Call the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the resort marketing folks along Florida’s Gulf coast. I have just guaranteed that our weather for the rest of the winter will be beautiful, sunny and warm.
That’s because I just bought a shop heater.
Yes, here in Florida.
So far, this December here in the Tampa Bay area is running as one of the ten coldest since records started being kept in 1890. Sure, just like this past January and February, we’re not talking frigid with ice, but the shop is just too cold to work in comfortably. And, if I’m not comfortable, there’s less of a likelihood that I’m going out to the shop to do any work, and when I do, my mind is focused on staying warm rather than ensuring I am using proper safety procedures.
As I had mentioned in an article I wrote this past January, there are several different kinds of heaters out there to choose from. Knowing I just needed a heater to chase the chill for a few months, I opted for something from the portable electric space heater category.
On my first attempt to buy one (when a cold snap hit the area earlier this month which took our daytime temperatures only into the 50s and overnight temperatures below freezing), every single portable heater had been purchased from the shelves of the local Home Depot, Wal Mart, Target, Lowe’s, K-Mart and other mega retail locations. I guess I was a little late to the party…
Knowing it would be tough to find a heater locally, I dropped back to my alternate plan – Amazon.com. Internet shopping is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Since Jiffy Pop. Since Slim Whitman. From the comfort of my living room, I was able to search the offerings online and make a purchase.
Breaking from my decision last January, I opted for a quartz radiant heater. My thought was that if I could get a focused beam of heat on me at the bench, it would heat me up faster than waiting for the whole shop to warm up. I bought a portable floor model and waited – through the coldest days this season – for it to arrive. And, when it did, it looked cool. It had all the safety fixtures, I could pop it up on my front work cabinet and point it at me at the bench. So far, so good….
Well, I didn’t get the right model. The radiant heat feature was great in the cool shop – when I was standing right on top of it with my hands less than one foot from the glowing elements. Beyond that… well… there was little relief. The model I bought also had a great safety feature built in – every five minutes, regardless of what the ambient temperature was, the safety heat overload switch would cut the unit off. There was only one way to get it to restart – that was to unplug it, wait ten minutes, then plug it in and start it up again. Since it only shot its heat into the shop to warm whatever it fell on, once it went off, the shop just got cold and miserable. It went back into the box and I started the return process on Amazon – which is incredibly convenient.
This past weekend, with the skies gray and spitting drizzle and a high temperature in the mid 50s, I started my search again. I was willing to try one more time at the local retailers, looking for the model I had originally decided on – an oil-filled electric radiator model.
No at Home Depot. No at Lowe’s. None at K-Mart. None at WalMart. Then, in Target, I saw it. One of the last three portable heaters on the shelf. It’s a Honeywell oil-filled radiator model portable space heater. I hustled it into my cart and didn’t take my eyes off it for fear that someone might snatch it from the cart. A cool $60 later, I had the unit in my car, headed back to the shop.
Set up was very easy, involving attaching the unit’s casters so it could be wheeled around and kept off the floor. The control panel is pretty sweet. First and foremost, it had all of the safety features you would want – a tip-over sensor, a thermal overload and a boatload of warning stickers. It has a timer, so I can set how long I want the heater to stay on, a thermostat so I can set a comfortable temperature and a heater ‘force’ setting – full blast or economy mode. I plugged it in and set the temperature to 68 degrees. Why not?
One thing about a heater like this – it does take some time to warm up. The heating element is encased in the radiator body, and it has to warm the mass of the oil inside and the metal of the unit before it can start pumping the heat out. I held my hand over the heater and wondered why it was taking so long.
I started working anyway, figuring I would check the unit in a little bit. I got involved in cutting a breadboard edge for a table I’m working on and let myself get into the woodworking.
Within half an hour, I found myself pushing my sleeves up and thinking, “Man, this must be hard work. I’m nearly breaking a sweat.” That’s when I remembered to check the unit. It was working beautifully! It was hot to the touch, but not enough to burn you. The heat it threw was awesome… it was a gentle heat that filled the space. I was warm by the bench, at the table saw. Everywhere. I also felt a lot more comfortable with the heating elements not being exposed in my dust generating shop. I clicked the heater back to the energy saving mode and spent the rest of the afternoon out there, comfortable and enjoying my shop time as I watched the gentle cold rain fall through my shop window.
Am I some kind of wimpy Florida guy now? Sure. You bet. But, if this heater makes my shop time – my hobby – more enjoyable, well, that was a sound investment of my money and a very welcome addition to my shop.