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Thread: coal heat

  1. #1
    Senior Member machinemaker's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
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    coal heat

    I hope that everyone had a great Christmas, I know that some of us, OK me, the holidays are a tough time. The best thing I did over the break was to buy some hard coal. A little history, every winter is a long depressing time for me with a shop that gets below freezing each night and takes hours with a wood stove to warm up, Ever tried to work in 60 degree air on equipment that is still below freezing? Well someone gave me an old, really old riveted together coal stove, and for the first time I bought some coal from our local amish coal distributor. For the last several days I have had a coal fire in the shop. If I keep it shut down all the way it is in the 50s when I get out there, if I open it up it will get up into the 60-70s after a couple of hours. So tomorrow I have something to get up for in the winter. If I open the draft when I go out to feed the steer and chickens and have some breakfast, I can go out and have a warm shop to work in after breakfast.
    Rasper, I figure that this may not be your issue where you live, but this is a life changer for me. Winter has been a depressing, dismal season since I moved here 5 years ago. Dang I might just get back into real life. I figure it takes about $2 a day to have a warm shop. l have even seen my other hobby of fermenting extending to year around. Yee Ha.
    There is beauty, power and excitement in simple old technology!

  2. #2
    I plan on installing some stoves to both my home shop and my work shop probably by the end of January. I have plenty of wood to burn for at least the very cold months and days.
    We had a pretty cold December and January might go this way with temps ranging from -5 to 5 deg C with minimal sunlight. I'm doing some work all week and the cold is unbearable; 5 deg inside the shop. Stand for a minute and the fingers might snap.
    I found that trying to find what I need and then make it work with what I have, is more trouble than designing what I want and doing it.

    "Quick decisions are unsafe decisions."

  3. #3
    Administrator Site Admin
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    Dec 2005
    Huatulco, Mexico

    I have two tales to tell on this subject. They may be of interest, or at least a bit entertaining. As a writer, on the off side of being a sculptor, I aim at being entertaining as well as informative.

    #1- I grew up, and lived for many years in Tidewater Virginia, where the winters can be cold. I lived in an uninsulated wooden house perched on the very edge of the Chesapeake Bay. When the wind blew hard it ruffled my hair inside the house. I made a wood heater from a 55 gallon drum. I could get enough wood in that thing to make heat, a lot of heat―to the point where you couldn't stay in the same room with it. That is the secret of heating a house: how much fuel can you burn, not how efficient is it?

    #2-When I was a kid my father's best friend ran a small bus company in Bon Air, Virginia. He had a tall, cast iron coal heater to heat the large shop. He burned coal, but he also had a 55 gallon drum mounted up in the ceiling joists that was kept full of waste motor oil, with a copper tube running down to a hole in the top of the heater. He kept a steady drip of oil coming onto the coal fire. Talk about heat! If he opened the drafts, the heater would glow red hot.

    There is no excuse to suffer from the cold. Central heat is a pain in the ass. When you have a wood heater, if your shop is 50 degrees, you can stand it because you can go back up to your wood heater for a few minutes and warm yourself up; whereas with central heat there is nowhere to go to get warm. You're cold all the time.

    When I die, Heaven can waitI want to go to McMaster-Carr.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Zapins's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    CT, Hamden
    Nice work mm! Being warm in the workshop is fantastic. I always suffered with that in the past even though my workshop is in the garage under the house. It still gets freezing cold in there.

    This winter I was able to hook up 2 oil heaters which have raised the temperature to 63F allowing me to dry ceramic shell and work on projects without losing one of the boys. I was only able to run the oil heaters because I upgraded the garage with a new 20 amp and 30 amp circuit. In the past the heaters drew too much from the existing circuits and blew the fuse when run.

    Here's to warm shops in the winter!

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2014
    Charleston, West Virginia USA
    I find it's hard to concentrate when working in a cold shop. When I was working in my garage with a concrete floor my legs would ache up to my knees.
    To get the filth out of the house I ordered an 8 x 12 building and the first thing I did was jack it up and insulate the floor as well as the walls and ceiling. I run an electric heater at 750w and it keeps the shop warm.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bob S's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Saginaw, Mi
    This is going to go off the coal post somewhat but I live my youth in a coal heated home til in my teens until dad went to fuel oil furnace over that dirty ole coal as mother was always complaining about with getting coal dust all over the inside of the house. I've also been through the same thing with having to work in a cold steel structure with equipment that has not been brought up to room temperature during the cold season. My first 44'X80' building was built primarily as a structured to house my farm equipment that I had at the time.

