<VV> Garage Heating

Chuck Kubin dreamwoodck at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 23 11:36:12 EDT 2005

Jim, Hank and crew,

I can offer some advice on heating a garage. I'm part
of the way along on mine after exploring lots of
options.  To stave off the shitstorm, I'll tell you
I'm not a pro, but an experienced handyman who's done
a lot of homework. I'm putting this out as general,
basic  ideas to help youse guys narrow down your
IN ALL CASES, check and follow your local building
codes. I really don't want to read about a VV member
who pinched a nickel and burned himself up. Not to
mention the cars.
You have two basic components, a heat source and the
way to keep it in. If you don't want to insulate, you
are burning money as a heat source. 
Also, check to make sure your electrical service is up
to the demands of the new additional system. To
provide the power for the lights, outlets, heat etc.,
it is probably worth mounting a subpanel in the
garage. Will you run a welder out there?

I'll send you to a how-to book for insulation because
of the several options and techniques, but basically
you need both proper insulation AND ventilation. You
can actually cook your roof if you do it wrong. 
Hank's right about insulating the ceiling, as your
wall insulation won't do any good if the heat can just
rise up out of the workspace. This is almost as bad as
no insulation at all. If you want to use the attic as
work space, insulate the roof instead.
Heat systems have come a long way in recent years. 
Some options:
Forced air: this is what you may have in your house. A
95% efficient gas-fired one is a few bucks more that
the 88-90% ones, but will pay for the difference over
a few years. Good choice if you want full-time heat.
It will bring up the air temperature quickly and cycle
less as other things in the room if you run it only
when you work.  Economical for large spaces.  Requires
20A for the blower motor, low voltage for the
transformer,  duct work, and an underground gas line. 
Electrical baseboard: heats baseboards along the
walls, used to be expensive to operate, but with
today's rising gas prices??? Check in your area.  Very
clean and quiet; requires 220 underground service to a
detached shop.
Hot water system:  much better than the old days. Same
principle as the electric baseboards. Requires 220 or
gas feed, depending on the system.
In-the floor:  uses either electrical wiring or hot
water pumped through tubing in the poured floor. Can
be added to an old floor, but it is a pain and more
expensive than if you do it right the first time.  The
slab warms up and the heat rises to warm the room. 
Takes some time to warm up from very cold, best if the
heat is full time. You gain thermal efficiency in that
the slab radiates warmth after the system shuts off.
This is a favorite of people adding additions to a
house because it completely eliminates ductwork.
Requires space only for the heat plant.
Overhead infrared radiant:  the higher you can get the
units, the better. Pretty useless under an 8- or
10-foot ceiling. Requires some clear space around it.
These are long tubes mounted on the ceiling that
radiate heat on line-of-sight to objects in the room.
They heat the objects, including you and the floor,
and not the air.  You can feel warm in a cold room!
Expensive, but efficient, quiet and truly an
industrial quality installation. This also requires a
gas line installation, and what you have to go through
to get the gas to the individual heaters might be a
consideration. I worked in a massive repair shop where
these were 25 feet up and about 30 feet apart. If
considering this, study the brochures from the
manufacturers to make the best decision.
Industrial-style gas space heaters: we've all seen
these permanently-mounted heaters in garages. They
hang from the ceiling and burn the gas in a
radiator-style framework and circulate the hot air to
the room. They require good ventilation and some
headroom as well.

Space heaters: the next two don't need fresh-air
sources because there's no combustion. Electric,
oil-filled radiators work well in smaller room-size
areas. They take a little time to warm, but they are
great once the room warms up. They have thermostats. 
Electric "milk-house" heaters are small and good for
putting fast heat in a small area, like blowing heat
under the car, but can be expensive to run.
European-style chimney heaters are efficient but you
need GOOD ventilation because they burn kerosene. 
They put out a lot of heat and are compact and
portable. 1-2 can heat a large space. I'd buy a carbon
monoxide detector if I used it in a fairly airtight
For a massive heat blast, buy or rent a gas or
kerosene-fired space heater. This takes up a lot of
space as you want some room around the inlet and
DEFINITELY behind the outlet. It looks like a small
jet engine.  Good only for temporary heat outdoors or
in a very large space, since it uses LOTS of air. If
this was my primary heat source, I'd run it for a
short while to warm the space, shut it down, then run
it again when it gets chilly again.

A lot of your decision will depend on how much heat
you'll need. Do you want to work without freezing one
day a week, or do you want to work in your underwear
24-7 in all areas of the shop?

Chuck Kubin

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