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Discussion Starter #1
I haven't been around one of these in decades and I've needed to build one for the last decade myself. My pole-barn shop gets just about as cold inside as the weather on the outside. There's no roofing insulation at all. Point being... over the last decade, I can't count how many cans of paint, fiberglass, tubes of RTV, cleaning chemicals, etc., etc. I've had go bad due to freezing on the shelf.

So... my mom called me a few days ago to tell me she sold her house, is getting ready to jump into an RV and hit the road with her old man. Asked me to come by their house and pretty much help myself to anything left from their yard sale or whatever her mans, boys didn't want. I loaded up the trailer and headed down to see what was left I could put to use.

Among the things they gave me... I picked up a 3'w x 2'd x 6't metal split cabinet/locker and a wire stack shelving unit that was about 3'w x 1.5'd with 4 shelves.

Got it home in the shop last night and removed the center divider in the locker cabinet. The bottom shelf unit's shelf was wedged so hard on the shelf legs that I couldn't remove it but I did salvage 3 excellent hard metal, open grid type shelves. I took the hard wire shelving and mounted them in the cabinet with nuts, bolts and washers through holes drilled in the sides of the cabinet. The shelving was a perfect fit inside the cabinet but had to be disassembled to be wedged tightly into place. Yay! Now I've got an official "chemical cabinet" with shelves that will allow for ideal, unfettered heat flow inside.

So... among the few things left to fix, I need to add some sort of mellow-ish heating element to keep temperature inside the metal cabinet above freezing through the long, cold winters. I don't want to suck a lot of unnecessary juice to do it but just about the only thing I can really think of that would be a simple install and reliably keep the contents of the cabinet warm-ish, is a heat lamp. They're a lot harder to find these days but Farm & Feed stores still keep 'em around for folks raising baby chics and the like. I also toyed around with the idea of plumbing heat tape... but I don't think it will work nearly as well since it's mostly about contact heat transfer, not ambient heat.

Has anyone built one of these cabinets for their own shop or is anyone familiar with another type of small space, efficient heat source I could mount toward the bottom of this cabinet? I plan to leave it on pretty much all winter, so I don't want to be using something crazy on the electricity and the cabinet is for chemical storage, so fire safety is a very real, obvious concern.

Just thought I'd ask and see if anyone knew of any products out there that might fit my needs. I'll snap a pic tomorrow... just for grins. Thanks in advance fellas. 馃嵒
 

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If you can insulate it (pink Styrofoam from Home Depot for example), you could probably heat it with a 50 watt light bulb. You don't need it hot, just above freezing.
Something like this line voltage thermostat could be rigged to turn on the light when the temperature gets below 50掳.
Line Volt Mechanical Tstat for Heating and Cooling, 120 to 277VAC
Good Luck
 

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TSC or like stores sell heaters for horse water tanks that you maybe able to work into a cabinet. Or the heaters for chickens and such
I agree with the above that a light is all you need. Just a decently insulated box would likely go pretty far.

--Also just get some grow lights and such and it can be a double duty cabinet, or extension of a bigger one.
 

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If you can insulate it (pink Styrofoam from Home Depot for example), you could probably heat it with a 50 watt light bulb. You don't need it hot, just above freezing.
Something like this line voltage thermostat could be rigged to turn on the light when the temperature gets below 50掳.
Line Volt Mechanical Tstat for Heating and Cooling, 120 to 277VAC
Good Luck
I was going to suggest insulation and a regular light bulb too, since a lot of people use them in gun safes to keep them a little warm to keep the moisture out. The Tstat is a great idea, hadn't thought of that. I guess you would have to experiment to make sure you get enough wattage to keep it warm enough. The only down side I can think of is the bulb burning out and things freezing. Maybe have 2 bulbs and check it frequently.
 

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I instantly thought of 'the golden rod'

It's a 12" or so long electrical device that keeps the humidity out of gun safes. Mine get pretty warm, almost too hot to touch. With insulation in the cabinet, I'd think it'd do rather well. Set it on the floor of the cabinet, since heat rises. They are about 50 bucks, but that's what, 6 rattle cans worth of cash, that you'd save quick, instead of them freezing.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
@Mikey350 - I honestly figured the metal cabinet would be enough, without insulation but you're right that insulation would definitely lessen the heat source I'd need. I've never seen an insulated chemical cabinet but most aren't stored in pole barns either. I'm familiar with the pink insulation board and I've used the similar silver backed board on many projects and it comes in many thicknesses and the silver back reflects heat/light very well. If I get a few 4x8 pieces of the 1/2" stuff, I could cut it tight enough to wedge between the shelves but I'd still have to glue it to the doors somehow. Some of that sound deadening, sticky stuff might be better for the doors?

Lots of dust and crap had settled in over the years. So much so that when I cleaned the floor, the doors no longer stayed shut without the dust grime providing a "wedge" fit. I still have to replace the missing lock rods, that secure the cabinet door closed at the top and bottom. I searched the web for a good hour last night and couldn't find a source but if you don't know the exact names, some specialty stuff can be hard to find online. I might have better luck going to the local fab shop and getting some thin, flat metal strips and cut them to size and drill mounting holes for the bolts at the handle.

@CrazyBRONCOguy - Grow stuff is NOT electrical efficient at all... so I won't go that route but you're right, that cabinet would be awesome for a stealth grow if I didn't already have that covered so well with my gutted and purpose re-built RV trailer. Our electric bill rarely goes under $200 as it is. Since recreational went legal in WA and prices dropped out, I can barely justify the cost... but maintaining specific strains, being in control of all chemicals used (mite control, fertilizers, etc.) and ensuring strong quality is a big enough angle to keep me growing my own over buying from legal suppliers. Most of these commercial growers are getting better but it's a money game for them, where it's all about quality control for me.

