Vacation Tips for winter, include turning down the thermostat, is more important for those who are gone for extended periods as opposed to short vacations. A pipe near an outside wall that comes close to freezing when the house is 70-degrees could freeze and burst if the house was set at 60-degrees, and you will not be home to know it.
If your pipes freeze and break, the first call will be to the plumber to repair the leak. The next calls will be to your insurance agency and a water damage company. You may even have to move out of the house while repairs are made.
The age and condition of your plumbing has a lot to do with whether or not you should shut off the water while you are gone. If you have old galvanized plumbing, I would turn off the water when absent for an extended period of time.
It is rare, but not impossible, for copper plumbing to develop a leak for no reason.
No matter what kind of plumbing you have, the biggest loose end is the hot water heater. Water heaters over eight years old are prone to leaking on their own. They usually fail when one least expects it, at night, on a Sunday or a holiday. The old hot water tanks can last up to 16-years, but the new models are usually good for about eight to twelve years.
To conserve gas on the water heater set the gas control valve on the tank to “pilot”. This will shut off the main burner to the tank but will leave the pilot on. This way when you return from vacation, you do not have to re-light the pilot, just turn the gas valve back to “on”.
Another safety precaution is to get a Winter Watchman. It is a device that turns on a lamp if the temperature drops below a set temperature. Plug it in to an outlet near a front window and plug a lamp into it. If the temperature drops below the setting on the Watchman, the lamp will come on. This way friends and relatives who are watching the house can keep an eye on the temperature without having to go inside.