Choose the Right Temporary Heating to Boost Winter Productivity on Construction Sites

United Rentals offers tips on portable heater selection to help ensure winter chills don't slow down crews in unfinished structures.

United Rentals Temporary Heating Equipment
United Rentals

Low winter temperatures can drop worker productivity on a construction site  even crew members working within a building shell. Creating a comfortable working environment via temporary heating can help keep workers moving freely and projects on schedule. 

One study showed that worker efficiency, measured by work output, starts to drop slightly when temperatures sink below approximately 50° F. Efficiency drops by about half when the mercury hits 0° – and goes down from there. 

Portable heater options offer contractors a solution to warm up cold crews and temper spaces to maintain construction schedules.

“Temporary heating units differ in the amount of heat they generate and the amount of space they can warm,” says Eric Jarvis, regional product development manager of the United Rentals Power and HVAC group. “To get the most benefit, contractors should work with their temporary equipment provider to choose the right heater size. Sizing is a function of the volume of the building, temperature differential between outside and the temperature you want, tightness of the building and indoor activity, or how much heat is being generated by what’s being done inside.”

Choosing the Right Temporary Heater

Ventilation, safety and space are three important considerations for contractors when choosing a temporary heat solution. Options include:

  • Make-Up Air Heaters. These heaters are suited for any size space, heating the air with relatively low fuel consumption. They pressurize the space, evenly distributing heat while maintaining fresh air changes. The heaters can be powered by natural gas or propane, and can be placed inside or outside so long as fresh air enters the unit. Heater options are based on BTUs with a typical range from 80k to 4.5M.
  • Indirect Fired Heaters. These heaters are similar to a home’s furnace, requiring exhaust ventilation to outside air. They are powered by diesel fuel, natural gas or propane. The heaters provide 100% clean, dry air. There are no combustion by-products, moisture or other impurities released into the air. The heaters don’t have an open flame, so air entering the heater space never comes in direct contact with a flame.
  • Electric Heaters. These heaters should be used when absolutely no flame is permitted at the worksite, and when power is easily and readily available. Power requirements typically range from 120V to 480V. They need no ventilation and can be used when a building is mostly closed in. The heaters provide safe, clean and combustion-free heat.
  • Direct Fired Heaters. These heaters provide a simple and economical solution. They are powered by natural gas or propane. The heaters should be used where there is plenty of ventilation, such as an office building with no windows installed. They have an exposed flame and should not be used in any area where there are combustible products.

“Anticipate changing the type of temporary heating you’re using during the course of a construction project. If you start with a direct fired heater, for example, you may want to switch to a make-up air heater or an electric heater as the building gets closed in and the amount of natural ventilation decreases,” Jarvis advises. 

United Rentals has a comprehensive fleet of heaters for indoor applications, including electric and fuel-fired options.