Author Topic: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter  (Read 4135 times)

RumBurgundy

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Looking for any general and some specific advice from anyone familiar with living in the climate (and culture) of New England, specifically Vermont.

I'm a late 30s FIREtiree who has always lived in the deep south of the U.S. I have spent the last 5 years semi-retired while managing my own 6 rental units in Louisiana. I'm in the process of selling those off due to frustration with my current city's crime/corruption/failing infrastructure. Since I spend more time outdoors both working and in leisure than I used to when I had a corporate job, the often oppressive heat of the summers has gotten to be too much of a constraint for me. Also to be frank, the political and religious atmosphere in the South/Bible belt has also reached an untenable level and I've reached my limit with red state living.

I've been interested in living in New England for awhile and I've had some visits to friends there in different seasons of the year but I've been concerned about 1) just tolerating a full winter there on a personal level and 2) heating a house efficiently using completely unfamiliar systems than I'm used to in the south. I took a trip to New England this year to look at some houses and visit some of the smaller towns. My partner and I unexpectedly went a little crazy for Vermont and are under contract on a house in central Vermont now.

Admittedly, mid-summer in VT is damn idyllic, I don't care who you are. It's the winter that gives me pause. I have seen snow before but just barely. I am used to winter lows being in the high 20s degF for a few nights a year and then being mostly in the 30s/40s for a month or two at most. I've never owned a house with baseboard heat, or a working fire place, or a furnace. Or heat pump. Or a basement. The most I've had to do to "winterize" a home was to drip the faucets a few nights a year. I own one coat that I call "heavy" but I doubt a New Englander would agree.

All of this to say, I'm looking for recommendations and suggestions on how to make the transition as seamless as possible. Any good links or lists on how to run/maintain a home in terms of heating and efficiency (my VT house has electric baseboard heat and a woodstove that allegedly keeps the whole house warm during winter)? How to dress appropriately for the winter (ie what gear to buy or not buy, because I've been to the outfitter stores up there and people be a little gear-crazy up there if I'm being honest but maybe that's by necessity)? What kind of snow tires to get (I currently have a Honda CRV), and whether I need anything else for my car. What temperature to keep the house at when I'm not there (I likely will take a break from the VT winter at some point and snowbird for a few weeks in February at least). My house inspector told me emphatically that the chimney needs an annual cleaning and inspection and that it is *not* a DIY job, and I made a mental note I'd ask the FIRE crowd online about that one. My new basement is completely unfinished and I'd be interested in hearing and seeing what others here have done to create extra living space with their basements.

My new house is within a small community that shares the cost of snowplowing as well as maintenance of a community well, so at least I won't need to own a vehicle big enough to have a plow on the front. I just don't want to make any big newb mistakes with the winter. Thankful for any help here!
« Last Edit: September 15, 2021, 08:01:57 AM by RumBurgundy »

SunnyDays

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You might want to chat with @FLBiker, who has moved from Florida to Nova Scotia, for a first hand view of the acclimatization process.

I've lived in brutal winter Canada all my life, so maybe my sensibilities are different than yours, but it's really not that bad.  Winter doesn't hit all at once, so you have time to adjust and prepare.

Electric heat in a house is easy - just turn the dial.  No real maintenance required, other than an occasional vacuuming to keep the units dust-free.  I don't know much about wood stoves, except make sure it's new enough that it's safe, have a sufficient fire-proof surround (tiles, etc) and the chimney is cleaned annually.  Get a professional for this - not worth risking a fire to save a few bucks.

Make sure the roof and gutters are sound and in good shape for snow load and the spring melt.  Clean out the latter each fall after the trees are bare.  Extend the downspout well away from the house to avoid seepage into the basement.

For general weatherproofing, the utility company probably provides an assessment of your house for a fee, or possibly even free of charge.  They will recommend upgrades/repairs to keep your house energy efficient.  Some provide grants for the work.  Things like insulation for the basement, attic and walls, windows/doors and weather stripping can save a lot in the long term.  Basement insulation will give you more bang for the buck than upgrading the attic, if you have to choose an order.  Make sure water pipes are wrapped in foam insulation in the basement up to where they meet the exterior walls, to keep them from freezing.

Snow shovels, both scoop and push types are important, plus sand or ice melt for slippery sidewalks.  A corn broom is good for a light dusting of snow, or a leaf blower for bigger areas.  An ice chopper wouldn't hurt either.  If you have a driveway to maintain yourself, a snow blower, possibly.

Also, a car snow brush, although a broom is faster/easier, in my opinion.  (Lock de-icer too - keep it in the house, not the car!)  Also, an emergency kit for the car - blanket, candles, etc.  I like Michelin snow tires, but I'm sure other brands are fine too.  Talk to the tire shop about prices and what they recommend.  If you get lots of icy roads, studded tires may be the thing, if allowed there.  Get your car winterized around Oct/Nov.  They'll check all the fluids and replace for low temps if needed.  Also make sure the battery is up to the job of starting in the cold.  A block heater to plug in is likely necessary there, and an interior car warmer will keep the windows clear without having to scrape.

For clothing, layers are best.  Thermal underwear, then your regular clothes, probably 3 different weights of coats, light for early fall and spring, then medium weight (3 in one's are good), then a parka with hood for dead of winter.  Scarf, mitts/gloves, hats, boots.  Ice grips for the boots.

I think those are the basics.  Ask neighbours/co-workers for advice/help for whatever you don't know.  It will be a learning process for sure.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2021, 01:02:05 PM by SunnyDays »

caleb

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All of this to say, I'm looking for recommendations and suggestions on how to make the transition as seamless as possible. Any good links or lists on how to run/maintain a home in terms of heating and efficiency (my VT house has electric baseboard heat and a woodstove that allegedly keeps the whole house warm during winter)? How to dress appropriately for the winter (ie what gear to buy or not buy, because I've been to the outfitter stores up there and people be a little gear-crazy up there if I'm being honest but maybe that's by necessity)? What kind of snow tires to get (I currently have a Honda CRV), and whether I need anything else for my car. What temperature to keep the house at when I'm not there (I likely will take a break from the VT winter at some point and snowbird for a few weeks in February at least). My house inspector told me emphatically that the chimney needs an annual cleaning and inspection and that it is *not* a DIY job, and I made a mental note I'd ask the FIRE crowd online about that one. My new basement is completely unfinished and I'd be interested in hearing and seeing what others here have done to create extra living space with their basements.

My new house is within a small community that shares the cost of snowplowing as well as maintenance of a community well, so at least I won't need to own a vehicle big enough to have a plow on the front. I just don't want to make any big newb mistakes with the winter. Thankful for any help here!

Congrats on the move.  Winter in the north is what you make of it.

Stove: Try to maintain a firewood supply that's <20% moisture.  A moisture meter can be had on Amazon for about twenty bucks.  Different species dry at different rates.  Some species like ash can be cut and split in the spring and ready to burn in the fall, while oak can take two or three years to be dry enough to burn.  Never trust a firewood seller who promises to bring you dry wood.  Pretty much nobody sells wood that's actually dry.

If you're going to buy wood, the most economical way to do it is to get a log truck delivered and do the rest yourself.  This is common in the rural northeast, and your neighbors should be able to point you in the right direction.

If you burn dry wood, you won't need to clean the chimney much.  However, you can absolutely DIY it with a Sooteater in an hour. 

If the stove that comes with the house is old, look into an upgrade.  New ones are far more efficient and safer.  A new Englander for <$1000 will save you a pile of wood and emit much less smoke than a 70s or 80s era stove.

You'll want to use the stove if the alternative is electric baseboards.  Electric heat is $$$.

Clothes: At a minimum, you need a good coat, hat, gloves/mittens, and quality boots.  I wouldn't cheap out on clothes.  The REI-level stuff is worth it.  The more comfortable you are, the more you can enjoy winter.

Snow tires: Yes, buy them.  Blizzaks are good, and I've personally had good luck with Continental's version, which I think is now called the Extreme Winter Contact.  Talk to local folks about whether studs are a good idea in your area.  If you're regularly on mountain roads, I tend to think studs are worth it, but probably not if you're mostly on the flat.  Get them mounted on a set of dedicated rims so that you can easily change them yourself in the fall and spring since you don't want to use them above about 45 degrees.

Hope that helps.


Scio5

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I'm going to second the recommendation for a moisture meter - an old house I had had a wood stove, I didn't know what I was doing when I was buying firewood, and then I spent a long winter being really frustrated with damp wood that took forever to light and probably had a terrible return on investment.

