How to Heat an Uninsulated Pole Barn: The Ultimate Guide


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If you own a pole barn in regions where winter temperatures can be extreme, heating is one thing you’ll need to think about. If your pole barn is insulated, you might go for the same heating methods as those in your home. But an uninsulated pole barn has a more natural environment and may require a different heating approach.

You can heat an uninsulated pole barn using cost-effective heating machines that run on gas, propane, or electricity. The best options include wood or pellet stoves, furnaces, and radiant heating systems.

In this article, I’ll cover the three best heating options and explain how to choose the best one for your pole barn.

Pro-tip: If you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to read this article, my top recommended pole barn heater is the US Stove Company’s Wiseway Non-Electric Pellet Stove. Check it out on Amazon.com now.  

Pole Barns: Their Nature and Purpose

Pole barns have a history that explains their name. In the 1930s, when the global economy suffered a huge depression, farmers in the US opted for the cheapest material they could find to construct their buildings. They used utility poles which made these constructions to be called pole barns. The poles were buried a few feet into the ground to create the foundation and support the rafters that made the roof.

These original pole barns are pioneers of today’s pole barns. Even though pole barn construction techniques have remained the same, construction materials have changed to include steel poles and other stronger trusses and columns. Stronger materials allow more versatile use of these structures.

The immediate mental picture that most of us create when we hear of a pole barn is an isolated farm building that is used to store agricultural produce or house animals. But pole barn constructions have become extremely versatile and can be designed to serve as a garage, workshop, horse stables, a man cave, or even a pole barn home.

Whatever the purpose you assign to your pole barn, heating will be a requirement in the cold season, especially if your pole barn is uninsulated. In addition, the type of heating will greatly depend on the use of your pole barn.

Let’s discuss the three best ways of heating pole barns and tell you which of these heating choices is ideal for specific uses of a pole barn.

3 Best Ways to Heat a Pole Barn

When winter sets in, pole barn owners will need to set up a heating method that suits the use of their construction. Here are some options you can choose from.

Wood and pellet stoves

If your pole barn is on a rural farm, wood-burning stoves can be a good heating option. Wood is a cheaper source of fuel than gas and electricity. So, if you enjoy stacking wood over the months, you could burn it in a stove to heat your pole house.

Wood burning can, however, produce pollutants, which explains why the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives compliance requirements for wood heaters in a bid to ensure cleaner and improved air quality for users.

Even though they may cost you more than wood (around $5 per 40lb/18kg bag), pellets are a cleaner fuel when compared to wood. As such, they are less polluting and give greater convenience and temperature control, more heat, and better indoor air quality. Pellets can be made from hard or softwood with the later considered to burn better than the previous.

Wood and pellet stoves have a combustion blower that brings air from the outside into the stove through an air-vent and releases smoke through an exhaust vent. Heated air can be left to naturally heat the barn or be distributed into the barn through heat-exchange tubes.

According to the American Energy Systems, stove pellets are the best option for heating an outbuilding and are more efficient than heaters that use propane or electricity. 

If you’d like my honest opinion, I think the best choice for most uninsulated pole barns is the Wiseway Non-Electric Pellet Stove. Its 40,000 BTUs can heat up to 2,000 square feet, is EPA-certified, and has a hopper that can hold enough pellets for up to 30 hours of continuous heat.

Also, this article by the EPA will give you useful information on choosing wood-burning appliances if you’re considering purchasing one for your pole barn.

Where to use wood and pellet stoves

A man cave or a workshop are good examples of pole barns that would be best heated with wood and pellet stoves. This is because most you probably won’t be living in your pole barn, so heating may only be needed when they are in use.

Nevertheless, a workshop where working tools are kept always may need more consistent heating.

Furnaces

Furnaces are heating systems that use electricity, propane, or natural gas. A furnace works by heating air in one spot and blowing it into connected ducts and vents, which then heat the air in the entire barn. This way of distributing heated air is referred to as a ducted warm-air system or a forced warm-air distribution system.

Combustion gases from the heated furnace are expelled from your barn through a vent. In a pole barn where interior design is not an issue, the forced-air delivery grills can hang from the roofing.

When the furnace is ignited, the heat exchanger transfers heat to the incoming air. The heated air is then forced by the furnace blower into the ducts to be distributed throughout the barn.

Where to use furnaces

Furnaces distribute heat throughout the barn via the ducts and can be used in pole barns that serve as a man cave, workshop, garage, or a pole barn home.

I recommend the Modine Natural Gas Garage Heater for uninsulated pole barns. Although it’s sold as a garage heater, this 45,000 BTU furnace is an excellent option for pole barns as well.

Radiant/infrared heaters

Radiant heaters are ideal for uninsulated and drafty pole barns. They work by directing heat to you, an object, or a specific area rather than heating all of the air in the barn. For this reason, they are highly recommended for pole barns that do not need to be heated entirely and those that have wide openings.

Infrared heaters work a bit like the sun rays and are considered natural. They are safe and can be moved around to focus on the object or area that needs heating. Also, barns with natural ventilation are ideal for radiant heaters since these heaters are not vented. Natural ventilation allows the exchange of air without compromising the heat from the heater.

Infrared heaters used in uninsulated pole barns usually use gas. But modern barns may have electric and hydraulic radiant heaters installed on walls, in ceilings, and floors. These complex designs are, however, easier to use in insulated barns.

For uninsulated pole barns, I recommend the LifeSmart 6 Element Large Room Infrared Heater. It’s powerful, energy-efficient, and won’t dry out your pole barn’s air like other heating options will.

Where to use radiant heaters

Because they target specific spots, radiant heaters are excellent in a “man cave” pole barn to warm you directly or heat a small room. Radiant heaters are also used in stables and are considered soothing to animals because they mimic solar heat. They would also be perfect in workshops or garages to keep you warm while you work.

Final Thoughts

Pole barns date back to the economic recession of the 1930s when American farmers used the readily available utility poles to build barns for their farm produce.

Fast forward and a lot of pole barns today are made with steel poles and other stronger materials, even though the original techniques of making barns are still utilized. Whereas original pole barns were generally used as farmhouses, today’s designs can be used as a man cave, garage, and workshop or be constructed to serve as a family home.

Many pole barn owners insulate their barns, but if left uninsulated, pole barns are best heated with natural heating methods like wood and pellet stoves, furnaces, and infrared/radiant heaters.

Steve Rajeckas

Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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