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Old 11-27-2019, 12:18 AM
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Do you turn your water off at the main when you travel??


We were gone 8 days, came home to a catastrophic leak in the wall between the shower and kitchen. Massive tearout of lower kitchen cabinets, still working on the shower since the plaster (drywall?) was saturated and all of the tile basically has to come off.
Not the first problem, a toilet intake failed and flooded the house once, but we were home and discovered an inch of water throughout when we got up. Left another time for a long weekend, and the water heater failed.

I am starting to hate running water in my house.
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Old 11-27-2019, 12:41 AM
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Old 11-27-2019, 12:42 AM
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I worked 13 years in water damage mitigation, and your horror story was not uncommon.

My experience indicates most people arranged a house-sitter who would come by once a day or so to check on the property and make sure nothing was amiss. However, this didn't always prevent water damage as sometimes the house-sitter would fail to notice something, or a leak would happen several hours before the house-sitter's next visit (still plenty of time for lots of damage to occur, as your own experience will tell you). On rare occasions, the house-sitter would cause a leak.

I really don't know if turning off the main would address this sort of problem. If it were me, I'd arrange for a house-sitter but failing that, I'd probably just let it be.

I hope you experience a speedy and uneventful repair to your home, and I hope your lifetime allotment of water losses has been met.
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Old 11-27-2019, 03:47 AM
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After having $40,000 of water damage to a house from a burst pipe while I was away for weeks, you bet your bippy that I turn off the water when I expect to be gone for a long time. Even for half a day. And I now have an alarm if water appears in one part of the basement; it sends a signal to my phone.
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Old 11-27-2019, 04:05 AM
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We've heard of similar horror stories (a friend's father's house was essentially destroyed when they left for a few days).

Neighbors of ours had a pipe problem when they were travelling. I don't recall all the details, but something to do with the HVAC system sucking up some of the spilled water and dampening a chunk of the rest of the house. It was repaired, but I gather it was quite a mess.

Now that I think of it, we should start turning water off when we travel!!

What about concerns over pipes getting air in them etc. ? Are there any problems that might result from water being turned off?
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Old 11-27-2019, 05:56 AM
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I don't turn the water off. But when I'm gone for more than two days someone comes by twice daily to feed and water my feline gang. Caretakers are instructed on how to shut off the residence (and irrigation) pumps if need be.

Last edited by ASGuy; 11-27-2019 at 05:56 AM. Reason: one becomes two
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Old 11-27-2019, 06:53 AM
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What about concerns over pipes getting air in them etc. ? Are there any problems that might result from water being turned off?
When my wife and I will be gone for more than one night, we:

-shut off the water main
-turn the water heater down to "pilot" (pilot light only, no main burner action)
-crack open the faucet at the kitchen sink to relieve system pressure

One thing that happens is that dissolved gases come out of solution in the water heater, accumulating at the top of the tank. The first time we run the hot water after returning home, these bubbles of gas make their way to wherever we're running the water. This can result in severe water hammer effects, which is really hard on the pipes, so I always make it a point to purge these bubbles at the kitchen sink, which is fitted with a water hammer arrester that reduces the violence of these effects. The bubbles start to get to the sink at about the same time the warm water arrives; after running the water for maybe a minute longer, the bubbles are all purged out and everything is back to normal.

This doesn't really get any air into the pipes. The point of cracking the faucet open isn't to drain the pipes; it just relieves system pressure. With the main valve off, water stops coming out of the faucet once the pipe network (including the water heater tank) has relaxed.

The likelihood and consequences of a water leak scales with the length of one's absence. When we're gone for just one night, the whole shutdown/startup procedure seems a bit much. But for anything longer, I can't see a reason not to shut it down. We recently returned from a 3-week absence; I can't imagine what we'd have come home to if we had left the water main on and a major leak had developed on the second floor soon after we left.
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Old 11-27-2019, 06:57 AM
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Yes we do. Any time we're gone overnight the water is shut off. We also shut off the water heater in case a leak occurs, it could partially empty and burn out its element. Ditto for the icemaker, although I'm not sure what it does when no water is available.

