5 things your cottage would tell you if it could talk

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Your cottage is your home away from home, so you want it to be well looked after. On the surface, that means fixing things when they go awry and staying on top of small repairs so your weekend chore list doesn’t get out of hand. Dig deeper, though, and there are a few common problems that most cottage owners will face every now and again, and many of them hide within your cottage walls. If those walls could talk, here’s what they’d probably tell you.

Your appliances are acting weird

Making mistakes, like accidentally leaving an appliance on, is only human. Thankfully there are intelligent tools that can help you avoid those errors. An energy-monitoring system like Schneider Electric’s Wiser Energy can be installed straight into your electrical panel and connected to your smartphone. The device gives you a complete overview of your home’s or cottage’s energy use, including customizable notifications for specific appliances that may be using too much energy, whether they’ve been left on or they’re going haywire. It also allows you to keep tabs on any activity while you’re out, and to manage energy expenditures before you get a bill. And if you use solar power at your cottage, it will let you monitor your generation to make sure you’re maximizing your investment.

Does this water taste weird?

Most of us know not to drink water straight from the lake, but ensuring good water quality at the cottage will still help you maintain and maximize the efficiency of your water system.

A slow flow in your sink or shower could be a sign that sediment is building up in the spout’s aerator (nothing a replacement part or a toothbrush and elbow grease can’t fix), while reddish stains on clothing, rusty stains in sinks or toilets, or lime scale and other buildup around drains and faucets could indicate there’s too much iron in your water. You’ll need a new oxidizing filter in that case.

Finally, if you’re thinking of installing a water softener or you already have one, keep an eye on your septic system—the salt used in the backwash to flush out dirt could corrode the tank, interfere with the bacterial action, or affect the soil in the septic field. To minimize these effects, invest in a newer unit that recharges based on water flow (and not timed intervals), or direct the waste water into a separate leaching pit instead.

You’re using too much energy

Many of us give older appliances a second life at the cottage, where good coffee is more of a priority than fresh laundry. But don’t let energy-gobbling appliances be among your vintage collections. Upgrading your appliances with high-efficiency models can save on electricity, minimizing your bills and your impact on the environment.

Meanwhile, there are several energy-efficient hacks you can try over the winter to slash your heating bill, from installing draft stoppers or weatherstripping around doors to sealing air leaks in ducts and hanging insulated curtains.

I’m feeling a bit backed up

The septic system can be a common problem for cottagers. It makes sense when you factor in the age of most systems coupled with the number of guests who pass through a cottage during a typical summer. In order to keep yours running smoothly, limit long showers and laundry so as to not flood the system, and use water-conserving fixtures where possible.

It’s also a good idea to ditch anti-bacterial soaps and bleach in favour of more natural products that won’t affect the septic system’s bacteria from doing their job. And as always, keep feminine-hygiene products and other non-flushables where they belong: in the garbage.

I feel a draft

One small draft can lead to lots of trouble in a winterized cottage—or during an unexpected autumn cold snap. It’s important to fix any potential cracks in the walls to eliminate rodents and other pests from entering—remember that mice can fit through a hole the size of your pinkie—but also to keep your energy costs in check. Adding weatherstripping to doors and sealing windows also adds another layer of protection, ensuring that you stay toasty when you’re not in front of the fireplace.