Heating a wood shop

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Edwin Pawlowski writes:

I haven't filled mine in a long time, so don't know prices, but I do know my shop, which is 25 x 48 with an 8' 6" ceiling (I screwed up there: 10' would have been much better) flat eats propane on cold days. I have a 35,000 Btu catalytic heater and a 15,000 Btu model, and often had to run both to get it up to working temp in the a.m. Working temp for me is around 55-60, but if I'm gluing it is 65 to 70, as it is for finishing. But I don't like spray residue floating into glowing catalytics, so I ran it up near 75 or sometimes 80, and shut down the heat before finishing. That eats at least a 20# bottle (4 gallons?) each day.
This winter will be cheaper, if all goes well. Set the furnace at 50 and leave it until I'm in the shop.
We'll see.
Charlie Self "A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers." H. L. Mencken
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Dave - it's pure hogwash. Thousands of woodworkers both professional and non have burned firewood in their shops since forever. There has indeed been a great deal of discussion surrounding this and in fact a great deal of real fact. In the end, you won't be able to create the type of air/fuel density necessary for combustion with your shop tools. You can do a google search and find the reports of exactly what particulate count and what size the particulates have to be in order to support combustion if you choose, but you'll find that you really can't create that environment.
I use an open pilot propane furnace in my garage. It's a forced air unit and if anything was going to stir the air up, this thing would be the ticket. I do woodworking, autobody repair and painting, and I even hang a deer or two or three a year in there, and well, here I am writing to you, so it can't be all that bad. My garage is 26x36 with 9 foot ceilings and I have a big furnace - maybe bigger than I need but it was free. Don't know the btu rating but you could ask just about any HVAC guy and he can tell you what you'll need in a heartbeat. I'm up in Central NY and the winters here are long and cold, but my furnace warms the garage in minutes even on the worst day.
--

-Mike-
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Mike Marlow wrote:

Maybe _you_ can't create a pile of sawdust, but if so you are the only woodworker in the world who is so blessed.
One does not need airborne particulates to have a fire you know.

--
--John
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True - but to keep this on the track that it started out on, I was not talking about whether sawdust is flammable or not, I was talking about explosive, which is what I interpreted the OP's question to be. I elected to let the obvious stand on its own, which was that sawdust will burn. I gave the OP credit for being smart enough not to throw a pail full of coals into his sawdust pile, which is just about the only way he's going to be at risk.
--

-Mike-
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Lee Valley offers an interesting Quartz Overhead Radiant Heater: http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?SID=&ccurrency=2&pageD590&category=1,43456,43465
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The heater Frank mentiioned with the link to Lee Valley is the one I mentioned in a earlier post that I have over my bench. It puts out a lot of heat.
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Mike S.
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I salvaged a woodburning fireplace insert from a job that was never used. It came complete with flue, flashing and cap. I've used it several winters to heat the shop (24'x22' insulated) without problems. I am just careful to clean the sawdust off the floor often. Takes about 1 hour to get a good fire rolling and get it warm in there. I just love going out into the shop on a snowy morning and building a fire-- who'd thought a woodshop could be "cozy". On especially cold days i also use a kero heater. These type of heaters will give off soot and odors when the wick needs replaced, otherwise they work well. If you decide on a wood burner i would strongly suggest getting a fan kit with it. Furthermore, if you need to buy wood, call BEFORE it gets cold, prices are usually better. I go through about 2 cords per season in the shop which amounts to about $150 split and delivered. (the guy gives me a little deal 'cuz i refer his services to my own customers). Keep in mind, you should also have plenty of endcuts to use for indling. --dave

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I have had two shops and have heated both with small direct vent gas furnaces. There is no open flame so there's no risk of an explosion. The furnace draws and exhausts air directly to and from the outside and the air is heated in an enclosed chamber.
They're hassle-free and you have the benefit of a thermostat. I turn it down to 50 when I'm not using it and up to 65 when I'm in the shop so the shop is heated to some degree all winter which I like. Only takes about 15 minutes to bring it up to working temp. My current shop is 22 x 26 and well insulated and doesn't take much to heat. Cost for the furnace was about $700 and they are easy to install yourself. You just need a gas line to tap into and an outside wall.