Definitely invest in at least one set of really good quality gear. The name brand stuff is worth it, but you could also check out the local secondhand stores for lightly used options for coats, at least. I HATE having cold feet, so nice wool socks (I think Darn Tough socks have a lifetime guarantee?) are a must, and I'll put in a plug for the warmest boots I ever owned: Baffin Snogoose (I can't personally vouch for the men's styles but I assume they'd be similar). When I bought them in college they were claiming to be rated to keep your feet warm up to -40 F, which I experienced in the Midwest! After very heavy use for four years they eventually did wear out, but southern New England does not get nearly that cold so I didn't re-buy.


Sanitary Engineer

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I think of Central Vermont as the highlands.  Like most regions in Vermont, it is smallish in area, but hard to pin down its exact geographic extents.  I think of the I-89 corridor around Montpelier when I hear Central, but the one thing that is consistent throughout Central Vermont is mountains (or hills as they call them out west). What makes them Mountains is how steep they are.

You absolutely have to have snow tires AND at least rear wheel drive to leave paved plowed roads (unless you started driving the farm truck up the steep mile long driveway in 12 inches of snow at age 8). Studded are personal preference but work better on consistently steep icy roads, like if you live on a dirt road that the snow gets packed down on going up the side of a hill.

For clothes you want wool long johns (tights), I like Icebreaker, Patagonia, or Smart wool for bottoms.  In the colder months I sleep with wool bottoms, wool socks (darn tough are good) and light weight wool top, this makes it easier to get out of bed when the house is 50 degrees and I need to go outside into the 10 degree air to get wood for the wood stove.  I sleep under fewer blankets than DW.  A slip on pair of warm boots is great for getting/splitting wood, shoveling/cleaning the car, and walking the dog, insulated Muck or Bog boots are popular.  Once the leaves start falling (nowish) I take out my hat and gloves, in "stick season" I never leave the house without hat and gloves and often a spare pair of socks (my feet sweat). Wet feet are miserable.

I echo the moisture meter. I do wood wrong every year and it is a struggle to have not dry wood and a joy to have dry wood.  Fire wood is a multi year process.  Your first winter you will post to Front Porch Forum for a lead on dry wood, you'll get not dry wood and depending on if it's a cold or a warm winter, you might run out or have extra.  Your second year will be different, hopefully you'll have bought twice as much wood as early in the spring as you can and you'll be seasoning your wood for your second and third winters.  Or if you're like me, you'll scavenge wood from FPF posts and road sides and junk trees on nearby properties and it'll always be not dry and have low BTU value.  Vermont Department of Forests Parks and Recreation rents roadside "wood lots" where you can fell your own trees for firewood off public land.  You need a chain saw, some chain saw lessons and safety gear, and a trailer for this, but it is mustachian.

Also cleaning your own chimney is mustachian and totally acceptable.  I haven't done it yet, but I do have it cleaned every year. I come up with excuses to have our chimney sweeper come over and let fall that the chimney needs cleaning and he takes care of it for $100.  This year I did it because the chimney wouldn't draw. He looked at it from the ground and could tell the screen was completely choked with creosote. You'll post to Front Porch Forum for a lead on a chimney sweep.

Basically, Front Porch Forum will be how you ask our neighbors for information. They will give it and much more gladly.

 

Smokystache

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This is timely -- in much the same situation .... been in the South for 15 years and I'm done with the hot summers and the politics. Looking to Vermont or New Hampshire within the next two years. We even match up on having a CR-V.

Now if someone could just get me over the sticker shock of the taxes, I'll be fine (I currently live in TN). 

FLBiker

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As SunnyDays said -- I just moved from Tampa to Nova Scotia last year.  Historically, I lived in cooler climates growing up (Boston) but it had been decades since I lived somewhere cold, and I'd never done it as an adult.

In short, I totally dig the winter.  There are all sorts of fun things you can do (sledding, hiking, ice skating) and the cold is easy to dress for.

Re: heating the house, we have a combo -- we have electric baseboard heat that we barely ever use, because it ends up being the most expensive of our heating methods.  We have a minisplit heatpump upstairs (in my office) which is great for the office and also keeps the upstairs bedrooms reasonably warm overnight.  In the living room, we have a pellet stove, which I absolutely love.  It's similar to a wood stove but a bit more automatic and also a bit less smoky.  It was here when we moved in, and if it were to go, we'd probably just replace it with a mini split.  I really like the pellet stove, but DW isn't crazy about fire (even though it's totally contained).  And it's probably a bit pricier than the heat pump, but you just can't beat fire for coziness.  I love the idea of a wood stove, personally, but they require more hands on management than a pellet stove.  Plus, DW would be more afraid of that, I suspect.  All told, I haven't found heat to be that big of a deal.  We have decent windows and insulation, and our electric bill is typically around $120 CAD per month in the winter.  Plus, we buy 1 pallet of pellets.  I think that was ~$600CAD, including delivery.  We outsource an annual service of the stove and chimney -- I'd do it, but as I said DW is fire paranoid and it gives her peace of mind.

Re: the car, my wife (FL born and bred) was very paranoid about driving in the snow, so we bought an AWD car (a used Subaru Outback) and put good snowtires on.  I would have skimped a bit on both of those, if it was just up to me.  The other car thing we do is get a lanolin-based undercarriage spray before they start salting the roads.  Again, this may be overkill, but it makes my wife happy and supposedly protects the car.  We live in a small town, and they do a great job clearing the roads.  We intentionally bought a house within a municipality, though, so we'd have services like that (as winter n00bs).  Oh, and we also have a house with a garage, which wasn't something we were insistent upon but it's very nice to have.

One other house thing -- we turn off our external hose bibs in the winter.  That's about it as far as winterizing goes.

We don't have a snowblower, we just shovel.  If it gets really bad, there are plenty of folks around who would clear our driveway for ~$30CAD.  I may do that in a big storm, but I haven't yet (and we had one storm of ~18 inches last year).

Re: clothes, I agree that decent clothes will help, but I honestly haven't spent all that much.  The biggest thing is just layers.  I'm allergic to wool, so I tend to do cotton underlayers, then fleece, then a shell.  I got a couple of pairs of fleece lined cargo pants which I really like.  Thrift stores up here are really good, so I got a bunch of sweaters and fleeces.  I got some insulated rubber snow boots at Canadian tire, and some snow pants, and I bought a winter coat on clearance at the end of the season (it's a bit better than the one I had from when I was a teen).  Gloves are definitely something where I feel like I will still likely upgrade -- I want something waterproof, warm, and reasonably thin.  My gloves are OK, but when it's really cold (say minus 20C) they don't really cut it.  We don't get that weather so much here in NS, though. Oh, and we got Yaktrax for winter hiking and they have been great.  In NS, we have a lot of melt / freeze cycles so trails can get pretty icy.

I think that's about it.  Like you, I was worried about messing something up in my first real winter, and found it to be much easier (and more fun) than I was expecting.

ender

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I've lived in areas with winter all my life.

Winter sucks the most when you have to be out in it, either walking/driving.

As a FIRE'd person you don't have to deal with this, more or less.

Dave1442397

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Check the average number of days with sunshine too, if that matters to you. I can deal with winter, but I hate weeks on end with nothing but gray skies (I grew up with that). I can handle winter in a place like Lake Tahoe, especially not having to commute, etc.

habanero

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A chimney doesn't per se require annual cleaning. We burn quite a bit of firewood during the coldest months and I have an inspection mandaded by the city council every four years. The sweeper dude (it's always a dude) comes, has a look and does abseloutely nothing with the chimney as it's not neccesary to do anything. Your local regulations and customs might of course differ (I don't even live in the US....)

If you want to burn wood for heating you need something that is enclosed. I.e a stove where you don't actually see the flames or through a glass door. Open fireplaces are cozy but they consume a lot more wood and more importantly don't really provide much heating. Modern stoves have secondary combustion (the gas is fed back into the chamber for a second go), bur at a higher temperature and thus burn much cleaner and with much less heat loss through the chimney.  No idea if this is a thing in the US, but it's old technology so should be available  - been mandated since 1998 for new installations where I live.

And if someone tries to sell you "all-season tires" or something similar it ain't a thing. Buy locally, snow tires sold in places that don't really get snow might be really shitty unless you know what to look for. Continental and Nokian are safe choices generally. In Europe the real deal is often called "Nordic edition" or something similar, guess that would be "Canadian edition" in the US ;) And snow tires should be replaced every 3-4 years regardless of thread left, they behave differently from summer tires.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2021, 03:49:25 PM by habanero »

uniwelder

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2021, 04:09:14 PM »
If you have baseboard electric and a wood stove, I'm going to assume its an older poorly insulated home.  You'd be pretty shocked what the electric bill will cost if you're not running the wood stove constantly.  I'd suggest insulating to the max that's feasible, checking window leakage, and getting a mini split for backup heat (and summer a/c and dehumidification) for when the fire is out.

