Oil fired workshop heating


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Full time tool collector, part time woodworker
25 Sep 2011
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As I've got some spraying to do in the middle of winter, my hand has finally been forced to sort out some heating for my workshop. It's a 1.5 car garage built in double skin insulated cavity blockwork on three sides against the house, with an uninsulated lean-to roof and garage doors on both front and back. Due to space and layout, a wood stove isn't an option and I didn't want to have industrial scale electric heating due to running costs. Most hydrocarbon heaters either emit combustion products into the room (don't want fumes and water messing up paint jobs and tools!) or are expensive and bulky space heater type devices. After mulling this over for a while, I settled on installing what is often called a "parking heater".

These types of heaters use diesel or kerosene to heat an air stream. They are mostly used in boats, motorhomes, caravans and lorries to heat living space in cold weather. The combustion process is initiated by a glow plug. Crucially, the device works as an air/air heat exchanger so the combustion side is separated from the heat output side. This means clean, dry heat into the workshop and exhaust gases ventilated outside. Common makes are Webasto, Eberspacher and Planar. I was on the hunt for a used unit (these can run into many hundreds of pounds new) when I discovered that these are now produced en masse by our oriental friends and available as kits on well known auction sites. I paid just under £130 for an 8kW heater as a complete kit which includes the heater itself, a 10l fuel tank, fuel pump, fuel filter, LCD controller and exhaust system. I also bought a 12V DC power supply and some 4mm ID PVC hose as the fuel line supplied was a bit nasty. The finished installation looks like this (taken when I was about to do a test run and before I'd neatened things up a bit):


You can see the 12V power supply off a fused switch on the right; the heater LCD control panel is just below this. The LCD panel can be used to set a target temperature or a target heat output and has a timer function. The heater has the air intake for combustion to the right and a short outlet duct to the left. The exhaust can't be seen on the far side of the unit but runs straight outside through the wall. Because the cavity contains polystyrene insulation I lined the hole through the wall with a piece of stainless steel tube and then sealed the inside of the tube to the outside of the flexible exhaust hose with some 10mm fire rope (used on the doors of wood burning stoves). The combustion inlet is normally outside as well (as there is a small risk of combustion air back-tracking when the unit is shut down and you can hear the noise of the burner travelling back through the pipe, neither desirable for a place where you sleep), but as this is a well ventilated workshop I decided to avoid more holes through the wall and mount internally.

All in all I'm vey satisfied with the unit so far. It chucks out a fair amount of heat; it's not quiet as the fan is moving air at comparatively high speed but for a workshop it's fine - much quieter than any tools I'm likely to be using and a lot quieter than a space heater. The space I'm heating with it is probably about the limit, anything needing much more heat output it's probably best to go to a 20kW space heater. However, for those who have workshops needing more heat than can reasonably be provided by a small electric heater and have access to heating oil or red diesel, at a guess I would say you're looking at less than half the cost of electric heating unless you have a very trick heat pump setup. Fuel use is about 0.6l/hr, though I don't think that's running flat out.
Indirect marquee heaters are also a great way to heat a large space. They start at 20kw and go up. I've just brought a sawdust burner with a back boiler! I've no idea if It will power a few rads but well see!
We're currently using a small lpg space heater and it's ok but noisy.
Interesting, my workshop is brick with cavity wall and double glazing - I've been wondering about trying to keep it at a constant temperature throughout winter to stop condensation. It's pretty well insulated already so it wouldn't take much to keep the temperature at a constant....
Let us know how you get on!
Early rover 75s had webasto heaters solely to speed up warming up.ie they operated when the temp 4 they did operate as a parking heater and even by remote control with additional options. They sound like a jet engine and were prone to a blob of stuff on the pc b ruining the circuit board.

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