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Thread: Options for Shop Heat

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
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    Massachusetts
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    186

    Options for Shop Heat

    Planning stages for 24x36 shop/garage. My goal is to keep the area above freezing when not in use and getting it warm enough for finishing in winter (say 50-60) here in southern New England. If I go with wood frame it would be 2x6 insulated walls and considering insulated steel structures. I am in the planning stages with nothing carved in stone besides size. Structure is detached from house.

    No natural gas available.

    Possible energy sources. Electric (last resort), wood, pellet, oil, propane or something I haven't considered yet.

    I was thinking pellet with auto hopper feeder for lower attention during off hours and lower ash vs wood.

    Like to hear your thoughts, pitfalls, options

    Thanks in advance for your sage advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    Shenandoah Valley in Virginia
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    531
    Recommend propane. You can get extremely efficient furnaces and only need 2" pvc for both incoming air and also for the exhaust.
    You can set thermostat to 35degrees and turn it up when you want it warmer.. It will warm up quickly if you put the correct size furnace in.

    Run the duct work around under the ceiling, but in the heated area so you do not have losses to the outside.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    McKean, PA
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    13,177
    I heat my entire house and included shop with a geothermal heat pump. The initial costs are higher but the payback is there if you plan to stay on the property. My house is maintained at 71 degrees in the winter and 74 in the summer. Depending on how much property you own there are various methods for collecting from the ground. Geothermal operating costs are much lower than propane and air source heat pumps. I reside in NW PA so we do see hot and cold extremes. This Old House has done a number of systems on their show.

    My heated area is 1500 sq. ft of living/shop and a 1000 sq ft basement (slightly cooler than the living space) at an annual cost of $2190. This includes well pump, electric stove, dryer and water heater.
    Last edited by Lee Schierer; 11-25-2020 at 11:04 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Between No Where & No Place ,WA
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    1,161
    You mentioned a pellet stove. Best better check your insurance carrier. I had my detached shop built in 2001 and looked for an insurance carrier. All wanted know if I had a wood or pellet stove as they would not write a policy if the building had wood/pellet stove heating. In 2019, I changed my insurance carrier and those I queried about coverage told me the same.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Okotoks AB
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    Propane is very efficient. I don't know what your energy costs are, but a heat pump may be a good fit. I think you can save around 50% over the cost of electric resistance heat.

    Another thing to consider is warm up time when you want to use the shop. I have a natural gas furnace in my shop, around 80,000 BTU, & keep it at 4.5 *C when not in use. If I want to use the shop after work, I turn up the setting to 18 & by the time I get home 1/2 hour later, its nice & toasty. Even 15 minutes of heat will get it quite comfortable. It will be easier to accomplish this with propane than with a heat pump.
    Last edited by Frank Pratt; 11-26-2020 at 1:06 AM.

  6. #6
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    Sep 2019
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    Massachusetts
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    186
    Interesting option

  7. #7
    A Rinnai EX38 will walk away with that space. You may be able to get utility rebates on a mini-split install.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    340
    I converted my house/attached shop from forced air to in-floor radiant heat. One of the smartest things I've done and I would suggest it if you can pull it off with your heat source. My shop is always warm and comfortable, even on -20 Wisconsin winter days. Because every object in the shop is warmed, and not just the air, it is much more comfortable than forced air heating. It also helps dry the wood piles I have in my shop.

  9. #9
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    Sep 2019
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    Massachusetts
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Falk View Post
    I converted my house/attached shop from forced air to in-floor radiant heat. One of the smartest things I've done and I would suggest it if you can pull it off with your heat source. My shop is always warm and comfortable, even on -20 Wisconsin winter days. Because every object in the shop is warmed, and not just the air, it is much more comfortable than forced air heating. It also helps dry the wood piles I have in my shop.
    My shop is detached and probably only around 1000 sf when built. What type of fuel and device do you use? My weather is probably very similar to yours, maybe a few degrees warmer on average.