RumBurgundy

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2021, 04:26:29 PM »
This is timely -- in much the same situation .... been in the South for 15 years and I'm done with the hot summers and the politics. Looking to Vermont or New Hampshire within the next two years. We even match up on having a CR-V.

Now if someone could just get me over the sticker shock of the taxes, I'll be fine (I currently live in TN).

I think unless you move to FL or TX you're gonna have "tax sticker shock" no matter where you move. I'll only see a slight increase moving from Louisiana, but my partner and I are going to save quite a bit on car insurance so it might actually even out.

NH is beautiful, I've driven through it several times going back and forth from VT to ME. But I have to say, there seems to be an almost universal "Live Free Or Die" attitude and they take it pretty seriously. My last drive through this month I saw multiple front yard flags with "Fuck Biden" on it, soooo, maybe just bear in mind that NH and VT are very different animals politically.

Our realtor (both the seller and buyer agents, actually agreed) seems to think we'll be fine with a CRV if we put the Nokian snow tires on it. Looks like it will be cheaper to buy an extra set of rims down south an bring them up with me for swapping seasonally.

RumBurgundy

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2021, 04:37:08 PM »
Wow, the responses here have been so comprehensive and helpful. You folks absolutely rock!

A few people mentioned hills vs flat land. My new home is about 10 miles from Killington, on the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest. On the side of a hill (close to the base) on an unpaved road. So there's some incline but not nearly as much as neighbors further up the hillside. I'll definitely check with people in the vicinity whether I need studs. Thanks to the poster who noted that studs are a different type of snow tire, as I've seen studs/snow tires used interchangably elsewhere.

Also make sure the battery is up to the job of starting in the cold.  A block heater to plug in is likely necessary there, and an interior car warmer will keep the windows clear without having to scrape.


I'm completely unfamiliar with both of those devices so thanks for the tip!

If you're going to buy wood, the most economical way to do it is to get a log truck delivered and do the rest yourself.  This is common in the rural northeast, and your neighbors should be able to point you in the right direction.

If the stove that comes with the house is old, look into an upgrade.  New ones are far more efficient and safer.  A new Englander for <$1000 will save you a pile of wood and emit much less smoke than a 70s or 80s era stove.

You'll want to use the stove if the alternative is electric baseboards.  Electric heat is $$$.

Super helpful, thanks. Hadn't heard about log delivery. Is New Englander an actual brand of stove or a style?
The house was built in the late 70s but upon inspection seemed to be pretty well insulated. I am concerned about the efficiency of the electric heating, especially if/when the house is vacant in the winter and relying on the stove won't be an option.

I HATE having cold feet, so nice wool socks (I think Darn Tough socks have a lifetime guarantee?) are a must, and I'll put in a plug for the warmest boots I ever owned: Baffin Snogoose (I can't personally vouch for the men's styles but I assume they'd be similar). When I bought them in college they were claiming to be rated to keep your feet warm up to -40 F, which I experienced in the Midwest! After very heavy use for four years they eventually did wear out, but southern New England does not get nearly that cold so I didn't re-buy.
I hate cold feet more than anything. Thank you for this!


Loretta

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2021, 04:37:40 PM »
How exciting, and I bet VT will be beautiful. 

For clothing, I would recommend investing in good socks and get used to covering your noggin with a hat, even if it feels uncool/unhip.  Will you be walking much in the outdoors?  If so then I would shop differently than if I were driving from my garage at home to a garage at work and only hopping out of a car for brief errands.  Buy the right kind of windshield washer fluid for cold winter temps--I prefer Prestone De-Icer myself.    Get your vehicle in its best working order prior to cold temps setting in.  Keep extra gloves, hat, socks, granola bars etc in your car trunk in case you run off the road or encounter someone else who is having car difficulty. 

RumBurgundy

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2021, 04:50:35 PM »
I think of Central Vermont as the highlands.  Like most regions in Vermont, it is smallish in area, but hard to pin down its exact geographic extents.  I think of the I-89 corridor around Montpelier when I hear Central, but the one thing that is consistent throughout Central Vermont is mountains (or hills as they call them out west). What makes them Mountains is how steep they are.

You absolutely have to have snow tires AND at least rear wheel drive to leave paved plowed roads (unless you started driving the farm truck up the steep mile long driveway in 12 inches of snow at age 8). Studded are personal preference but work better on consistently steep icy roads, like if you live on a dirt road that the snow gets packed down on going up the side of a hill.

I'll be a little south of that corridor, near Killington. Would AWD be preferable to 4WD? I confess I have never owned anything besides little Honda coupes and hatchbacks myself so this is a new territory for me.

In short, I totally dig the winter.  There are all sorts of fun things you can do (sledding, hiking, ice skating) and the cold is easy to dress for.

Re: heating the house, we have a combo -- we have electric baseboard heat that we barely ever use, because it ends up being the most expensive of our heating methods.  We have a minisplit heatpump upstairs (in my office) which is great for the office and also keeps the upstairs bedrooms reasonably warm overnight.  In the living room, we have a pellet stove, which I absolutely love.  It's similar to a wood stove but a bit more automatic and also a bit less smoky.  It was here when we moved in, and if it were to go, we'd probably just replace it with a mini split.  I really like the pellet stove, but DW isn't crazy about fire (even though it's totally contained).  And it's probably a bit pricier than the heat pump, but you just can't beat fire for coziness.  I love the idea of a wood stove, personally, but they require more hands on management than a pellet stove. 

One other house thing -- we turn off our external hose bibs in the winter.  That's about it as far as winterizing goes.

  Like you, I was worried about messing something up in my first real winter, and found it to be much easier (and more fun) than I was expecting.


Thanks for such an encouraging post. I want this to work and the naysayers in my life have been talking about the North like it's going to be a constant SnowPocalypse. Did you have your heatpump minisplit installed or did it come with the house? The layout of my house is going to be somewhat unique because the living/common areas are the top floor, bedrooms on the lower level, and then a basement. Wood stove is on the highest level in the common area, baseboard heating throughout the rest of the house. Since heat rises, I'm wondering about a heat source in the basement because I'm a weirdo who wants to put a home theater in the part of the house with no natural light and if I heat the basement the rest of the house should benefit too.

I don't think I even have external hosebibs, but I'll check. Hopefully there's a way to turn them off if there are any.

If you want to burn wood for heating you need something that is enclosed. I.e a stove where you don't actually see the flames or through a glass door. Open fireplaces are cozy but they consume a lot more wood and more importantly don't really provide much heating. Modern stoves have secondary combustion (the gas is fed back into the chamber for a second go), bur at a higher temperature and thus burn much cleaner and with much less heat loss through the chimney.  No idea if this is a thing in the US, but it's old technology so should be available  - been mandated since 1998 for new installations where I live.
 

Growing up, my family had a Franklin style stove (bought new in the late 80s) that I was under the impression had a built in catalytic converter. I'm not sure if that's the same thing as secondary combustion. I didn't see any specs on the woodstove that was included but it does appear to be an add-on. I'd totally be open to investing in a more efficient stove if needed but the sellers were emphatic about how efficient it is. It is enclosed.

uniwelder

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2021, 05:19:07 PM »
Re: heating the house, we have a combo -- we have electric baseboard heat that we barely ever use, because it ends up being the most expensive of our heating methods.  We have a minisplit heatpump upstairs (in my office) which is great for the office and also keeps the upstairs bedrooms reasonably warm overnight.  In the living room, we have a pellet stove, which I absolutely love.  It's similar to a wood stove but a bit more automatic and also a bit less smoky.  It was here when we moved in, and if it were to go, we'd probably just replace it with a mini split.  I really like the pellet stove, but DW isn't crazy about fire (even though it's totally contained).  And it's probably a bit pricier than the heat pump, but you just can't beat fire for coziness.  I love the idea of a wood stove, personally, but they require more hands on management than a pellet stove. 


Thanks for such an encouraging post. I want this to work and the naysayers in my life have been talking about the North like it's going to be a constant SnowPocalypse. Did you have your heatpump minisplit installed or did it come with the house? The layout of my house is going to be somewhat unique because the living/common areas are the top floor, bedrooms on the lower level, and then a basement. Wood stove is on the highest level in the common area, baseboard heating throughout the rest of the house. Since heat rises, I'm wondering about a heat source in the basement because I'm a weirdo who wants to put a home theater in the part of the house with no natural light and if I heat the basement the rest of the house should benefit too.

