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All,

I recently purchased a property in the mountains as a vacation home. It is two stories plus a basement. It has no central air, and just electric baseboard heat. It is at a rather high elevation for where I live (4500 ft above sea level) and thus gets very cold in the winter.

As baseboard heat is very expensive, I'd prefer to only heat the areas of the house that I have to when not there. The only reason to heat any of the house is to prevent the pipes from freezing.

Is there a strategy I can use to only heat rooms where pipes run through them, or should I simply resort to setting all baseboard thermostats to the lowest setting (50 degrees)? I've thought about buying a Seek Thermal imager for my iPhone and tracing the hot water pipes through the walls, but those aren't cheap, so unless I'll really be able to not heat certain rooms I'd rather not spend that $$$.

Thanks so much for any help you can provide!

  • Do you plan to occupy the cabin from time to time in the winter? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 7 at 17:03
  • Yes, about every two weeks. – jbwiv Nov 7 at 17:17
  • How frequent are power outages in the winter? Is propane available there? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 7 at 17:18
  • According to the previous owner, they do happen, but not that often. The owner owned it for the past 25 years, but only lived there permanently the last three. When he wasn't there before those years, he had the city shut off the water. Regarding propane, we have a 120 gallon leased tank which powers the fireplace. – jbwiv Nov 7 at 17:24
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    @CarlWitthoft Sure, I can afford to....but I'd rather not spend the money if I don't have to. I'm frugal, which is why I could afford the house in the first place. – jbwiv Nov 7 at 19:06
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You can probably figure out where the pipes are by finding the water heater , now from there to the kitchen and bathroom by the most direct route will probably be where they are. Many times they are under the house in a crawl space less often they are in the ceiling. If they are in the crawl space I would consider self regulating heat tape , the kind made for use under a home. The heat tape is kind of expensive up front but if you consider the prevention of broken pipes for years with less energy use they become very reasonable.

  • I don't believe there's a crawl space, as it's just basement. I will check next time I'm up though. However, if I can figure out where the pipes go, is heating just that space still enough to keep them from freezing? – jbwiv Nov 7 at 19:07
  • If in the basement heat tape would be easy if the ceiling is not enclosed. You basically run the cord along each pipe and plug it in the tape doesn’t get hot but warms enough to prevent freezing. It only uses power where it is needed like if you have a section that is warmed a bit from the sun that section won’t draw much power. Self regulating can be wrapped over itself and it won’t cause problems, cess expensive heat tapes turn the power on to the entire length when the temp gets to a pre determined level. – Ed Beal Nov 7 at 22:28

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