Detached Garage heating options

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Forum topic by lumberjoe posted 09-27-2012 01:33 PM 23978 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2899 posts in 2244 days

09-27-2012 01:33 PM

My shop is an uninsulated, detached 2 car garage. We don’t park cars in it – it’s strictly a workshop. Living in the northeast, that really limits my woodworking to about 5 months out of the year. Are there any safe options I can use to heat it? Electric heaters are out of the question. The garage is 24’x24’ with an open ceiling that goes up about 25’.

I would consider putting in a wood stove, but am concerned about open flame. A pellet stove is also an option, but it’s expensive and I don’t want to deal with the maintenance. Our last house was heated primarily with a pellet stove and in my experience, they are slow to come up to temp. I would also consider some type of propane/kerosene heater, but obviously concerned about carbon dioxide and open flames. I do have a full basement that is actually heated and I could finish my projects down there to avoid any combustible fumes. How do you cold weather guys do it? I have A LOT to do and don’t want to close up shop until April if I don’t have to.


14 replies so far

View JimDaddyO's profile


545 posts in 3075 days

#1 posted 09-27-2012 02:11 PM

The best thing you can do is insulate first, otherwise it will cost a fortune to keep it heated. If you get a wood stove that takes its combustion air from outdoors, you do not have an open flame (except when feeding the stove with the door open of course). I would think electric heating would be pricey too. I am hearing a lot about ductless heat pumps being inexpensive to run but know little about them.

-- my blog: my You Tube channel:

View IsaacH's profile


128 posts in 2093 days

#2 posted 09-27-2012 02:15 PM

Is your ceiling insulated? That would be my first step. You could go electric if you used infrared. Infrared heat will take a while to warm things up, since it warms up objects and not the air, but it will be more localized to the floor area. If you use a blown heat source, the blown air is going to go straight up and get stuck in your rafters. If you do go with a blown air heat source, make sure you install a cieling fan. During the winter, hit the switch to make it turn counter clockwise. It wil blow up into the roof area and force that warm air back down. As far as the open flame goes, there should be screens covering any open flame. They should be safe with good house keeping. ANY heat source can cause a fire if there is a layer of sawdust on or around it.

Thank god im a Georgia boy….. We can use heat pumps for most if not all of the winter down here. :-) Incidentally a little 1500 W infrared heater is all I use in my little 12X16 uninsulated shop. Works ok down here.

-- Isaac- Decatur, GA - "Your woodworking....NOT machining parts for NASA!!!"

View ChrisK's profile


1962 posts in 3078 days

#3 posted 09-27-2012 02:21 PM

If do not insulate be prepared to burn a lot of fuel. I have a 20×18 x 8’ shop and use a 1200 watt electric heater to warm it up in the winter. This works fine because the ceiling is very insulated, it has heated living space above, and the walls are insulated. Insulting is a pain and pricey but without it you cannot burn enough wood to stay warm. I grew up in New Jersey and worked as a carpenter through college, the winters were rough. I live a few miles North of IsaacH and agree thanks for GA winters.

-- Chris K

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2244 days

#4 posted 09-27-2012 02:31 PM

Insulating is not an option this year. I have been trying to clean out/redo the garage for almost a year, but my wife has other plans – like kitchen, bathrooms and bedroom renovations (down to studs/subfloors). I have done 2 bedrooms and both bathrooms this year so far, and the kitchen is teed up between thanksgiving and Christmas. I mentioned a few times before, but the previous owners were hoarders. In my 24×24 garage, I have about 15×15 feet of usable space. The rest is floor to ceiling junk. And that is after THREE 30 cubic yard dumpsters. It was packed to the rafters when we moved in. I estimate I need another 2. I plan on putting in a ceiling and making a loft. I will move the lathe up to the loft and do some finishing of smaller items up there as well.

I am sort of a polar bear anyway, so 55 degrees is T-shirt and shorts weather for me, and according to the bottle, Titebond III is cool with it too. Last year it was pretty warm here, and the average daytime temps were in the 40’s


View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2629 days

#5 posted 09-27-2012 02:46 PM

A fiend of mine has a detached garage. He bought some inexpensive styroboard insulation and a potbelly stove. He can keep his workspace in the 60s even when it’s 20-30* outside.

