Heating Your Shop
For every shop and climate, there's an efficient solution
Synopsis: Whether your shop is located in an attached garage, basement, or outbuilding, keeping it warm during the winter months is important for woodworkers in most regions. Don’t go shopping for a shop heating system without first reading this overview by Fine Woodworking senior editor Andy Engel. From choosing the type of heater and learning about the different ways heat warms a building to comparing fuels and deciding where to locate a heater safely in your shop, this article covers it all.
My first woodworking shop was in a garage in northern New Jersey. I cobbled together some insulation, weatherstripping, and an old woodstove to make the shop mostly habitable—for me. For my tools and projects, though, I suspect it was a hostile environment. Morning often found the shop below freezing, which precluded storing glue or waterborne finishes there. Stoking the stove quickly launched the mercury into the 80s, a fluctuation in temperature and humidity that did my lumber no good. And, if the shop remained unused for any length of time during the winter, rust bloomed on my tools.
Better insulation and a heater I was comfortable burning in my absence would have fixed the problems. I think 50°F is good for an empty shop, and with decent insulation and air sealing, it’s a temperature that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to maintain in most climates.
Dust and fumes can be a hazard
Wood dust will burn at 500°F or less, and clouds of dust can ignite if they’re exposed to hot surfaces or an open flame. Aside from the fire risk, even relatively minor shop dust encrusting any type of heater will make it less efficient.
There are two types of fuelburning appliances. Opencombustion appliances, such as woodstoves or gas heaters…