    Later with farm equipment gone I started to purchase machining equipment and started the foundry I then parted off part of the building to house the equipment and foundry each in their own area. I also insulated these walls with 2" Styrofoam on the walls and 4" in the ceiling and then drywalled it all which helped out. During cold weather I purchased an old wood burning stove that I used to heat the machining area in the evenings after I had gotten home from work. However, this presented a problem in that starting a fire and getting the room warm and then getting to work on still cold equipment was always a problem plus I only had a couple at best hours to get work done and still keep a fire going. It also required having a supply of split wood on hand at all times. These extras all take time and that was sometime I was short of.

    I added a "Magic heat" to the smoke stack to blow some of the lost heat to areas away from the stove. To help in getting a fire going faster I got wood chips from our school woodshop sawdust collector and placed it in a 5 gallon pail and added about 2 quarts of waste oil collected from my shop. This would get a fire started quicker and was easy to extinguish before I had to leave when I was done. This still wasn't working out too well so I got a salamander or portable heater using fuel oil which was quicker start and easy to shut off when done over the wood burner. There was still one problem that had to do with over heating and require it to be shut it off and on during the work periods. So this time I purchased one with a thermostat to control the heat before it got too warm.

    Since I'm now retired and just have the casting and machining business and can be in these shops all day so I have switch to yet another method of heating this one shop using mainly for just sandblasting, die grinding and buffing so warm equipment isn't a concern. I install a NG overhead unit heater with a thermostat that can keep it at a constant temperature all day. I haven't done this but it in the works to install a timer to shut off and turn on the heater so the shop in warm before I get in there in the morning and then shuts it off if I forget to turn it down before I leave at the end of the day.

    If you work for someone other then yourself then this extra time required to do these tasks aren't of a concern to you since the pay is the same but for me it's different an hour spent starting and keeping a fire going could have been spent on a project that would have returned a $100 dollars in this same time period. So as I have said I used to spend my time to save money now I'm willing to spend money to save time.

    It was shortly after this time that I built my second building from profits made from the first couple years of casting and which I already had made plans to do it right the first time with no steel exterior but rather vinyl siding over 1/2" OSB and with 6 1/2" of fiberglass insulation in the walls and 14 inches of blown insulation in the ceilings then all the inside walls first had visqueen film placed over the fiberglass as a vapor barrier and then everything got drywalled and painted for a finished interior. It was kind of a pay it now or pay it later since this building is heated during the cold season which I have plumbed with hot and cold running water, bathroom, w/sink and shower. Also have a wringer washing machine with a washtub on the first floor and with a second washtub on the second floor so this building must be kept heated. I only wish I was able to have done this when I built my home back then with what I know now given how cheap it is to heat this building since all the extra steps taken beforehand have really paid off.

    After getting suggestions as for not insulating the concrete floor with 2" of Styrofoam under the entire concrete floor I went with 2" of Styrofoam 2' down and 2' in a upside down L shape around the complete circumference so that frost in cold weather could not get into the inside of the structure. The reasoning behind doing the complete floor this is that the before ground temperature here is an average 50 and in the summertime this 50 acts as a cooling effect in the building and in the winter 50 adds to the room temperature so that even without any added heat the benefits of the overly insulated structured there is very little chance of having anything freeze inside. The back half of my 40'X64' structure is a two-story section which is kept on average to 55 when not in use and then turned up to 65 to work in. I have a total of 4 NG furnaces or heaters in this building. A small heater in the office area, one in the machining area and which could heat the entire building if need be. The one on the second floor is a wall heater taken from an small apartment which is used to heat the wood shop area and again another small heater in the upholstery room. Sorry for this long post. Bob
    I used to spend my time to save money but now I'm willing to spend my money to save time.

  7. #7
    Cold shops are not a fun place to be. When I built the addition onto my garage for the machine shop/foundry I put in a small wood stove. That system cost about $800 but it will keep both the metal shop and garage toasty warm on -25 deg.F. windy days. I also installed an exhaust system so I could run the foundry furnace and pour aluminum indoors. Turns out I have to do my casting first thing in the morning, then fire up the stove because the exhaust fan will pull air down through the stove's exhaust stack.

    I would prefer to burn coal because it puts out heat more evenly over a longer time but, the smell would be offensive to my neighbors in this small town. As it is, I need to add wood about every hour.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Dec 2008
    Caboolture Queensland Australia
    Right at this moment cool or cold would be great, it 11.00am here and 38c (100F) and its going get damn hotter as the day wears on
    Im going off to go find myself. If Im not back by the time I return, keep me here.

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