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Main Content

Power Down | Winter 2015 Out Here Magazine

Courtesy of the North Dakota State University Extension Service

The farm shop is often the second-most-used building during the winter after the home. It needs to be well insulated and sealed to keep energy use to a minimum.

Look around your shop, ask yourself a few questions, and take a few notes:

  • Do the doors fit tightly to limit air infiltration? If doors do not fit tightly and allow significant amounts of cold air in, weather stripping should be installed. Air infiltration is one of the largest heat wasters in many buildings.
  • Is insulation adequate in the walls, ceiling, and doors of the shop? Insulation with an R-30 to R-40 value in the ceiling and R-18 value in the sidewalls is recommended. Doors should have an R-value of 10 to 12.
  • Do you have insulation around the shop floor and foundation that extends at least 2 feet below ground? Insulation around the shop foundation should be at least 2 inches of extruded polystyrene (enclosed cell insulation) installed at least 2 feet below ground level. Any concrete exposed above ground level needs insulation and the insulation above ground needs to be covered to prevent damage from birds, rodents and sunlight. Be sure to extend the insulation cover well below ground level (6 inches or more).
  • Do you use your waste engine oil for heating the shop? Waste engine oil is an excellent source of heat. Used engine oil tends to accumulate extremely fast during times when farm engines are operating. Store this oil in a large barrel to use for heating during the winter. Several manufacturers make waste oil heaters and many heaters can use fuel oil if the waste oil runs out.
  • Do you have good, economical lighting in the shop? Good overhead lighting is a necessity in a shop. Use metal halide or T-8 fluorescent lamps for economical lighting that will keep electricity use to a minimum and give good lighting to work on equipment. Metal halides are slow to come on, so one or two incandescent bulbs may be helpful to provide light when you enter the shop.
  • Do you have a minimal amount of windows in the shop? Large or many windows increase heat loss and limit useable wall space for tools. They usually provide little light in the shop as the days are short in winter and the light they provide is usually near the wall where they are installed.
  • Are windows double glazed? Double- or triple-glazed windows help reduce heat loss and moisture condensation. A window with single glazing will have an R-value of about 0.9, whereas a double-glazed window with an inert gas between panes will have an R-value of 3.0 to 4.0.
  • Do large shop doors face south or east? The large doors for bringing machinery in and out of the shop should face away from prevailing winter winds. Prevailing winter winds are usually from the northwest. Installing the large doors facing south or east will prevent a considerable amount of heat loss when doors are opened.
  • Is your heating system efficient? Use zone heating. Heat only the areas that need to be heated. Directional heaters over work benches are examples. Separating the shop from the storage area, even with a plastic curtain, can save a significant amount of heat.
  • Do you have a dense shelterbelt on the west and north side of your farmstead? Dense shelterbelts reduce the wind velocity and reduce the energy needed to heat the shop. Short, dense trees should be located on the edge of the shelterbelt and the taller trees located in the middle. Shelterbelts should be at least 100 feet from the shop to reduce the problem of snow buildup near the shop.