Heating for a shed or summer house: warmth even in the winter

Thomas Bott

A shed or summer house can be used in many ways: for example, as a small workshop, for storing tools or as a place of retreat. But if you want to be able to spend time in it on cold days, it needs a heating system. There are several suitable systems on the market. Here you can find out what they are and what you need to consider for heating a shed or summer house.

A small summer house in the winter. Two snowed-in wooden recliners can be seen in front of it.
© Getty Images / Sandra Clegg

In this article

Permits: it’s best to ask

Certain rules apply to all inhabited buildings in Switzerland. Sheds and summer houses are no exception. It may not always be possible to transform them into living space. If you do install a heating system, the local fire protection regulations must also be observed. It’s always worth informing the municipality about the project and inquiring about the applicable regulations. You shouldn’t start investigating heating options until you are sure that you meet these requirements.

Insulation: good insulation is important

Before you think about buying a heating system for your shed or summer house, you should check that the building is well insulated. Otherwise the heat generated will escape much too quickly. This can cause problems: the room may not heat up properly, or you may have to considerably increase the heating power to generate enough heat. This means that you will incur higher heating costs – and inefficient heating is also bad for the environment.

The walls and roof should therefore always have sufficient insulation. It’s best to seek advice from a professional. You may even be able to carry out the insulation work yourself, provided you have a little time and manual skill.

Three men are installing roof insulation on a shed.

Even before you buy a heating system for your shed or summer house, you should ensure that there is sufficient insulation. Otherwise the heat will soon dissipate.

Heating a shed or summer house: the different possibilities

The type of heating that is right for your shed or summer house depends on the specific conditions. There isn’t a particular heating system that is perfect for all circumstances. Below you will find an overview of heating systems that are suitable for generating warmth quickly, even in the cold season.

Electric heating: generating heat with electricity

Electric heating is often used in smaller rooms or outbuildings. This is because electric systems are easy to set up. After all, all you need is an electricity connection, and your heating system will be ready to generate cozy warmth in the shed or summer house. However, there are several types of electric heating, which differ in certain respects:

Convectors: an electric convection heater directly heats the surrounding air, creating a flow circuit. The advantage of this is that it gets warm quickly. The disadvantage is that the heater does not have a storage medium to retain the heat for longer periods. However, for this principle to work, the radiator must be switched on continuously to provide heat. The system is therefore primarily suitable for sheds or summer houses that you only heat infrequently or that conserve heat particularly well. Otherwise, the operating costs will skyrocket. Electric convection heaters are available as freestanding or wall-mountable models. They exist in different sizes. Inexpensive convectors can be purchased from around 50 francs. For a better model, you should expect to pay approx. 200 francs.

Radiators: most electric radiators look a bit like traditional house radiators. They consist of several ribs filled with a liquid such as water. Alternatively, there are also oil radiators. The heating element transfers heat to the liquid, which remains hot for a certain length of time. The radiator generates radiant heat, making it a very direct way of heating. Many models come on wheels so that you can place the radiator near you to benefit from the heat. Electric radiators are more suitable for short-term heating. Models are available in various sizes from around 50 francs.

Infrared heaters: direct heat is also provided by infrared heating. First and foremost, this requires a heating element and a heating plate. This simple construction makes the radiators very flat, and they are very easy to mount on walls or even on the ceiling. However, it’s important to note that only people and objects in the immediate vicinity will absorb the heat. Tip: when deciding which model to buy, pay attention to the radiation efficiency of the device. The higher the figure, the more suitable the radiator will be for larger rooms. Infrared heaters are available as monochrome panels or even as inconspicuous murals from around 200 francs.

A woman is sitting in her summer house, looking out of the iced-up window with her feet on an electric radiator.

If a radiator emits radiant heat, as is the case with an electric radiator, it will feel more comfortable to sit close to the device.

Gas heating: not dependent on the power supply

Gas heating in your house requires a connection to the gas network, a boiler, a hot water tank, a fireplace and more. For a shed or summer house, the system is a little more compact. Small gas radiators can be set up or hung on the wall. However, they still need a gas connection. This can be set up by means of a pipe leading to a propane cylinder that is located outside the shed or summer house, for instance. If it is technically possible, you can even connect the heating to the gas network. A system for evacuating the exhaust gases is also necessary. A gas heating system heats the air, spreading heat throughout the room, and are available from around 1,000 francs.

An alternative is a gas heating stove. These small devices consist of a receptacle for the gas cylinder, an igniter and a burner. Depending on the selected level of intensity, the gas flame will burn more strongly and provide more heat in the room. This type of small gas heater does not require a system for removing exhaust gases. However, you should ventilate regularly to prevent the gases from spreading unintentionally. This is of course far from ideal when you are trying to heat a room. Gas heaters can be purchased from around 100 francs.

Two propane cylinders can be seen against the outside wall of a garden shed. They are connected to the heating system on the inside via pipes.

It’s best to place the gas bottles required for connecting a gas radiator outside. This is safer and does not take up valuable space inside.

Pellet heating: wood as a natural fuel

Pellet heaters are already gaining in popularity for use in the home. It’s not surprising, since pellets are a naturally obtained fuel with a low carbon footprint. What’s more, pellets are not expensive to buy. Compact heaters are now also available for smaller buildings such as sheds or summer houses. A pellet stove is attractive and looks almost like a fireplace – with a small window overlooking the blazing flames.

You will have to refill the pellets regularly in order for the heating system to work. You should build up a supply in advance. This means allowing a certain amount of space for storage. You will also need a pipe system for the exhaust air. Pellet stoves create pleasant warmth that fills the whole room. They are available in shops from around 1,500 francs.

Solar heating: a particularly environmentally friendly solution

Solar heating is probably the most environmentally friendly and independent type of heating. It enables you to obtain the energy you need from the sun’s radiation. It even works in winter, albeit with reduced efficiency. If you want to heat your shed or summer house in this way, you will need appropriate collectors on the roof. They will absorb energy and transfer it to the heating system inside. This direct generation of heat from solar energy is called solar thermal power.

Another possibility is to install a photovoltaic system. This doesn’t provide heat directly but generates electricity that you can use to operate your electric heating. The electricity can also be supplied to numerous other devices. The problem with both types of solar heating is that they involve high investment costs. In addition, it may not always be possible to cover all your needs. For each square meter of roof surface that you equip with collectors, you should expect to pay around 500 francs.

Conclusion: there is a wide range of options for heating a shed or summer house

Each type of heating has its advantages and disadvantages, so how you heat your shed or summer house depends entirely on your preferences. For radiant heat, an electric heater with infrared or radiator could be the right choice. All you need is a power supply. If you want the heat to mix well with the surrounding air, you should opt for convectors. A pellet stove, on the other hand, is particularly cozy, although you must pay attention to fire protection – especially in wooden sheds or summer houses. The best tip is probably to let a specialist advise you or try out different systems.

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