Heating a vacation home in winter

Hi -- I purchased a small ski house in Canada last year so it's my second winter. When I bought the house there were a fair number of cracks in the walls, which my neighbor said was a result of rapid heating - i.e. the previous owners would leave the house unheated when they weren't there then crank it when they were, resulting in the cracks. When I got the cracks fixed/the interior painted this summer, though, the contractor who did the job said that absolutely wasn't the issue, it was a bad taping job that caused the cracks and I didn't need to worry about heating the place when I wasn't there. It does get cold up, up to -20F at times last winter.
So what's the truth? I don't want to ruin the new walls, but at the same time if there's no reason to heat it I'd rather not. It's electric heat and can be quite expensive. If I should keep it on, how high should it be? The neighbor says 60 degrees. Thanks for any guidance (I'm a female, first time homeowner with fairly limited domestic knowledge at this point!).
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Christine wrote:

Hi, I have a cottage out in the woods here in Alberta. It is for 4 season use and built for that. Has NG furnace and fire place. When not in use year round, I set the thermostat at 10 deg. C. Of course in summer furnace never kicks in at that setting. In winter, it does a few times when weather gets real cold. The building is of 2X6 walls with R20 insulation. When I go out there in winter I turn on fire place and set the thermostat to 20 deg. C or so. Never had wall cracking problem. If you don't heat, what about plumbing? It may freeze. My winter temp. is upto -50 deg. F with wind chill. Tony
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Plumbing may freeze? It surely will with outside temps of -20F. The house either has to have the heat left on or else the water system needs to be winterized. Since it's a ski house, it doesn't sound practical to go through winterizing it and renewing it for each visit.
I'd set the thermostat for 50 degrees. Any lower than that, with -20 outside, you still might have freezing problems. It really depends on how well the heat system is balanced and how well insulation was done in exterior walls around water pipes. Also, leave cabinet doors under sinks by outside walls open to let more warm air in.
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In alt.home.repair on 17 Oct 2004 20:10:40 -0700 snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net (Chet Hayes) posted:

Oh yeah, winterizing. Don't some people put antifreeze in the toilets and sinks traps? A 50/50 ratio gives the most protection, but to do that you have to estimate how much is in the trap. (Toilets have a trap to but it is built into the toilet. The trap is the water that you can see in the bottom of the toilet, plus a smaller amount of water at the same height in the tube leading out and up from the back of the bowl. Then you have to remember not to use the sink or flush the toilet before you leave.

Good point. My friend lives in Herndon Va, 30 miles SW of Washington DC, and the first winter the pipe burst in his kitchen, in the wall but not so near his sink. It must be a pipe to a bathroom upstairs. Turns out that the builder had put the insulation between the pipe and the inside of the wall, not the outside like he should have. And this is northern Virginia, where it rarely even snows. (once a year?) And they were home at the time and using most of the faucets. The house was new so the builder paid for the repairs.
Other than sinks built under a window, like our first two houses, is there really a reason to put pipes in outside walls? (And with dishwashers, does anyone spend substantial time at the sink anymore, that it helps to have it with a window?)

Meirman If emailing, please let me know whether or not you are posting the same letter.
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Turn off heat , pour RV antifreeze in all traps , washing machine ,sump pump etc. Drain pipes and water heater. Shut off water at street. Heating systems break down when you need them , dont rely on them or you may freeze.
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In alt.home.repair on Sun, 17 Oct 2004 20:52:11 GMT Tony Hwang

Wind chill doesn't count with regard to houses and pipes, unless it is or was recently raining. Pipes don't perspire, so indoor pipes don't get wind chill.

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In alt.home.repair on 17 Oct 2004 13:38:43 -0700 snipped-for-privacy@ubs.com (Christine) posted:

