Mar 052018
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Record-setting cold has plagued much of the nation this winter.

I don’t recall the exact year, but the last time I recall snow on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was in the early 1990s. A group of us, we called ourselves “TTLB,” The Thursday Lunch Bunch, had been to Edgewater Mall in Biloxi. We met every Thursday at O’Charley’s Restaurant. Not only was this before Katrina, it was before casinos, and I could drive to Biloxi from Long Beach, have a leisurely lunch and still be back at work for 2:00 PM. Today, it’s an ordeal to drive to the mall, and it takes forever.

Californians and New Yorkers are not sympathizing.

This particular day we got through with lunch and were shocked to walk outside to a winter wonderland. The snow was fresh and powdery and several inches thick. Everything was silent. Driving down Highway 90 was magical. The beach was, well, snow white. There were hardly any cars on the road and the medians and yards were pristine.

This year, we had not one but two snows, about a week apart, although both of them together wouldn’t have been a good covering.

Did I mention it snowed? Oh, not to mislead you, this was in Wisconsin.

Still, it has been cold here. We had many days in the 20s, pipes that were protected but froze anyway and weeks of thermal underwear.

New Yorkers are not sympathizing.

Still, that’s rare for us. We normally enjoy balmy weather. In fact, I don’t have any permanent heat in my shop, although I’m not above taking one or both bathroom heaters downstairs to warm things up.

“Two bathroom heaters” you say? Yes, have I mentioned that I’m the world’s most cold-natured person?

If I’m going to the shop on a cold day, I might have innumerable layers on, and I might not come out of many of them in the course of the day.

On the coldest day I’ve worked in 22 years in this house, I’ve never run the electric heater more than an hour. I’m inclined to being cold, but the process of stirring around in the garage warms me up pretty rapidly. If it’s really cold, I’ll leave the shutters closed for a bit of window insulation, even though I miss the beautiful view.

With a picture this pretty, one could be distracted, even from woodworking.

Which got me wondering, “What do people in other parts of the country do for heat in their shops?” Between reading Show Us Your Shop and woodworking videos, I know heat sources run the gamut.

I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with that.

Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

  7 Responses to “March Woodworking Poll: How Do You Heat Your Workshop?”

  1. I was caught in that early 90’s ice storm, spent 5 days in a Gulfport motel. Was setting displays in the new Lowe’s store, could not get supplies until after roads thawed out. Live near Memphis Tn. in Arkansas.
    Dog’s name is Birdie, LOL
    Clint Merrill

  2. I have electric radiant heat panels in my shop. I don’t remember the brand, but they are similar to these: The panels take a while to heat the shop if it’s really cold, but once up to temp it’s very comfortable. I installed a programmable thermostat that’s set to turn the panels on an hour before I usually go to work, so the shop warm when I get out there.

    If I were to install a heating system now, I’d go with a mini-split heat pump. Those weren’t available when I put the panels in. A mini-split would heat the shop faster, and might be more economical. The radiant heat panels would probably be better for an un-insulated shop, as you can feel the heat before the entire space is warmed up.

  3. I have 2 kerosene heaters. On a 10 degree day I get get it heated to 50

  4. Heating a shop is very tricky as sawdust and some adhesives and finishes are highly flammable.. I have found the only safe solution to be a direct vent wall furnace. These units use OUTSIDE air for combustion. The burner is also completely sealed.. My research and personal experience led me to Empire brand. They make a 35000 and 55000 btu model. A handy individual can install these units, assuming they have a basic knowledge in electrical and plumbing. I have personally used the natural gas and propane models. Directions are straight forward and available for download.

  5. 20# LP tank to a small heater is $20 fuel for about 7 hours of 40-45 degree when outside temp is 20 degrees at my westcentral Wisconsin garage workshop. I could not use my shop in most of January due to average daily temps of < or =to 0 degrees F.

  6. I have a small/medium size natural gas heater in the shop. It sees little use except on the coldest days. I do however have a edge. My home is heated with gas and the central heater is in the basement with my shop. The duct work is insulated, but they still radiate a good bit of heat. In the summer my shop is located so that with the back door open and the garage door up there is always a cool breeze blowing through the shop.

    Pop Golden

  7. The good news is that where I live, the winters are fairly mild. Mid-40s would be a cold day. I have one of the clocks and also has a temp and humidity gauge on them. On the days, I work in the shop I record the info (it’s the scientist in me). The well insulated shop almost always is never colder than 60 F. That is about a perfect temp for me. On occasion I will turn on electric heat to raise it by about 5 degrees F (and turn it off when I get in the shop) if I have a lot of gluing to do or finish to apply.

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