Backyard sheds have become very commonplace in society. They serve a very real and practical use in that they can keep tools for property upkeep—lawnmowers, edgers, pruners, etc.—safe and protected from the elements.
But those same backyard sheds are now gaining use for other reasons. One of those reasons is that they can be used as a backyard sanctuary, a place to get away and enjoy some alone time. They can also be converted into rabbit barns, chicken houses, greenhouses, wood shops, and even home offices.
Whatever the intended use, there comes a certain set of obstacles that can be troublesome. Especially if the shed is going to be used as a space for yourself or animals, there is one obstacle that becomes common: providing heat.
There are obvious answers to providing heat, such as using a space heater, but those pieces of electrical equipment come with a high cost and can require gas or electricity to keep them going. That means incurring additional costs just to heat up your shed.
So, what ways are there to heat your shed that don’t require electricity? Here are a few ways that you can keep your shed nice and warm without the additional need for electricity.
Heating Your Shed Without Electricity
One of the very first things that you should do to protect and heat your shed without using electricity is to make sure that it is properly insulated. Check for things like air leaks.
Start in places where there might be a cold draft; you may even find water leaks along the way.
1 – Solar Power
Once you have determined that the insulation in your shed is in good condition, you need to find some junk materials to get your shed prepared to use solar energy.
These items can include things like black spray paint, a case of soda cans, small sheets of insulation, scrap lumber, and a window with a frame.
To create a solar box, you need to spray paint the empty cans with the black spray paint. Make sure that the cans are still whole and intact; they should not be crushed. Crushed cans won’t be able to hold heat and they’ll wind up being useless for this project.
After spray-painting the cans, give them enough time to properly dry. While they are drying, secure the scrap lumber around the edges of the window frame that you bought. This will create a box where the glass is actually on the bottom.
Once the cans are dry, line them up on the inside of the box before ultimately covering the other end with the scrap insulation that you procured. This is what will secure your cans in place on the inside of the frame.
When you have secured the cans inside your box frame, the next step is to drill holes into the scrap lumber. Drill all the way through until you pierce the cans. After you’ve done this, it is time to leave the box outside.
The cans and the glass will actually capture heat over a number of hours. When you take it inside, it will leak the captured heat into your shed through those drilled holes. When the box becomes too cool, take it back outside to absorb heat.
It is a good idea to create a couple of these to heat the area so you can keep them in rotation. Depending on how many you create, you can keep your shed heated at all times even when some of the boxes are still absorbing the proper heat needed.
2 – Solar Powered Water Heaters
Since solar panels are no longer the bulky, unsightly pieces of equipment that they used to be, the harnessing of solar power is much different. Instead of those big, bulky batteries, solar power can now be transferred to water. This is where solar powered water heaters come into play.
By installing a solar powered water heater in your shed, you can make use of those solar panels to deliver the power of the sun into the heating element of the water heater itself.
The trick here is to turn the lower heating element to a much higher setting than you would the upper heating element. This results in using the water heater to actually use negative wattage; that keeps the cost of your electricity at an even zero.
What’s great is that even when the sun goes down, there is still heat that emanates from the water heater itself. If you have good insulation in your shed, the heat will be distributed easily and you can keep the temperatures at a relatively comfortable level for most of, if not all of, the night.
3 – Use Propane
There are propane heaters that do not use electricity. This makes them portable and easier to use in a variety of different spaces.
It is important to know that you should not use a propane heater that is designated for outdoor use. This is because you run a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
When you have found a propane heater that is designated to be used indoors, it will produce what is known as the “ideal burn.” This means that it is at no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, making it safe to use in enclosed spaces.
Depending on how big your shed is and the amount of heating power that you need, you can find small, economical heaters or go with a big unit that will keep the space heated for longer.
Again, it really depends on how big of a space you need to keep heated.
4 – Create a Stove
Going out and buying a stove is certainly a possibility, but they can get expensive depending on what kind of model you choose. That’s why going the do-it-yourself route can not only be more cost-effective, but can also allow you to get exactly what you want.
It depends on what the effort is worth to you, but creating your own stove can mean using custom measurements to fit your shed. This saves you the time of having to search for a pre-made option that may or may not fit in your shed.
You can make a potbelly stove out of something like a gas bottle or truck brake drums all the way up to something the size of an oil drum. There are a ton of great walkthroughs and examples out there that can show you how to do this so you can keep your shed heated properly, even through the coldest of months.
Plus, there are many variations of stoves that can be given the DIY treatment. Barrel stoves, for instance, may not be the most size-conscious item, as they can take up a lot of room.
Still, they can deliver a lot of heat for a small space, so it could be worth sacrificing the area to provide more consistent, higher heat for your shack. This is particularly useful in areas where the weather can get extreme and more heat is necessary.
The most ideal stove option may actually be a rocket stove. This is because it is pretty compact, doesn’t require a lot of fuel, works well with small diameter wood, and can put out quite a decent bit of heat.
There have been studies that show that a rocket stove can create around the same amount of heat as a normal wood stove while using up to 90% less fuel than the wood stove.
There are ready-made options available or you can get creative and make a stove that fits your specific design motif or measurements.
5 – Build a Fireplace
This one might be a little further out there because most shacks are relatively compact in nature. But if you have a bigger shack with a little more room to work with, creating a fireplace can be an ideal situation.
A fireplace doesn’t have to take up a huge space like it often does in homes. It can be relatively compact in size, requiring less fuel to operate. That can keep your shack warm, provide a welcoming homey feel, all without the need for electrical hookups.
There are ways to create a fireplace in your shack, and there are several do-it-yourself walkthroughs out there that can help you get through the process safely and effectively.
In the end, heating your shack can be achieved through a number of ways, none of which involve electricity. You can always wire up your shack, but that can involve more time and money than you are willing to spend.
Even if you run extension cords from your home to the shed, that means unsightly cables running through your yard that you could potentially trip over or have to pick up before you run the lawnmower.
In any event, it is a nuisance. Heating your shack with other methods can be both easier and cheaper in the long run.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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