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How to heat a garden building in the winter

There are lots of heating options to keep you cosy in your garden building. But to work out which is best for you, here are a few things to think about and some handy tips.

What do you use the building for? How much time will you spend in it? How much warmth will you need?

What’s the purpose of your garden building?

Is your garden building a little workshop for stashing paint where you tinker on odd jobs? Or is it a potting shed for frost-free storage of tools and seeds? If it’s a simple wooden structure in your garden or allotment that you don’t use much, your heating needs will be pretty simple.

 Image by Anguskirk

Image by Anguskirk

Is yours a ‘working’ garden building?

But what if it’s a garden building you love to use year round? Well, then you’ll need a different solution. Maybe it’s your quiet haven to work away from the main house? Or your home office, art studio or music room? Don't forget, if you’ve your computer, TV or stereo system in it, then this kind of equipment might get damaged if the temperature falls below freezing

Or is it a full-time place of fun?

And what if you use your ‘outdoor room’ for fun and relaxation? Garden buildings work wonderfully as four-season summerhouses. They can double too as home gyms, hobby rooms or quiet ‘dream’ retreats. For kids, they make fabulous playhouses and teenage games room. But again, be careful. The cold and damp of the typical UK winter can affect electrical equipment and furnishings.

 Image by Tom Parnell

Image by Tom Parnell

The possibilities are endless

Sheds get used for all kinds of purposes. Channel 4 this year ran its third series of Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year. Check out the winning sheds here.

Even celebs have strong shed sentiments. TV stars Vic Reeves and Sarah Beeny are two aficionados.  Sarah, host of Channel 4's Property Ladder, has a traditional British pub theme for hers. Comedian Vic has styled his on the British Museum. 

 Image courtesy Paul Williams/Flickr

Image courtesy Paul Williams/Flickr

Consider your heating options

Now it’s time to make a few more decisions. How much do you want to spend on your heating? How eco-friendly do you want to be? How much will it get used? Does your garden building have a power source? (It’s best to use a certified electrician if you need to install one.)

Cheap and cheerful choices

  •  Infrared heat bulbs

These are the real budget option and work well in sheds if you’ve just got one electrical light fixture. Just pop one into a standard bulb socket and it’ll provide some radiant heat. Grab one for around £14.

  • Thermostatic tubular heaters

Thermostatic tubular heaters keep the chill off. They come in a range of sizes and can be wall-mounted or floor standing. Here’s a good guide to decide the size you’ll need. 

  • Halogen heater

Need something to pop on when it’s nippy? Halogen heaters are portable radiant electric heaters. The come in different sizes and heat outputs and start from £30 upward.

  • Electric convection heaters

A good solution for all-year use, these have thermostats and timers. They’re handy if you need a quick blast of warmth because they heat up the air quickly. Buy a small one for around £40.

  • Electric oil-filled radiators

Another portable choice. Most of these are thermostat controlled or have a timer. There’s no blowing air with these so they’re quiet. Pick up a basic model for approx. £40.

Aesthetic choices 

 Image courtesy Mick Baker/Flickr

Image courtesy Mick Baker/Flickr

  • Log burners

Log burners give a gorgeous glow and put out a surprising heat with just a log or two. They’re more expensive to put in though and you’ll need a correctly installed flue. Factor in carrying logs and emptying ashes – an activity that will help you get warm in itself! Log burners come in modern and traditional styles. Note though that installation will require approval from your local authority’s Building Control officer. All in, for a basic model, with full installation, you’re looking at from £2,000.

  • Electric radiators

Water-filled or radiant, electric radiators are a more powerful choice. They’re available with thermostats and timers and are discreet and wall-mounted. They’ll make your garden room feel more like home. Some can even be smartphone-controlled. A more sophisticated model will cost around £250.

Eco-friendly choices 

  • Solar heating

Solar heating warms water through tubes mounted on the roof. In garden buildings, the collector tends to feed a radiator with warmed water. You can pick up basic solar panel kits from around £200. A heads up though: on dark days, there’ll be little output.

  • Underfloor heating

Electric underfloor heating uses a foil heat mat. It’s a good source of steady warmth because it warms the air above. The mat is laid under laminate or wooden flooring. At about £75 per-square-metre for pre-fitted mats, it’s an affordable choice

Now, don’t let all that warmth escape!

One last thing, don’t skimp on insulation. A cheap option for a shed is to use bubble wrap, fibreglass or thermal insulation roll on walls and ceiling. Rugs and curtains help keep heat in too. Some people swear by a breathable membrane for the floor too. Remember though that poorly installed insulation can cause damp problems so leave some air gaps or take professional advice.

So there you have it. Whether you want a quick blast of warmth for your garden building or controlled heat, you’ve plenty of cosy options.

Stay warm this winter! 

 Image courtesy Tom Bradbury/Flickr

Image courtesy Tom Bradbury/Flickr