The farm shop is often the second-most-used rural building during the winter, next to the home. It needs to be well insulated and sealed to keep energy use to a minimum. We have adapted content from NDSU Extension for this article. Find other useful savings information for a farm or ranch at https://farm-energy.extension.org.
Install insulation with an R-30 to R-40 value in the ceiling and R-19 value in the sidewalls. Doors should have an R-value of 10 to 12 (Two inches of foam insulation).
Install weatherstripping if doors do not fit tightly and allow significant amounts of cold air inside. Air infiltration is one of the largest heat wasters in many buildings.
Install one or two inches of extruded polystyrene (enclosed cell insulation) at least two feet below the ground level around the shop foundation. Any concrete exposed above ground level needs insulation, and the insulation above ground needs to be covered to prevent physical damage from birds, rodents, and sunlight. Be sure to extend the insulation cover well below ground level for at least six inches or more. The foundation insulation should lap the wall insulation to provide continuous insulation.
Consider our off-peak program for electric floor heat in shop spaces. Waste engine oil can be used as an effective backup or supplemental heat during control times. 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 can use fuel oil if the waste oil runs out. Service and inspect heaters annually to ensure proper operation.
Keep the number and size of windows to a minimum. They increase heat loss and limit useable wall space for tools. Also, they usually provide little light in the shop as the days are short in winter, and the light they provide is generally near the wall where they are installed.
Install double- or triple-glazed windows to help reduce heat loss and reduce 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, reducing heat loss 60-75%.
Good overhead lighting is a necessity in a shop. Use LEDs for economical lighting to keep electricity use to a minimum and give good lighting to work on equipment. Longevity, decreased maintenance, and decreasing purchase prices make LEDs the only real option. Consider adding timers, occupancy sensors, or task lighting to increase savings.
Install large doors for bringing machinery in and out of the shop, so they 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. Bring large, cold equipment inside the shop to warm up the night before working on it.
Use zone heating. Heat only the areas that need to be heated with directional or radiant heaters – over workbenches, for example. They heat the objects but not the air directly. Separating the shop from the storage area can save a significant amount of heat, even with a plastic curtain. Turn off or turn down the heat when it is not needed. If using unit heaters, use the power-vented or condensing type and avoid gravity-vented unit heaters. A power-vented unit heater and a condensing type unit heater are 13% and 28%, respectively, more efficient than a gravity-vented unit heater.
Dense shelterbelts reduce the wind velocity and the energy needed to heat the shop. Short, dense trees should be located on the edge of the shelterbelt and taller trees in the middle. Shelterbelts should be a minimum of 200 feet from the shop or other buildings to reduce snow buildup.
Credit: Kenneth Hellevang, Extension Ag Engineer, North Dakota State University and Carl Pedersen, formerly with North Dakota State University. Adapted from the online article “Farm Shop Efficiency Checklist”, North Dakota State University Extension.