Season 2 Episode 1 - Heating and Cooling Your Shop

Everyday Woodworking Podcast Season 2, Episode 1 

SHOP NOTES 

Heating and Cooling Your Shop 

WELCOME 

Welcome to Everyday Woodworking, a podcast for smart discussions about the craft, business and love of woodworking, both as a hobby and a profession. 

I’m your host, Ricky Fitzpatrick. I am a woodworker, and the owner of Apple Valley Farm, where we make handmade crafts and décor. I’ve been woodworking most of my life, and now with Everyday Woodworking, I have the opportunity to share my experience, thoughts and even my challenges with you. 

And I can’t wait for you to join me right here for the next episode of Everyday Woodworking. 

INTRO 

Today we’re talking about something that may be more near and dear to my heart than you might know. Keep in mind…we are in the South. And especially right now, it’s hot. And no…if you’re from like, Michigan, you have no idea what I’m talking about! 

Hot in the South is a different hot. Different from anywhere else in the country. A Southern hot is not only temperature related, but it’s humidity based. And when you mix 100 degrees with 85% humidity…you can hardly breathe, Jack. It. Is Hot. 

We reached out to our woodworking friends on social media, and actually, I was surprised as some of the comments I got. You might be too. And if you’re like me, you might find yourself saying “Hey, that sounds just like me!” 

And when we’re done, you’ll have a whole bunch of new info on a ton of options for heating and cooling your small shop. 

We’re going to jump all that in just a second, but before we do, let’s take a quick break. 

BODY 

Alright, Welcome back, my peoples. Welcome. Velcome! 

You know cooling and heating your shop, that’s a big bite. I mean, that’s a biggie, bro. You could dump a big chunk into this, so we really want to do some ‘splorin’. 

OK, so let’s get going. Man we’ve got a LOT of ground to cover. *We’ve got a long way to go, and short time to get there.* 

So to begin with, I wanted to share the results of our social media research. Before today, we asked everyone out there in social media land “What are your thoughts on AC and heat in the shop?” 

And the response was gigantic, man. We got a whole array of comments back. So many in fact, that I just pumped it all into a spreadsheet so we could get a better look at how it all breaks down. And that’s what I want to share here. 

I think this is going to be super interesting to you. 

Several folks really shared some great info with us, and some of it, I could really relate to… 

Kris Riley from Facebook said: 

I don’t have ac and live in the south. It’s just plain miserable  I’m trying to convince my Wife that I need a dedicated shop, rather than our 2 car garage. Pretty much I’m covered in sweat and drenched shirts every time. 

Exactly, Kris. I feel your pain. In the dog days, I go through 3-4 shirts a day. It’s tough, being a Southerner, brother. 

Baxter H Hammock, another Facebook friend: 

I've got a 1500 sq ft shop, only have an attic fan with two other fans in each room for summer...in winter I use my wood stove with fans mounted on the stove pipe to distribute the heated air. 

That sounds pretty smart to me. Especially the fan on the stove pipe. You can’t beat redneck ingenuity! 

And finally David Boardman is a friend that I turn to for help quite often. He said: 

I can handle heat much better than I can cold, so can glue. So I have one of those hang from the ceiling electric heaters and insulated the garage door. 

The idea of the forced air heater is one that really piques my curiosity. I like it, but I don’t know if I can afford it. But I figure if David’s doing it, then it must be smart. 

So breaking down our survey stats, we’ve got some pretty cool stuff here… 

A little over 30% of our listeners have a dedicated shop. That’s a free-standing place, not connected to the house. 

25% work out of a carport or garage. (Hello! That’s my people!) 

Half have no AC or heat at all! That blows my mind. 

Just 6% have HVAC. That’s not all that unexpected. 

About 12% use either window AC or the mini split units. 

And about 43% use fans. That’s me…I’m all fans in the Summer. 

As for heat, again, 6% have HVAC. 

25% use electric heaters. Again, that’s me. Pretty worthless, but I still do it. 

