shop heat fuel costs

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Forum topic by Charlie posted 02-04-2013 02:26 AM 1563 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2312 days

02-04-2013 02:26 AM

I just ran a calculation based on my current electric rates vs the cost of propane and was pretty amazed to find that electric is about HALF the cost of propane here. I pay 11 cents per KWHr. I used a simple calculator that compares the cost of 100,000 BTUs of heat from either source based on your local cost for each.

$3.22 for 100,000 BTU from electric
$7.37 for 100,000 BTU from Propane using a 90% efficient heater.

I had no idea there would be that much of a difference and I honestly thought propane would be cheaper.

With the holidays and the cold weather, I haven’t been in my shop to work in WEEKS. I would love to be able to just keep it at around 40 or 45 when I’m not out there, and bring it up when I’m working.

I can bring the AIR temp up real fast with a 35,000 BTU propane heater, but it’s noisy. And bringing the air temp up doesn’t do anything for all that cold iron out there. So ya have to bring it up and keep it warm for an hour or so before you can touch anything without stickin’ to it :)

My shop is only 16×18 , but soon to be 16×24 when I build my wife’s garden shed and get her out of the shop building. She actually volunteered to give me that extra 6 feet if I build her a garden shed. I only have 2×4 walls so that’s all the insulation I could do. Seems fine once I warm it up.

thoughts welcome

26 replies so far

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

4036 posts in 2260 days

#1 posted 02-04-2013 02:45 AM

Charlie, I use a big 220V electric radiant heater hung over the workbench and tool chests. Within an hour the temp on the thermometer moves from 32 to about 60. That’s not air temp, but the result of radiant heat striking the nearby surfaces. This quickly makes the tools easy on the hands, helps with condensation that would otherwise develop with air heaters. I LOVE it.
I paid $4 for it at an auction where they thought it was a fluorescent light fixture. Got another one for $1 later same auction. Don’t run out and try to buy one like these 5’ twin tube deals because they list for about $1500 each! But you can get reasonable cost ones, even if you have to use more than one. The old chicken house heat lamps worked well before I got these super ones.


-- Dan Krager, Olney IL One should always prefer the probable impossible to the improbable possible.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3165 posts in 3135 days

#2 posted 02-04-2013 03:24 AM

Electric heat is 100% efficient, if you can keep it in the building, and is dry, to boot. If electricity costs are that low for you, I wouldn’t even bother with propane. Then again, I live in sunny southern California. I use natural gas for cooking and the clothes dryer. It’s WAY cheaper than electricity. I bought a gas dryer and stove not long after I moved in here, and they paid for themselves within a year. One thing to try is radiant barrier insulation in the roof/rafters of your workspace. It makes a huge difference in both hot and cold weather.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2513 days

#3 posted 02-04-2013 03:49 AM

Hmmmm, something wrong with those figures, but I’m not sure what.

We manage an RV park and our rates are 13¢/Kwh. Temps over this winter have been dipping to lower 20’s F.

Depending on the preference of the site, normal cost is around $55-$75 per month for electric heat.

If they use their standard 20KBTu RV furnace, they will go through a tank or maybe a tank and a half per month.

These are 30 pound tanks, 5 gallons, cost is $27 to fill from empty.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 2890 days

#4 posted 02-04-2013 04:30 AM

When you are comparing fuel costs, you must take into consideration more than just the unit cost of
each fuel. That is,
oil costs many times more per unit than electricy, but each unit of oil produces much more heat.

I looked up a chart that demonstrates what I’m trying to explain.

The chart shows that for furnaces, the propane @ 78% efficiency costs less than a 98% eff.
electric furnace. For space heaters, the electric 100% efficient baseboard or room heater was about 5 dollars cheaper per million BTU.
than 65% efficient vented propane space heater.

So cost will be determined to large extent on the efficiency of your particular propane heater.

If the chart below is too difficult to see you can tap the control key and ”+” key to enlarge or
you can download it here—>Fuel Cost Comparision Excel File

View Bruce Taylor's profile

Bruce Taylor

21 posts in 1964 days

#5 posted 02-04-2013 04:37 AM

For me, being a boater and always worried about condensation, I have to tell you that, unless a propane heater is vented through an outside vent, it will produce more aitch-2-oh than you can imagine. Not a good thing in my shop. So, torpedo-type propane heaters can be a liability as far as I am concerned. Just saying.

-- Captain Bruce, Washington State

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 2890 days

#6 posted 02-04-2013 05:03 AM

If you can find a propane vented space heater that is ~75% or better efficient. It will likely
cost less to heat with than a 100% efficient electric baseboard.

@Charlie Your numbers don’t add up .

A unit of electricity (kilo-watt-hour) typically only has around 3400 btu
(fuel heat content per unit)

Propane has 90,000 btu per unit.