We found out the city frowns on (and will fine) homeowners who access the main valve at the meter, so we had a plumber install another shutoff closer to the house.
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Old 11-27-2019, 07:07 AM
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Several years ago we were heading out for a weeks vacation at the crack of dawn. While the family loaded themselves into the minivan I ran downstairs to shut the main water valve. When I did, water started dripping from the valve. Not good.

Valves that go unused for extended periods of time sometimes do bad things when eventually called into service.

So now I make sure to do a practice shut-down a week or so before vacation.
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Old 11-27-2019, 07:25 AM
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Above freezing: Effectivally yes, in that the well pump gets shut off at the circuit breaker and most of the system pressure relieved. I do leave a bit of pressure in mainly for the water heater so it doesn't 'offgas', but if a leak developed it would only be a gallon or two before the pressure tank was out and the flow stopped. Turning off the valve is not in a good place to access.

Below Freezing: I'm torn, sometimes I'll shut it down other times I will let a faucet drip which requires water pressure. My fear is that the water in the pipes and pressure tank in the crawlspace would freeze without water moving through them. Yes they have heat tape, but its not perfect. When I leave a faucet drip I also empty my icemaker which will cycle through some more water occasionally as it refills, and also set my water filter to backflush every night at 3am which I assume would be the best time to flush the water through the system and replace it with the underground temperature water. That backflushing does move a lot of water. But I really don't know which is better. I assume that if a pipe burst it would be much better to have the well pump off, as with it on not only do I have a flood but perhaps a burnt out well pump, however the risk of a pipe freezing and breaking is greatly reduced with water flowing.
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Old 11-27-2019, 07:32 AM
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No, I've never turned off water to the whole house. I should go turn off the exterior water for the season, however.
  #12  
Old 11-27-2019, 07:36 AM
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We found out the city frowns on (and will fine) homeowners who access the main valve at the meter, so we had a plumber install another shutoff closer to the house.


Where (what city) is this? What is "the main valve at the meter?" The valve I use for shutting off our water is just upstream of the meter; both of these are located in our basement, just after the main supply from the city comes up through the concrete floor. Is this the valve you're talking about?

AIUI there is also another valve outside, underground, near the street that requires a special tool for turning water off and on. This is what the city uses to shut off your water when the bill isn't getting paid. I can imagine them getting antsy if you mess with this valve.
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Old 11-27-2019, 08:35 AM
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Seems like there have been several threads on this just recently. Wonder why? Or whether they have always existed and I just noticed them recently.

I remember one poster saying they turned their water off every time they left the house!

In response to the OP - no, we do not.
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Old 11-27-2019, 09:03 AM
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Where (what city) is this? What is "the main valve at the meter?" The valve I use for shutting off our water is just upstream of the meter; both of these are located in our basement, just after the main supply from the city comes up through the concrete floor. Is this the valve you're talking about?

AIUI there is also another valve outside, underground, near the street that requires a special tool for turning water off and on. This is what the city uses to shut off your water when the bill isn't getting paid. I can imagine them getting antsy if you mess with this valve.
Fort Worth. We were annexed many years ago, and our new "city" claims ownership of everything their side of the meter. The only valve was the one you describe, outside underground, which shuts off water upstream of the meter. I've long had the tool for this (I used to be a city water works repairman) and until getting warned, I simply opened the steel cover and turned it off. My plumber warned me about the city's dislike of this and the massive cost should I damage* this valve, so I had our own shutoff installed between the house and the meter (on "my" part of the line).

*Repair requires shutting off a segment of the neighborhood somewhere upstream so the line/valve can be repaired. FWIW, I've known the plumber for many years both personally and professionally, so this wasn't him generating extra business.

