Natural gas vs firewood/coal

BeerCan

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My shop build needs heat. Became apparent today when it was 27 degrees this morning LOL

Anyway I am looking at 2 solutions.

1. I have natural gas on site and no matter what, I am having a line plumbed in during construction. Just because they are trenching it for electricity and the plumber can get it done then. Natural gas here right now is .725 a therm. Considering europe, I expect prices to rise over the next 18 months (just a guess).
A natural gas unit for a shop is probably around 2.5k from what my quick search shows, plus installation.
example

2. Heat with wood. I can get an external forced air furnace for 5k. BTU wise it is plenty, I have access to tons of fire wood. If I do firewood this is one of the only solutions I would consider. I don't want to burn wood inside the building. Up front costs are bigger at 5k but ongoing cost would be less than gas. I would have to deal with ash but I don't see that as a huge problem. Pus getting wood would keep me active and I need that :)
example

So what do you guys think?

Edit
BTW there is going to be an "office" inside the shop that is going to be heat/cooled with a mini split.
The shop is 40x60 with 16' ceiling. It will be spray foam insulation throughout the whole structure and metal roof
 
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waste oil heater an option?
i'm a fan of the PHD systems, push here dummy. gas is easy. and relatively affordable.
if you have the ability to gather your own wood, and it's close. that might edge out the gas, but it's not a better deal if you have to travel far to get it by the time you add in time in labor, saw maintenance, trucks etc.
i have both. i have a wood stove that pulls in outside air as combustion air, and i have forced air furnace.
the older i get the more i enjoy the radiant heat of the stove. it's so much better IMO than furnace heat.
but the work involved does get old and bothersome as i age.
 

BeerCan

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waste oil heater an option?
i'm a fan of the PHD systems, push here dummy. gas is easy. and relatively affordable.
if you have the ability to gather your own wood, and it's close. that might edge out the gas, but it's not a better deal if you have to travel far to get it by the time you add in time in labor, saw maintenance, trucks etc.
i have both. i have a wood stove that pulls in outside air as combustion air, and i have forced air furnace.
the older i get the more i enjoy the radiant heat of the stove. it's so much better IMO than furnace heat.
but the work involved does get old and bothersome as i age.
I have the wood and the tools needed. Chainsaws, splitter etc. So wood is close and I have the tools.
It's a shop so the forced air vs radiant for me leans to FA. If it was my house I might feel different.

Waste oil was a thought but honestly I don't know if I produce enough to last a winter. Plus anything I use like waste oil or firewood would have to have the furnace part outside. Don't know if there are any WO systems like that.
 
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Wood is an absolute pain in the butt. If you can hire somebody to help, that will be nice. But heating with wood is generally a time consuming monster. You may save money, but what is your time worth? Furthermore, not all wood has the same BTU output. You will have varying results from tree to tree.

I say it this way: If you think gasoline is expensive, try pushing your car. While that seems absurd on the surface, wood heat is somewhat similar. You will need to process more wood than you might expect. I'd bet one day per week will be spend managing the wood.

You say you need the exercise, OK, but maybe your time could be spent more productively with gym sessions and productive work.

Note: I heated with wood for my entire childhood and young adult life. Damaged my shoulder early on doing that work.

Is 100K BTU enough to heat your shop? That seems low for a shop of any size...




Furnace size calculator for a modern home: (Shops are typically harder to heat than homes)

furnace-sizing-map-with-5-climate-zones-and-btu-for-each-zone.jpg
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 22, 2009
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Wet side WA
My shop build needs heat. Became apparent today when it was 27 degrees this morning LOL

Anyway I am looking at 2 solutions.

1. I have natural gas on site and no matter what, I am having a line plumbed in during construction. Just because they are trenching it for electricity and the plumber can get it done then. Natural gas here right now is .725 a therm. Considering europe, I expect prices to rise over the next 18 months (just a guess).
A natural gas unit for a shop is probably around 2.5k from what my quick search shows, plus installation.
example

2. Heat with wood. I can get an external forced air furnace for 5k. BTU wise it is plenty, I have access to tons of fire wood. If I do firewood this is one of the only solutions I would consider. I don't want to burn wood inside the building. Up front costs are bigger at 5k but ongoing cost would be less than gas. I would have to deal with ash but I don't see that as a huge problem. Pus getting wood would keep me active and I need that :)
example

So what do you guys think?

Edit
BTW there is going to be an "office" inside the shop that is going to be heat/cooled with a mini split.
The shop is 40x60 with 16' ceiling. It will be spray foam insulation throughout the whole structure and metal roof
For that much money my feeling is you should be getting a whole lot more than a 5 year warranty on the fire box. My indoor wood burner has been in use for over 30 years old with no signs of failing knock on firewood pun intended!
 

Pew

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Why not both? My mom and stepdad heat their sheds with wood now instead of gas because of the costs, and they're on a huuuuuuge wooded lot. The gas stuff is still plumbed in and stuff in case they want/have to switch over. Might be less of a hassle to just go with NatGas for you since there's going to be an office inside, versus just growing plants like my parent's.
 
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The NG Unit Heater is the way to go for cheap, and simple. If you want to cut and split wood, sell the wood. That way you aren't a slave to the wood burner to keep the shop warm.

I am not sure what the climate is like in your area or what you plan to do with the shop, but if it is not a dusty environment you could likely heat the main shop area with a mini-split as well. The head load should be manageable thanks to the spray foam insulation. Right now your NG pricing is very economical, but as you noted that may change.