Growing up, my family had a Franklin style stove (bought new in the late 80s) that I was under the impression had a built in catalytic converter. I'm not sure if that's the same thing as secondary combustion. I didn't see any specs on the woodstove that was included but it does appear to be an add-on. I'd totally be open to investing in a more efficient stove if needed but the sellers were emphatic about how efficient it is. It is enclosed.

Not the person you were asking, but thought I'd chime in... 

I had a mini-split installed in my previous house and installed one myself in our new house.  The old house was 800 sq ft and pretty open, so the unit was located centrally on a wall and did all the heating/cooling.  It was a 1.5 ton Mitsubishi that was effective to -5 F.  Having it professionally installed doubled the cost compared to the unit itself.  Our new house is 1,700 sq ft and I put in a 2 ton LG wall unit (also heats to -5 F effectively), then hired an HVAC guy that does work on the side to do final hookup and vaccuum the line for $300.  It heats the whole house (ranch style single level) except the two bedrooms at the opposite end.

I also bought a catalytic wood stove for the old house.  They're supposed to be better for long slow burns than the secondary air combustion type.

edited to add--- a wall unit mini split in the basement would be a great way to heat it, but I don't know how effective that would be for the level above.  Is there insulation at the basement ceiling?  You should probably think about your plan for finishing the basement and if you'd be putting any walls that would block air flow.  You'd probably want to insulate the basement walls too, otherwise that's a huge heat sink.

Also, there are mini-split units designed for colder areas than mine, which would be better suited for Vermont.  Mitsubishi calls it Hyper-heat and is effective to -13 F and gives a little better cold temp efficiency.  At that temp, I think its still supposed to have a COP of about 2.0 and for most normal winter temps probably COP of 3-4.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2021, 05:37:55 PM by uniwelder »

Steeze

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2021, 06:52:20 PM »
I am from Florida but grew up in The Berkshires not far from you.

Living in the mountains is my favorite. Here are a couple tips;

Get good winter clothes. The stuff at big box stores is junk and most of the stuff at REI is unnecessarily expensive. I recommend a ski or snowboarding brand like Burton (a Vermont company) for a jacket and pants, their stuff is on sale online a lot, you can grab a jacket and pants for $200 ea. easy.

The waterproof rating should be 10,000+ Staying dry is staying warm. You don’t need to buy big thick coat, instead multiple layers are key. A big coat like a down parka, Canadian Goose being the fancy brand, is good for standing still on a windy day or doing research on Antarctica. If you are planning on moving around at all they are good for making you sweat, which makes you wet, and eventually makes you cold when you are moving less. Instead you want layers that separate your waterproofing from your insulation.

A shell keeps you dry that’s it. It can be worn by itself on warmer days or as an outer layer when playing in the snow. Next you’ll want a mid layer. This can be as simple as a hoodie or something fancier like a merino wool long sleeve, or a mini-down jacket for really cold days. The mid layer keeps you warm, but not dry. Perfect by themselves for sunny cold days when you don’t need the waterproofing, and for around town. Wool stays warm when wet, cotton and down do not. Down is the lightest and cotton is the least expensive. Base layer can be simple like a t-shirt or cotton long Johns or fancier like Marino wool or polyester blends. The base layer should help wick moisture away from your skin to keep you dry. Again, cotton is breathable but retains moisture. The same logic applies for the pants. Then get yourself a nice pair of wool socks. Darn tough is a VT brand that makes some of the best socks out there. Not cheap but worth it. You don’t need big thick socks, you will have good winter boots. The socks don’t provide the warmth the boots do. For boots you will want something waterproof with 200g+ insulation rating. 200g is good if you are actively hiking, but not suitable for hanging around camping. 600g boots are good for when you are just hanging out. 400g is a nice in between. Gloves - get a nice pair of gortex gloves, again I would recommend something from a ski/snowboard company like burton and not something from a big box store. Your boots and gloves will make and break your day, don’t skimp on these. Gloves are 50-100$ and boots are $200+

Ok, all that said, 99% of the time I am going out with a t-shirt,hoodie, cotton long Johns (pants) , gym shorts, snowboarding pants and jacket (shells), 400g boots, and nice gloves. If I’m hiking or camping I just wear my snowboarding boots usually.

Now that we got that out of the way, go play outside!! Winter can be miserable, you either love it or hate it. Try skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, ice fishing, making a snowman, hiking, winter camping, building a fire, ice climbing, driving your car sideways (on purpose!)... all these things make winter great. When the weather is crazy like a blizzard, and you are in proper clothes, the outside is really a special place.

Lastly, you don’t really need awd  or 4wd. What you need is a set of blizzak tires and FWD is perfectly acceptable for 95% of days. The other days you just stay home or get a friend with a Subaru to pick you up! Studded snow tires are good too, little overkill in my opinion, but if your driveway is steep and long then I would consider it.

PS. Killington is great! Jealous.

« Last Edit: September 15, 2021, 06:57:15 PM by Steeze »

SunnyDays

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2021, 07:11:09 PM »
You might also want a command start on your car to avoid having to run out in the cold to get it warmed up.  Even a car warmer will only take the chill off on the coldest days.  If you have heated seats, even better.

If you're really leery of winter driving, a few lessons from a driving school might be worth it.  Even here, people forget how to drive every November.

I don't think AWD or 4WD is necessary either.  They might help you get out of the ditch once you're in it, but won't keep you out.  Good snow tires should be adequate.

Morning Glory

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2021, 08:46:08 PM »
I'm in Minnesota and planning to move somewhere warmer!!! . You already got good advice but I'll try to hit some things that others may have missed.  Apologies if someone addressed these already:

The shutoff for the outside water taps should be in the basement.  After you shut them off, make sure to run them dry and leave them open.

Pipe insulation not only preserves heat but can also help with condensation,  so use it on your cold pipes too.

I usually set the temp at 50F when I leave for vacation.  That could get expensive with electric (we had to run spaceheaters a couple times and that got expensive fast).  I've always had a gas furnace,  seems odd not to have one. At my last house we had propane delivery because we weren't on a natural gas line.

If you have a septic you want to flush your toilet a few times a day in winter or the line from the tank to the drain field can freeze  Then you have to get the tank pumped every month until spring. (That only happened to me once and it wasn't during the coldest year. Snow helps to insulate the line so it happened in a year with a lot of freeze and thaw, when we went away for a week.).

The cold water in your taps will actually be cold, so no need for ice in your drinks!!! The downside is that it takes longer for the shower to heat up, and you get a lot more condensation on humid days, so your toilet will probably sweat.

Your basement might be unfinished for a reason, so wait a couple years before doing anything down there. PI've had three houses and all of them had occasional water in the basement.  Not a big deal if it's unfinished, just mop it up. You can build some raised shelves to use the space for storage.

The air gets dry during winter.  You will need lotion, chapstick,  and possibly saline nasal spray. I dry clothes in the bedroom to add a little humidity to the air.

habanero

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2021, 03:57:09 AM »
A friend of mine once moved for a year to Australia. When she returned, she promised to never ever complain about it being cold ever again. In a way its easier to deal with cold weather than (too) warm weather. If you need to go outside, you just put on suitable clothing for the activity level and temperature. Apart from energy cost, it's pretty easy to keep a home at a comfortable indoor temperature, especially if it's a newer build with good insulation. Escaping heat is much trickier.

If doing any sports outdoors you need remarakbiy litte clothing even in pretty low temperatures. Generally have to bring an extra layer or two just in case, but as long as you keep moving it doesn't require much to stay warm. As mentioned upthread keeping dry is essential and also keeping wind out. It doesn't get stupid cold where I live - rarely down below 10F (-10C) but air humidity is pretty high as close to water so can feel pretty cold compared to a perfectly dry cold inland. I rarely wear long underwear in daily life. I also have a bad-ass down jacket and some boots that are markeded as comfy down to -40C/F but I only use said jacket and boots if I know I have to stand still. If you venture far into backcountry and in remote areas it's a compltely different story as you have to be prepared for anything and that requires a fair amount of gear.

FLBiker

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2021, 06:07:15 AM »
Thanks for such an encouraging post. I want this to work and the naysayers in my life have been talking about the North like it's going to be a constant SnowPocalypse. Did you have your heatpump minisplit installed or did it come with the house? The layout of my house is going to be somewhat unique because the living/common areas are the top floor, bedrooms on the lower level, and then a basement. Wood stove is on the highest level in the common area, baseboard heating throughout the rest of the house. Since heat rises, I'm wondering about a heat source in the basement because I'm a weirdo who wants to put a home theater in the part of the house with no natural light and if I heat the basement the rest of the house should benefit too.

