HVAC in the Workshop

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From a user comfort perspective, one of the things to think about in your workshop is some proper heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) to keep a comfortable working climate at all times. However, in a homestead situation where power may be at a premium, running a large system may not be feasible with certain power limitations.

hvacBut there can be some compromising in this area. After all, there is nothing worse than trying to get working on an intricate cabinet making job when you are cold and your hands are feeling frozen in the winter, or sweating in the midsummer heat when you are slaving over a hot oxyacetylene torch welding some iron framework together!

Working in Relative Comfort

A moderate climate at all times makes for comfortable and enjoyable working conditions no matter what the job entails. So let's look briefly at what is involved in ensuring that the workshop temperature remains constant inside no matter what the weather is doing outside.

Most modern large scale vented air conditioning units can handle the fluctuations in temperature by keeping things cool in hot weather, while heating the space in the cold winter months. You just need to be mindful of how much power you have available to run such a system and then choose your setup accordingly.

Economical Considerations

After assessing your power limitations and availability and you are happy that you can run a setup without impacting on the rest of the household energy budget, you can go ahead and (if you can afford it) purchase a system that will suit.

If you are installing a new unit to a previously temperature non-regulated workshop, then locating a suitable place to fit the unit is important. That's because you need it to have maximum effect while not getting in the way of machinery or be in the firing line for flying or spraying debris and sparks from power tools and welding equipment.

Installing a Workshop Air Conditioning Unit

A high point is preferable as long as adjacent the outside wall is free and not obstructed especially from above in any way to enable the exhaust air from the unit to escape into the air freely. Inside, the main unit should also be free from obstruction and high enough to provide maximum cooling and heating in all temperatures while working at its peak efficiency.

Strong brackets affixed to the wall are essential as the units are often very heavy and need the extra bracing. It is usually necessary to excavate an exhaust hole through the wall to connect the inner unit to the venting unit outside and this should be a good fit for the exhaust duct and made good after fitting to prevent air getting in or out through any gaps.

For larger workshops, it will be necessary to install a larger system which may also require additional ventilation ducts to be fitted along the walls or across the ceiling or in the case of a vaulted roof, using the main support beams to affix them safely.

The Benefits of a Workshop HVAC System

There are many benefits to be had from the installation of a full heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to a workshop, not least of which is efficient climate control for the comfort of those who are working inside. Additionally, the ventilation aspect can often be necessary to exhaust noxious fumes generated by the use of solvents and other chemicals in the normal day to day cleaning up of the tools, machinery and surfaces.

While such a system is not always absolutely necessary, it is well worth considering if you don't already have one as comfortable workers are happy workers. Working in overly cold conditions is unpleasant as is working in very hot conditions.

The Alternatives

Power consumption is the main disadvantage here and you really need to assess your power needs and availability closely before committing to any kind of combined cooling or heating system. You should take a look and see if there are viable alternatives, as there often are.

Heating

In winter, you may well be able to get away with placing standalone heaters running on propane or paraffin, or a wood/coal fired furnace or stove which is economical to run if you have the raw fuel materials readily available, which on remote rural locations is often the case.

Cooling

In the heat of summer, things can be a little more complicated. Sometimes you simply cannot so easily reduce the inside temperature in the heat of summer as fans are not always sufficient. In some circumstances they cannot be used when certain jobs are being undertaken, so alternatives for cooling are often tougher to come up with than with heating.

If your climate has low humidity, one solution is to opt for a swamp cooler (evaporative cooler) which can blast out cold air and cool your workshop down effectively without drawing much power. If humidity is high, your only viable option is some kind of air conditioning and that's where you need to choose between HVAC or a standalone portable aircon unit which can supply cold air a lower cost than a large system.

The Final Choice

Whatever you choose in the end, it will be ultimately decided by the amount of power you can generate.

Solar photovoltaic powered systems, while the best ecologically are generally the least viable for producing large scale wattage unless you have a really big system and lots of daily sunlight. Wind or hydro generators can produce much more power and can avail themselves to powering larger systems if necessary.

Other sources of power can be harnessed of you have the capability, such as steam powered generators or taking an ecological step backward and going for a diesel gen set. The choice is ultimately yours depending on what you have available to use. You can read more about this subject at these government sites: www.bls.gov and www.epa.gov