Maintenance
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Question and Answer ArticleHeat After Close-Up

By Judy Serwe
Published: December 1, 2004
Q: My wife and I are new to cottage living, having just built a cottage on a beautiful lake. Since this is our first year, I am not sure about the pros and cons of whether to leave the heat on or off, since we do not plan to visit our cottage during the winter. Our cottage is dry walled and I don’t know if the cold will cause damage due to expansion/ contraction. Being a plumber by trade, I designed the cottage for easy winterizing of water pipes, so that will not be a problem.
– Sam Nothman; via e-mail

A: Being a plumber, you have the biggest issue covered: preventing the pipes from freezing. With regard to turning off the heat, it’s not the freezing and thawing that causes problems so much as the change in humidity. Since your cottage is new, it is probably pretty airtight. When the heat is shut off and the temperature drops, water vapor in the air inside your home condenses and can cause mold and mildew to form. That doesn’t mean you need to keep the heat on all winter. If possible, when you close up, leave windows open slightly to allow air to circulate. After a few weeks the indoor and outdoor humidity should equalize. At that time close and lock the windows for the remainder of the winter…or have a trusted neighbor do it for you.

There are a few other things you might also consider when closing up. Some people choose to shut off electricity to their cabins in the winter by throwing the main switch at the fuse box. If you do this, be sure to first turn off all major appliances, as well as the water heater and electrical room heaters. This will ensure a smoother and safer start-up in the spring.

If you want to leave your electricity on to operate security systems or lighting, you can turn off the power supply to major appliances at the main panel.
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