No worries -- when I moved here, I was really thinking that the weather would be one of the cons but I've absolutely loved it.  Having four seasons is great, and makes me appreciate the variety of each day much more than the monotony of FL weather.  I totally prefer the weather here, which I really didn't expect. 

The heatpump minisplit was here when we moved in.  One nice thing about having it on the top floor (where ours is) is that is also serves as an AC.  Most of the woodstoves here (and our pellet stove) tend to be on the lower levels (so, as you say, the heat can rise).  It's very common in my neighborhood for folks to have their wood stove in their unfinished basement, and to use that as the primary heat source for the whole house.  Our pellet stove is in the living room on the first floor and it does a pretty good job of warming the whole house, particularly since we're comfortable with the bedrooms being a little cooler.  The room it heats the least is the den, which is also on the first floor but separated by a few doors.  If the floorplan is open, it works better.  Heating the basement makes sense to me, but as others have said be sure to 1) make sure it doesn't flood before finishing it and 2) insulate it well.  Ours is insulated and unfinished -- we may finish it someday (as it seems to stay totally dry) but it's nice to have as like a project space and workout space.  I was never a home workout guy, but we got a spin bike and a TRX and that has been great.

You might also want a command start on your car to avoid having to run out in the cold to get it warmed up.  Even a car warmer will only take the chill off on the coldest days.  If you have heated seats, even better.

These are certainly very popular up here, but I personally HATE the car remote stuff.  Historically, I was a person who always had their keys in their pocket, but now I never do because I've inadvertently opened the gate or started the car when working in the yard.  I don't think my wife or I have ever intentionally used it.  Also, I believe these features are a battery drain (although probably a subtle one).  It may not be possible, but I'd love for my next car (which could certainly be another Outback) to be completely non-remote, without a power gate.  I'm otherwise happy with the car, though.  Honestly, the warmth of the car on a super cold day isn't a particularly big deal -- we're typically driving 10 minutes to a sledding hill or something like that.

The shutoff for the outside water taps should be in the basement.  After you shut them off, make sure to run them dry and leave them open.

Good point about running them dry.  Am I right in thinking you're leaving them open "just in case"?  Otherwise, what is the reason (since they're dry)?

habanero

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2021, 06:19:14 AM »
All (or both to be precise) my outdoor water taps are self-emptying. I.e when you shut off the water outside a small amount of water comes out afterwards emptying the outlet and the last part of the pipe so there's no water that can freeze.

Now that I have an electric car the pre-heating in the winter is easy as a breeze, but my previous ones had a Webasto system installed. This was either remote-controlled (with very long range on the remote) or started by dialing into the car from my cell. This worked great and the car was warm, but as it burns fuel it doesn't work very well inside a garage - which is kind of where you want the car in a place where it gets below freezing and it was also a big battery drain as the battery was used to spin the fans in the car when it started. So much that I actually charged the battery once per week as we ran it up to twice daily and the drives afterwards were really short so battery never got time to recharge.

Dicey

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2021, 07:03:27 AM »
Though they only moved from Boston, the Frugalwoods are in Vermont. Liz writes extensively about their experiences, including lots of winter photos.  Brrrrr!

Start here: https://www.frugalwoods.com/about/

svosavvy

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #23 on: September 16, 2021, 07:21:58 AM »
Totally jealous, Vermont is awesome, I visit often.

Camping at Emerald lake state park is one of my favorite stopovers when I do my leaf peeping autumn trips.  Catch a scenic train ride at Chester VT in the fall.  When the border opens back up foresta lumina in Quebec is so much fun.  Just over the Derby line.  Woodchuck cider.  Dang.  That's it now I want to sell my place and move there too.  Autumn is otherworldly beautiful.

JMO like others have said buy the the studded snow tires.  Just do it.  What I do for this is get a dedicated set of rims to put them on.  Most north states want those studs off your car in the spring.  I just bought quality name brand studded snows from the tire rack.  I also bought dedicated rims from them for a reasonable price.  If you buy together they will mount/balance for free and you get the whole package delivered to your door so you don't have to mess with going to the shop.  Then you can buy cheaper 3 season tires for your normal rims.  You might get lucky and find some junkyard rims but then the tire shop will get you for $25 a tire to mount them each time.  There is imo way more ice than there used to be. Climate yada yada a little warmer than it used to be now lots of freezing rain.  If they save your life once its worth it.  Especially if you are a new snow driver.  You will see more awd cars in the ditch because people overdrive the conditions.  Ability to stop is more important than the ability to go in a storm.  It cost me an additional $15 a tire to stud them, totally worth it. 

JMO the car block heater is a little extreme.  Good battery is a must.  You will know when you have a good battery when the car starts in -10f weather.  You will go broke heating with electric unless you go mad solar.  Wood stoves are the way to go.  Forget burning anything soft including ash in the deep winter.  Unless you like feeding the fire every hour.  Stick to pure hardwoods in the deep winter.  Get a log load and do it yourself way cheaper.  Beech wood is superior and plentiful.  Don't let them stick you (pun intended) with a bunch of ash in the load.  Ash is okay in the spring and fall.  Sorry, I am a wood stove dork.

I love skiing it's my golf equivalent b/c I hate golf.  Skiing for me is like going to the playground. It is also a place to network with people as well.  When you get tired of networking you just leave them in the dust.  Lodge time "apres ski" is awesome.  There are politics everywhere you go so don't be surprised if you run into a little of the opposite persuasion. 

Car starters are popular but they drive me nuts.  People will let their cars idle for like 20 minutes to warm them up.  Just dress for the weather.  Snow storms are actually pretty fun.  It's nice to just stay home and watch the weather during them.  Get a little generator and you can melt snow on the stove if the power is out.  I will take a good snowstorm over a hurricane any day. 

You are going to have so much fun.  The way to have lower taxes is to not live in a mansion.  Property taxes usually are based on the assessed value of your property.  Modest country house will have manageable taxes though still high.

SimpleCycle

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #24 on: September 16, 2021, 07:56:26 AM »
How exciting!  I've lived in Western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and later Michigan and Chicago.  I've also lived in Arizona and the weirdest part of moving back north was not how cold it was but how often there was precipitation!  I absolutely love four seasons, to the point that I kinda hate the central air in our Chicago house because it insulates you from the weather more dramatically than heat does in the winter.

I haven't read all the previous posts, so maybe someone's already said this, but the Norwegians say "There's no such thing as bad weather, only insufficient clothing".  And I have found this to be true time and time again.  I'd suggest obtaining the basics and then adding to them as you figure out how much you'll be outside and how comfortable you are inside.  You want wool socks, a wool hat, a parka that hits at least mid-thigh, and some good gloves or mittens.  At some point you'll probably want to add some long underwear (silk or merino are best, but synthetics perform decently well) and

Boots are getting their own paragraph because I have OPINIONS.  Get Sorels with the removeable liners, and get a pair of YakTrax to go on them.  The YakTrax provide traction on ice and packed snow, and have saved me from biting it on the sidewalk in Chicago infinity times.

All that said, there will be plenty of days where you don't need the full winter getup.  Make sure you have a good fall/winter transition jacket, which you can use again come the winter/spring transition.  And I use glittens (fingerless gloves with a mitten top) more often than not because I need my fingertips to do things and it's just not THAT cold on any given day.

Honestly, I would embrace the winter as much as possible.  Find some outdoor activities you enjoy - hiking before the snow comes, snowshoeing and nordic skiing after the snow.  There are lots of places that rent snowshoes and nordic skis so you can see if you enjoy it before you buy equipment.  Get out in the sunshine as much as possible, and if you are cold, figure out how you'll improve your clothing next time.  Enjoy your new surroundings and everything that make them unique.

Askel

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #25 on: September 16, 2021, 08:05:39 AM »
Just a heads up- while chimney cleaning is typically a pretty easy DIY project, there might be a very good reason why your inspector was emphatic about not doing it yourself. 

I've cleaned a lot of chimneys at a lot of houses (part of a volunteer crew that does this for the elderly in our community every fall).  Some are easy to clean, some are very much not. 

My house is easy.  Just a quick peak up the chimney with a mirror and good light.  Then run the brush up from the cleanout in the basement. It's all steel lined so there's never much creosote, just a bit of soot to clean up. 

However some chimneys are a stone cold bitch to do. You can sometimes only clean them from the top down. Which means going up on sometimes sketchy roofs. The cleanouts can be blocked, poorly placed, or hard to get to in such a way that makes inspections and cleaning difficult.  There can also sometimes be issues with the lining in chimneys that makes them difficult to inspect and clean properly.   

