How To Heat A Barn In Winter

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Last Updated on January 29, 2022

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!

Can I use a propane heater in a barn?

Indeed you can, but only if you are sure that the propane tank is at least 2 inches above the floor and that there are no leaks in the tank. If you have a venting system, then it will not pose a problem, but you must be sure that it is vented to the outside. You will also need to be sure that there is no flammable material stored in the barn, such as hay, paper, or rags. If you are going to use a propane heater, you should have it checked for safety before you use it. Propane-powered heaters are one of the best choices for barns because of their reliability and energy efficiency. Their reliability, low cost, and ability to heat large areas with one heater make them an excellent choice for barns.

Do you need ventilation when using a propane heater?

There are different types of venting systems for gas heaters. The most common type is called the “vented hood”. This is where a fan blows air out of the top of the heater and out through an exhaust vent. If you have this type of heater, it should be installed properly to allow for proper airflow. Another type of venting system is called the “hoodless”. This is where there is no fan or blower. It still needs to be installed correctly to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Should a barn be heated?

That will depend on the location where you live and keep horses. In very cold climates and places with rough winter it is recommended to heat the barn at least through winter months as freezing temperatures can cause horses suffering from frostbite and other cold related health problems. Heating the barn helps to protect the horse from drafts which may harm his health. It’s also important to keep the barn dry to prevent mold and rot. In places with moderate climate a well insulated barn and an adequate amount of straw bedding are recommended. This way your horse can stay warm and comfortable.

Are infrared heaters safe for barns?

Although there are many opinions on the safety of infrared heaters, they are a popular heating option for barns because they can provide heat for a longer period of time without the use of fuel. They are considered to be safe and efficient to use in barns.
How do infrared heaters work? Infrared heaters are heaters that use infrared radiation to heat a space. Infrared heaters work by using a ceramic or glass lens to reflect infrared radiation from a source, such as a bulb or heater, to a target. The lens can be made of a variety of materials, including plastic and glass. The heat from the infrared radiation is transmitted to the target by convection.

How can I heat my barn without electricity?

There are many ways how to keep the barn warm without electrical heaters. First make sure the barn is well insulated. That will keep the warmth inside and you will loose less energy trying to keep it warm. For the heating itself you can install either solar window heater, portable propane heater, or even a kerosene heater. There are two problems with kerosene though: it’s a messy fuel and it’s expensive. The solar window heater is the most energy efficient way of keeping the barn warm. It is also the cheapest in the long run as you are using free solar energy.

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