Opinions on heating your shop

Got a project that you are working on that is not a tractor? Maybe a barn to hold your tractors or just fun stuff like woodworking, glass, tools, sheds, gardens, custom implements, etc., this is the place to talk about it.

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Opinions on heating your shop

Postby 169Cub » Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:36 am

I have been blessed with a beautiful shop to work in. It is 20' by 40' in Wisconsin. Currently it has propane radiant heating that runs off the main propane tank for the house. Last winter, it was a cold winter, and we used lots of propane. I kept the thermostat in the shop at about 40. It would give a relative overall warmth in the shop of about 49. BTW, it is WELL insulated, except for some seals around the doors and overhead door which I will replace this year. I am considering changing to a pellet stove for heating to save on the costs of propane. This leads to a few questions;

1. What is the expense of running a pellet stove?

2. Would a used stove be ok, what would I need to do to verify if it is a good stove?

3. Other heating sources you would suggest?

Thank you for your consideration in this.
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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby v w » Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:08 am

Hello from the other side of the lake(SW MI). I don't think there is any truly low cost heat. I heat with natural gas and leave my shop set at 40 degrees since I'm in there nearly everyday. It also keeps the cast iron tops on the tools from rusting. I push it up to 65 when I'm in there. My heater is overhead. I thought about a wood burner but even with a supply of all the free slab wood I would want decided against it. Have you considered the space needed for a pellet stove? Fuel still must be purchased and needs constant refilling. Will the stove burn pellets only or can it burn corn? Ash disposal? Have you talked to your insurance agent? How many years of savings will it take to recover the cost of the stove? In my humble opinion solid fuel heat is ok only when burned in a separate building and piped in but there goes lots of $$$$. And last what is the $$ value of the convenience of propane? I must admit I don't know the cost of heating my shop since we heat the house, kitchen stove, hot water and dryer using gas. The temperature makes quite a difference since we heat the house with gas only from 41 degrees down, 42 degrees and up is an air to air heat pump, which is nothing but the air conditioner changing it's valves so it is trying to cool the outside and sends the heat to the house, which sends the electric bill up. Good luck whatever you decide. Vern :D

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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby Eugene » Fri Jul 12, 2013 11:41 am

There are a number of web sites on the advantages of various fuel types. Also sites where you can plug in local prices for various types of fuels to determine the most cost advantageous.

Ozarks, wood is readily available. Heating cost is very low if you do all the labor and discount labor.

Neighbor heats his garage with a heavy cast iron wood furnace sitting in the building corner with a box fan circulating the air/heat.

I really don't need to heat my shop for several reasons, no insulation, and I'm not there when it's very cold. Also, there are times when I do not visit or work in the shop for a week or two due to weather conditions.
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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby Bob Perry » Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:45 pm

Everybody's situation is different. I don't care about heating my shop 24 hrs a day, but I have been using this method over 40 years and it works for me:

Save demolition and carpentry scrap lumber all year. (I work a lot with wood.) I also grab nice clean used-only-once hardwood pallets from a sign company near my work. Sometimes I split some firewood from hardwood trees, but it's not really necessary. I have a nice big wood-stove. I put the wood in, light it with my acetylene torch for 15-20 seconds and walk away.

Very little expense, and lots of instant heat. Plus the ambiance of burning wood. Oh also it cooks my lunch.
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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby Bob McCarty » Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:57 pm

A friend of mine who works on Model T's has a larger building than yours. He partitioned off a room the size he needed to have two T's in it. One of the walls is clear plastic sheeting that he rolls up to move a car in or out. He now uses two small electric heaters instead of his overhead gas and is quite satisfied with how that works. Depending on where your radiant heater is located, you might be able to divide the space in half and realize some cost savings. Obviously, the sheet plastic has no insulating value, but minimizes air movement that would cause heat loss into the larger, unheated space.

Last edited by Bob McCarty on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby Bill Hudson » Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:58 pm

I heat the, well insulated, Cubhouse with a natural gas furnace mounted from the ceiling. In the winter the thermostat is set at 50 while I'm not in the Cubhouse and raised to 60 when I enter. No muss, no fuss, no floor space used. I want to work on my Cubs when I'm in the Cubhouse and do not want to have to attend to any heating device, other than the thermostat.

This may not be for everyone, but it works for me. When I built the Cubhouse, heating was not a matter of economics, it was a matter of convenience and effectiveness.

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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby Rudi » Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:34 pm

Well, a little word on heat coming from the land of snow. I have been heating for well gee almost 50 years .. learned at my grandparent's and parent's knees. At home with my parents in town we heated with natural gas. It was cheap .. however cheap is a relative term when you are heating homes or the cabinet shop in -60F temperatures which was the norm for us back when we were kids in the 50's and 60's. It was cheaper than oil or electricity but still was a lot more expensive than what my grandparents heated with. My grandparents on the farm heated the house with wood. Very inexpensive - basically free except for labour and a little bit of gas for the saws.