About 12% use either LP or kerosene heat. 

And 6% use a wood stove. 

Actually, I have a small wood stove that a friend gave me several years ago. I’m saving it for when I have a dedicated shop. But for now, it just sits there. Mocking me… 

Anyway, man that’s a lot of very cool info, don’t you think? 

But overall what it tell me is, even though we’re all (or mot of us) woodworkers, to some degree, we’re all facilitating the process in our own ways. 

Also, I’m encouraged to learn that most of us are still pretty small-scale in what we do. That was kind of unexpected to me because I wind up working with so many friends who have these huge shops and all this expensive equipment, and it feels like I’m like the last guy left who’s still grinding it out sort of old school. So that fact was actually very impressive to me. 

But you may be wondering “What can I do?” Or “What would work for me?” Well, I’m sort of wondering those same things, myself. So let’s do a high pass over some of the options for a small shop. 

Let’s start with cooling. 

THE FAN – Obviously, a fan would be the first line of defense against the heat for most of us. I happen to have a box fan in my shop, and that’s like the entry level solution, for fans. It works OK, but once you hit 90 or so, it doesn’t do much more than just blow hot air around. But for less than $10, it’s hard to beat. 

Beyond that, you could get a floor model shop fan. You know, one of the big cylinders, maybe 30 inches or more across? They sell them at HD and Lowes and such. And for $200-300, you can get a fan that will blow your toupee off your head. Just keep in mind that while these fans will do a better job at removing the warm air in your space, they’re going to blow your stuff around if you don’t keep it secure. 

You can also opt for an stand-mounted commercial fan. A good one will run you an easy $200, but it will work very well. Not blowing gale force winds, but it gets it done. And being elevated, it’s efficient. 

WINDOW AC – Next we have the window AC unit. It does a good job. It obviously is an actual air conditioning unit, so it’s not only moving air, but it’s pumping cool air into your space. 

For a couple hundred bucks, you can get a decent one. Of course, you’ll need a window to mount it into, plus an outlet that preferably is on its own circuit. 

You’ll also need to consider the condensation run off. And of course, if your window is on the front of your shop, then all the neighbors are going to see and talk. 

MINI SPLIT UNITS – IMO the mini split units are probably the best solution for the small shop, as far as actual AC units go. But be prepared to shell out a couple grand or more, plus installation. 

Wait. What did you say? “What is a mini split unit?” 

Simply put, a mini split is a ductless, localized air conditioning system. It’s sort of like a window unit, only you don’t need the window…among other things. 

You’ll have an outdoor unit, then individual indoor cooling units for each space. The indoor units provide local cooling, with virtually no noise, and very little disruption to the room. 

You can turn each one on and off, depending on where you want cooling. But for the open shop, chances are, you might not do that. But you could make use of several evenly spaced units. 

They are cool…no pun intended, but as I said, they ain’t cheap. 

HVAC – After that, then you could have a full blown HVAC system, but I’m going to just leave that right there. I think that’s beyond the scope of most small shops. 

OK, onto heating… 

Let’s just go ahead and say again, since we just mentioned it…a full blown HVAC system couple employ a heat pump to keep you comfy in the Winter, but I don’t think most of us are going to take that route. So we’ll just bring that up, then close the door. 

ELECTRIC HEATERS – Walk down the heater aisle at Walmart in the month of January, and you’ll find out real quick just how many options there are for space heaters. A bunch! 

Most of us (myself included) make use of some sort of small electric thing that probably blows some amount of air over heated coils, providing some very localized warmth. Frankly, they’re mostly good for feet and hands, or if you can close in your shop or carport, then it eventually might take the edge off the cold in your space. Provided it isn’t too big and/or drafty. 

For me, my carport shop is open to the weather, so it’s like spitting in the wind when it gets really mean outside. Especially if it’s windy, to boot. 

One of the dangers of these little heaters is their voracious appetite for power. Not only will they spike your power bill, but they can easily kick a breaker, especially if you’re running one on the same power strip as your table saw or planer. So be careful. 

