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To the real estate editor: We have a 150-year-old home in New England. The one thing that it has not been exposed to more than three or four times is lying empty in the cold winters of central Maine.

My parents left it one full winter without heat in the 1960s and anxiously returned from Florida to find it in excellent condition. We tried the same thing last winter, which was admittedly mild. When we returned in April we found one large crack across an old mend in the study ceiling.

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We are told by plumbers and builders here . . . that any new renovation materials hold risks of buckling or cracking in prolonged cold.

My question to R. Hill is: Which is more expensive -- fuel or repairs to a cold house? Janet Grinnell

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