Heating a garage studio

I teach enamel bead making. My students are predominately hobbyists.
Since they are using a propane torch to make the beads, I always
advise them to work in a well ventilated area. For a lot of them
that means working in the garage. This is all well and good, unless
they live in a cold climate. Then the question becomes, how do they
heat thier garage studio in the winter time?

I live in the South, plus I have a studio with central heat and air.
I’ve not had to face this issue, so I’m not sure what to advise
them. Does anyone have any safe suggestions?

Thank you!
Pam East
Enamel Bead Making Made Easy!

Hi again Pam,

As an amateur my “studio” is the garage. During the winter I just
dress for the occasion, wearing corduroy pants, one long sleeve shirt
and a heavy vest over which I wear overalls. I then close the garage
door so that it leaves about a 20 cm (8") gap allowing for
circulation but not too much of a draft.

I also change the type of work I am doing, big heavy stuff requiring
little fine motor control in the winter and the opposite for the
summer. I quit when it reaches persistent freezing or it snows (very
rarely here).

As for the garage. I painted it bright glossy white and installed a
fluorescent overhead lamp box supplemented with tungsten. The colour
mix so far has not negatively affected my work.

As for gas I only use small containers, primarily MAP gas because it
give such a high heat, enough for me to braze copper (and thus allow
me to fire the piece in the kiln).

That’s my solution. I look forward to hearing from others.



I live in SE Alaska and my studio is an insulated and heated
converted garage. I use a small Toyo stove. It uses kerosene or A1
diesel and does a good job and is very efficient. Many people use
larger versions to heat their homes. (I live on an island and
natural gas is not available.) My stove cost $1200. It has a
programmable thermostat and is very low maintenance. I keep the
thermostat at 60 and then turn it up a few degrees when I’m working.
I run it year round to keep my tools from rusting (major problem
here. We get 12-15 feet of rain a year and sunny days are a real
bonus) I’m sure it can be purchased for significantly less where
"shipping" (the excuse for overcharging on everything here)is not as
big an issue. I installed it in a couple hours and cost me around
$30 a month in the coldest months. There is also a stove sold here
called a Monitor and it is essentially the same thing.

Good Luck,
Ketchikan, AK

I live in N. FL where it does get pretty nippy for brief spells. I
have a largely open air work area, when it gets cold enough, I use
one of the quartz rod element space heaters. They don’t waste a lot
of energy on trying to heat the air, (they heat surfaces), so the
edge is taken off of the chill.

 Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL
 @Ron_Charlotte1 OR afn03234@afn.org

I was just in an heating/airconditioning supply store
yesterday(sells mainly to repairmen)buying pump oil for my vacuum
pump. They were selling someone a “Watchdog”. It looked like a
portable electric furnace complete with blower. It was about 20"
high and 30" wide. They were saying it could heat a good sized
garage through our cold Iowa winters. They also talked about other
brands. I think they were talking about a $400 price.

Electrical resistance units are the simplest and safestway to heat
space. Your students can find them ingreat varietyat hardware=
home improvement stores. I worked comfortably in an unheated garage
for three cold winters by arranging a smallwork spaceof
freestanding shelves and sheets of Styrofoam. I dressed warmly and
used asmall electric heater under my bench.

Best wishes,
Allan Wilkinson

I used to heat a woodworking shop with a large heater/fan available
at most hardware stores. It came with a bracket which allowed it to be
fastened to the wall or ceiling. It also had a little thermostat and
it worked great. At my new location, the garage is heated along with
the house using standard electrical heaters. Another option that
comes to mind (if they have natural or propane gas) is a small gas
heater. I suppose its all a matter of how large the area is.

Hope this helps!

Jonathan Brunet
Montreal, Canada

There is a newer kind of heater on the market, that is a closed oil
heater, I think. It looks like an old fashioned steam radiator. No
flame, No exposed elements!

In that propane lies close to the floor when leaked, ANY direct heat
source or spark - even from electrical switches, motors, and, I am
told, telephones - the propane can ignite and explode.

It is useful to consider having a propane detector, set at floor
level. They can warn of danger WAY BEFORE a person can smell the

Another word of caution, NEVER - EVER have the tank near a hot water
heater that is NOT on a high, concrete base!! Those without stands
are notorious for causing explosions in just routine domestic
situations. Add propane, and it is a tragedy looking for a place to


This is all well and good, unless they live in a cold climate. Then
the question becomes, how do they heat thier garage studio in the
winter time? 

I have a similar problem, on opposite, how do I cool my garage.
Well the answer will work both ways. The biggest source of heat or
cold in a garage is the garage door its self. Mine is a standard
steel door. I took 1 1/2" Hi R foam insulation sheets( the ones
with aluminum foil on both sides) and cut panels to fit into the
door. I filled all of the sections with this Hi R and the results
were incredible. Last summer, I had very few days where I could
work due to the heat. This summer, after the insulation, there was
only one day. Now that it is starting to get cool, I open the door
to the house and let it warm up for an hour or so before I go out.
If it is really cold (coastal California wise), I have an electric
heater that I use to make it more comfortable.

Having come from the cold of Michigan and mid state New York, you
have an entirely different problem. My suggestion would be to wall
off your work area to make it as small as possible, and then add an
electric heater or other fuel based heaters with proper ventilation.
The smaller the area you are trying to heat, the easier it will be.
The better the area is insulated, the easier. Just remember, you
are creating hazardous fumes, both with your work and the heating,
so make sure you have a way to keep clean air to breath.


