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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I are starting a new adventure this week - we bought an HOA cabin with plans to live there through the winter. The cabin is 16 years old but hasn't ever been occupied in the winter before, so I've got a ton of chores to get done and improvements to make before winter hits. Meanwhile, I've got a bunch of decisions to make that include some large expenses and I'm so wrapped up in what-ifs, what-abouts, shoulds, coulds, and woulds that I'm having trouble sleeping at night.

Since I'm an absolute pilgrim when it comes to this lifestyle, I'm wondering if any of you good folks have some experience and expertise to offer. I'm especially interested in advice from anyone who lives in a cabin full time. Thanks!
 

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Have 2 sources of heat and keep all your water pipes in one section of the cabin. Spend time critter proofing this time of the year if you don't want to live with them all winter.

Do you have year round access by car?
 

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Kindof hard to know what to recommend without seeing it. There are well made cabins and poorly constructed cabins.

How well insulated is it? Especially under the floor? Air leaks will be a PITA in the winter. Have some spray foam on hand. I'd make sure all plumbing is covered with batting or sheets of foam insulation from the home depot. Tyvek nailed to the bottom of all floor joist's will act as a wind barrier. Hopefully thats already done, with batting over that, and plumbing over that.

Do you have electrical service from the grid? If so, have a secondary means to power lighting / heat from solar/battery/inverter or generator if you lose it. Replace all incandescent lighting with efficient LED bulbs. A small usb fan off a 12v deep cycle battery next to a wood stove will increase heat in the room by quite a bit and last for quite a while (and rechargable via solar if you have that). If SHTF and you cant heat it, have a means to quickly winterize the plumbing (even if that means simply installing a couple low point drains).

What about heat... is it wood exclusively, propane bulk tank, natural gas supply etc?

-DallanC
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Do you have year round access by car?
Nope. That's a decision I need to make - ATV or snowmobile? I'd prefer some sort of ATV because I'd get a lot more use out of it. If I was rich, I'd buy an enclosed SXS 4 seater and a set of trax. But it's looking like a used snowmobile is a more likely option. I'm also investigating the possibility of a snow dog.

How well insulated is it? Especially under the floor? Air leaks will be a PITA in the winter. Have some spray foam on hand. I'd make sure all plumbing is covered with batting or sheets of foam insulation from the home depot. Tyvek nailed to the bottom of all floor joist's will act as a wind barrier. Hopefully thats already done, with batting over that, and plumbing over that.

Do you have electrical service from the grid? If so, have a secondary means to power lighting / heat from solar/battery/inverter or generator if you lose it. Replace all incandescent lighting with efficient LED bulbs. A small usb fan off a 12v deep cycle battery next to a wood stove will increase heat in the room by quite a bit and last for quite a while (and rechargable via solar if you have that). If SHTF and you cant heat it, have a means to quickly winterize the plumbing (even if that means simply installing a couple low point drains).

What about heat... is it wood exclusively, propane bulk tank, natural gas supply etc?

-DallanC
No insulation at all, but I got the seller to take a few grand off the price to pay for it. It's the biggest chore I need to tackle as we move in. But I hadn't thought about Tyvek. Good call - thanks!

We have electricity from the grid and a generator (that needs some maintenance). We also have a wood burning stove, but I need to haul in another cord of wood. I like your idea of a fan. Again, thanks! If things work out, I plan to eventually install solar but it's way down the list of things to get done.

Even though this is now our primary residence, we've had enough sense to not sell our house just yet. If things go sideways, we can always escape to our place in the valley and reconsider.
 

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What type of snow are you dealing with? Or where are you at? Ie. Soapstone in uintas will need a sled and you're unlikely to get in there with a tracked sxs during most of the winter.

With insulation, you'll invite pests and it can be hard to get rid of them. Pest proof first and consider/researching spray foam with a pest repellant if it's available. Also start off right by keeping food sources in chew proof containers until you see what type of issues you'll have. Look for current issues when inspecting. For the last 2 years I've been dealing with a pack rat at my cabin and bats. Too much info to talk about here. Just make a plan and deal with problems in a systematic order.
 

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They make fans that work off the heat of the wood stove. No power needed.

I lived for 2 years in an uninsulated cabin in a local canyon (think no sun all winter). I had both a wood stove and propane furnace. When it got cold and the wind would blow there is no way even with both going to keep it warm. That and constantly having to shovel snow finally did me in.

