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Options for heating small cabin?

BillA's picture

I'm looking for options to heat a cabin located outside Seattle. The cabin is a one-story post-and-pier foundation structure with 2x4 framing. It is about 600 sq. ft. It is mostly not insulated. Current plan is to update windows and doors, and insulate the walls next spring or summer. But would like safe reliable heat to keep the place from freezing in the winter when we are not there. Don't have a closet or garage in which to install a forced air system. Is baseboard electric the way to go, or some other way?

The average daytime high temperature in Seatte is 47 F (Jan, Feb) and the average low is about 36 F (Jan, Feb). The alltime low is about 11 F (in 1989).

How often will the unit be (post #195426, reply #1 of 5)

How often will the unit be checked/serviced during the winter?  What forms of heating fuel are readily available?  Are you looking for something permanent -- that will remain the primary heat source after insulating -- or just something to get you through the winter (to be discarded or relegated to "emergency heat" after the place is fixed up)?

In general (without access to the above specifics) I'd say either electric resistance heating or some sort of propane space heater would be the way to go (and propane would likely be much cheaper to operate).  Note that the electric resistance doesn't need to be baseboard -- you could use space heaters or "milkhouse heaters" if you don't want a permanent installation.

You really just need to keep the temp above about 40F to reasonably protect the place.  Place most of your heat near the plumbing, and close off areas that aren't likely to be damaged by freezing.  Invest in halfway decent thermostats, vs trusting the stats on electric space heaters, though.  (But note that electric resistance heat requires a different thermostat from your standard furnace stat.)


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Options for heating small cabin (post #195426, reply #3 of 5)

We check on the place about every 3 weeks during the winter. options for heat are electric and propane. But the place is on an island so propane can be expensive. I want it to be the primary source, but we have a wood stove to use when we are physically there.

Well, sounds like electric is (post #195426, reply #4 of 5)

Well, sounds like electric is probably the way to go, even though it will be expensive.  You might want to look at a small heat pump eventually, but probably resistance heat for now.

Doesn't matter much what you use -- a watt is a watt for the most part.  You could go ahead and buy baseboards that you would eventually reinstall after insulating, but just tack them in place for now.  Or you could use space heaters.

If you can sort of tent off the area you want to heat you won't need much heat in that climate, even without regular insulation/sealing.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

If it's really a "cabin" i.e. (post #195426, reply #2 of 5)

If it's really a "cabin" i.e. in the wilderness, I'd heat with wood, which, believe me, provides a most active pursuit and will provide you with hours, days, & weeks of enjoyment! Scrounging, bucking, hauling, splitting, stacking and burning wood is something that every cabin owner relishes.

Of course, you need to be around to heat with wood. In the case that you're not, I would drain the plumbing to avoid freezing issues.

Propane stove with millivolt thermostat (post #195426, reply #5 of 5)

Three options:  Electric, which can go down if the power gets knocked out.  You are looking at resistance heat, so they are basically all about the same efficiency wise, and in the Northwest you have the lowest power rates in the nation so it might make sense.  Baseboards, are efficient at heating the space but mostly because they cover a larger area.  for the same wattage. 

The next is a propane system, that utilizes a blower, and also goes out if the power goes down.

The other is a propane fired stove, that utilizes pilot light and a millivolt thermostat.  I have one of these as the backup at my place, because it is one of the few setups that will run when the power is off.