March 13, 2010

Shop Heaters - a Brief discussion of my efforts to make my shop comfortable

I realized a long time ago that if you're going to build an airplane, or do anything that requires a lot of hours in the shop, you have to have an environment that's suitable. The bottom line for me is, if I'm not comfortable, it's not very motivating and I can lose my drive and enthusiasm very quickly. Nothing will sap the energy and enthusiasm out of me more quickly than being cold. So even though the improvements and upgrades I made to my shop, which are discussed more in detail on my shop page, have dramatically improved things in here, I began looking for a suitable heater to warm it up on those cold days in winter.

I began by trying out some space heaters that we have had around the home. My favorite heater up to now has been this oil-filled radiator style heater.

We have used heaters like this around our home for some time now. I love these heaters. I have several of them. No particular brand seems to be better. Why heat the whole house when you're the only one around and you really only need to warm up one room or one area? They're energy-efficient, and provide steady reliable warmth. There are no fans, no moving parts, and best of all, no noise. They're not expensive. Gee, maybe I should get paid for advertising.

Anyway, one day I took one of these out into my shop and turned it on. I was very impressed a while later when I realized it had become comfortable enough to work without thinking about the cold. I keep a thermometer in my shop. Over time, I learned that this little heater would raise the temperature about 10 degrees. So if it was 40 when I started, it would warm the shop up to about 50. That's a huge improvement! I could come out when it was 50 and soon be working in 60 degrees of comfort. Imagine the pleasure of working in 50-something degrees when it's frozen solid on the other side of the garage door! I can't over emphasize how important this one factor has been in helping me keep the progress on the RV going during the winter.

Speaking of garage doors, I should mention that I worked on improving things by reducing the air leakage around my garage door. My garage door is a heavy wood door, but the leakage around it was pretty bad. So I installed some weather stripping here and there and adjusted the track to put the door closer to the frame. The air leakage is greatly reduced and this is critically important. In the worst part of the dead of winter, I can tape around the door with masking tape or duct tape on the inside, to really seal it up. This effectively stops me from opening and closing the door, but for a couple of months in winter, I don't care. My comfort is more important to me.

So how good does this work? Well, I can tell you that in the worst part of the winter of 2008-2009, we had one of the worst winter storms I can remember in my lifetime around here. You can see some pictures of all the snow we had here on my page from December 27, 2008 and see what I mean! All during that time, I was able to work comfortably in my shop, thanks to this little heater. So the work on my RV continued in spite of winter.

The only drawback is that it takes a lot of time to warm up a shop. So I have never stopped looking for something better. I found that if I went out there and clicked this heater on about an hour before I wanted to start working it would work pretty good. Or, sometimes I took an extra heater out there and plugged in two of them. Or, you just work in the cold for a while until it warms up.

Well, finally, I was at Home Depot the other day and I discovered they are having a clearance sale. Spring is here and they are selling off seasonal merchandise to get rid of the last of their heaters. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find these amazing kerosene heaters on sale for 50% off! That's a bargain I can't resist. The $129 price tag has been cut in half!

This thing puts out an amazing 23,000 BTU's, baby. Wow! It runs on a clean, clear grade of kerosene and burns without any fumes. It's rated for indoor use! Obviously, it doesn't use any electricity. A pair of small C-batteries are used for an ignition system, so you don't even need any matches! It's very easy to light up and turn off. The fuel tank at the bottom holds 2 gallons of fuel, enough for many hours of heat. I thought, this is the heater I've been looking for that will quickly warm up my shop. And someday, it will be very nice to have in a hanger.

Here it is in my shop, cranking out the heat. I love it! After trying it out, I put the electric heater back in the house. Man, this thing is really nice! Seriously, this heats up my shop very quickly and if I don't shut it off it will drive me out of here. So if you're in a similar situation, looking for some heat for your shop or hanger, check out one of these guys. You'll be pleasantly surprised how much kerosene technology has improved.

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