Heating and Cooling Your Shop
Ductless HVAC systems ensure that the weather doesn't limit your shop time
A freestanding building can be a fantastic place for a wood shop. But you can’t usually hook it up to the heating and cooling systems in your house, and if you live where winter days regularly fall below freezing or humid summer days linger above 90°—or both—the shop will be uncomfortable or unusable for chunks of the year. Plus, weather swings can wreak havoc on tools and materials. If you need to heat and cool a freestanding shop—or a garage that’s attached to your house but not to its heating and cooling system—a mini-split or PTAC may be the answer.
These ductless air conditioners or air-conditioner/heater combos are easy to install compared with ducted systems, don’t take up much space, and require only a 220-volt circuit. Plus, they can come with you if you move. Both mini-splits and PTACs (packaged terminal air conditioners) are heat pumps. For cooling, they extract heat from a room and send it outside. If they can heat as well, they flip the operation, pulling warmth from outside and bringing it in (both are thanks to the seeming magic of refrigerant). Because heat pumps move heat rather than generate it, they can be more efficient than other heating methods, such as electric resistance and, generally, fossil fuels. Some heat pumps have limits: PTACs have trouble drawing warmth from the outside below 35° to 40°. They turn to electric resistance heat in colder temperatures. Mini-splits can handle much colder weather; some as low as –15°F. However, they cost a lot more up front, in part because it’s advisable to use a pro for installation. Still, they can keep energy bills lower thanks to their efficiency. To get the most out of either type, your shop should be well insulated and well sealed.…