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Dave,
An open flame heater is not dangerous as long as you respect the fact that whatever you are doing in the garage may have the potential to put that garage into orbit ;-)
Basically what I am saying is just use your head when you have an open flame. You can rip, cut, saw and plane all you like as long as you keep the sawdust piles cleaned up and not near your heater. I have never heard of sawdust in the air exploding like gasoline fumes.
Don't have a messy shop with piles of sawdust all over the place. Get youself a couple of STEEL garbage can's and when you clean up your sawdust keep it outside in those can's. The reason for the steel can's is that if you ever happen to get smouldering embers in the sawdust, it won't melt the can if it does start on fire. And make sure you keep it outside, if anything does go wrong and you have a fire, it's not inside your garage. Same goes for shop rags etc. that you may use for refinishing. Put them in a steel container when finished with them and don't keep em inside your shop. Spontaneous combustion is well known to happen to solvent soaked rags, you don't even need an open flame for them to go up !
Now as for what I heat my shop with.... well I have used 4 different types of heat. In my old shop I used one of those propane construction heaters, and like Charlie says, they are hard on propane.... until I discovered one thing. Put a fan behind the heater. It was amazing how low I could turn the flame on the heater once I put a fan behind it. Only thing I then had to worry about was to keep a door cracked to make sure the shop got adequate oxygen. I didn't need to kill myself from carbon monoxide poisoning. The other problem I found was that the shop smelled of burned propane then, it wasn't bad, but not pleasant either.
Once I moved to my new place I got myself a little bigger shop. Now I have one about the same size as you, 22'x 22'. I used the propane heater for a while and it worked great, but then I decided to give a buddy's kerosene heater a try. It worked fine, but I hate the smell of burned kerosene so I didn't use that very long.
Then my father built himself a new house, and I inherited his old wood stove. I installed that, and it worked wonderfully except for one thing. When I wanted to paint something I had to go back to the propane heater only. I didn't want to run the risk of having the woodstove cause an explosion. I couldn't just turn the woodstove off and on easily like the propane heater. Even when you think there's no embers in the woodstove, you don't need to take that chance.
I worked like that for a couple of years. Using the propane heater when painting so I could turn it off to paint, then back on after I got the shop cleared of paint fumes etc. ( And I do mean WELL cleared of FUMES )
Two years ago I had an HVAC buddy give me a natural gas furnace out of someone's house. I installed that ( in a room outside of the garage walls ) so the furnace was isolated from the shop and all paint fumes etc. So now I use the furnace in conjunction with the woodstove. But I still make sure the furnace is off when painting, I respect the fact that I can't outrun and explosion like they do in movies ;-)
The furnace is used mainly to keep the garage at a constant temp. or if I am just going out there for a couple of hours. The woodstove is used when I am going to be out in the garage for a while and to save me from really high natural gas bills ;-) Plus it gives me a place to make my mistakes disappear.
Hope this helps.... just make sure whatever you use to heat with that you work safely around it. You only have one shot to get it right, mistakes with flames can be deadly.
Todd
PS: If you install a wood stove make sure your insurance company knows about it, otherwise if you have a fire they WILL NOT cover your losses. Plus they will insist on having it inspected, which makes sure that you installed it properly.... good for your peace of mind too.

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If your shop is free standing and you have either natural gas or propane available in your area, I'd recommend a gas fired Modine (or modine-type) heater. The unit would hang from the ceiling above the work area, is fan assisted, and can usually be hooked up to a thermostat. My first choice for a shop where comfort is not top priority.
A local Plumbing/Heating contractor would be happy to help ;-) I bet the following link has some more stuff about it, but I'm too tired right now to look at it myself:
http://modine.com/english/index2.php?pagecontent=display.php&Page_id 6&PageName=Building+HVACR&lev1&lev2=5
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I'm not sure if I understand the question completely. When you say open flame are you referring to the various heaters with an actual flame that's exposed only, or are you referring to woodstoves also?
I don't see a problem with woodstoves--we've used one for my whole life, my father's entire life, my grandfather's entire life, his father's entire life..do I need to go on?
Plus you've got a great place to dispose of cutoffs and sawdust. :)
Dave Rathnow wrote:

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The potential is from the fumes of finishes. Even a store that is supposed to be "out" can still have glowing embers a day or two later. It is against the National Fire Code to use solid fuel heaters in garages due to the potential of having gas fumes from an automobile. With proper care, it should be safe as any other heater.
I use an open flame propane heater, but I don't spray finishes while it is still running. Ed snipped-for-privacy@snet.net http://pages.cthome.net/edhome
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I use propane. I'd use natural gas if it was available. Electric is expensive to run, but more of a cost of running enough power to get enough heat. A 1500 watt heater is only 5118 Btu. I need at least 30,000 in my detached garage. When the temperature gets very low, say 20 degrees or less, I don't even try to heat the shop.
What is best for you? Depends on many factors. Insulation? Coldest outdoor temperature? Fuel availability? Ed
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I've used a combination wood/coal stove for years. Wood in the early fall and late spring to warm things up then the heat of the day is sufficient to keep the temp comfortable. Coal in the cold season on Cape Cod...it's cheap, easy to use not having to feed it often. At 10pm, I feed it and its good until 8am the next morning. Shop temp about 70F. Never a problem with dust although I keep a clean shop.
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I have a 26x40 shop that I heat with a propane 70,000 btu furnace. It's made by Modine and it's called a Hot Dawg. It hangs on the ceiling and vents out the wall. I bought it on the internet through QC Supply for around $600 delivered. I did bring in a 320 lb propane tank that's only used for this furnace, then it's easier to gauge how much I'm using. Last winter (in northern WI) I used about $300 worth of propane. When I'm not using the shop I keep it set around 45 and it takes only a few minutes to heat up to 65.
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I got an old slow combustion stove (think you call them a pot belly). Been in the shop for 2 years. Feed it with all the scraps and it keeps the shop warm (5m x 10m)
--

Phillip Hansen
Skil-Phil Solutions
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Phil, Don't have room for {and can't AFFORD} one of those 'traditional' pot belly's. So I have a cheap 'knock off' of the 'Swedish style'. Ditto on what I feed it . . . along with chunks from a tree I had to take down years ago.
Actually, a bit better than a portable Kerosene heater. While the Kero heater puts out 120,000 BTu, one of the by products is a slight amount of water vapor. Not the best for the tools or the curing epoxy.
Regards, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop

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snipped-for-privacy@att.net says...

Got mine from a scrap yard. Cost me R250 (about $35)Now that spring is here it has been cleaned and painted all ready for next winter. Cheers
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Phillip Hansen
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Phil, I keep hearing references to 'cheap at the scrap yard', and 'shopping' at the city dump.
WHERE !!??
Around here you'd think the stuff was either gold or nuclear waste . . . the way it's either locked away or trucked a hundred miles away. If you don't get it out of your neighbors trash before the Thursday morning pick-up . . . it's GONE !!
Regards, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop {That's how I got the doors that make up my heavy *big* workbench, and what I throw across sawhorses for 'instant' ones !!}
says...

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Same as here. "The city dump" is off limits to anyone that doesn't work there. We have "transfer stations". Open top semis that you approach from the top via a platform and throw your stuff into. Not much of a way to salvage anything. If you do manage to salvage something, you will be arrested for doing so.

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