How To Heat A Barn In Winter

Winter is just around the corner. As the daylight decreases and winter coats begin to grow, many owners become interested in how to heat a barn in the winter. But in reality, most horses do not require a heated barn. For the majority, the ability to escape the elements in an enclosed and sheltered barn that provides wind blocks is more than adequate. However, there are situations that call for added warmth- this can include newborn foals, sick animals, or body clipped horses without proper blanketing. More so, much of the heated barn appeal is for human comfort and satisfaction. If you feel heating the barn is a must, check out the heating basics below:

Optimal Temperature

Heat should only be used supplementally in barns, and only with plenty of ventilation. Although there has been minimal conclusive research to determine the “detrimental” amount of heat and humidity, there is an optimal temperature range. OSU Cooperative Extension equine specialist, Dave Freeman, says the ideal temperature is between 45 and 65-degrees Fahrenheit. However, this range can be expensive to maintain and likely to interfere with overall horse health when this temperature is achieved artificially.  Anything over 55 degrees F can have negative effects on the animal. Moving horses in and out of heated quarters can also cause problems and stress the horse’s body coming to/from turnout.

Optimal Temperature

Learn more about When to Blanket a Horse? Temperature Guide for Cold Weather


Heating a barn, or climate control in general, can cause many problems if not carried out properly. Incorrect heating can result in respiratory issues. One of the leading causes of respiratory irrigation is high humidity and heat leading to bacteria growth or nitrogen odors.

Owners will need to assess the conditions and determine if heating is primarily for a human’s interpretation of comfort or the animal’s health and well-being. You will notice the methods below are structured around fire safety. Even heat lamps, a common staple with livestock, are a leading cause of fires.

Find Turtleneck Horse Blankets

How To Heat A Barn In Winter- Methods

If barn heat is a must, there are several options to choose from. If owners are looking to only heat specific areas (such as a wash rack or tack room) while in-use with direct supervision, more traditional methods can be used.

Forced Air Heater

Forced air heaters are not ideal for barn use. These push out warmth, but this heat easily escapes even in small cracks. They are ideal in very high-ceiling barns which also have large fans to circulate the heat, in addition to proper roof insulation.

Fahrenheat FUH Electric Heater


Proper insulation is the number one recommended heating method. However, rather than actual “heating”, insulation helps with heat retention. As a perk, it also helps keep heat out during warm summer months. Good insulation can take just the chill out of a barn and raise the temperature only a few degrees without the potential health risks of actual heaters. If owners choose to use other manual heating methods, it can be even more costly and partially wasted effort without insulation.

Radiant Heaters

Radiant or infrared heaters tend to be a lower fire hazard and create heat through infrared radiation. It is instant and does not actually heat the air, unlike a forced-air heater. These are more energy-efficient and heat cannot easily be lost. However, they must be positioned to reach the animal. Once turned off, unlike forced air heaters, there is no residual warmth.

Heat Storm HS-1500-PHX-WIFI Infrared Heater

Other Alternatives for Bigger Spaces

Best Way To Heat A Barn- Final Thoughts

Heaters can be a great addition, especially for human comfort during stall cleaning or grooming. For the safety and health of the animal, it is ideal to keep these heaters in specific areas and only turned on while actively in-use, such as in a grooming rack.

What heat solutions are you currently using? Be sure to share this article!

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