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I'm building a shed in Arlington, western Washington state. The shed will contain some infrastructure for a well: a controller, some valves, and a small pressure tank.

I want to ensure the well stuff won't ever freeze. There's not a climate controlled building on this property, so I was planning on insulating the shed and putting a heater in it. I wasn't planning on cooling the shed in the summer.

I'm not sure where to put a vapor barrier:

  • Should I put a vapor barrier on the inside of the shed, to prevent the warm air inside from rotting the walls during the winter?
  • Should I put a vapor barrier on the outside of the shed, to prevent the warm air outside from rotting the walls during the summer?
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  • If it's a hard call for a heated-only space, I could consider putting in a heat pump instead of a resistive heater and cooling it in the summer. I'd prefer not to, though. Mar 13, 2022 at 18:25
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    I am south of you and a simple strip of temperature activated heat tape is all we need. Prior to putting the heat tape in there was a heat lamp in ours not enough heat in either case to worry about and we have been in the -F range several times. The tank may sweat if in a heated zone but a fiberglass blanket like one for a water heater stops the sweating and the tank has never frozen the pipes with heat tape have been fine also.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 13, 2022 at 19:49
  • You need to tell us what kind of insulation you’re going to use and how much of it. We also need to know the exterior cladding type and what kind of house wrap, if any: building paper, tyvek, ice and shield, etc. Mar 13, 2022 at 19:50
  • @EdBeal that sounds a lot simpler than insulating the shed, adding insulation seems to unearth a host of issues I'd have to resolve to prevent moisture damage. Can you turn this comment into an answer so I can mark it as the accepted answer? Also, it sounds like you only tape the pipes and only insulate the tank -- you don't combine tape & insulation on either? Mar 13, 2022 at 20:38

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I am south of you and a simple strip of temperature activated heat tape is all we need.

Prior to putting the heat tape in there was a heat lamp (250w) in our pump house not enough heat in either case to worry about and we have been in the -F range several times.

The tank may sweat if in a heated zone but a fiberglass blanket like one for a water heater stops the sweating and the tank has never frozen the pipes with heat tape have been fine also.

Our pump house is not insulated and with the heat tape I was not worried about wind causing enough chill to freeze.

Out in our barn we have insulation over the heat tape because the plumbing is exposed we haven’t had any broken pipes in the barn since doing this but many mornings we need to break the ice on the automatic waterers so the horses can get water. I have not noticed any sweating pipes but the foam insulation on them keeps the air away.

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Heat only, vapor barrier to the warm side, vapor barrier to the inside.

You are not cooling the building so there's no warm side in summer.

Or throw up your hands and use cellulose with no vapor barrier (that actually works. And it's one of the best price/insulation values you can get, if you have the space for it.)

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