If you've never cleaned a chimney, might be worth paying somebody to do it or maybe asking an experienced neighbor to help to learn how it's done.  A chimney fire is something you definitely, definitely do not want to experience.   
« Last Edit: September 16, 2021, 09:33:46 AM by Askel »

sloth bear

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2021, 08:38:13 AM »
Honestly, I would embrace the winter as much as possible.  Find some outdoor activities you enjoy - hiking before the snow comes, snowshoeing and nordic skiing after the snow.  There are lots of places that rent snowshoes and nordic skis so you can see if you enjoy it before you buy equipment.  Get out in the sunshine as much as possible, and if you are cold, figure out how you'll improve your clothing next time.  Enjoy your new surroundings and everything that make them unique.

THIS x1000.

@RumBurgundy - I know you didn't specifically ask about the mental side of living in VT / New England, but I think it's worth discussing. I live in New Hampshire. It can be depressing AF when it's 5:00pm, dark, and freezing outside. I have to watch my mood closely in the winter; it can be hard to leave for work when it's dark outside and come home when it's dark outside. It makes you want to go to bed! And then you look at the clock and you realize it's only 5:05pm.

Here are some thoughts to counteract the winter blues -

(1) Invest in warm lights for your home and turn them on!

(2) Buy plenty of candles, too! They will add a lovely ambience and make your home feel cozier.

(3) Invest in good clothing (as suggested above), a good headlamp, and reflective gear so you can be outside safely at night.

(4) It's not the cold temperatures that will get you - it's the WIND. Sunny, cold, wind-free days are awesome!

(5) Like @SimpleCycle said, the best thing you can do is pick a winter sport in order to embrace the season. Skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, whatever. Just pick something that will excite you enough to get you outside consistently.

(6) Pick an indoor activity, too. Board games, card games, puzzles, projects of any kind. There will be days where you're more or less stuck indoors, and it helps to have fun things to do inside, too.

(7) Try not to count the days until spring, but you'll notice yourself saying "it's staying lighter out!" as the winter progresses. And let's be honest summers in New England are the BEST!

caleb

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #27 on: September 16, 2021, 09:21:09 AM »
If you're going to buy wood, the most economical way to do it is to get a log truck delivered and do the rest yourself.  This is common in the rural northeast, and your neighbors should be able to point you in the right direction.

If the stove that comes with the house is old, look into an upgrade.  New ones are far more efficient and safer.  A new Englander for <$1000 will save you a pile of wood and emit much less smoke than a 70s or 80s era stove.

You'll want to use the stove if the alternative is electric baseboards.  Electric heat is $$$.

Super helpful, thanks. Hadn't heard about log delivery. Is New Englander an actual brand of stove or a style?
The house was built in the late 70s but upon inspection seemed to be pretty well insulated. I am concerned about the efficiency of the electric heating, especially if/when the house is vacant in the winter and relying on the stove won't be an option.


Wood stoves, firewood, and all the tools are their own rabbit hole.  I'm sure we could have a pretty good standalone thread about them.

As mentioned above, you should have a pro inspect the chimney before you use it (and ideally before you buy it).  Lots of old masonry chimneys are legitimately dangerous, but can be fixed with an insulted liner.  If I were buying someone's old chimney, I'd want a clean bill of health before using it.

The Englander stove I mentioned above is just the cheapest good modern stove.  It's high efficiency and readily available from Home Depot.

Stoves achieve efficiency through (1) tube-based re-combustion of gas, (2) catalytic combustion, or a combo of the two.  Tube stoves are the simplest, but need higher temps to work properly.  Catalytic stoves can be run at lower temps, but they tend to need a skilled hand.

Stoves are highly regulated by the EPA, and the last update to the efficiency standards was in 2020.  Buying new will generally get you a better stove than anything used.  There's also a tax credit for wood stoves that was slipped into the Covid relief bill to consider.

If you decide you want a nice looking stove and not just a heater, stop by a stove store and take a look.  I like what both Jotul and Morso make, but if I were in Vermont I'd also seriously consider a Woodstock Progress Hybrid.

As for heating it while you're away using the baseboards, I'd seriously think about getting a solar system.  You might be looking at $300+/mo just to keep it at 50 degrees.

SunnyDays

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #28 on: September 16, 2021, 11:05:55 AM »
Yup, the mental side of surviving winter is a whole nuther ballgame!  The dark is definitely the worst part, especially if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, like I do.  The solution is light - lots of light, the right kind at the right times.  I have swapped out the bulbs in my most used lights with full spectrum, which mimics sunlight much more closely than regular bulbs.  It's a white light, but not harsh.  I also use a little gadget called Sun Up, which you plug into a bedside lamp.  It slowly increases the light as much as 3 hours before you wake up, depending on how you set it, again, to mimic the sun rising.  The idea is to have a "sunrise" while you sleep, so the melatonin shuts off earlier, and you wake up into a fully bright room.  Use a full-spectrum bulb for this too.  There are also sun boxes you can buy to sit in front of while eating, reading, etc.  Throw in some natural sun during the day and it will all add up to make you feel more like summer in your mood.  Not everyone is affected by short days, but lots are, and the effect is very gradual, so the trick is to be proactive before you think you need it.  Other than that, try to find outdoor activities you enjoy - sledding, skating, snowmobiling, skiing, ice fishing, etc.

FLBiker

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2021, 11:38:22 AM »
Just to piggyback re: the mental side -- I was expecting this to be tough as well.  I consider myself to be sensitive to SAD, but it hasn't been bad at all.  I think several things help.

1) We very intentionally painted with warm colors and have lots of warm natural wood.  We also have a red couch. :)  And our house has lots of windows for natural light.
2) The fire on the pellet stove is really nice.
3) For whatever reason, where we are in Nova Scotia has really beautiful skies year round.
4) My home office desk faces a beautiful window -- I'm looking out on the forested ravine behind our house year round.
5) I try to get outside every day, year round.

I think I would feel differently if I were schlepping to and from an ugly office in the dark all winter.  As it is, I find I didn't really mind it getting dark earlier.  I still walk into town in the evenings in the dark if I have an errand to run.

AccidentialMustache

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #30 on: September 16, 2021, 11:41:13 AM »
If it wasn't obvious, along with draining out the outside faucets, you'll want to drain and hang (or better bring inside, garage is fine) any hoses you have as the winter is harsh on them.

I'm a Chicago-burbs kid, so I know cold and snow but not way north cold and snow. However I did 15ish years where I mainly bus-commuted (college and after), and having something good and warm is important when standing around freezing your bum off and it is windy. I got a https://www.wintergreennorthernwear.com/ anorak and it is great. If it is really cold I'll start adding layers under it, but I'm not that far north anymore so it is rarely really that cold. Not cheap, but it has lasted well. I did send it back for zipper repairs a few years ago -- so you can even get it maintained rather than buying a new one.

We like to keep an emergency pair of boots along with the shovel, ice scraper, blankets, gravel, etc in the car emergency kit. We're far enough south that all-seasons are still acceptable with a FWD car.

TrMama

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #31 on: September 16, 2021, 12:29:21 PM »
I'm Canadian and grew up in a place with cold, dry winter, moved to the west coast where it's gray and rainy and then 15 years later moved to Quebec for a couple years. When we moved to QC DH and I were well out of practice for Real WinterTM. We set aside some cash to buy proper outdoor clothes, tires, a block heater, an abri tempo (QC's answer to garages) and some other stuff. This made actually spending the money on these things more palatable. I prefer to buy better quality (more expensive) winter gear and then it lasts for years and years. Plus I get to be comfortable while I'm wearing it. Anyway, winter is Quebec's best season. We both loved it.

I just googled annual temperature averages for Killington and wouldn't bother with an engine block heater. They're not really necessary until temps are regularly under -20C and they're a PITA above that. I often forgot to unplug mine before driving away. You will definitely need winter tires though.

It looks like VT can be pretty gray in the winter. Find some outdoor, daytime, activity you like so you get some natural light most days and have something to look forward too. Take up skiing (x-country skiing is cheap), winter hiking, ice fishing or something so you'll be happy when it's cold and snowy instead of lamenting it.

TheFrenchCat

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #32 on: September 16, 2021, 12:51:27 PM »
If you're going to buy wood, the most economical way to do it is to get a log truck delivered and do the rest yourself.  This is common in the rural northeast, and your neighbors should be able to point you in the right direction.

