When it comes to heating your cottage, there are endless options available—from propane, to natural gas, to electricity, to wood. And then there are other considerations: Do you need air-conditioning as well? What about ventilation?
It’s enough to make you want to give up and just pile on the blankets instead. Don’t despair though; choosing the right heating for your cottage is as simple as asking yourself these key questions.
How many seasons do you need to heat your cottage for?
As much as we’d like to believe that heat isn’t necessary for summer cottages, don’t kid yourself. This is Canada, after all.
If you’re looking to only heat your cottage during cold summer nights and the shoulder seasons, your best bet may be to opt for a propane wall furnace, or a propane or wood fireplaces. (All of these systems will fare well when the building freezes during the off-months.)
Jan Sirek, president of Tasso Lake Heating Solutions in Huntsville, recommends seasonal cottage owners consider a high-efficiency and cost-effective ductless split heat pump for both heat and air-conditioning. However, Sirek notes they do have their downfalls. “If there is a power failure, [cottage-owners] will not be able to take advantage of the system,” he says.
However, if you’re looking to heat your cottage year-round, it’s time to explore the full gamut of options.
What is going to be both the most reliable (and affordable) source of heat in your cottage’s area?
Whether your cottage is on or off-grid, as well as where it’s located, is an important consideration. For example, Sirek says that electric is the least attractive option in Ontario for year-round cottages.
“Aside from the high cost, our supply in Muskoka is remarkably undependable,” he says. Instead, Sirek recommends choosing a propane furnace, boiler or fireplace—all are efficient and will run with minimal or no electricity in the event of a power failure. Coupled with a high-efficiency electric heat pump for the summer, it’s a cost-effective heating solution.
What is going to be the best long-term investment?
For its customers, Tasso Lake Heating’s “ultimate” solution for year-round cottages is in-floor heat with a parallel duct system. The hydronic in-floor tubes keep floors warm and distribute heat evenly throughout the cottage, while the ductwork allows for air filtration, humidification and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV).
“There is a no more comfortable or efficient heat than hydronic in-floor heating,” says Sirek. “Ask anyone who has it.”
Do you need to heat the full cottage or just specific areas, like the bathroom?
If you’re just looking to heat one room, you may not need to install a furnace and ductwork. Instead, you may choose a freestanding or wall-mounted unit. Make sure that it’s designed for the square footage that you want to heat.
How much maintenance are you willing to perform?
A fireplace can’t heat your cottage without wood. And similarly, while a propane appliance will burn less fuel, it needs to be maintained.
“Propane is not as clean-burning as natural gas,” says Sirek. “It leaves soot deposits in the burners. If left unchecked, the soot can become corrosive and shorten the life of the heat exchange.”
Regardless of what heat you choose, annual maintenance should be scheduled in your cottage opening or closing for the season.
“Problems usually start as minor issues, such as water drips or mouse nests,” says Sirek. Caught early, these issues are much less expensive to resolve before they become major issues.