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3179 days

#6 posted 09-27-2012 02:48 PM

Insulation, vaporbarrier & drywall. Seal and tape all outlet / switch boxes, around door & window jambs and anywhere that items penetrate the walls, floor and roof. If your walls are 2X6s so much the better. Before you do all of this make sure you have all electrical run such as enough outlets to where you dont have to run a bunch of extension cords, 2 seperate circuits for lighting and a couple of 220V outlets for saws, DCs and heater etc. For your heater I’d go with the Cub “HOT ONE” @ $190.00. Also make sure you have good venting in your roof. It doesn’t take long to heat my garage. it’s 35amp 220v and I only have mine set 1/4 of the way above off and when its below freezing outside my shop stays at around 55 – 60deg F. If I take it to 1/2 way up it makes the garage almost too hot. Propane is not the best way to go. As propane is burned it gives off water vapor and is not great for tools. Kerosene gives off fumes and wood because you dont want an open flame, The above description is wahat works good for me in my climate but your needs may be different but again the prep is worth it’s weight in gold. Good luck in your deliberations!

-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2244 days

#7 posted 09-27-2012 02:49 PM

It’s not the cost of the insulation that is the limiting factor, it’s the fact that every wall is lined with a 4 foot deep and 10 foot high pile of trash. I don’t have room for 3 dumpsters, so that’s about 3 solid weekends worth of work to empty it.


View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3045 days

#8 posted 09-27-2012 02:50 PM

Insulation and wood stove, is what I use.
I have an expensive electric space heater, this was a waste of money.
I save all my scrap all year long and I also buy Eco-bricks.
They cost me $120.00 for one ton, 2 years ago.

-- Bert

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2282 days

#9 posted 09-27-2012 02:52 PM

If you get cold in the shop, it means you’re not working hard enough :)

-- John, BC, Canada

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2244 days

#10 posted 09-27-2012 02:57 PM

I can handle the cold, my tools, wood and glue don’t like it though :)

RetiredCoastie, good suggestions. Fortunitely before I stacked all the junk neatly, I had the garage rewired. It is 2×6. I have a sub panel in the garage. 2 dedicated 220v, lights are dedicated (1 circuit), 3 dedicated 110 and 10 shared 110v, so I have outlets everywhere. It’s rare I run more than 2 things at a time. The 3 dedicated 110v are spread out so I don’t need extension cords, and the other tool just runs off of a nearby shared 110v (generally a shop vac).

I plan on insulating and hanging OSB or plywood. I want to be able to screw/hang things on the walls where I please.


View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3045 days

#11 posted 09-27-2012 03:09 PM

OSB or plywood., the problem with that is that it makes more stuff to burn in case of fire.
Sheetrock is not that combustible and then you can use french cleats to hang stuff

-- Bert

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2261 days

#12 posted 09-27-2012 03:22 PM

Okay, besides the insulation (which I think is mandatory and not optional), I’d suggest getting a gas shop heater. Like:{keyword}

or even:

Size them according to your needs and you should be set. We had those in our shop (80×50) and it only took a few to keep the shop warm (with 20-25’ ceilings and two massive garage doors). This shop was insulated though.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3045 days

#13 posted 09-27-2012 03:41 PM

You can a gas heater only if you have gas line running to your shop.
I had none and the cost to install one would have been prohibitive.
I bought an electric space heater and it just does not work for me.

-- Bert

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 3739 days

#14 posted 09-27-2012 03:56 PM

My shop is 22×44 and I use a 180,000 BTU kerosene heater that has a thermostat. The ceiling is open at the ridge vent so I don’t worry about CO2. It takes about 20 minutes to heat the shop to 55F and I also have an electric 220v space heater with a fan in front of it to circulate the warm air. The kerosene heater only cycles on and off about once an hour. If I forget to unplug it though it will run on and off until the tank is empty.

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

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