What is the Best Way to Heat a Workshop?

What is the Best Way to Heat a Workshop?

12 June 2020
picture of a car in a garage workshop

Overview of Workshop Heating


Heating systems for workshops spaces are required to address some criteria that won’t necessarily be considered when looking at non-workshop applications.

When you are looking to ensure your workshop space has an optimal heating level for the comfort of your workforce there are challenges to be addressed.  To get to the optimal solution for your specific environment the following aspects need to be considered:

  • Layout
  • Size of space.
  • Construction type of the building.
  • Purpose the building / workspace is being put.

There are of course further factors such as the potential for:

  • Explosive vapour build up.
  • Harmful fume build-up that needs to be exited from the workspace and not recirculated.

In the workshop operating space the heating system choices frequently reduces down to one of the following options:

  • Warm air heating.
  • Radiant heating.

It is worth knowing that if the insulation in your building is a reasonable standard the solution will frequently gravitate to a warm air system solution.  This is because the load of the installed components is significantly less in general.  Whereas if the building containing the workshop is poorly-insulated the solution tends to gravitate to a radiant heat-based system.  This is very much the case in environments where there are doors that are regularly opened and closed.


Radiant Heating Solutions for Workshops


In a radiant heating system, the heat that is radiated from a hot surface then moves through the air raising the temperature level of solid objects such as machinery and people as it encounters them.  It should be noted the temperature of the surrounding air is not raised.  However, as the surfaces in the building and the machinery warm they will in turn slightly warm the air.

Radiant heating is an excellent option for spot heating for staff at their workstations.  Further if your workspace has a high degree of infiltration of air into your workspace it is most likely a radiant heating solution will be the best solution.  This is because this solution does not heat the air which results in lower energy costs.


Warm Air Heating Solutions for Workshops


The most frequent option for workshops is ‘warm air heating’.  This solution works by pulling in air from your workspace and running it across a heat exchanger which transfers heat to the air.  There are multiple options to fuel the burner located within the heating unit, these are:

  • Oil
  • LPG
  • An electric element.
  • Hot water emitter that is supplied from a boiler.

You need to have a well-designed system due to:

  • Positioning of the warm air heaters is very important, so as to ensure you get efficient distribution of the warmed air.
  • You will be aiming for minimised temperature variation within your work area.

One of the benefits of this type of system is in a warm weather situation the fan component of the warm air heating solution can be utilised to circulate the air around your premises without heating it.  In doing so it provides pleasant cool drafts for your staff.

Areas where ‘lighter than air’ flammable gases/vapours are present

In accordance with BS6230:

  • You can only use a warm air heating system if ALL the air drawn into the heater is pulled from a source outside of the building.
  • Outlet ducts into the workspace are at minimum of more than 1.8m above the floor level.
    • They will have a fully automated and proven pre-purge and post-purge functionality of the combustion chamber and associated inlet and outlet ducts.

Areas where ‘heavier than air’ flammable gases/vapours are present

In accordance with BS6230

  • You are permitted to have warm air heaters either suspended from the ceiling or mounted on a wall within your workspace. However it is most important to note that the bottom of the warm air heating units has to be at a minimum of 1.8 meters above the floor of the building.


The Challenge of Heating Workshops


As we are sure you will be aware by now form reading this article the workshop is a challenge to heat safely when flammable/explosive gases are present.  In this situation a warm air heating system supplied with hot water by a boiler in an external room it a good choice.  Further all the electrical components that are positioned within 1.2 meters of the floor within the space being heated must be protected to the standards as detailed in BS EN 60079-10-1.


In other situations where flammable/explosive gases are not present the heaters can be:

  • Stood directly on the floor
  • Mounted on a wall
  • Suspended from the ceiling

If however you are in a position where high level or wall mounted heaters will not work for your workshop environment you have the following option available:

  • Weatherproof warm air heater cabinets that are sited outside of the building.

These cabinets can either be ducted or free-blowing and set up to either pull in a set amount of fresh air or to only recirculate the internal air from the workshop area.  In addition you have the warm weather function where the equipment is used only to circulate the current air in effect providing a breeze option.

The obvious additional benefit of siting your warm air heaters externally is that they do not take up space within your work environment.  However, there is also the benefit of removing the possibility of floor or wall mounted heaters being damaged by either being hit by vehicles such as forklift trucks or damaged by other activities in the employees working space.

To reduce heat lost via the roof which is of particular importance where the roof structure has a poor level of insulation ‘Distraction Fans’ are recommended to be used in conjunction with the warm air heaters.


Efficiency of Energy Usage in Workshop Heating


When you are selecting your heating system energy efficiency i.e. a low fuel bill is always a large part of the equation.  In order to achieve this goal system control options should be a factor of your consideration.  A selection of the typical type of control options can be seen in the list below:

  • Optimum start-stop.
  • Frost protection that is adjustable.
  • Summer air circulation.
  • Independent operation of the heaters (for large workshops with a number of heaters).


In conclusion

As you will appreciate by getting to this part of the article there is not cookie cutter solution for a workshop heating solution.  This is of course down to the massively varied work and layouts of workshops.

In order to get to the optimal solution for your business to heat your workshop area a complete understanding of the size, layout and operations is needed.  This is where our expert and friendly staff at Atmosphere are in your corner.  Please give us a call and find out how our knowledgeable staff can help you.