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Should you turn off the boiler if you go on holiday?

While no one wants to come home to frozen pipes or leaks, you could find that it’s cheaper to switch off your boiler when you go away.

But before you do, there are a few factors to consider, such as the time of year and your boiler’s age.

While no one wants to come home to frozen pipes or leaks, you could find that it’s cheaper to switch off your boiler when you go away.

But before you do, there are a few factors to consider, such as the time of year and your boiler’s age.

Written by
Dan Tremain
Energy and business energy expert
Last Updated
17 MAY 2023
7 min read
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Should I turn off my boiler when I go on holiday?

It depends on when you’re going away. If you’re going away in summer, when the weather is warm, you might want to turn off your boiler to save energy and reduce the risk of leaks.

But if you’re going away during the winter months and want to keep the pipes from freezing, you’ll need to leave the boiler on.

Turning off your boiler in freezing temperatures can also damage the internal components, causing the valves and pumps to seize up. This could lead to expensive repairs or a broken boiler.

You ideally want to set your boiler to run a couple of times a day while you’re away in winter. With a smart thermostat, you can control your heating via your smartphone wherever you are.

Some advanced models have a ‘holiday mode’. This keeps your home warm enough to stop pipes freezing without consuming too much energy.

Should I turn off my hot water while I’m on holiday?

Just like your boiler, if you’re going on holiday during the summer, it’s worth turning off your hot water. There’s no point paying for it when you’re not at home.

But if you’re going away in winter, leave your hot water on. Otherwise there’s a risk you could come home to frozen or burst pipes.

If you can control your hot water remotely from your phone, programme it to come on at night, when the outside temperature is coldest.

What causes burst pipes?

Common causes of burst pipes include:

  • Poorly connected dishwashers and washing machines
  • Clogged, old or weak pipes
  • Temperature changes that cause pipes to swell and shrink
  • Bath, shower or toilet leaks
  • Storage tanks in the loft.

The risk of water damage in our homes is higher than ever due to:

  • More plumbed-in domestic appliances
  • More central heating
  • More en-suite bathrooms and toilets in homes
  • Complex plumbing systems
  • Use of less water-resistant materials, such as chipboard.

A plumbing emergency is a nightmare at the best of times, but can become a real catastrophe if you’re not at home.

How do I turn my water off before I go on holiday? 

Water leaks are one of the most common domestic disasters holidaymakers return to, yet most of us don’t bother to turn off the water supply when we go away.

Turning off your supply won’t stop any water that’s already in the pipes escaping, but it can limit the risk of a flooded home.

How to turn water off when on holiday
Turning off your water supply is easy, as long as you know where to find the stopcock.

What is a stopcock?
The stopcock is a tap or lever that acts as a connector, blocking the water flow in your pipes when it’s turned off. There are actually two stopcocks – one in your home (internal), and one outside (external).

If you’re going on holiday, only turn off the internal stopcock. The external stopcock belongs to your water supplier and should only be turned off in an emergency. If you live in a block of flats, you’ll share the external stopcock with others in your block, so turning it off will cut off their water supply too. 

Where exactly can I find the stopcock?
The internal stopcock isn’t always in an obvious spot, especially in older properties. The most common places to find it are:

  • Under the sink
  • Next to your gas meter
  • Cellar
  • Utility room or garage
  • Airing cupboard
  • Cupboard under the stairs
  • Near the front door.

If you’ve exhausted every nook and cranny and still can’t find the stopcock, ask your neighbours or someone whose property is a similar design. As a last resort, you may have to call out a plumber.

I’ve found the stopcock, now what?
Once you’ve found the stopcock, turn the valve clockwise. If it hasn’t been turned off for a while, it may stick. If it does, apply a lubricant like WD40 to loosen it up.

Turn the valve until you start to feel resistance. Don’t use excessive force or you could damage the valve. It may take a few minutes for the water to stop running, as there will be some water left in the pipes.

How do I turn the water back on again?
Once you’re back from holiday, simply turn the valve anti-clockwise. It might take a few minutes for your taps to start flowing again, and there may be a bit of spluttering as air locks in the pipes are released.

Top Tip
If you’ve been away for a couple of weeks or more, run your drinking water taps for a while to get rid of any stale water left in the pipes. Water quality deteriorates when left in the pipes for a long time. It might taste and smell a bit musty, and in extreme cases, the build-up of bacteria could also make you ill.

Should you turn off the heating when you go on holiday? 

It depends when you’re going. You should be okay to turn off your heating in the summer months. If you have a combi boiler, it may have a summer mode that switches off the central heating.

If you’re going away over winter, don’t turn your heating off completely, as this can increase the risk of your pipes bursting.

Instead, leave your heating on a low setting, or set it to come on at regular intervals. This will help keep your energy bills down while making sure the pipes don’t get cold enough to freeze.

Set the thermostat to at least 13°C (55°F) and set the timer to come on during the coldest part of the day.

If you have a hot water tank, it’s likely your boiler is set to keep the water at a set temperature. As you won’t need hot water while you’re away, switch off that function, unless there’s a chance your pipes or the tank could freeze.

What can I do to get early warnings of leaks?

Smart devices can give you early warnings about leaks and turn off your water supply. Some have sensors that tell you if you spring a leak, or humidity levels are breached.

Others alert you if your sink or washing machine leak. Some devices monitor pipes for irregular use, and can alert you early to leaks before they become a huge problem.

This is especially helpful while you’re on holiday. Some systems alert you to temperature drops, so you can ask a friend or neighbour to pop by and turn on the heating, or turn it up yourself remotely.

Frequently asked questions

Should I turn off appliances when I go on holiday?

According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average household can save £35 a year by turning appliances off, and not just leaving them on standby mode. It’s worth unplugging electrical appliances like TVs, games consoles and computers when you go away on holiday.

Even when they’re switched off, devices like TVs, kitchen appliances, chargers and lamps can consume electricity while they’re plugged in. This is called ‘vampire energy’. Not only will this add to your energy bill, it can be a fire risk in an empty house.

What should I leave turned on when I go on holiday?

Here are the devices and appliances you shouldn’t turn off:

  • Fridge/freezer – leave your fridge/freezer running, so you don’t come home to rotten food and a defrosted freezer. If the fridge is pretty much empty, filling it with bottles of water will help it run more efficiently
  • Security systems – check that your alarm, sensors, and security lighting are working properly before you leave. If you have a smart home security system you can keep an eye on things from a distance.
  • Automatic timers – you can programme these to switch lights on and off to give the impression there’s someone at home.
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