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I'm planning on applying stain and polyurethane to some furniture I recently built. I've been thinking about getting a space heater for my uninsulated garage, both to help the poly cure, and for my own comfort while working.

What type of heater would be best? Electric? Kerosene? I'm not planning on having any ventilation, so how does that factor into things? A friend of mine mentioned that a radiant heater is most efficient for uninsulated spaces. Is this true?

UPDATE: I decided on an electric ceramic heater. I got this Bionaire ceramic tower heater at Lowe's for $40, and I'm pretty happy with how it performs:

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It dropped into the low 20's last night, and I was comfortable in the garage with the door closed in just a t-shirt and undershirt. It heats up fast and even has an auto shut-off if it reaches the desired temperature. (Although I don't think it's got quite enough power to get the garage up to 70°F.) I'm pretty sure if I put on an old sweatshirt and cracked the door a foot or so for ventilation I'd be ok too. The rated power output for this heater is 1500W, but I had to open the box and look at the manual to find out - it wasn't written anywhere on the packaging.

I wouldn't go by power rating alone though - get some recommendations or read some reviews. I got this Optimus heater first for about half the price, and it claimed to have the same power output. However, you could barely feel the heat standing directly in front of it. It went right back to Lowe's.

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Remember that some finishes don't react well to the output of combustion. So you probably don't want to use kerosene. –  Jay Bazuzi Nov 7 '10 at 18:16
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definitely, Jay brings up a good point. Fumes and a Kerosene burner would definitely not be a good combination. –  Scott Vercuski Nov 7 '10 at 20:27
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4 Answers 4

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If you're not going to have ventilation (which I'd reconsider .. stain and polyurethane are pretty stinky materials to use, a lil air might help you avoid a nasty headache and potential health issues from inadvertently huffing) an electric heater would be best. Kerosene heaters are going to produce additional fumes which is going to add to an already smelly situation. I'd go for an electric model and keep it as far away from the piece of furniture as you can. Here is a good page on electric heaters. I'd seriously consider having some sort of ventilation though just because of the odor and potential fumes if the stain and poly get warmer, they're likely to give off more fumes than if they're cold.

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Good point on the ventilation. (Although I bet I would have figured out my mistake pretty quickly :) ) How much more power output capacity am I going to need from a heater if I crack the garage door? –  Doresoom Nov 8 '10 at 14:37
    
@Doresoom You probably wouldn't need an upgrade. I've got one of the electric torpedo heaters in my garage and in the middle of winter (in Ohio) I'm just fine with a garage cracked and a fan blowing to keep air circulating. I'm sure I'm not being all that efficient but I'm never really out there all that long and the torpedo heater pumps out enough heat from a 110V outlet to keep me warm and the fan is enough to keep air flowing. I have a 2 car garage, not sure how large your garage is. –  Scott Vercuski Nov 8 '10 at 14:45
    
What's the watt rating for your heater? –  Doresoom Nov 8 '10 at 15:46
    
@Doresoom ... ya know I'm not really sure !? it's an old, old unit and it's pretty beat to death ... I don't think any of the info is still on it. –  Scott Vercuski Nov 9 '10 at 1:16
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I would recommend an oil-filled radiator style rather than an open coil style. This should reduce the chances of fumes and sawdust igniting.

oil filled radiator heater

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I've spent far too much time working on projects in uninsulated spaces in freezing weather, and I'll tell you most of those electric indoor style radiant or ceramic heaters are almost worthless if the outside temp is under 50F. If you live somewhere with a milder winter, you can basically ignore what I just typed below.

If you really don't want to freeze and you're not doing any major paint/finish work in there, using a propane heater will work best - I prefer radiant heat but any gas heater with a fan will work best, unfortunately they are rather expensive. Burning propane does produce some condensation so if you want to do any detailed finish work you may want to avoid gas.

One note - if you are doing a lot of paint or finishing work in the space an electric heater is best, although getting a space heater heavy duty enough to heat a cold shop space can get spendy. Basically if you're going electric... try to find a 240v heater to keep your electric bill from going stratospheric.

This site sells the types of heaters I personally would use in a garage.

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A kerosene heater has an electric starter and is very easy to use. It has a manual temperature regulation. It needs enough air for proper ventilation, but can provide enough warmth for even a two-car garage.

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