Heating a Pole Barn Cabin

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New Member
Jan 23, 2007
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I have built a 30' X 50' pole barn with concrete floor and insulation in the ceiling. Within the pole barn, I have made a 30' X 16' X 10' cabin (~500 sguare feet) in one end. The walls are studded and covered with 3/4" T&G pine and R-13 insulation. The ceiling is covered with 1" rough sewn cedar and insulated with R-19. There is no plumbing, water, sewer, or electric utilities to the barn or cabin. I have wired the cabin & barn and run everything off a 5500 watt Troy-Bilt generator.

The location is on a farm in southern Indiana that I own. I use it minimally and mainly for hanging out with my friends as I have built a bar and bedroom in the cabin. My wife and I hope to build a home on the farm some day, although I do not want to run electric to the barn at this time.

I would like to add heat to the cabin that will not be generated by electricity. I have used kerosene "salamander" heaters, however, they are loud a smelly. I have considered a wood stove, but would rather not mess with cutting wood. I would like to install an LP ceiling heater with fan that can be vented to the outside, however this may cost me ~$600. I have checked out a Modine Hot Dawg 60,00 BTU heater.

Another cost effective option that I have, is a 10 year old natural gas furnace that was given to me. The furnace is in perfect working order and came from a 1600 sguare foot home. Being inexperienced in heating, I have questions that I hope someone can help me with.

1. Can I convert the furnace to LP? If so, what do I need to buy? Where can I buy this equipment? How much will it cost? Can I do this myself?

2. I have no cold air returns. Will this be a problem?

3. Could I set the furnace (vented) inside the barn but not inside the cabin and run duct work blowing the heat inside the cabin? Could I use the insulated tube type ductwork? Is it realistic to blow hot air through 30' - 40' of this type of ductwork?

4. Should I set the furnace (vented) inside the cabin? I am concerned about noise and the amount of space the furnace would take up. I would rather do scenario #3 since one day I may build a workshop on the other end of the barn and possibly heat it with the same furnace.

5. If I am able to set the furnace in the barn but not in the cabin, and blow the heat through registers via ductwork, could I place 3-4 registers near the floor along the same 30' wall (the length of the cabin)? Will the heat circulate well enough across the 16' width to heat the cabin sufficiently? I have installed two 52" ceiling fans.

6. If the above scenario could be done, would it be best if the furnace (being outside the cabin) was sucking air through a very short duct that was connected to the inside of the cabin? I guess this would be like a cold air return. If this was possible and I built a small vented closet for the furnace to set in, would the furnace get too hot inside the closet?

7. If it was 20 degrees fahrenheit outside, how long would it take to heat the cabin inside to a comfortable level (assume the heat hasn't been on in a week)?

8. Would I be able to leave the pilot light on or would I need to relight it each time I go to the farm? I sometimes only go once a week.

I know there are many variables, but any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated. You may email me if you wish at mickeywaller@hotmail.com


Well-Known Member
Mar 1, 2006
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Welcome, Mickey:
1. Yes, a natural gas furnace can be converted. You need a different regulator and new orifices in the furnace burners. L P gas is higher pressure and hotter, so it has to be throtled down.
2. Yes, it does need a return air.
3. Yes, you can set the frunace in the barn, outside the cabin. Anything over three feet of flex duct is worthless (in my book).
5. Yes, 3 vents would be sufficient (4" X 10") each one fed by a 6" round pipe. Two of The 6s could be teed off an 8" round pipe then reduced to 6" the rest of the way. That will help to keep equal pressure on each one.
6. The seperate room for the furnace would be fine if you allow (usually) 2" of air space on the sides and back and make the room 8' tall. Then you will need a louver door to let combustion air in.
7. Your cabin is about 1/4 the size of the previous house; it will run you out in 10 minutes. You may want to consider plugging (instead of an orifice) 3 of the 4 burners to make it more realistic for the cabin.
8. Yes, by all means keep the pilot light on; if there is a small gas leak that will keep it burned up and prevent an explosion when you go to light it. LPG settles and pools unless there are strong air currents to move it out.

I'm sure you will get more answers but that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
By the way, Southern Indiana is only 20 miles from my house.


Staff member
Dec 17, 2005
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My opinion would be to get a sealed combustion gas unit.
That way if you are working on anything which has explosive fumes (gasoline)you will not light up the night sky with your pole barn, which you will be seeing from above at that point.:D

I just like to keep it safe ...with little suprises here and there.