Last edited by pullin; 11-27-2019 at 09:04 AM.
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Old 11-27-2019, 09:17 AM
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My main valve is in the crawlspace. If it were in a more convenient location, I'd probably be in the habit of fooling with it. But since it is not, I do not.
  #16  
Old 11-27-2019, 09:35 AM
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I had my water softener valve break when I was gone for a week, so now I turn off the main if I am gone more than two nights.

Brian
  #17  
Old 11-27-2019, 09:49 AM
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I would, but the shut off valve and meter is in a crawl space that is a pain in the pass to work in. We're going away for 2 weeks over Christmas and I would prefer to shut it off, but we have a late flight home and the last thing I want to do is go into the crawl space at 11:30 PM to turn the water on after spending the day travelling.

After the meter, the pipe runs beyond a plywood backer board that all of my boiler accouterments is mounted to, so there is no easy way to splice in a more accessible shutoff valve.

I purchased a remote wifi shutoff valve from Amazon that mounts over the ball valve. It took me an hour of screwing around to get it properly mounted. The first time I tried it, the plastic mounting point cracked.

Now that I think of it, there may be a way that I can cut in a U shape section that brings the valve up to a more accessible location and the back down to rejoin the line...
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Old 11-27-2019, 10:26 AM
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I don't, because I don't know the condition of the valve. As mentioned above, valves that haven't been operated for a long time can have problems that won't appear until you try to operate them. We don't have a tank-type water heater, so that's not an issue, and I shut off the toilet/sink valves when we're going to be on a trip.
  #19  
Old 11-27-2019, 10:30 AM
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Thread from a few months ago on the same subject.
  #20  
Old 11-27-2019, 10:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
...I remember one poster saying they turned their water off every time they left the house!
Even more extreme than that: Every time they leave the house AND every time they go to bed.

Last edited by Mean Mr. Mustard; 11-27-2019 at 10:44 AM.
  #21  
Old 11-27-2019, 12:26 PM
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Yes, we shut off the water main if we are gone overnight or longer. About 12 years ago we had a toilet hose break at the connector to the tank. This happened overnight, but by morning there was an inch of water covering the downstairs, which included hardwood and carpet. Huge mess and inconvenience. I replaced all the toilet hoses with longer ones that "loop" rather than bend to relieve sideways pressure on the plastic connector. As I was doing that a 2nd toilet hose connector upstairs was already cracked but had yet to start leaking. An upstairs flood would be orders of magnitude worse than what we had.

If you are reading this - go check all the toilet hoses in your house - replace those that are bent with ones that are long enough to loop. Peace of mind does not come any cheaper and easier to do.

After the incident, when we left for more than a day, I started shutting off toilets, sinks, the fridge (ice maker/water dispenser), and the laundry - all manually (but could not shut off the showers this way). So, decided to just shut down the house at the main valve, which is outside and on my property.

I once shut down the whole property by mistake for a week and the yard was very thirsty when we got back. Learned which valve is for the house-only at that point.
  #22  
Old 11-27-2019, 02:14 PM
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I've had the hot water tank fail, so we shut it off if we are going to be gone more than a few days. Very simple in our house.
Not that shutting it off would eliminate problems, but since our water tank is in the garage, we'd only lose some boxes we should probably get rid of anyway.
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Old 11-27-2019, 02:26 PM
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As I said in the last thread, I don't even know where our shut off is. Our water hasn't been turned off in the 19 years I've lived there. I will be having some work done in the Kitchen next year, and I will ask the plumber to locate the valve and make sure it's in good working order. I think I'm convinced that it's worth shutting off the water for extended trips. I couldn't imagine doing it for every trip over half a day. So, crossing my fingers that nothing catastrophic happens in the next few months.
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Old 11-27-2019, 02:51 PM
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I have a steam heating system which needs to be able to occasionally refill itself; so shutting down the water would mean also shutting down the furnace.

