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Old December 26, 2008, 10:03 AM   #1
philemer
 
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[2008] How low do you set your thermostat when you're gone?

We'll be gone for most of Jan. and I'm trying to figure out how low I can set my thermostat without worrying about pipes freezing in my crawlspace. The low temps for Jan. in my part of ID usually don't get below 0 F. I've read numerous articles online and the two temps. I see most often are 50 & 55 degrees. What do you think?

I'll also turn down my water heater temp (natural gas).
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Old December 26, 2008, 10:55 AM   #2
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Phil,

Isn't your crawl space unheated? Not sure how any temperature setting would help you there. Hopefully your pipes are well insulated.

You may need to consider leaving something dripping just slightly. We've done that in my bathroom when we were going to be away in very cold weather. The pipes did burst to it once and it was a terrible mess. We insulated better after that, but still get nervous.

We almost always keep our thermostat at the lowest heat setting, which is around 50. When we're there, the wood stoves keep us warm most of the time. When we're away, that seems to keep things in working condition.

We turn off our electric hot water heater and usually turn off water to the house. I guess if it were going to be really cold, we could drain the pipes inside.

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Old December 26, 2008, 11:02 AM   #3
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I guess the question is, how much is peace of mind worth? Five degrees can't make that many $ difference on your gas bill. We're almost neighbors, so our weather is similar and I set the furnace to about 50 when we're gone. However, we have no pipes running through unheated crawlspace. There are thermostatically controlled switches (check Grovers or a stock supply place) that you could plug an electric heater into that would only turn on when the temp where the switch is gets down to (I think) 35 or so. Placed near the pipes, it should give you some protection.

We will be leaving about the time you get back. Ahhh, a week TSing at Coronado then a Mexican Rivera cruise. You can't tell I'm anxious!

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Old December 26, 2008, 11:44 AM   #4
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. . . There are thermostatically controlled switches (check Grovers or a stock supply place) that you could plug an electric heater into that would only turn on when the temp where the switch is gets down to (I think) 35 or so. ...
This is what we do for our trailer that we winterize to make sure the pipes under the sinks and the water in the mini hot water tank doesn't freeze as there is no heat in there at all. It just blows on the areas we're concerned about and has worked well for the past few winters for us.
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Old December 26, 2008, 12:08 PM   #5
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There are also thermostatically controlled heat tapes (looks like a stiff extension cord) that can be wrapped around pipes in vulnerable unheated spaces. I have one around my exposed backflow preventer and supply piping adjacent to our deep well domestic pump.

As far as house stuff, at my mom's I just put some winterizer (kinda like propylene glycol) in the toilets and traps, set the hot water heater to vacation and shut off the furnace except for the standing pilot. If temps are expected to go to a hard freeze (below 32F for a number of days and nights), I'll leave the furnace on at 50 degrees (the minimum). The ground under her house never freezes (we don't live in a hard freeze zone) and the pipes are steel and the ground radiates enough heat to keep them from freezing. The above has worked with an empty house for about 3 winters now.
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Old December 26, 2008, 02:48 PM   #6
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When we lived in Cadillac, MI, I treated the house as though everything would freeze while we were gone... Seems as though while you're away, electric goes out or that's when lines break... always something!

So, I suggest you treat for everything freezing, just to have peace of mind. Plants go to someone else. Drain all water including the water tank(s) and treat traps and commodes. Set heat to minimum.

That way, if you lose heat you're covered. To me it's worth the effort, just to know we aren't flooded or froze up while we're off somewhere enjoying life.
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Old December 26, 2008, 02:55 PM   #7
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We only turn it down to around 60.

We don't do anything about the water, but after reading the posts I guess we should....
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Old December 26, 2008, 05:15 PM   #8
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We have *two* absolutes for unoccupied houses here. Low needs to be no lower than 62 in winter, and high no higher than 84 in summer. Otherwise we will have cracking baseboards, etc. We also seal the toilet (with saran) if nobody will be around to flush it every week or two. In addition, in the wintertime we put insulated socks on the faucets outside and wrap the water intake. Many people here who haven't done this have had pipes burst.

So much for the desert.

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Old December 26, 2008, 06:16 PM   #9
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We also seal the toilet (with saran) if nobody will be around to flush it every week or two.
huh?

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Old December 26, 2008, 07:52 PM   #10
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I am a 55 person. If the weather is at all decent (yes, I realize that you live in Idaho), I doubt if the extra five degrees will make that much difference. If the temperatures were to dip into the minus ten (or worse) range, then, as Passepartout notes, the peace of mind is worth the extra cost. I would be worried sick about a water pipe on an exterior wall with a closet or cupboard in front, bursting.

If I lived in a warmer climate, then I might be more willing to risk turning the thermostat down to 50.
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Old December 26, 2008, 08:38 PM   #11
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We also seal the toilet (with saran) if nobody will be around to flush it every week or two.
Fern
Can't be a fraternity prank. Never heard of this one either.
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Old December 26, 2008, 11:02 PM   #12
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We also turn heat down to 60 and shut water off at the toilet etc. We purchased a "timer'/temp control' that plugs into a lamp. We set the lamp on a table in front of a window. If the temperture goes below a certain degree the lamp comes on. Very easy for a neighbor to watch for the light and call for help or check the house. Well worth the money.
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Old December 26, 2008, 11:51 PM   #13
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We live in mountainous Coloradoin summer and leave Oct to May. We set ours at 55 but we also drain all the water from the plumbing and put some anti-freeze in the toilets.

'have done this in two different homes over some pretty cold winters and have had no problems.

