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Cottage Closing: What Your HVAC Needs From You to Survive the Winter

smart thermostat with mobile phone

If you are fortunate enough to own a seasonal home, you are probably even less eager than the rest of us to welcome winter!

Yet winter is coming – and Canadian winters are not known to be gentle on property or people.

For this reason, even experienced seasonal cottage owners often reach out for help with preparing their property for winter weather. New cottage owners frequently express feelings of overwhelm with all there is to be done to get ready.

For these and other reasons, we decided now is a great time to share our top tips to prepare your HVAC system to safely ride out the winter until you can return to check on it next spring.

Consider a “Smart Home” Remote Monitoring System

The best strategy when closing up a seasonal property for winter is to arrange for a local neighbor, who is staying the winter, to check on it for you.

But often this is not possible for any number of reasons, including that there may not be any locals who are staying put during the winter.

In this case, the second best option is to consider embracing modern technology to help you monitor your cabin’s well-being from afar.

This is especially vital if you are planning to leave the central power on to run basic home security, heating and other services – all of which can be vital to avoid theft, vandalism, burst water pipes and other costly damages.

Most of today’s smart home services are app-based, allowing you to monitor conditions remotely from a phone, tablet or laptop. These apps also let you adjust the temperature as needed as weather near your cabin changes.

Build Your Outdoor HVAC a Shelter

The next step to take is to construct some kind of seasonal shelter for the outdoor HVAC components at your cabin.

You want this shelter to protect the outdoor unit from falling debris, snow and ice buildup and rodents, but not promote mould or mildew growth or close accumulation of ground detritus.

Aim for some type of overhang that still permits natural air circulation yet is sturdy enough to deflect falling tree limbs, snow and hail from damaging the unit itself.

Schedule Your HVAC Preventative Maintenance Service

In most cases, seasonal cottages have less complex HVAC systems than year-round dwellings. But simpler doesn’t mean maintenance-free, which is an especially important point to remember when you are vacating your cottage for several months.

Cold weather doesn’t necessarily reduce the risk of a cottage fire, especially when there are worn parts, clogged air filters, wires or power connections that go unnoticed before you leave.

Scheduling HVAC preventative maintenance now can circumvent the unthinkable – and the worry that accompanies it – so you can be sure your HVAC unit itself is not a fire or safety risk while you are absent this winter.

As a side perk, scheduling this preventative HVAC maintenance ensures your unit will be maintained and ready to welcome you back in the spring.

Consider Keeping the Thermostat Running While You Are Away

We acknowledge there are several schools of thought on this particular topic. Some cottage owners prefer to simply prep their pipes with a bit of RV-friendly antifreeze (NOT auto antifreeze) and shut down all power to the cottage before winter arrives.

Other cottage owners advocate for keeping at least minimal power to their seasonal property, including the option to run a low level of heat to keep plumbing pipes from freezing and maintain a security system.

There is no one right or wrong answer here, but only the solution that best meets your personal concerns and safety needs.

If you do choose to keep your thermostat running while you are gone, scheduling HVAC preventative maintenance, including filter changes, unit cleaning and a general tune-up, is vital to your cottage’s safety.

We recommend maintaining at least a minimum of 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) inside your cabin at all times to protect pipes from freezing and bursting.

This is also where having a remote smart home system can really come in handy, as it allows you to adjust the thermostat remotely if the weather changes drastically near your cabin.

Check and Clean All Registers, Vents, Ducts, Chimneys

You may be leaving your seasonal cottage for the winter season, but there will be many residents who are sticking around.

Raccoons, rats, possums, mice, foxes, insects and other wildlife will soon be marshalling all their survival smarts to strategize staying alive through the winter.

This can make your ducts, vents, registers, chimneys, flues and other ingress/egress points look pretty posh and cozy! This is especially true if you haven’t cleaned out any trapped dust, debris, leaf litter, dirt and other detritus, all of which can come in handy to make an insulating winter nest.

The first step here is to do a full cabin indoor/outdoor walk-through and identify any opportunities for rodents and insects to make their way inside to hide. Next, clean out any trapped debris that might make these areas look even more inviting.

Finally, seal up each opening to keep unwelcome visitors out. Many home goods stores sell guards you can place over exhaust vents and flues to keep out birds and animals.

Adjust and Insulate Your Water Heater

In all the excitement, it can be easy to forget all about your water heater. It, too, is vulnerable to winter extremes of temperature.

To safeguard your water heater, turn it to the lowest temperature setting and wrap it and the pipes leading to it with insulation.

Get in Touch

Do you need to schedule your pre-winter preventative HVAC maintenance? Are you unsure about the best way to prepare your seasonal cottage HVAC system for the winter? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-549-4616.

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