So if I’m not mistaken, that translates to electricity costing 1/20 less for a unit than propane,
but only having ~1/30th the btu per unit than that of propane.

typical cost per unit of electricity is ~ 12 cents per KWH
typical cost per unit of propane is ~ 2.40 dollars per gallon

View Woodknack's profile


11792 posts in 2406 days

#7 posted 02-04-2013 09:25 AM

Propane is expensive. I switched it out for a heat pump and the slight bump in my electric bill is about 1/4 what I used to pay for propane.

-- Rick M,

View sprucegum's profile


324 posts in 2023 days

#8 posted 02-04-2013 11:08 AM

I purchased a Sterling ceiling hung vented 45,000 btu propane heater. I did most of the installation myself but hired a gas tech to run the line and pressure test it. Total cost for the heater, concentric vent kit, and installation came out just under $1000. I am very happy with this unit it does not make a lot of noise,and it is 82% efficient . Electric was not an option for me without upgrading the electric system in the shop.
Prices tend to be all over the place on propane. I could have paid as much as $3.50/gallon but as a member of the local chamber of commerce I am able to buy it for .35 over cost which was $1.55/gal on my last delivery. I could get it a few cents cheaper if I owned my tank but not enough to make it worth doing.
If you are going to burn propane SHOP AROUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- A tube of calk and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain't

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2312 days

#9 posted 02-04-2013 11:36 AM

Price per gallon on propane around here is about $2.78 and the calculator I used….. RonInOhio, you’re right… something doesn’t look quite right about the numbers.

I worked in my old garage at the previous house with a natural gas heater mounted up near teh ceiling. Commercial type. And I have worked in a shop with radiant electric and I have to say I prefer how the radiant electric feels, but this is going to come down to a cost issue as well.
And I might not solve it before spring at the rate I’m going. At which point I’ll be looking for an air conditioner.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4999 posts in 2519 days

#10 posted 02-04-2013 01:09 PM

I can’t buy into those numbers. Electric gives you ~3400 BTU per KWH, LP about 94K BTU per gallon. In my case, electric is 9.75¢ per KWH, and LP about $2.00/gallon. LP is only 80% (+/-) efficient, so for me electric heat is about $2.90 per 100,000 BTUs while LP is about $2.75 per 100,000 BTUs. My electric cost is close to Charlie’s number, but LP must be really expensive to get that $7+ number, and that’s at 90% efficiency. I can tell you this, to heat my 24×32x8 shop so far this winter I’ve burned 74 gallons of LP. I have a meter to keep track of it. Last winter when it so warm, I burned 100 gallons the entire year.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3074 days

#11 posted 02-04-2013 01:34 PM

I wish I could bring a gas line from the street to my shop bu the cost would be around $5000.00
This winter, for the first time I tried to keep my space electric heater on t to keep the shop at around 45/50 F.
My cost just for that is around $80.00/month
I turned the heater off.
I use a wood stove when I am in the shop.

-- Bert

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 1974 days

#12 posted 02-04-2013 01:47 PM

I have a 26×30 well insulated detached garage.. I heat it with a side kick(wood). If I load it once in the morning it will hold 55 for 24 hours. if I want it 80 for finishing I only have to load it 3 times in a 24 hours.

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3074 days

#13 posted 02-04-2013 02:07 PM

My shop is 24×30x10and also very well insulated but I have to load m,y wood stove all the time, I burn scrap wood.

-- Bert

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3343 days

#14 posted 02-04-2013 02:26 PM

Charlie, from an up-front investment standpoint, you’re generally going to be better off going electric resistance. An electric baseboard or quartz (or other) radiant heat setup can be had (for what I assume your requirements would be) for probably $100. And electric is quiet and should be able to boost your 40-45 degree maintenance level up to a working temperature pretty quickly (and quietly). Ongoing fuel costs, however, are going to be high – just about as high as a propane or kerosene vented heater.

Systems that cost less to operate generally cost more to purchase or require much more “hands-on” maintenance (refueling), or both.

Something I’m considering for my shop is a high-efficiency ductless heat pump. I have (personally) installed two of them in my house and love them. The up-front investment is around $1,000 but they can produce heat at 1/3 the cost of electric resistance (which is what I’m replacing in my house). And they produce a/c in the summer. My concern, since they circulate/blow heated or cooled air in the room, is air filtering. I’m considering mounting the indoor unit inside a ceiling-mounted air filtration box, as I don’t think the heater’s standard filters would be able to handle a woodworking shop’s un-pre-filtered air.

Here’s where I bought mine:

Edit: For anything 12,000 btu and under (not sure what your 16X24 shop will require), you can use a single 110 circuit. That might be helpful.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View SamuraiSaw's profile


515 posts in 1990 days

#15 posted 02-04-2013 02:32 PM


What brand are those heaters?

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

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