Happy New Year to all!
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Old December 27, 2008, 12:02 AM   #14
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Its not a fraternity prank. When we closed on our house we had a homeowner seminar and were given a maintenence book on living in the desert. If you are away longer than two weeks you need to seal the toilet, otherwise the water here will evaporate, and you'll have a real bad odor. Honestly.

We've got other things different, too. We can't use WD-40 like the rest of the country. We have to use silicone spray. WD-40 + desert dirt = gunk. It makes a huge messy glop.

'nuff said.

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We also seal the toilet (with saran) if nobody will be around to flush it every week or two.
Fern
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Old December 27, 2008, 08:28 AM   #15
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I put mine down to 45, and open the cabinets under the bathroom and kitchen sink. I've been away for a week in the winter and it's never dropped below 51. In fact, I actually set my thermostat to 45 during the days that I'm here and then it hardly drops below 60.

In fairness, I live in a building with people below and above me.
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Old December 27, 2008, 10:35 AM   #16
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I wish we paid more attention to all this kind of prep before we left for our recent FL vacation. DH had set the timer for the downstairs heater to vacation setting, but the downstairs heater furnace conked out by the time we returned; and DH had turned off the upstairs heater for some reason (I still can't figure this one out as we've never done that before). We returned home last week to roughly 30 degrees temps inside the house (and it was below zero outside) -- shortly after we stepped inside the house DS (4 yrs old) said he wanted to return to the warm minivan. It was pretty miserable for a couple of hours as we took care of stuff, fed lunch to the kids, and rushed out of the house to hang out in the warm mall while our heaters worked to warm up the house. The pipes in our upstairs master suite (add on above the garage) froze and took 1 1/2 days to defrost (with a lot of space heating and warmer temps); good thing we didn't have any burst pipes! I'm saving the tips on this thread for future reference.
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Old December 27, 2008, 10:41 AM   #17
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I put mine down to 45, and open the cabinets under the bathroom and kitchen sink. I've been away for a week in the winter and it's never dropped below 51. In fact, I actually set my thermostat to 45 during the days that I'm here and then it hardly drops below 60.

In fairness, I live in a building with people below and above me.
Interesting comments. I am single and keep the thermostat in the house I live in at 60 degrees all the time during the Winter. From time to time I heat the room I am in with a space heater. When I leave town, I kick it down to 55 degrees and open kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

George
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Old December 27, 2008, 10:50 AM   #18
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Why have a couple of posters mentioned opening the cabinet doors? What does that do?
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Old December 27, 2008, 11:00 AM   #19
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Why have a couple of posters mentioned opening the cabinet doors? What does that do?
If the cabinets that house plumbing fixtures are on outside walls, it can get significantly colder inside them than in the room. Open the door and voilla! same temp as the room. If the plumbing is in interior walls, it won't make any difference.

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Old December 27, 2008, 03:55 PM   #20
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Since you don't seem to be getting a single clear answer to your question, Phil, I have a modest proposal ...

I am sure as an old time Viking fan, especially one from Idaho, you feel your team sold out to a certain degree (pun intended) when they moved their games indoors. Part of the Viking lore was having those warm weather sissy teams come up from Los Angeles, Dallas, or Miami and having them play in below zero weather. (I never did understand why it was unfair for those teams to have to play in below zero weather while it was perfectly fair for the Vikings or the Packers to have to go down to Tampa and play in 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity in December.)

Well tomorrow your Vikings have a big game coming up with a spot in the playoffs at stake. Why not relive the past a bit while conducting an experiment?

You can turn your thermostat down to fifty degrees and then sit and watch the game on TV while sitting in your underwear. This would be a win-win situation. You could pretend that you are watching the game in the old Metropolitan stadium while you find out the answer to your question. (Is the house safe at that temperature.) In fact, if the Vikings do win (and I'll be rooting for them too), you would then have a win-win-win situation - memories of the good ol' days, an answer to your question, and a Viking place in the playoffs. It might even be so much fun, you could try setting the thermostat at 45 for the first playoff game.
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Old December 27, 2008, 05:06 PM   #21
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"Roger", you are too funny! Can't try your experiment since we'll on the plane to Hawaii during the Viking game tomorrow. Drats! Cold, or warm, the Vikings should triumph. The Giants will be saving their stars for the playoffs.

Thanks for all the good responses. I think I'll set the thermostat to 55 deg. & turn off the water under the sinks/toilets/washing machine. Good to go!
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Old December 30, 2009, 07:36 PM   #22
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I have a boiler with 5 heating zones that distribute heat by circulating hot water to the baseboards. Would it be a good idea to shut off the well pump and drain the well tank in case the power goes out and the pipes freeze. This way I won't have a broken pipe being fed water when the power comes back on. Will the boiler still function without pressure from the supply side?

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Old December 30, 2009, 07:38 PM   #23
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Please note that this thread is a year old...
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Old January 1, 2010, 08:52 AM   #24
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Please note that this thread is a year old...
But the info is still germane.

Quote:
I have a boiler with 5 heating zones that distribute heat by circulating hot water to the baseboards. Would it be a good idea to shut off the well pump and drain the well tank in case the power goes out and the pipes freeze. This way I won't have a broken pipe being fed water when the power comes back on. Will the boiler still function without pressure from the supply side?
I don't know the answer about the boiler. Maybe an expert will chip in.
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Old January 1, 2010, 09:25 AM   #25
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We have a log house in Maine and the builder said to set it at 55 when we are away. He said 40 was a bit iffy. We wanted to do 50 but he said it is not worth the chance. So, we are doing 55 when we are not here.
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