Move forward 25 years and we end up here in the Maritimes. Winters here are not like they were back home in Northern Ontario. There it was very cold, but a dry cold ... no huge bodies of water near by. Here in the Moncton area we are surrounded essentially by the Northumberland Strait (North Atlantic Ocean) and the Bay of Fundy - (still the North Atlantic Ocean) .. and it is a cold, moist/damp/wet winter. For the house I originally used a wood furnace with a propane backup. I later moved to an electric backup - 30Kw unit which only comes on when the house hits 16C. Costs very little to heat my house and I only make about 4 fires a day on average. The new shop which I built in 1989 was heated by propane. Rather economical heat source as I was heating the shop around the clock and it was kept at 64F overnight. Not as cheap as natural gas but 1/2 the price of furnace oil and electric heat as a minimum. After I had to retire and we experienced some propane leaks, we converted from propane to a 10kw electric forced air unit. I bought 2 used 20kw units with 10kw elements, added one to the house. Cost me about $500.00 for the furnaces so I figure I am ahead on that. Is it economical? Nope. Electric bill for the shop is somewhere around $100.00 a month keeping it at 45F or so. If I am working in it, the bill can increase to about $200.00 a month. In the pole barn I have a ceiling hung construction heater .. 220v, I think it is about a kw or something. Keeps the fingers warm in the winter but I only turn it on when I am in the pole barn working on the Cubs. And it ups the power bill for sure. For me, I really don't care. It is my hobby and life is too short to worry about the small stuff. Both the shop and the pole barn are very well insulated as well which helps to keep heating costs down.

I have friends who have those outdoor wood furnaces .. they take a lot of wood to provide the necessary heat and are not all that good with heat conservation. There is a lot of heat loss with an external unit. A good wood furnace/wood stove installation is very safe provided you operate the unit according to directions and don't take shortcuts.

However... You asked about opinions so here is mine for whatever it is worth. Keep your propane. Wisconsin isn't warm in the winter. It can be cold. Oil will cost more even with the newer high efficiency units. Don't consider that an option. Electric heaters are a good option but not as economical as propane or natural gas. Pellet stoves .. I am not a fan. These are not what you would call green alternatives - they take a lot more energy to make pellets than is recovered from them. If they actually just used sawdust and shavings to make pellets it might be more green and less expensive than they are now, I would probably change my mind. The most economical means to heat a shop is a wood furnace. A furnace is far safer than a wood stove. With a plenum and ducting, you can burn a lot of your waste, scrap wood, salvaged wood etc., and heat your shop for next to nothing. However... precautions must be taken. You have to have it installed at a minimum in accordance with your local codes and preferably exceed the code requirements. With a wood furnace you may still need a back up for when you cannot be there, so an electric construction heater is a good added option or a small electric furnace to provide the blowers for the wood furnace.

There are so many combinations and choices. You have to find what works for you.
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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby outdoors4evr » Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:43 am

The space you choose to heat and the temperature you choose to maintain it consumes BTU's. The smaller the space and lower the temperature differential from the outside temperature, less BTU's are consumed. You can compare the cost per BTU of different consumable materials.
Natural Gas, Propane, Kerosene, Wood, Coal, and Corn are popular heat sources. The latter three are less efficient (more heat leaves the chimney), but are cheaper sources of heat. The cheaper sources of heat tend to require more effort on your part as well (cutting, hauling, shoveling).
If time and physical activity are not a limitation, pursue a lower cost heat source. If limitations are a consideration, then opt for the higher cost consumable materials like natural gas or propane.

Note: Your insurance company will probably require a rider for a stove style heat. That rider cost may offset the benefits of the cheaper heat source.
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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby John *.?-!.* cub owner » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:39 am

I guess each person has their own preference for their location and work habits. due to health, I can only work a couple hours at a time, so A wood stove is not practical. Unless I kept it going round the clock it would take so long to get hot and warm up the work area it would be time for me to go back to the house by the time it was warm enough to work. My shed is only lightly insulated, but I find one of the double top radiant heaters (the kind that mounts on a 20 lb. propane bottle) does quite well down to the 20 or 30 degree range. If I want to work below that I have a small torpedo heater. Of course using either one you have to take fresh air supply into consideration. Carbon monoxide is a concern no matter what you heat with.
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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby GreaseNipple » Tue Jul 16, 2013 4:47 pm

I had a workshop I built at my house in Maryland before I moved back home to Pennsylvania. I bought a new Regency woodstove for the workshop and used it for my heat source. I didn't keep the shop heated all the time....only when I went out there to work. So, some days when I went out to the shop, it was 25 degrees or so inside. It would take a while to get the shop up to say 60 degrees, where I found it comfortable to work. All my firewood was free except for my labor....but I was retired, so that didn't really count !!!!! I brought the woodstove along with me when I moved back to Pa. I intend to build another workshop (24' x 32' ) next summer. However, my heating techniques will change a little. I still have plenty of firewood, I own 18.5 acres of mountain land, but I'm going to add a propane heater into the mix. That way, I will use the propane heater for 10 or 15 minutes to take the chill out of the workshop while I am building a fire in the woodstove. This way the workshop should heat up faster and the propane use won't be too bad. Someone mentioned something about insurance....my insurance agent (State Farm) said if I put a wood stove in my workshop that State Farm would not insure the building !!! I told him that then I guess it won't be insured because I will be heating with wood. I didn't burn down the other workshop and I don't intend on burning down the new one !!!!!!


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Re: Opinions on heating your shop

Postby pickerandsinger » Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:15 pm

I have a woodstove in the garage that see's very little use....( I leave for Florida in the winter)....I also have a pellet stove ( Lowes most inexpensive ) that I keep on the enclosed back porch....I leave the door from the garage to the porch open and the sliders to the house open and a window that opens to the back porch....When its in the 30's the furnace never comes on....The pellet stove runs the entire she bang on the 1 setting, fan 4.....I burn 2 ton at approx 250.00 a ton per year....Thats from April 1st till Christmas give or take...The propane furnace of course kicks on should it need to....( Its in the attached garage also) in a furnace room that I can leave the door open on to heat the garage....Of course winters aren't what they used to be lately.....I was told recently, you can not use the pellet stove chimney system to burn corn....I don't burn corn but its just what I was told...In a combo unit you need a regular chimney....If I was to stay here in the winter, I'd grab some hardwood pallets and buck them up to run the woodstove when needed...(As Bob Perry said, their free out here at a factory aways away also).....
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