible home and business scenario for incoming quality to outgoing concentration of vectors. People do things in their homes to their plumbing systems that alter them and change the whole safety dynamic without even realizing it. So the scientific data is great, but when I go into a home it is my responsibility to investigate the things that the laboratories didn't. So what would be the best cover-all rule to follow to protect everybody from the potential hazard of legionella? Keep your tank above 120 deg.F. It's not sure a sure fire cure for the problem, but it is the best and most sensible way to cover as many possible human factors out there. That is why I always recommend leaving the tank on when going on vacation and flush the lines upon return. Simple easy and safe. I'm not in their house to test the tank for operation and test the water. I have found some of the variables mentioned above in homes and some of my HVAC friends have also. Samples sent to labs have confirmed harmful bacteria concentrations existing where all seemed fine at first. I have chlorinated and pasteurized many tanks and homes because of it, and most times the homeowner didn't know there was a problem until somebody (or everybody) got sick and a test was recommended. There's no publicly documented studies on my experiences or the experiences of other plumbers/HVAC technicians to validate what I've told you, but it is all true. The water in Pittsburgh is considered some of the cleanest in the nation among major cities and they just switched from chlorine to chloramine hoping to cover the large distribution area better (chlorine is more affective, but loses potency in larger systems, chloramine is typically a secondary after chlorine, but because it doesn't degrade as quickly it covers a larger area).
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2013
  5. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    Caduceus, methinks you are a bit too sensitive. You have only 20 posts here at this point in time. Your concern (of getting sick)is genuine, but Don is the furthest guy here from being arrogant. Don and arrogance do not fit together. You seem to show some hubris. I mean this only in the nicest way. First, do no harm.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2013
  6. Caduceus

    Caduceus Master Plumber

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    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I will admit that the first comments from Don and ImOld did get under my skin. Not because of an injury to my pride, I felt that a sarcastic reply to to the original poster was insulting to both of us. I'm in other forums where fun sarcasm is kept in other appropriate threads unless the OP initiates it. Those who know me personally and on the web would also agree that "hubris" is not fitting of my mold as much as arrogance may not fit for Don's. I appreciate your opinion, maybe quiet introspective time can find its way into my schedule.
  7. JerryR

    JerryR Member

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    251
    Location:
    Florida
    My understanding is that legionella dies in 32 minutes at 140 dF. If that is so I don't see much risk turning of my water heater when gone for days. After returning the water heats up pretty quickly and water is sanitized rather quickly

    I turn the water off when leaving because three times I've returned to a flooded home. Once from a failed plastic water supply line to a refrigerator, once due to a slab leak and once due to a failed water heater.

    I'm not comfortable leaving the home with the water main on when gone more than overnight. I also would not feel comfortable turning the water main off and leaving the water heater on. A failed tank could cause the heating elements to melt down.

    It's all about risk.
  8. guy48065

    guy48065 Member

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    117
    Location:
    SE and north MI
    Fascinating read. Until now I had never seen anything that confirmed my finding that pilot alone kept my ordinary gas HWH at normal setpoint temperature for weeks on end so I could take a long hot shower without turning on the control. ALL I ever have heard is pilot flame is 100% wasted energy. I guess not entirely.

    That's not to say i believe old pilot-flame appliances are energy smart. Overall I would rather have a spark ignition, especially on my gas-fired boiler which has a pilot flame that is huge--an actual "roaring" flame.

    I'm on a well so my curiosity about legionella is academic.
  9. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    IL
    You seem to think that Don said microorganisms.
  10. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    I think Bob got my post and Caduceus took it as sarcasm.

    If people take my post as BS, then so be it.

    That does not make everyone that is posting wrong.

    There is always someone just a smart or smarter than You.


    I am glad that I am not a worrywart.
  11. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    1,793
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    But Don, I really am somewhat of a "germophobe". I would NEVER drink water or wash food from the warm/hot water faucet. I keep the water heater set higher than 145 degrees as I remember. We have public chlorinated water, but when it sits in the water heater, dissipates the chlorine, and then sits in the pipes, I consider it unsanitary water.

    I'm not anywhere near as bad as detective Monk, but when dirty water like from my pond, (when I clean it) splashes on me, my bowels start quivering. I never said I was normal, did I? Who is these days?
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