Q: I thought I kept your column about people who closed their Vermont house every winter, but I cant find it. You told them how cold they can keep their closed house. Now that weve retired, were starting a new tradition of staying here through New Years Day and then going south, so it would be great if you could reprint your advice. Thanks!R.K., Addison, Vt. A: Happy retirement! Im happy to help: If you drain the pipes, you can turn off the heat completely. If that's not an option, you can lower the thermostat - but don't be surprised if your heating costs remain about the same. People, lights and appliances really add to a home's ability to maintain its warmth. An unoccupied house at 55 degrees will use more heat energy than an occupied house at 68 degrees. Most home experts suggest maintaining an inside temperature of 50 degrees to prevent freezing pipes, but to accomplish this, it's a good idea to experiment with thermostat settings before you go away so you know what to expect from your heating system. Power outages, extreme freezing temperatures and other winter mishaps may cause a sudden drop in temperature and may mean you'll need to have to set the thermostat higher, at least temporarily. If you don't have someone to check on your house regularly, see if your fuel company can install a monitor that enables them to notify you if the temperature in your house falls below a certain setting. Im always glad to reprint topics. You can also find all past columns at www.efficiencyvermont.com .