Turning off the heat when away during winter?

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Q: We go away in the winter. I have ash floors and would like to turn off the heat while away. I live in NH and the house could get down to 30 degrees. Would turning off heat affect my floors? I have been leaving the heat on 60 degrees in previous years and there is some shrinking, but the floors expand in the summer with no problems.

A: That sounds fairly risky to me. You may end up with the opposite problem. Instead of shrinkage, if the humidity should rise you floors may end up cupping. I think I would leave the furnace at 60 and have a neighbour come in a couple of times a week to let in some fresh air.

Similar Q: We just installed 5″ Brazilian tigerwood in our vacation condo in Chicago. We visit once a month, therefore we have been setting the temperature on a controlled level, but our last month’s electric bill was 6 times higher. Is there another option besides keeping the heat on? Is there a rug or something to lay on the floor to protect it from the cold while we are away?

A: I would be more interested in trying to keep the humidity levels between 35-40% RH or so.

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