Dec 15 2021 / Post Frame Construction ,

Best Way to Heat a Pole Barn in Sioux City

A custom pole building from Koskovich & Murphy — be it a spacious and comfortable barndominium in Sioux City, or just a post-frame garage for your SUV or pickup — isn’t much good to you if it’s only comfortable during the spring, summer, and early fall. A heated pole barn is a must here, and knowing the ins and outs of heating a pole barn will ensure you can enjoy it year-round.

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Types of Heating Systems

Heating systems take multiple forms. Because of their size or cost, some are better suited to barndominiums and commercial pole barns; others, while compact, may raise concerns of their own. Let’s run them down briefly.


  • Furnaces require ductwork since they rely on forced air to warm the space. They’re a bit more expensive to install, but their upside is that the same ductwork can be used for an air conditioner in the summertime.
  • Heat pumps require ductwork too, but they have a few advantages. To begin with, they combine heating and cooling in one unit that shares the same duct system; what’s more, they tend to be more energy-efficient than either of the systems they replace.
  • Radiant heat tends to be more efficient than a furnace, but it replaces ducts with radiators, or by directly heating the floor in space.
  • Stoves come in several shapes and sizes, from rocket stoves to potbelly stoves, pellet stoves, or stoves that are indistinguishable from fireplaces. Their fuel sources may raise certain pollution concerns, and of course, some designs’ open flames make them impractical for certain locations and applications.

How Do I Ensure the Right Amount of Heat?

When you’re choosing a heating system for a pole barn, one thing you shouldn’t do is simply rely on square footage. Your pole barn or barndominium isn’t a flat sheet; it’s effectively a box and needs to be measured like one. This is done in two stages.

First, measure your cubic footage, which is building width, times length, times ceiling height. In a multi-floor dwelling, this should be multiplied in turn by the number of conditioned floors.

Next, you’ll need to determine the insulation factor, and multiply that by the number from the first step. There are three insulation factors: 4 for excellent insulation, 5 for average insulation, and 7 for poor insulation.

What does this look like in practice? Let’s say you have a minimally-insulated garage that doubles as a workshop. It measures 20 by 40 feet, with a 14-foot ceiling. So, 20x40x14 = 11,200 cubic feet, multiplied by 7, comes to 78,400 BTUs.

Am I Better Off Overshooting the BTU Number?

It depends. On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with rounding up a little bit. Using our example above, you may have an easier time finding an 80,000 BTU furnace or heat pump than you would with finding one that’s 78,400 BTUs on the nose, so by all means, round up. That said, getting one that’s 90,000 or 100,000 BTUs with the logic that “bigger is better” won’t work out, because you’ll typically consume more energy than is necessary over the life of the unit, and may introduce other problems as well.

Passive Heating for Pole Barns

Another effective design principle is using passive heating to keep your pole barn warm. There are many options, each of which can be incorporated in the design phase; they’re also an effective way to supplement heating and keep energy costs down for a barndominium.

  • Quality building materials help since thin walls don’t provide an effective thermal barrier compared to thicker walls.
  • Don’t skimp on insulation, even for outbuildings. Insulation with a high R value keeps the cold out and warm air in during the winter, and can also keep your pole barn from getting too hot in the summer.
  • The use of windows or skylights can let sunlight in to warm the structure; these can use shades or awnings in warmer weather for passive cooling.

Energy-Efficient Pole Barns and Barndominiums in the Sioux City Area

Of course, heating and cooling are only two of the many design considerations that go into any barndominium or custom pole building in Sioux Falls. This is why we recommend enlisting a pole barn contractor who has the experience to account for every last detail, and the work ethic to ensure that your structure is move-in ready from day one. Call Koskovich & Murphy Developments today!


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