I use one of the quartz rod element space heaters. 

Which reminds me. These quartz rod space heaters, at least the ones
I’m thinking of, the ones that were made for “home use,” are not easy
to find in stores these days. But, you can buy an industrial quartz
infrared heater that can either be suspended from a ceiling or
mounted on a wall. Which might be preferable in a garage, anyway. Go
to www.mcmaster.com and do a search for either “infrared quartz tube
heater” and you’ll get lots of results. Or, just search on 1737K33
and then click on Catalog Page and it will be displayed. Just doing a
search on the word heater brings up many, many pages and would
probably give you some ideas.

Christine in Littleton, Massachusetts

 It is useful to consider having a propane detector, set at floor

What is a propane detector, please, and where can I get one?

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Certified PMC Instructor

I have been heating my garage studio relatively inexpensively with
two electric space heaters which I purchased at the local hardware
store. I also wear a warm LL Bean vest under my work shirt.

Andrew Nyce
Cape Elizabeth Maine

Many years ago there was an article in Mother Earth News magazine on
making a home brew solar window heater. This was back in the years
when the magazine actually had useful content for the masses. I
remember it cause my Dad and I made two for our 4 car shop at our
home. each unit consisted of a sheet of a 4 x 8 x 1/2 inch
weather ply nailed to the back of a 2x4 frame, thick mil plastic
sheets stretched over this, another 2x2 frame ontop of this, and
again covered with plastic. On the plywood under the plastic was a
generous coat of black paint, and several aluminum cans cut in
half lengthways , also painted black, were attached with staples.
The cans snaked around , like a muffler, and each line was separated
by 1x4’s ripped from 2xs, one opening of about 2 inches alternated
from top to bottom of the strips, and the first plastic layer was
sealed to these strips. . This made a path that the air had to
follow. A 4 inch muffin fan was mounted in the top - back portion
of the plywood and this was framed in to set on the window ledge
from the outside. another 4 inch hold was cut opposite the muffin
fan, but on the same part of the plywood. So one side of the part in
the window blew warm or hot air, and the other sucked cold.

Angled to catch the most sun these little units would keep a 900
square foot garage with a concrete floor, a pit, and a leaky 16 x 10
foot garage door warm enough to work in almost all winter long. For
those really nasty long cold spells of a week or more below freezing
we only had to use a kerosene heater on medium to keep it about 50
ambient degrees in the whole shop. Not bad for some old beer cans
and couple bucks of wood…


    Which reminds me. These quartz rod space heaters, at least the
ones I'm thinking of, the ones that were made for "home use," are
not easy to find in stores these days. 

Truth be told, I’ve had mine quite a while, I hadn’t realized that
they had become less available at the retail level. As short as our
heating season is here, I doubt if mine has more than a hundred or
so hours on it (over a 8 year span). Heck I was just rough trimming
some lapis this afternoon, and the cool breeze and water spray
didn’t get too cool until the sun dipped below the tree line.

 Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL
 @Ron_Charlotte1 OR afn03234@afn.org

Hello Pam… I used to live in Tucson and now live in Wisconsin.
(Don’t ask!) Anyway, I’ve had to face both issues…cooling and
heating uncooled or unheated spaces. I’ve set up a lot of temporary
studios in the last few years, carving out a small space for myself
in all kinds of interesting places, including a few garages.

Insulation is Numero Uno, and don’t skimp on it! Garages usually
have flimsy doors but can be insulated…there are even kits these
days for doing the job. If you don’t have to put the door up and
down, then you can superinsulate it and seal the bottom where heat or
drafts will happily enter. The rest of the room is insulated just
like a regular house. Find and kill drafts. Insulate around the
doors, windows, even the outlets…just like tightening up a house.
Every little thing they do to keep the outside air out will help.

I like to warm the place up with carpeting wherever I can get away
with it. It makes it feel cozier to me and helps with cold concrete
floors and helps to absorb a bit of noise.

If it’s a multi-purpose garage, they can temporarily or permanently
create a small workroom with tarps (renters) or studwalls and then
heat or cool only that portion. I don’t want drafts around my torches
so I like heating and cooling that does not blow large volumes of
air. I want my air warmed without burning all the oxygen in the room
so I use baseboard water heat instead of wood or direct gas or
electric heat. They make small electric baseboard type heaters that
are pretty efficient. I want to hear my music or nothing at all, so I
want to minimize any motor sounds. (How come I don’t mind the banging
of hammers?). For cool air in dry climates, evaporative cooling made
me happy. In humid areas or during monsoon…nothing but a power
sucking air conditioner worked for me.

I think a comfortable workspace is essential and I would take the
opportunity to impress upon your students the necessity of making a
safe, efficient workspace that they are happy to be in. Have them
spend the money up front to make their space groovy so they can get
down to business. They can save money by creating a space only as big
as they really need to begin with and adding on later.


Even here in Southern California it can get a bit chilly in my
uninsulated garage in the winter. I switched over to halogen bulbs
in all my gooseneck lamps and discovered a bonus - in addition to
great light for my aging eyes, they also keep my hands warm! This is
not exactly a bonus in the summer, however… In any case, I wear a
couple layers of snug fitting clothes, a ski cap and I stay pretty
comfortable, even into the night. I don’t think this would be enough
in Wisconsin, though.