I also have the sort of basement where water drains out automatically, and most of the pipes are in or would drain primarily into the basement, so any damage would be minimized. There are some exceptions; but somebody's coming by to feed the cats anyway, and possibly to walk the dog.

I do turn off water to the washing machine at the lever right behind it, when I'm not going to be doing laundry again shortly. Washing machine hoses are more likely to give out than house piping.
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Old 11-27-2019, 02:52 PM
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Inside the house at the meter but not out at the road/curb. Shortly after we got this -- place -- we had to have the toilet replaced. A couple days later we were just opening the front door after returning from the store when I heard a pop and saw water coming through the kitchen ceiling; the plumber had not replaced the valve or pressure-tested it and it picked that moment to fail. Several years later I was in the basement doing laundry when the tank of the water-heater split. If we're going to be gone more than 2 nights I shut the house down. And during the winter in the serious cold temps we get sometimes I lower that to one night.
  #26  
Old 11-27-2019, 03:04 PM
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As I said in the last thread, I don't even know where our shut off is. Our water hasn't been turned off in the 19 years I've lived there. I will be having some work done in the Kitchen next year, and I will ask the plumber to locate the valve and make sure it's in good working order. I think I'm convinced that it's worth shutting off the water for extended trips. I couldn't imagine doing it for every trip over half a day. So, crossing my fingers that nothing catastrophic happens in the next few months.
I think it's really, really important to know how to shut off both water and electricity in an emergency.

Just a few months ago, the icemaker line to the fridge broke and turned the kitchen into a wet skating rink. When I tried to turn it off behind the fridge, the valve broke and even more water began shooting out. I was able to run outside and shut down the whole house in less than a minute. Couldn't get a plumber to the house until the next day. You can imagine where this horror story would lead without the shutoff valve.

In addition to getting the new icemaker line installed, I changed our washer hoses to the braided metal type after this. When your plumber is there, I'd bet he can tell you some real horror stories about people being gone for weeks with a large leak. On top of the damage, they have to pay the insane charges for all the water they used.

Last edited by pullin; 11-27-2019 at 03:05 PM.
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Old 11-27-2019, 07:23 PM
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We have a well instead of being connected to public water, so before we go on vacation I always flip the switch to shut off the well pump.

And a pedantic nitpick with respect to the OP: unless you’re digging up the street in front of your house to expose the water main, you’re not shutting off the water “at the main.” The water main in the street is typically 8 inches in diameter. Your water service (typically 1” in diameter) is tapped into the main with a “corporation stop” valve, which is only operated when replacing your service. Closing this valve is the only way to shut off your water “at the main.”

As you go along your water service you then find another valve, called the curb stop. It’s usually located near the curb (hence the name) or on your front property line. This usually has a valve box and operating rod so the water utility can shut off your water if you don’t pay your bill. Finally, inside your house is a third shutoff valve. This is what you are actually referring to. Sometimes it’s called your main shutoff valve, which can obviously lead to confusion. Despite the valve in question being the main shutoff valve for your house, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the water main in the street.
  #28  
Old 11-27-2019, 07:33 PM
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I never used to shut off the water when we travel. A few years ago we had been gone for a few weeks and everything was fine when we got back. However, the very next day a toilet inlet pipe started leaking and water dripped into the unfinished area of the basement where suitcases are stored. Had that happened say just after we left we would have had a huge problem upon returning. Since then, we shut off the water when we leave.
  #29  
Old 11-27-2019, 08:37 PM
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There are some new gizmos on the market for just this scenario. Moen makes one called Flo - it senses both excess flow for whatever it deems to be too long a time, as well as endless drip-drip-drip leaks. It also does a daily "health check" where it shuts off the water and monitors the pressure in your plumbing - a leak will cause the pressure to drop off quickly. Believe you can either have it automatically shut off the water, or it can alert you via its app or robo-call to give you the option to say "Nothing's wrong, I'm filling the kids' pool" or "Yipes!" And yes, you can just have it shut off the water entirely when you're on vacation, but with all of the monitoring, I can't see why you'd really need to do that.