I currently have a cabin in which I have spent some time in, in the winter. It is well sealed and insulated. We heat it with a wood stove only and you can get heat stroke if you are not careful. A 6" x 12" log or two every hour or two keeps it pretty comfortable. It is about 600 sq feet.

I can understand the appeal but we constantly talk about spending the whole winter there. When all is said and done I think it is the isolation from other people that makes it hard. For some it may make it easier.

Good luck. Let us know how it goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Following up...

After heat taping all water lines, including drain lines, and covering those lines with tube insulation, I installed 8" of R3 insulation in the floor, held in place with straps and insulated panels. Will cover it all with exterior plywood next spring. Under a time and money crunch, I skirted with 6 mil plastic. Temps have dropped to zero with no frozen lines. Still, without roof insulation, ice is a big problem. Snow melts against the cabin heat, runs to the low point and freezes, then continues to do that until we have big ice bergs weighing hundreds of pounds.

This is a lot more work than I anticipated. Chopping wood, dumping ashes, shoveling snow, busting ice off the roof...every day requires chores. I'm inherently lazy, but that don't fly up here. Since I'm just about 68 years old, this lifestyle will be temporary. I don't see me working like this for more than a few years.

I severely underestimated how much firewood is required. We had 2 cords of wood and we're just about running out, now. As a result, we're relying on electric heat unless temps drop below 20 degrees.. That makes me nervous because power outages are common up here. Not to mention our electric bill for December was $223. So I need to get a transfer panel installed and a good generator while I figure out solar. Sure, we have the wood stove for heat, but without electricity, we have no heat tapes.

We bought a snowmobile rather than an ATV and that was a good choice. 3 feet of powder on the ground is too much for an ATV. Meantime, the wife and I are enjoying the hell out of learning to snowmobile. The market for ATVs and snowmobiles is insane this year. Folks are selling used machines for more than new value and ATV orders are months out. We were lucky to find a used snowmobile (2020) for 6 grand.

We had our first medical emergency. Wife cut her hand on a broken glass while washing dishes during a wicked storm. Got her on the sled, out of here and to the Park City emergency room in less than an hour. So we aren't all that isolated.

But the bottom line is, we've decided to dump the house in Bountiful and stay here while we can. Living like this is fun. It isn't just the adventure. When your neighbors are turkeys and deer and elk, it changes your head. This place encourages reflection/introspection. We can actually see stars at night. The air is fresh, the water clean and very cold. Chickadees and stellar jays visit every day to inspect our wood pile, looking for insects. I listen to the elk each evening while I sit on our deck and enjoy my cup of coffee. I've got a dozen good fishing holes within a half hours drive. Looking to park my boat permanently on Jordanelle when I want to go "down there" fishing. The only human construction between us and the Uintas is the Stillman ranch. And I've learned more about turkeys in the last few months than I ever knew before. They roost on our property every night and have done so for months. I have no use for CWMUs, but from what I've seen, Stillman Ranch has some incredible bucks.

Caveat: I wouldn't even try this if I had a job. But I sure as hell endorse this as a retirement. Get snowed in? Happened twice here when Weber Canyon wasn't plowed. But I didn't care; didn't matter.
 

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I severely underestimated how much firewood is required. We had 2 cords of wood and we're just about running out, now. As a result, we're relying on electric heat unless temps drop below 20 degrees.. That makes me nervous because power outages are common up here. Not to mention our electric bill for December was $223. So I need to get a transfer panel installed and a good generator while I figure out solar. Sure, we have the wood stove for heat, but without electricity, we have no heat tapes.
IDK how much you know about it, but a great place to start is this youtube channel:


Overall, its heartbreaking how much solar is required to power simple things. I went down this rabbit hole on our toyhauler and solar setup. Its ridiculous how much physical square footage of panels are required to run say, a simple RV AC (hint, unless you have a massive trailer, it aint happening). We run 2, 100 watt panels and its fine for everything but the AC which is cool (figure 160 watts usable for 5 hours of a day). Entire trailer minus AC pulls about 50 watts with the TV and Stereo going.

You might want to get a "kill-a-watt" meter and start pluging things into it, to get a feel for how much energy your various appliances are drawing during a day. Figure out your daily power usage and design the system around that... taking special care to note a cabin might not see the sun for a week or more if its stormy / snowy. Thats when the generator would need to fill in.

