There are a few simple ways to tell it’s summer in Minnesota: the flowers are in full bloom, the muggy air is heating things up and there are hordes of cars headed north every Friday afternoon. Minnesotans migrate to cabin country on summer weekends, and most people with lake homes rely on an HVAC system to stay comfortable when the mercury rises. It’s essential equipment, even in the north woods. The problem is, you probably only spend a handful of weekends at the cabin, and when you’re not there, you may have less control over your equipment. During that time, it could drain excessive energy if you’re not careful. Here are five things you can do to prepare for your time away from the cabin:
1. Program Your Thermostat
As we discussed before, a programmable thermostat is an effective way to get some extra efficiency out of an HVAC system. The extra features come in handy if you’re not around to adjust the settings. When you’re leaving your vacation home for an extended period, it’s best to set your thermostat to 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the majority of the time you’re away. If you know what day you’ll be back, you can schedule the air conditioning to kick in once again on that day. There will be no signs that the vacation house was a little warm while you were gone, other than a cheaper utility bill.
2. Keep the AC Unit On
You might think the ultimate way to save energy is to use none at all. Shutting down your air conditioning during the summer can actually do more harm than good. Wooden furniture, floors and doors tend to expand when things get too hot, resulting in costly home damage. When you drive up north for several hours, the last things you want to see are cracked tables or doors that don’t open correctly. That’s why we recommend a setting of 80 degrees Fahrenheit if you will only be gone for a week or two. It’s just warm enough not to cost a fortune and just cool enough not to damage your home and belongings.
3. Lower the Water Heater Temperature
When you’re going to be away from your vacation home for more than three days, you’re best off changing your water cooler settings. Many newer water heaters feature a “vacation” setting, which automatically lowers the water temperature as much as possible. If you have a gas water heater, look for the thermostat dial around the bottom of the tank, near the gas valve. Be extra careful if you have an electric water heater – you will need to turn off the breaker for the room before adjusting the temperature setting (usually found in side panels). Every model is different, so consult your manual, online resources or an expert if you have any questions.
4. Make Use of Shade
If your vacation home has awnings, it is reducing heat gain in the summer. Check your awnings to make sure they’re installed correctly and fully extended. You can control incoming sunlight within your home’s interior as well: double-check your blinds and drapery before you leave for a few days to make sure they’re closed. Reflective blinds can diminish heat gain by as much as 45% and drapes typically reduce it by 33%. Place drapery as close to a window as possible for maximum efficiency. Reflective films are another option for diverting sunlight away from the home, although they will lower your visibility of the outdoors.
5. Get Winterized
When the summer ends, it might be time to call it quits on cabin trips for the year. If you’re going to be gone for the cold months, you’ll have to take a few extra steps to ensure a comfortable environment when you return. You can turn your furnace off if you won’t use it at all during the winter – just make sure to change the filter and vacuum the interior before you head out. If you come back in early spring, you’ll want it to run smoothly. Winterize your plumbing by turning off the exterior water supply line and draining all the water from faucets, toilets and water heater. Finally, unplug your electronics – otherwise, they might drain your wallet!
When cabin owners think of their rural properties, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the leisurely time they spend with friends and family. When it comes to your energy bills, time away from the cabin is just as important as those fun-filled summer days. Before you head back to the city, take a few small steps to conserve energy and make your cabin more efficient. Looking for more energy-saving tips? Explore our service plans or request an appointment today to see how you can create a more efficient environment, whether you’re home or away.