There's a similar thing called Flume that senses leaks, but can only alert you to run off to the shutoff valve.

The Flo model for a typical home water main sells for about $400. No idea what a plumber would charge to install it.

Last edited by gotpasswords; 11-27-2019 at 08:41 PM. Reason: forgot to say what it costs
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Old 11-27-2019, 09:46 PM
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I never did when I owned a home because it was a duplex and there was always someone about. The only shut-off was the gate valve in the street, so there was no way to isolate the units.

Since I've sold that place I've been renting a condo and the awful way the complex plumbing was designed is both very amusing and mildly frustrating to me. The geniuses that designed this place installed one shut-off per building. That's right - need to do some remodeling in your place? Everyone in the building is getting their water shut off. Management post notices in the lobby by the elevators. It's utterly absurd. They at least have sensibly limited said shut-downs to Thursdays after 10 a.m., but it still is silly.

Oh and better have a special shut-off tool on hand if you accidentally whack one of the pre-installed sprinkler heads in your unit while moving around a ladder or something. No unit shut-off means instant flood .

Last edited by Tamerlane; 11-27-2019 at 09:49 PM.
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Old 11-27-2019, 10:11 PM
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Hmm, it occurs to me that my heating system pushes hot water around. It's probably not a good idea to shut off the water. When-ever that happens, it's a nuisance to get the air out of the heating pipes, and of course I wouldn't want to leave the house entirely unheated, either.
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Old 11-29-2019, 01:09 PM
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Yep, if I'm leaving for more than a few days I turn off the hot water heater and turn off the main water cutoff.
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Old 11-29-2019, 01:12 PM
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If I remember to I do.
  #34  
Old Yesterday, 02:35 PM
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Bump.

Just left a claim. Rental property, tenants vacated on Nov 30. Owner returned on Monday Dec 2 morning and found a foot of water in basement. Furnace stopped for whatever reason and pipes froze and burst.

No coverage due to vacancy, over 24 hours between visits.

Turn your water off.
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Old Yesterday, 08:32 PM
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Never ever crossed my mind to do so. Why would the risk of failure suddenly increase on the week I'm gone than the other 51 weeks of the year? Homeowner for over 30 years and never came home to a water issue.
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Old Yesterday, 09:38 PM
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Never ever crossed my mind to do so. Why would the risk of failure suddenly increase on the week I'm gone than the other 51 weeks of the year?
Risk is uncertainty of outcome. In that sense, the risk definitely does rise during an extended absence, simply because the consequences of a leak left unnoticed for a week will be far worse than the consequences of a leak that gets discovered within a few hours.
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Old Yesterday, 10:12 PM
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No. Never. Even when gone for 5-6 months, no. But our homes in California and Arizona didn't really demand such during our long absences. If we lived Back East we'd surely consider shutoffs. Our worst came after our Honduras-Alaska drive when the water agency sent a bill for $3000. No, our place wasn't flooded; they'd changed monitor systems and hadn't reset our meter so is was only a Computer Error, no charge.
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Old Today, 12:46 AM
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Risk is uncertainty of outcome. In that sense, the risk definitely does rise during an extended absence, simply because the consequences of a leak left unnoticed for a week will be far worse than the consequences of a leak that gets discovered within a few hours.

How does the risk rise if I'm here or not? As I said, I've owned a home for 30 plus years and have never had a problem that could have been prevented if the water was turned off, so why does anyone think it will suddenly happen if I go away for the weekend?

We did have an expensive water related issue in our basement when the sump pump went out... and we were here the whole time but just hadn't gone down there in several weeks. The outcome wouldn't have been any different if the water was turned on or off or if we were home or not.
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