Make sure the electrical service to the shop has some headroom in case you make changes later.
 
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I grew up heating everything with wood - way up north - maybe why I moved south :)

My parents continued heating with wood till my dad was about 80 then they finally went to NG - wood was too much work for him. It did keep him busy. Wood you need to cut, spilt, stack, let cure, keep dry, etc. Its a lot of work.

Sounds like this shop is for your recreational use? If so I would just go with Nat Gas. If it gets too expensive just don't heat it when its really cold, or just heat it enough to keep the edge off. Depending on what your doing working in 50F shop is usually not a problem.
 
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Natural gas for the win. It’s hands off and always keeps the place warm if you want you can lower the baseline temp to something like 50 F when you are not using it much. The capital costs for installing are worth it and the value of your place will be higher because of it. If you want you can still install an airtight stove and turn wood when ever you feel like it.
 
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Don't overlook the cleanliness of NG. Gooey flue pipes (from varying wood loads) need seasonal cleaning as do fireboxes.
Will access to wood always be as carefree/cheap as you seem to make out?
I've seen woodlot guys ignore paying customers when closer customers come around.
 
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I expect NG to increase in price as we consume it. There is some very interesting data on just how much we have in reserve. 11-12 years of provable reserves exist and likely 100 years of unproven reserves. Strangely, some NG plays were vastly overestimated. Marcellus shale reserve was reduced in size by the USGS by 80%!!
 
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40' x 60' with 16' peak is going to take a mountain of wood. 😳 No matter what you decide on hope you're putting in 4-6 ceiling fans.
Well it is TN, so probably not that hard to heat.

But 200K BTU is not enough for a shop that size up North.
 
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Atlanta,GA
My shop build needs heat. Became apparent today when it was 27 degrees this morning LOL

Anyway I am looking at 2 solutions.

1. I have natural gas on site and no matter what, I am having a line plumbed in during construction. Just because they are trenching it for electricity and the plumber can get it done then. Natural gas here right now is .725 a therm. Considering europe, I expect prices to rise over the next 18 months (just a guess).
A natural gas unit for a shop is probably around 2.5k from what my quick search shows, plus installation.
example

2. Heat with wood. I can get an external forced air furnace for 5k. BTU wise it is plenty, I have access to tons of fire wood. If I do firewood this is one of the only solutions I would consider. I don't want to burn wood inside the building. Up front costs are bigger at 5k but ongoing cost would be less than gas. I would have to deal with ash but I don't see that as a huge problem. Pus getting wood would keep me active and I need that :)
example

So what do you guys think?

Edit
BTW there is going to be an "office" inside the shop that is going to be heat/cooled with a mini split.
The shop is 40x60 with 16' ceiling. It will be spray foam insulation throughout the whole structure and metal roof
Ductless Mini-split heat pump.
 
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Amherst, MA, usa
sure post #15 do it on geo therm, etc.
But I can got the upfrnt $.
36 x 42 x 30 (hi) well insulated 'pole bldg'. Ol owners/builders hada oil furnace, we added the wood (trees all over
the property, madea splitter, got sthil saws and alota bodies to help, long history at optimizing wood heat). An attached
12 x 12 office on the side, ele heat). 7 corda wood (dry hi BTU oak, beech, the dying-to-extinction white ash) 350 gal of
#2 heating or our truck's road diesel. We have a cat on the wood (55 gal, it's own 'fire rm' w/connection to ducts and a
radiant function) and wrk to keep the becket gun/its system clean burning. I dont like the 'outdoor furnace'. Havent cked
recently but they were inefficient (long duct to bldg, no radiant factor) and quite dirty (neighbor complaints, pollution).

We'd go crankcase oil but fear lack of feeder fuel, have not seen if there's a 'clean system'. Might fit w/the wood, just havent
researched due to happiness w/what we got~
HTH, good luck
 

BeerCan

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TN
The NG Unit Heater is the way to go for cheap, and simple. If you want to cut and split wood, sell the wood. That way you aren't a slave to the wood burner to keep the shop warm.

I am not sure what the climate is like in your area or what you plan to do with the shop, but if it is not a dusty environment you could likely heat the main shop area with a mini-split as well. The head load should be manageable thanks to the spray foam insulation. Right now your NG pricing is very economical, but as you noted that may change.

Make sure the electrical service to the shop has some headroom in case you make changes later.
Ductless Mini-split heat pump.
Re: mini-split. My HVAC guy calculated the space needing 6 tons to do the job right. So mini-split is out I don't think they work at that volume. i could be wrong. I think for the ac guy recommending a 6 ton is because the ceiling is 16'.

Anycase I talked to the contractor. We are going to plumb gas all the way so it's there if needed. I think I am going to try the wood. Gonna think on it over the weekend
 
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Central Indiana
Heated with wood for many years. Got the wood for free. All I had to do was cut it, load it, unload it, split it, stack it, and feed the fire a lot.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Ad infinitum.

If natural gas is a viable option, that would get my vote.

Outside fire boxes will use more wood than you'd think. Of course, don't think you'll heat the shop 24-7 like you would your house, either.

Nothing is as warm as wood heat. Or as tiring, either.
 
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I would typically suggest wood, but not since you hurt your shouldn’t.

NG is your best bet IMO.

*I will add they do have those whole house boiler systems. Our friends heated their house, his pole barn, and had unlimited hot water. Her parents live right down the road so he was able to get his wood for free. He ended up getting out of it because he travels a lot for work and didn’t want to leave her with the burden.
 
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