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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Heating the shop: Step 1

The house we purchased recently has a really nice shop.  The shop is 40ft x 40ft, with a 13 foot ceiling.  It is insulated, has a tall insulated roll-up door, and is wired for 230V throughout.  It even has a small bathroom with a deep sink.  The bathroom is wired and plumbed for a hot water heater, but one was never installed.

The shop has a massive work bench with overhead lighting, and a large mezzanine area for storing stuff that you might not want cluttering up the main floor.  It has windows up high on two sides to bring in natural light.  In short, it's a really nice building!

What the shop doesn't have right now is heat, and that makes it unpleasant and impractical to use for several months of the year.  It also makes the diesel tractor very difficult to start.  The previous owner used the shop as a business, and because he was out there every day, he heated the building with a wood stove. There is a penetration in one wall where the duct for the wood stove once passed through.

I like the idea heating the shop with a wood stove for a couple of reasons:
  1. I have plenty of dead trees available for fuel, and many more living ones that I need to clear for fire safety reasons.  
  2. All of these trees are free.  
However there are a couple of very solid reasons that don't want a wood stove which have convinced me not to install one:
  1. My homeowner's insurance will go up, because wood stoves tend to be fire hazards.
  2. Inconsistent temperature control, because I won't be using the shop every day.
Inconsistent temperature control is really THE issue.  When we bought the house, it was unoccupied, and a company had "winterized" the plumbing, filling all the water supply lines with an environmentally-friendly anti-freeze.  The shop still has antifreeze in the water supply to keep the pipes from bursting during the winter months.  I would like to be able turn on the water supply again and use the toilet and the deep sink, and to finally install that hot water heater.

If I were to install a wood stove, I would need to maintain a fire all winter in the shop to keep the temperature above freezing, or risk burst pipes.  Rather than have to deal with that, I thought it would be preferable to install a propane furnace with a thermostat to regulate the temperature.  I only want to keep the shop from freezing, and increase the temperature on those few times when I need to work there.

For the past couple of years I watched the Craigslist ads, and finally found what I was looking for.  In fact, the sellers were getting rid of two furnaces.  I purchased one, and a friend purchased the other. These units came from a logging company's maintenance building.  The logging company stopped using them because they got tired of paying the propane company for tank rental.  I intend to buy a small tank, so that won't be an issue for me.

My Craigslist treasure!  It even came with some exhaust duct and a cap.

The installed version, with horizontal ducting, should look something like this:

Not the same model heater, but you get the idea...

Next, I need to locate a 100 gallon propane tank.  This particular size is nice because the fire code allows you to put a fairly large tank right next to the building.  Anything larger would have to be 50ft away from the shop, which would necessitate digging a deep trench, running a lot of pipe, and having to rent the tank from the propane company.

This is the size that I have in mind (no that isn't me)

After that comes the infrastructure.  I will need to pour a slab for the tank, run some gas pipe, install the exhaust duct, add an electrical circuit for the heater, and install a thermostat.

I was a little concerned about finding a thermostat that has a temperature range as low as I need to go, but I located a digital garage thermostat that looks perfect for the task:

So, with a little time off (Heh. good luck with that!!!!) and some luck finding a propane tank, I may soon be playing...
in hot water,
in the deep sink,
in the shop :)

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