Anyway Will's youtube channel is an excellent resource. For panels around a cabin, the best "deal" in terms of $$$ vs amps returned is used commercial solar panels being sold as businesses upgrade. 250watt panels are ok, 360watt are much better. Get a pallet (30) of them for cheaper than a dozen new ones. You will want them suspended off the ground for cabin use, so the snow can melt off. Bonus points if you make it so you can alter the angle with the season and height of the sun... but that can be alot of work, and probably more than made up for by adding a few more panels from your pallet pile.


From there you need a GOOD charge controller. Probably Victron or other pro level controller. Your voltage is a decision to make... higher voltage allows smaller wiring, lots of amps at 12v and you are going to need 0 or 00 welding cables for wiring. I think 48volt is most home setups. Then you need good batteries to store the amps generated during the day... batteries are hella expensive, but Lithium is the goto due to the number of charge cycles they are good for.

Note: Lithium batteries will suffer PERMENANT damage if charged below freezing temps. So you need "smart batteries" with low temp cutoff, or internal heaters to prevent charging below freezing.

Then you just need a good inverter to turn that 12/24/48volt energy in your batteries back into useable 110v.

-DallanC
 

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Following up...

After heat taping all water lines, including drain lines, and covering those lines with tube insulation, I installed 8" of R3 insulation in the floor, held in place with straps and insulated panels. Will cover it all with exterior plywood next spring. Under a time and money crunch, I skirted with 6 mil plastic. Temps have dropped to zero with no frozen lines. Still, without roof insulation, ice is a big problem. Snow melts against the cabin heat, runs to the low point and freezes, then continues to do that until we have big ice bergs weighing hundreds of pounds.

This is a lot more work than I anticipated. Chopping wood, dumping ashes, shoveling snow, busting ice off the roof...every day requires chores. I'm inherently lazy, but that don't fly up here. Since I'm just about 68 years old, this lifestyle will be temporary. I don't see me working like this for more than a few years.

I severely underestimated how much firewood is required. We had 2 cords of wood and we're just about running out, now. As a result, we're relying on electric heat unless temps drop below 20 degrees.. That makes me nervous because power outages are common up here. Not to mention our electric bill for December was $223. So I need to get a transfer panel installed and a good generator while I figure out solar. Sure, we have the wood stove for heat, but without electricity, we have no heat tapes.

We bought a snowmobile rather than an ATV and that was a good choice. 3 feet of powder on the ground is too much for an ATV. Meantime, the wife and I are enjoying the hell out of learning to snowmobile. The market for ATVs and snowmobiles is insane this year. Folks are selling used machines for more than new value and ATV orders are months out. We were lucky to find a used snowmobile (2020) for 6 grand.

We had our first medical emergency. Wife cut her hand on a broken glass while washing dishes during a wicked storm. Got her on the sled, out of here and to the Park City emergency room in less than an hour. So we aren't all that isolated.

But the bottom line is, we've decided to dump the house in Bountiful and stay here while we can. Living like this is fun. It isn't just the adventure. When your neighbors are turkeys and deer and elk, it changes your head. This place encourages reflection/introspection. We can actually see stars at night. The air is fresh, the water clean and very cold. Chickadees and stellar jays visit every day to inspect our wood pile, looking for insects. I listen to the elk each evening while I sit on our deck and enjoy my cup of coffee. I've got a dozen good fishing holes within a half hours drive. Looking to park my boat permanently on Jordanelle when I want to go "down there" fishing. The only human construction between us and the Uintas is the Stillman ranch. And I've learned more about turkeys in the last few months than I ever knew before. They roost on our property every night and have done so for months. I have no use for CWMUs, but from what I've seen, Stillman Ranch has some incredible bucks.

Caveat: I wouldn't even try this if I had a job. But I sure as hell endorse this as a retirement. Get snowed in? Happened twice here when Weber Canyon wasn't plowed. But I didn't care; didn't matter.
Now even more jealous!!
 

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We can actually see stars at night.
This is one thing that we never thought about when we built our new home. Keep in mind, our previous home was still outside of the city (the metropolis we call Cedar City), and we could see the stars....

...but the new house is out in the valley with nothing but sagebrush surrounding it. We moved in without having any blinds or shutters installed on the windows. Our first night provided an awesome surprise: a fantastic night view of the city lights, and stars above. We love it!



Best option for heat is Blue Flame heaters...SO much better in all ways over wood and electricity
Aren't these heaters propane / ng?
current propane prices ($2.75/gallon) say that burning propane isn't SO much better. I'm looking for someone that can rip my gas fireplace out and replace it with a wood / pellet burner.
I can go through 200+ gallons of propane in a month this time of year (temperature dependent). I'll let you guys do the math on that.
 
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