    BTW I already have an oil fired boiler (no natural gas available) for the house which will be pretty maxed out with 550 sf in-law appartment being added now. I sure like the idea of keeping the tools warmer avoiding condensation I get now in the unheated, unisulated, leaky as a tent shop I have now.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    55,506
    So normally, I'd immediately be recommending a MiniSplit...and 18-20K BTU unit would likely work nicely for the size of your shop (in general), especially if it's properly and well insulated. But you'd need a unit that has a better "low temp" limit than many of the most inexpensive units offer because of where you live and the kind of cold weather you get. My unit will work down to -5F, but that's not an issue here in SE PA other than once is a very, very long time with an unusual weather pattern. MiniSplits are heat pumps and while they do use electricity, the heat itself is extracted from the outside air. (Most also provide AC which is nice when it gets humid during the warmer summer months) Whether a heat pump type system will work well for you may or may not be the case where you live in Mass. From there, my recommendation would be to insulate the structure very well and use a propane powered furnace or overhead unit for heat with a thermostat that you can can control and monitor from your phone for convenience. I would never use resistance heat of any kind...it's hugely costly to run as I know from personal experience. Oil has its own challenges with storage, etc, so propane is easier and cleaner around that issue.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Waterford, PA
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    665
    We heat both our home (1500 sq ft) and 2 separate workshops (His and Hers, each 600 sq ft) with natural gas fired boilers and in-floor radiant heat. Our yearly cost is under $1300 with the house at 71 F and the shops at 67 F. The best part of the radiant is the shop is warm no matter when I go to use it and the machines are warm to touch.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Tampa Bay, FL
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    2,415
    Where do you live in Massachusetts? In coastal areas, the weather is somewhat moderated temperature-wise (although the Nor-Easters are rough snow blizzards). We had oil heating when we lived North of Boston (hated it). I think the propane is a good choice. Mini-splits are great in the South and are heat pumps, but likely not going to use the AC that much in summer up there.

    Of course, the added humidity from the propane heater is a definite drawback unless it's vented. And then you lose some of that heat going outside.
    - "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein
    - Without quitters, stampedes would never end
    - The difference between an amateur and professional is that the amateur practices until he gets it right. The professional practices until he can't get it wrong

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Falk View Post
    I converted my house/attached shop from forced air to in-floor radiant heat. One of the smartest things I've done and I would suggest it if you can pull it off with your heat source. My shop is always warm and comfortable, even on -20 Wisconsin winter days. Because every object in the shop is warmed, and not just the air, it is much more comfortable than forced air heating. It also helps dry the wood piles I have in my shop.
    But that doesn't work so well if you don't want to pay for keeping the shop warm when not using it. Because of all the heat stored in the slab it will keep the shop warm all night. And when it finally does cool down there's a long wait to get it back up to a comfortable temperature. In-floor radiant is great for a house that is occupied almost continuously, but not for a space that is empty except for a few hours a day.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
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    340
    John, I had a natural gas boiler installed. I am no HVAC expert, but I think any system that heats water will work. What you would then need are manifolds, pumps, and other piping/hardware to control temp/water flow. Since you are detached, it would seem logical to design a system just for the shop. Perhaps an on-demand tankless hot water heater would work. They are relatively inexpensive and have been used for such applications. I would Google "radiant floor systems" or some such terms for your area and see if you can find someone to design a system. There is a lot of information on Youtube as well. I installed all the insulation/tubing myself (both in-slab and under floor), but had my radiant contractor install the boiler and all the hardware as that is pretty complicated. You will have to insulate under and around your slab (I used salvaged 2" and 3" foam board) You won't have condensation problems with a continuously heated shop. My shop is bone dry....as I said, I can bring air-dried wood in my shop and it will dry over the winter (albeit slowly). FWIW, I have bought various supplies from www.supplyhouse.com. Good luck!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Lightstone View Post
    Where do you live in Massachusetts? In coastal areas, the weather is somewhat moderated temperature-wise (although the Nor-Easters are rough snow blizzards). We had oil heating when we lived North of Boston (hated it). I think the propane is a good choice. Mini-splits are great in the South and are heat pumps, but likely not going to use the AC that much in summer up there.

    Of course, the added humidity from the propane heater is a definite drawback unless it's vented. And then you lose some of that heat going outside.
    I live near CT, RI, MA border below the snow line but 0 F happens as does 100 on occasion

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