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Heating the shop

I received a message from a reader asking how I heated my shop in the third stall of my garage. Since temperatures here have been much cooler than normal, I thought this might be a good time to share that info with everyone, so here are the particulars.

For the first four years we were in the house, the primary heat source for my shop was me! I worked in insulated coveralls, a stocking hat and fingerless gloves. I had a little milkhouse heater blowing as close to me as possible, but at best, it prevented frostbite.

Milkhouse heater

Milkhouse heater

It’s the only time I thought my shop was too big. Glue-ups and finishing meant carting parts into the house and down to the basement.

Then I installed a ceiling-mounted natural gas heater, similar to a Modine Hot Dawg. It’s up by the garage-door opener, blowing back into the shop.

Cayenne heater

Cayenne heater

In the winter, I keep the shop at about 55 degrees while I’m working. I bump it up higher if I’ll be gluing or finishing, although some of the finishing I still take to the basement.

The attic above the garage has 12” of blown-in insulation, and the outside sidewalls are insulated. I could make the arrangement more efficient by hanging a curtain to divide the shop from the two-car portion of the garage, thereby containing the heat in a smaller area. It would also help if I had a better seal around the overhead doors. A good W or NW wind pushes them in about 1/8” from the weatherstripping.

One problem I’ve had with my heater: The exhaust vents horizontally through the north endwall. When a stiff north wind blows (ie when a nasty mass of arctic air is moving in), the heater often won’t fire, due to the back-pressure in the exhaust.

Before turning the heater on for the first time each season, I climb up and give it a good cleaning, blowing and brushing away the dust and cobwebs. I do that a couple of times during the winter as well.

So how do you guys heat the shop in winter? And I don’t want to hear you guys in the Sunbelt say “I open the windows.”


5 Responses to “Heating the shop”

  1. Well, I used to say I opened the windows…

    But the past few winters have gotten the temps so low here in Florida that I had to break down and get an electric, oil filled heater.


  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by WOOD Magazine and the woodwork, Martin Armac. Martin Armac said: RT @WOOD_Magazine: Read how one WOOD Editor keeps his shop toasty in winter. http://bit.ly/fQaKoX [...]

  3. We have a wood burning stove in our shop. I burn all the scrap wood, newspaper, junk mail etc. My dad had the shop before me and ran a cabinet business. He kept everything! This winter I started burning the huge formica pile he kept. I have burned through the 60′s-orange,avocado,gold. I am now working on the 70′s-lime green,pink,fake wood. It’s better than filling up the land fill, and boy does it burn hot!

  4. I live in a rented house in middle Tennessee. My shop is the two car, unheated basement garage. The doors are metal and do not seal at all, so in the last couple of months when the temperatures here were in the teen’s and 20′s it got pretty cold in there. Since I rent the house and can’t make any permanent changes I heat with a propane construction heater and use my JET air filter system to circulate the heat around the shop and down off the ceiling. It’s a convection style heater, not the torpedo, and it’s rated for 20,000, 40,000 and 80,000 btu. I turn it on when I first start to work in the shop and turn it off when it warms up. There is plenty of ventilation from the leaky garage doors, but I do open the entry door a bit as well. I make sure it is off if I am doing any finishing work with volatiles like lacquer and dye stain. So far it has worked quite well but I do keep my finishing and glue supplies in a warmer part of the house. Not the best but it’s only needed 3 or 4 months of the year.

  5. I use a Big Buddy from Mr. Heater.

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