Green / Eco-Friendly

Energy efficient winterized cottage?

  • Last Updated:
  • Oct 18th, 2017 11:32 am
Deal Addict
Feb 25, 2007
1095 posts

Energy efficient winterized cottage?

Kicking the tires on buying some glorious but unserviced, off-the-grid waterfront land, to build a cottage for summer and occasional winter use. Eastern Ontario.

The idealist in me wants to build a small, custom energy-efficient cottage. Open and air cooled in summer; passive solar, super-insulated, etc. for winter.

Is that dumb? It's clear the methods and economics of energy-efficient building have improved leaps and bounds, but its possible the economics still only work when you're there the full heating season. Maybe it's saner to put up a conventionally constructed, reasonably but not excessively insulated cabin, and just resign ourselves to burning more energy (wood and/or propane(?)) when we're there in winter, and draining water etc so it can stay completely unheated when we're not.

Anyone gone through a similar decision process? Of course if we go ahead we'll have to prove out with some expert advice, but I figure it's possible the answer is pretty clear if you know more than we do!
Cash flow not a huge problem, but we're trying to be sane and reasonably eco-friendly, not build a showpiece 10 years before its time....
3 replies
Deal Addict
Jul 29, 2006
3693 posts
I think it's worthwhile but totally depends on your holding period. If you plan on keeping this cottage forever and passing it onto your kids then investment might be worth it but depends on cost of both.

The other thing to consider is: is it more maintenance compared to standard cottages or more?
Deal Fanatic
Jan 27, 2006
9326 posts
Vancouver, BC
I've read that the cost between a well built insulated house and a 'conventional' one is only about 10 to 15% so from a cost/benefit standpoint (provided that the cottage is not crazy in size), it's well within reason especially if you consider that you would need to spend more on energy cost for a conventional one in the Winter months. If you apply a reasonable expectation of payback for each improvement, you might even be able to reduce that 10 to 15% down to 5 to 10% and end up being very comfortable in your cottage during those cold Winter months.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Oct 9, 2010
2053 posts
How much are you planning on using the cottage in the winter? With the minimal cost it add additional insulation, I'd do it, especially if you are planning on keeping it for a while / will use it a lot. Keeping your cottage above freezing for the entire winter would probably have some considerable costs in propane, so that insulation would potentially pay itself off, if you aren't draining everything when you leave.

FWIW: When my family had a cottage, it had normal insulation (R12 all around). However, we were there somewhere around 15-20 days during the winter. When we left, we turned off the pump, opened the drain, opened all of the faucets, and turned off the heat. When we came back, loaded up the fireplace, and by the time we had everything unpacked from the car, the house was basically warm. The pump was in a tiny insulated room, which never froze (there was an electric heater in there that would potentially have kept it above freezing, but it was disabled). For our use pattern, it was worth it to just let it freeze when we weren't using it.
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