I don't know, but there is a new bio out about Millicent Fenwick, a US Congressman from New Jersey iirc. After she left the House, she was the ambassador to some country in Europe for a few years. She was verrry thrifty and contacted the utilities for advice on how to disconnect her house while she was gone. They or a plumber explained how to drain the water pipes, and she did that, or had it done, and off she went. Apparently it would have cost her 2 or 3 thousand dollars a year, or for 3 years, to heat her house. That seems like a lot for the 50's or 60's. I haven't read the book, only heard it discussed on NPR. I'm in Maryland, which is warmer than NJ, and have a 1400 square foot town house with 3 outside walls and bad fitting doors, but up until this years price rise, I only used one tank of oil per year, for about 300 dollars or a little more. Her house must have been big and hard to heat.
When she got back iirc 3 years later, the house looked good on the outside iirc, but when they went inside, the ceiling in a room or more had collapsed, and the repairs were about 10000 dollars. She was very upset, and I gather would have left the heat on if she had known.
What I don't understand fully is how cold I can let my house get. The thermostat only goes down to 50 degrees I think. I would think 40 or 45 would be warm enough. I realize that it can be colder in some parts of the house than it is by the thermostat, but 50 - 32 is 18. That much colder? The basement doesn't get that hot in the summer or that cold in the winter I thought, even if there is no heat or cooling.
If you do let it go below freezing, you have to drain all the pipes, plus the toilet tanks and toilet bowls. And the water heater. What about the sink traps, and the water in the bottom of the dishwasher and the washing machine?
Plus the garden faucets. There are some available that are long and have the valve actually in the house, but yours are installed already and I don't know how common the kind I mean would be, even in Canada.
So if you don't have that, you have to turn off the water supply to each garden faucet, and turn on the faucet outside and then open the knurled cap nut, if there is one, on the valve inside, to drain the water between the valve and the faucet, which includes the water near the faucet that may freeze otherwise. You have to do this even if you leave the heat on all winter.

I surely think 60 is too much. If there were a problem with rapid heating, that could be avoided by leaving it at, say, 50, and turning up the thermostat 2 or 3 degrees every hour. That would be 6 hours or more to get to 70, but I think you would be willing to do that to save the heat needed to go from 50 to 60. You just keep your coat on. Maybe this is unneeded for this situation, but to think one has to let the thermostat control the heating rate is to be stuck thinking inside the box.
Meirman If emailing, please let me know whether or not you are posting the same letter.
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(Christine) posted: <snip>

<snip>
It might help to hear what the actual cause of the interior damage was, but I'll wager a bunch that it wasn't the absence of heat. Ice-dams maybe. Or roof leaks that went unnoticed for years. Or any combination of many possible sources. (She really should have had someone visit the house regularly.)
Interestingly, no discussion yet of keeping internal relative humidity stable, or at least within reasonable range. The pulling apart of the wallboard joints mentioned by OP probably resulted from use of relatively wet lumber, shrinking on drying- across grain. And maybe from sub-optimum taping. Nothing much anyone could have done after the fact with that, except what OP had done.
John
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Thanks to all for your guidance ... I'm still not clear on what would cause the cracks but it sounds like I should keep it at 40-50 degrees inside just to be safe? Re the plumbing, I know this sounds kind of bizarre but the guy who built the house installed some kind of mechanism that heats the pipes when the temperature goes below a certain temperature so you never have to worry about freezing pipes (the neighbor told me this; his house is built by the same guy). I know it sounds weird -- because I don't understand why every house in a cold climate wouldn't have it -- but it's the truth because last winter was brutal and I would leave the house unattended for up to 6 weeks at a time and I never had a pipe problem.
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Meirman is an idiot, certified........
Drain your house and freeze protect it with a local . Use antifreeze in traps and washers- - clothes.washers anything that holds water, even pumps
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Everything breaks down, even "HEAT TAPE " So do utiltiy wires and companies. So Now go figure miss uninformed. Keep powered, or do a saftey shut down. You really cant be that dumb, can you ?
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snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (m Ransley) wrote in message

i've answered you privately, something you denied me the courtesy of (what a surprise!). no i'm not dumb, i'm doing what most other people who use chatboards do by asking for help. christ - go kick some small animals why don't you. spare the rest of us your misanthroic bent.
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snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (m Ransley) wrote in message

i've answered you privately, something you denied me the courtesy of (what a surprise!). no i'm not dumb, i'm doing what most other people who use chatboards do by asking for help. christ - go kick some small animals why don't you. spare the rest of us your misanthropic bent.
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Look at the big brain on Christine!!!
I LIKE you!
You're Spunky!!!!!!
Anytime you have a question, just ask me! I'll give it to you straight!
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Red Neckerson wrote:

Hi, I don't like the part "kicking some small animals". Maybe that's what she does? Not nice. SPCA is watching you. Tony
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