If the stove that comes with the house is old, look into an upgrade.  New ones are far more efficient and safer.  A new Englander for <$1000 will save you a pile of wood and emit much less smoke than a 70s or 80s era stove.

You'll want to use the stove if the alternative is electric baseboards.  Electric heat is $$$.

Super helpful, thanks. Hadn't heard about log delivery. Is New Englander an actual brand of stove or a style?
The house was built in the late 70s but upon inspection seemed to be pretty well insulated. I am concerned about the efficiency of the electric heating, especially if/when the house is vacant in the winter and relying on the stove won't be an option.


Wood stoves, firewood, and all the tools are their own rabbit hole.  I'm sure we could have a pretty good standalone thread about them.

As mentioned above, you should have a pro inspect the chimney before you use it (and ideally before you buy it).  Lots of old masonry chimneys are legitimately dangerous, but can be fixed with an insulted liner.  If I were buying someone's old chimney, I'd want a clean bill of health before using it.

The Englander stove I mentioned above is just the cheapest good modern stove.  It's high efficiency and readily available from Home Depot.

Stoves achieve efficiency through (1) tube-based re-combustion of gas, (2) catalytic combustion, or a combo of the two.  Tube stoves are the simplest, but need higher temps to work properly.  Catalytic stoves can be run at lower temps, but they tend to need a skilled hand.

Stoves are highly regulated by the EPA, and the last update to the efficiency standards was in 2020.  Buying new will generally get you a better stove than anything used.  There's also a tax credit for wood stoves that was slipped into the Covid relief bill to consider.

If you decide you want a nice looking stove and not just a heater, stop by a stove store and take a look.  I like what both Jotul and Morso make, but if I were in Vermont I'd also seriously consider a Woodstock Progress Hybrid.

As for heating it while you're away using the baseboards, I'd seriously think about getting a solar system.  You might be looking at $300+/mo just to keep it at 50 degrees.
I second the bolded, or at least consider some non-electric system, such as propane or oil heating. We spend about $1,200 a year on propane to heat our very poorly insulated 700 sq. ft. house (we rent for now), so in the long run, solar might save you more.  I just don't know the details on it.  I just know electric heat is awful for real winters and I'm kind of surprised your house has it. 

And Dicey beat me to recommending Frugalwoods.  She's got a ton of info about surviving and thriving in the winter on their homestead, and it sounds like you'll be at least slightly rural, what with the unpaved road and all. 

uniwelder

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #33 on: September 16, 2021, 01:08:11 PM »
........ shorted quoted text ......
As for heating it while you're away using the baseboards, I'd seriously think about getting a solar system.  You might be looking at $300+/mo just to keep it at 50 degrees.
I second the bolded, or at least consider some non-electric system, such as propane or oil heating. We spend about $1,200 a year on propane to heat our very poorly insulated 700 sq. ft. house (we rent for now), so in the long run, solar might save you more.  I just don't know the details on it.  I just know electric heat is awful for real winters and I'm kind of surprised your house has it. 

Solar is not going to be the most cost effective way to cut down on your costs, especially if its going to be turned into electric resistance heat.  First insulate more and seal windows/doors/penetrations, second get a better heating system like a mini-split to use when the fire is out, then look into solar if you've got lots of cash laying around.

RumBurgundy--- you had said the house seems pretty well insulated, but then also talked about wanting to heat the basement with hope heat will transfer to the main level.  This really has me wondering whether there is any insulation at the 1st floor.  If not, your house is not well insulated and you should look into blowing your attic full of insulation, plus the basement, depending on whether you're putting heat down there.

habanero

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #34 on: September 16, 2021, 01:40:20 PM »
I'll definitely check with people in the vicinity whether I need studs. Thanks to the poster who noted that studs are a different type of snow tire, as I've seen studs/snow tires used interchangably elsewhere.

Studs are better on (wet) ice, apart from that snow tires without studs are fine - I've never had snow tires with studs but they are much more common in rural areas. I live in the capital and main roads here are salted pretty aggressively through the winter so driving conditions tend to be pretty good year-round. Studs vs no studs has pretty strong opinions on both sides of the aisle.

The worst is freezing rain - that is when it's not cold enough for raindrops to freeze and fall as snow, but the ground is cold enough for the rain to freeze when it hits. Everything is covered in a thin layer of ice and nothing helps - not even gravel as ice will just form around it instantly. Then it gets more slippery than you could ever imagine. Even walking outdoors become a high-risk activity in such conditions. Doesn't happen very often generally, but it's really funky when it does. Very busy day for the ER.

Sanitary Engineer

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #35 on: September 16, 2021, 01:53:05 PM »
Just to piggyback re: the mental side -- I was expecting this to be tough as well.  I consider myself to be sensitive to SAD, but it hasn't been bad at all.  I think several things help.

1) We very intentionally painted with warm colors and have lots of warm natural wood.  We also have a red couch. :)  And our house has lots of windows for natural light.
2) The fire on the pellet stove is really nice.
3) For whatever reason, where we are in Nova Scotia has really beautiful skies year round.
4) My home office desk faces a beautiful window -- I'm looking out on the forested ravine behind our house year round.
5) I try to get outside every day, year round.

I think I would feel differently if I were schlepping to and from an ugly office in the dark all winter.  As it is, I find I didn't really mind it getting dark earlier.  I still walk into town in the evenings in the dark if I have an errand to run.

Getting outside is key.  There will be fleeting moments of good weather and you'll miss most of them if you aren't out there for the less than ideal conditions.  Winter in Vermont is gorgeous, for moments and sometimes days, or for whole seasons, but you'll miss all of it if you don't get outside to experience it.

Killington is a scene, I suggest joining it. Ski or work a bar or a gear shop or a restaurant and you'll experience it.  Do the things, the 5ks the bike rides, Ski the Point (the radio stations Friday apres ski program with discounted tickets to different mountains and gear give aways, music and beers). Get some ski lessons, or ride a snow mobile, or go sledding. Shovel the drive way every 2 hours during a storm, dry your gloves by the stove, drink hot chocolate, hot totties, or spiked coffee.

You'll be mostly comfortable indoors, it might cost some money until you can get your efficiency dialed in as good a possible, but you'll only be cold for a few moments at a time when you go outside. And when you go outside, if you don't warm up within an hour or so, you are allowed to go back inside to sit by the fire and read in the idyllic scene everyone imagines Vermont is, and that truly exists, pretty often.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #36 on: September 16, 2021, 04:30:24 PM »
I'll definitely check with people in the vicinity whether I need studs. Thanks to the poster who noted that studs are a different type of snow tire, as I've seen studs/snow tires used interchangably elsewhere.

Studs are better on (wet) ice, apart from that snow tires without studs are fine - I've never had snow tires with studs but they are much more common in rural areas. I live in the capital and main roads here are salted pretty aggressively through the winter so driving conditions tend to be pretty good year-round. Studs vs no studs has pretty strong opinions on both sides of the aisle.

The worst is freezing rain - that is when it's not cold enough for raindrops to freeze and fall as snow, but the ground is cold enough for the rain to freeze when it hits. Everything is covered in a thin layer of ice and nothing helps - not even gravel as ice will just form around it instantly. Then it gets more slippery than you could ever imagine. Even walking outdoors become a high-risk activity in such conditions. Doesn't happen very often generally, but it's really funky when it does. Very busy day for the ER.

And if you get enough it weighs down power lines.  Even more and the pylons topple. 

Cold snow is light and fluffy, wet snow when the air is warmer is heavy.  Around here it is called heart attack snow.

lifeandlimb

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #37 on: September 16, 2021, 06:24:45 PM »
I moved from Southern California to New York and spent some time in Massachusetts, as well.

Get a real, telescoping, properly sized snow brush/ice scraper for your car. Don't do what I did and get a tiny thing that barely works. And keep the vehicle somewhere warm/in a garage if you can. If you have to leave it outside during a freeze, start clearing off the snow early so it doesn't ice up and stick to the car. Waiting even 24 hours later can be a killer.

If you're a tiny cold person like me, please invest in some good functional clothing. Learn how to layer. Next to your skin: a thin, heat-trapping, sweat-wicking under-layer made of merino wool or polyester. Then, a lightweight mid-layer (like a fleece jacket, sweatshirt, or puffer). Then an outer layer that has down or synthetic down filling and possibly a water-repellant shell. For many years I tried to look all fashionable and wear nice thinner coats on the coldest days. Don't do that! Work clothing and shoes or winter recreational clothing will warm you better than fashun.