KEROSENE HEATER – I don’t have a lot of experience with kerosene heaters, but I’ll tell you what I know. 

First off, they aren’t all that expensive. Maybe $150-200 at HD. Plus the fuel for it. 

Obviously, kerosene is the fuel source for heat and that has a certain smell to it. Some people don’t mind it. I’m not a fan, myself. They can be very unsafe for indoor use, although there are “indoor” models. Sill, I’m not a fan of the practice. 

Plus, I’ve seen way too many scorched hardwood floors where the heater got to be more than the floor could stand. That makes me nervous. But it is an option, and as our survey showed, a fair number of people use them. 

PROPANE HEATER – Propane heaters fall into much the same category, but the ones I’ve seen seem to be much more “intense” in their ability to put out the heat. 

The one I’m thinking of looks more like a jet engine than anything. And it definitely heats a space. Just be careful you stay mindful of whatever you have in front of it, because it can get away from you. 

LP is the fuel for them, and to me, that’s a much safer option. Not that LP isn’t explosive, but it’s typically contained in its compressed form in a tank. 

Again, around $200 will get you going. 

FORCED AIR UNITS (Gas or Electric) – Only one of our survey participants mentioned using a forced air system. Frankly, I’ve never seen one in a home shop, but they do a great job in a commercial space. 

Typically, the Forced Air unit hangs from the ceiling and uses either electricity or some form of gas (kerosene, propane, natural gas) as the fuel. 

If this is your plan, then expect to drop as much as $5,000 or more on the unit and install. The electric might be less, but then your power bill will get you on the back side. Still, this is an option that I’m very curious about, so I may dig into it a little more and maybe dedicate an entire episode to investigating it. 

MINI SPLIT – And what do you know, here we are back at the mini splits. “But that was AC”. Yes, but remember that this is basically a ductless HVAC system, so you usually have the option for heating as well as cooling. 

Very impressive. Clean. Modern. But costly. 

That’s all I need to say on that, I think. 

WOOD STOVE – The wood stove is true old school. Just plop a big ol’ stove in your shop, then start setting stuff on fire. 

Easy. 

And it really isn’t all that expensive. For $200-300 bucks, you can grab a small inexpensive stove and probably install it yourself. But there are a lot of things to consider. 

You’ll want plenty of wood on hand. And that may sound dumb to say, especially since were talking about having one in a wood shop. But remember that burning your scrap wood means you’ll need to be aware of creosote in your pipe. 

You’ll also need to remember that your stove is going to be hot. So keep an eye on the kids and pets. And yourself! 

And in the Summer, that big ol thing is still going to be sitting there in the way. So make sure you have the room to dedicate to it, year round. 

WRAP UP 

And that just about covers the gamut for us on small shop cooling and heating, I think. And even though we covered a whole lot of ground today, there are still many, many other options that we left out, just because of time. And some of them are just too cost prohibitive for most small shops. 

Things like radiant floor heating or solar conditioning systems. But that might be a good subject for a “wish list” episode. 

When I was growing up, we had our band saw and radial arm saw on the carport. And the back of our brick fireplace came out into and up through right where I worked. SO in the Winter when our family had a fire inside, the radiant heat from the chimney kept me warm while I worked. 

Still, I hope you learned something today from all of this, and I hope this maybe helps you feel like you’re one step closer to deciding the best way to heat or cool your own shop. 

If you have any questions for me or comments on what we talked about today, then definitely send ‘em to me. One of the best places to share your thoughts or questions is on our new Facebook Group. Just search for Everyday Woodworking on the Facebook app and join us there. 

CONCLUSION 

A last couple of things, before we go…wherever you enjoyed this episode, please take a second and leave us a great review and spread the word to your friends about us. And of course we would love it if you subscribed to us and became a regular listener. 

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And that is it for now. Again, thank you so much for being here. We hope you enjoyed this. Have a great day, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time…right here, on Everyday Woodworking. 

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