Letters from Paul Schobernd


Heating a Shop


Been reading all of the posts on heating a shop. In my day I have used a double-barrel wood burner, kerosene heaters and forced air by putting a closeable vent on the home high-efficiency furnace.

My first shop I built in a pole building with a heavy wooden floor and insulated walls. I was sh*tt*n' in tall cotton for months, but then it got really cold. I could still keep it warm, but then one day I noticed it was raining inside. Being bald, I noticed this right away. With no insulation on the roof or a dropped insulated ceiling, my respiration was enough to start a dripping rain inside. I was warm, but pretty damp. Stuff rusted.

The next shop was small in an old summer kitchen attached to our house. I couldn't channel heat to the place so I went to a fairly good size kerosene heater. This worked pretty well, but was expensive to keep going, not to mention a nuisance to fill. Biggest problem was the accumulation of moisture inside the room. As long as I kept it heated the tools were in pretty good shape, but if you let it get cold after working, metal would often be covered with frost.

20 years ago, I moved to my current shop which covers 3 basement rooms of rough finish and I share space in one room with a high-efficiency furnace and air. I simply cut a vent in the hot air plenum that I can close or open. This has really been the best because it doesn't take much heat to take the chill off and by letting the air in that area it takes care of any humidity problems that can cause rusting during high humidity weather.

The cost to heat my shop is negligible with the Lennox very high efficiency duo. I have the usual limitations of working in an old basement, but they are really minor. If I need to use volatile chemicals I close the door to the room with the furnace and vent fumes out a window with a fan. It really doesn't matter how cold it gets or how hot and humid. I can keep a fairly even temperature and humidity. Before this I had to use a portable de-humidifier and that was an expensive proposition!

I don't have a lot of good things to say about radiant heat in a wood shop either. It feels too weird to move in and out of the radiant field. Gotta friend that tried this in her shop and she gave it up in favor of forced air. I gotta come down on the side of forced air whether it is gas, oil, wood or corn. Anything where you can keep a minimal amount of heat to keep moisture down without breaking the bank makes sense to me.

Everybody's situation is different, but if you sort of live in your shop I think some variety of forced air makes sense. You can go from cold to toasty in a short period of time.

Paul Schobernd
in Normal, IL
December 15, 2005


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