Cottage Q&A: Appliances vs. cold temperatures

Published: January 16, 2020

appliances By MrGarry/Shutterstock

I am looking to buy new appliances for our uninsulated cottage. Is there an issue with the temperature? Some people are saying they would not last a year in these conditions.—Terry Skindilias, Big Rideau, Ont.

“Well, that’s one opinion,” says Russ Row, the general manager at Ben’s Appliances in Surrey, B.C. “And opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone has one.”

In this case, though, Row and every other expert we talked to, including those in Red Deer, Alta., and Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes, had the same opinion: assuming you thoroughly winterize anything that contains water—drain every drop; add non-toxic (a.k.a. RV) antifreeze where appropriate—your appliances will most likely survive.

“I have a hard time believing the temperature alone would cause problems,” says Brad Pembleton of Al’s Appliance Repair in Guelph, Ont. “Appliances are stored in cold warehouses all the time.”

Of course, you wouldn’t want to operate an appliance when it’s stone cold. “Appliances are designed for homes that are heated year round,” says Steve Brannan, who owns Brannan’s Appliance in Toronto. “When they’re in use, they have to be at a comfortable temperature.” This is why every manufacturer of every appliance on the planet lists minimum and maximum “operating temperatures” in the owner’s manual. (And why, if you stop by for a winter visit, you should turn on the heat and allow your appliances to warm up to room temperature before using them.)

To be safe, shop for models that contain the least amount of electronics. Do you really need a 21-inch touch-and-swipe screen or an oven that can communicate with your microwave? “The more mechanical, the better,” says Pembleton. “Dust, temperature changes, moisture…they’re all enemies of electronics.” 

Read more on what you should or shouldn’t leave in an unheated cottage over the winter.

Got a question for Cottage Life’s Cottage Q&A? Send it to answers@cottagelife.com.

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