Heat your shop. Cool your shop.
Specifically targeting home workshops, manufacturers have recently introduced more and more forced-air furnaces onto the market -- both gas and electric -- making it easier to find an affordable model for nearly any shop size. Fan-circulated, heated air raises a room's temperature quickly, making a forced-air unit an economical choice if you heat only intermittently.
In an electric forced-air furnace, all of the power sent through the element is converted to heat, making the appliance nearly 100 percent efficient. Electric furnaces sit on the low end of the price scale. Installation is inexpensive and simple -- often little more than plugging or hard-wiring into your existing electrical service. However, in most of the country, electricity is the highest-cost utility, so an electric forced-air furnace may make the most sense for moderate climates calling for only occasional or supplemental heat. If your electric panel can handle it, opt for a more powerful 220-volt model.
A gas-fired, ceiling-mounted forced-air furnace requires venting and a gas line. And through-the-wall, direct-vent versions require some modifications to your shop wall, adding to installation costs. But natural gas remains one of the most inexpensive fuel sources, so it makes good long-term sense. For safety in a fume- and dust-filled shop, choose a furnace with a separated combustion chamber that draws outside air for combustion.
Their propane-fired cousins work the same, but propane prices approach electricity costs in some regions. If your only fuel options are electric or propane, enter your utility prices into a cost calculator like the one available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (http://www.eia.gov/neic/experts/heatcalc.xls) to guide you to the lowest-cost option.
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