SunnyDays

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #38 on: September 17, 2021, 09:53:20 AM »
I always use my block heater once it's -10C/14F because I notice a difference in how the car starts.  Especially in you're going to be making a shorter trip, then it's better to use it than not, since the engine has less time to heat up and the oil stays thicker.  Repeated short trips with a cold engine are hard on the car long term.

jrhampt

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #39 on: September 17, 2021, 09:55:52 AM »
Boots are getting their own paragraph because I have OPINIONS.  Get Sorels with the removeable liners, and get a pair of YakTrax to go on them.  The YakTrax provide traction on ice and packed snow, and have saved me from biting it on the sidewalk in Chicago infinity times.


I also love my Sorels.  I have a range of waterproof footwear with varying heights and levels of insulation appropriate for different seasons.  I also have yaktraks but also kahtoola microspikes.  I find that winter is more bearable when I get out and run several times a week, and the yaktraks are sometimes necessary for this...depending on how deep the snow is the microspikes are great for winter hiking.  My spouse has studded tires for his bike.  If you're a shut in during winter you'll probably hate it, so don't be a shut in.

And I can't say enough about wool hats and socks. 

caleb

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #40 on: September 17, 2021, 09:57:17 AM »
I didn't even know block heaters were still a thing.  30 years ago, they were standard.  Every car I've owned over the past 15 or so years has started fine being left outdoors down to 30 below or colder.

However, I do appreciate that getting it to start is perhaps a different question than whether it's a good idea.

svosavvy

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #41 on: September 17, 2021, 10:38:52 AM »
+1 kahtoola microspikes.  Don't break a hip.  When you go down on ice you are piled up on the ground before you know what happened.  Generally with a bag of groceries or gallon of milk joining you.  Always have a communication device on your person.  Two years ago I lost a very independent senior citizen family member during the thanksgiving cold snap.  She lived on a remote rural property and slipped in her driveway on the ice getting out of her car and injured herself to the point she couldn't get up.  They found her next morning frozen in the driveway.  Didn't have her phone on her.

Catbert

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #42 on: September 17, 2021, 11:19:51 AM »
No advice, just a not helpful story...my step son (born and raised but in So Cal) and his wife (lived in NH when she was 8-9) moved to Maine a few years ago.  Bought a house for 120K which they thought was a screaming bargain.  The fact that it had been on the market for a year and the neighbors were all curious about who had just bought the most overpriced[/s expensive house in the neighborhood wasn't a clue to them.  11 acres with a stream, it'll be great. /s  Summer was all black flies and 6 foot tall weeds.  The only job he could find in his admittedly narrow field paid $10 an hour and was 50 miles away.  Then Fall came and they got their first $600 energy bill. 

They moved there around Easter and didn't even make it to Thanksgiving.   Apparently two winters when you're a kid doesn't mean you understand what rural Maine living entails.  They abandoned the house to foreclosure and moved back to So Cal.  No lesson to this story other than I'm glad you're looking before you leap.

Kris

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #43 on: September 17, 2021, 11:31:24 AM »
I've only skimmed the thread, but I didn't see these points addressed, so as someone who lives in Minnesota:

Well, this one I have seen addressed, but I want to echo it: dress in layers!!! It makes a big difference. Being able to pull off one thin layer or unzip your top layer and thus avoid sweating (which will make you cold once you are done overheating) is key.

As for cars, AWD is great. But also, heated seats.

Definitely embrace winter and position yourself to enjoy it. On that note, I walk year-round, no matter the weather unless it's a blizzard or pouring rain. In the winter, YakTrax will make a big difference so that you can walk on slippery sidewalks. (I haven't tried Kahtoola Microspikes. Not sure if they are better or worse.) But also: I personally wear broomball shoes for walking in snow and ice, and they are good for days when Yaktrax are overkill (such as when there are patches of ice or snow on a sidewalk but a lot of it is clean. YakTrax and things like that are made for when the snow/ice pack is solid on the surface you're walking on).

Finally, I personally think silk long underwear (bottoms and tops) are the way to go, since they are thin and not bulky, which means you can wear them under everyday clothes and not feel like the Stay Puft marshmallow man. (I also have "regular" long undies which I sometimes will put on over the silk ones if I'm gonna be out in really, really cold weather).
« Last Edit: September 17, 2021, 11:37:42 AM by Kris »

Sailor Sam

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #44 on: September 17, 2021, 12:33:21 PM »
Having lived in Maine, the only wisdom I can add to this thread is that eventually you will fuckup how many logs to chuck into the stove, and then you will have to open all the doors in the dead of winter, wearing nothing but boxer shorts while you lay on the floor and pant.

AccidentialMustache

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #45 on: September 17, 2021, 09:38:35 PM »
Finally, I personally think silk long underwear (bottoms and tops) are the way to go, since they are thin and not bulky, which means you can wear them under everyday clothes and not feel like the Stay Puft marshmallow man. (I also have "regular" long undies which I sometimes will put on over the silk ones if I'm gonna be out in really, really cold weather).

Silk can also solve cold hands! Tight fitting silk gloves do great for giving you an extra bit of warmth if your normal gloves aren't up to the task. They're thin enough to fit under without causing issues, but despite that add a truly remarkable amount of warmth.

I originally got a pair because I was under an A/C vent in the office and my hands would get cold and I couldn't type reliably. They worked for that. Then one day I tried them in my gloves when it was butts out. Now I have a second pair that live in an inside pocket on my anorak, so that if I find my hands are cold, I can just layer up there.

The only bad thing is they will get torn to shreds by velcro, so you have to be super careful getting them on/etc.

Malcat

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #46 on: September 18, 2021, 06:02:35 AM »
As someone above said, the only real challenge of winter is if you have to go places when you don't want to, and especially if you have to drive there.

I used to hate winter, but I eventually realized that 99% of my disdain is having to commute to work in winter. Where I live in Canada, our winters are a brutal combo of a lot of snow, a lot of ice, and colder than Mars temps. Driving can be incredibly dangerous, there are mornings where by the time I got to work at 7:15, the accident count on the roads was already over 100.

Having to dig out and scrape off a car and then drive on slippery, poor visibility roads is a night mare.

However, if you remove the daily commute, winter is great.

As everyone has said, layers are the key. I spent years trying to find the perfect warm enough coat and nearly bought a Canada Goose coat, but then learned about proper layer, and haven't owned a big coat since, which is great, because they're bulky and restrictive.

Here's my layer system for -40 F/C, when no skin can safely be exposed to the air, and it keeps me very warm
-100% merino wool base layer against skin
-100% merino wool zip-up layer
-fleece
-thick but light down layer (ideally one designed for layering)
-water proof/wind proof top shell with armpit vents (mine is Patagonia)
-merino wool balaclava for face
-ski goggles
-thick merino wool hat
-fleece lined leggings
-waterproof/windproof pants shell

For footwear, it depends on the purpose
-Ice breaker or Darn Tough merino wool socks (various thicknesses)
-For max mobility for walking: winter running shoes lined with GoreTex (mine are Asics)
-For more traction and better waterproofing: winter trail runners (mine are Salomon)
-For more snow: winter hiking boots
-For slipping on and off to run errands: Bogs
-Waterproof gaiters

Hands:
-merino wool glove liners
-ski mittens
-Isotoner type gloves for every day use

For the vast majority of winter, I barely need any of the above listed. As long as it's not wet, just the down layer works for every day. If it's wet, then the shell over fleece is ideal.

Kris

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #47 on: September 18, 2021, 09:36:05 AM »
^^^ 100% agree about the commuting comment. I used to hate winter, but then I quit my academic job and 30-minute commute to become self-employed and work from home. Now I love winter.

SunnyDays

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #48 on: September 18, 2021, 09:42:53 AM »
I used to do a lot of driving for my work, so I hated winter with a passion.  Now that I'm retired, I still dislike it, but like others have said, not having to go out in it makes it tolerable.  I can take any amount of cold - it's the snow and ice I despise.  I will never love winter; I'm a summer person through and through who had the misfortune to be born in the wrong country.

habanero

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Re: Advice for moving to New England (Vermont) as someone unaccustomed to winter
« Reply #49 on: September 18, 2021, 12:10:40 PM »
^^^ 100% agree about the commuting comment. I used to hate winter, but then I quit my academic job and 30-minute commute to become self-employed and work from home. Now I love winter.

I adore commuting in the winter. My commute means walking or running to work - I don't (yet) bike in the winter. But going outside and make my way to work makes me feel rather bad-ass. It's not really bad-ass in any way, but I really enjoy watching folks trying to keep warm while waiting for public transport, queuing in traffic or scraping ice off their car. The worse conditions, the better. Just have to dress properly. Admittingly, it never goes down to -40 C/F where I live, but -15C/6F can happen.