I'll have to run by the new TSC in town and see what they have or might suggest. I also have a few of those old fashioned, heated electric metal line/cord heater box's around. I've used them to keep the inside of the pump house warm and they are pretty small. They're not very efficient either but they do have built in thermostats and being self-enclosed, they're pretty safe. They even turn themselves off if they get tipped over, not that it's a concern with this build. Because they're not very efficient, I replaced them in the pump house with radiant oil heaters but one of those wouldn't fit in the cabinet worth a damn even though I made the bottom shelf tall enough to fit 5 gallon buckets of paint under it, figuring I could fit two in, one of either side of the heat source. We've had 2 of those buckets with stain for the fence stored in closets in the house over the winter, after the weather stopped us from staining the fence last summer.

@SRWillis - I like you're thinking but doubling up on bulbs for the single cabinet would kill more space and double the energy use. I go out to the shop every evening... even if I have to use my crutches and "hop" through the snow. My medical grow trailer has a lot going on inside and if anything breaks or dies in there (lights, light tracks, fans, etc.) it can mess up the growth cycle... so I was thinking a flip electric switch on the outside would be adequate, since I'm out there nearly every night checking on stuff anyway. Having spare bulbs around is standard practice for me as even one night without light can set me back a week in growth and the stress can induce some strains to turn hermaphrodite (self pollinate to induce seeding), which is the worst. The sun never goes out, so the plants just don't know what else to do when the "sun doesn't come up". Sorry. Don't mean to ramble around here about growing weed but I don't get to share that much anywhere and it's a lot of fun and very interesting, to me.

@BigBlue 94 - Can you come up with a link to this "golden rod"? Is that something I could get from TSC or would I have to go online or to a gun shop supplier? I searched but there's a lot of stuff that goes by that name. A rod sounds nice as long as it can provide enough ambient heat. It would save more space and could be mounted right up under the bottom shelf easily enough, I would think. Plus I don't have to worry about accidentally hitting and breaking it, like a light bulb.

I've definitely wasted a lot of money over the years from supplies going bad and even had projects go sideways (repairing fiberglass parts but wouldn't bond properly, etc.) so the cost is justified, even with my limited income. This could potentially save me hundreds within the first few years.


No matter which way I end up going with this.... I always appreciate the good input, discussion of ideas and experiences and suggestions of products I've never even heard of. Thanks for all the input guys and feel free to keep it coming. I'm taking today off my stump and hopefully going for a ride with my Dad tomorrow for Fathers Day, so I'm in no big rush now that I got the shelf angle figured out and fixed.

And since I promised some pics... I slapped my leg on for a few minutes and got some pics to share. I understated the height of this thing. It's actually 6'6" tall (a good foot taller than I am) but the floor has a good 4-5 inches of dead space, so that's actually great as an insulator from cold concrete floor. It's not pretty... but with a little work, I'm pretty thrilled with it... especially for the price of free! (y)










And yes... before anyone mentions it. I did consider welding the shelving into place with a few zaps here and there but I figured keeping them potentially re-movable would be the smarter way to go. I can always weld shut a hole but breaking loose a welded shelf would be a much bigger problem.
 

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Premium 4 Lyfe - Way Back Staff
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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Here ya go pepe. Not sure, but TSC probably does sell it, or similar. They sell gun safes at yours right? This is like the "name brand" of dehumidifiers so you can find em about anywhere that sells guns or safes.

The link is from my go-to gun supply place.
GoldenRod Dehumidifier Rod 12 (Protects 100 Cubic Feet) Detachable
Boy that sure looks like an ideal solution. TSC does sell a few gun safes but it's not a specialty or dedicated item there. Reading through reviews... I imagine I would definitely have to insulate the cabinet. Most gun safes I've seen are stored inside and while concrete basements can get cold, humidity is usually the bigger issue. For my situation, the cold is the real issue and I'm not sure when it's -20 deg. outside that the rod will still do the trick. None of the Q&A appears to be handled by the company, so much as other customers and my potential use and needs will likely be unfamiliar. Still... looks like an outstanding option to consider. I just need to find a supplier I can question about my specific circumstance and intended use under these conditions. Maybe I could find something similar with a temp. control dial or something, to really crank up the heat when needed. I might have to check at Cabella's the next time I'm down in the area. They're usually too expensive for my taste but they'd probably be the best place around here... besides the little small biz specialty gun supply stores. Thanks bud.

@BikerPepe` You need to come to FL...to warm up. I need to set up a tent next to your RV..to chill!
Hahaha. Come on up to the PNW and I'll be happy to "chill" with ya but I've lived in FL a few times and as nice as it can be once you get acclimatized to the humidity... wherever I end up, I have to be near my mountains. Got relatives I've stayed with and worked for in WPB area and lived/worked years later all around the Orlando area as a party/bar/event DJ. Had a blast but you'd probably be surprised how unnerving it can be for a "mountain man" to look out across the flat horizon day after day when you're used to real mountains and proper forest trees. Trust me, I've considered many times... just for the year round riding season. I will have to admit though... the little lady and I often talk about heading further south, as we're getting older and all the firewood and snow removal efforts get tiring year after year after year. ;)
 

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Looks like you've lots of good suggestions & thoughts. Once insulated a light bulb might do it. I like Mikey350's suggestion of using a thermostat so you only run it hot enough to prevent freezing. That way it can maintain your selected minimum temp & not have to run all night if not needed. As for the 2 bulb setup on a thermostat, it should have to run half as long to reach the set temperature. Or you could run 2 t-stats with 2 bulbs at a slightly different minimum temp. That way only 1 runs if that's all it needs. The 2nd would run if the temp still drops more with only the 1 going. And the 2nd bulb would come on if the 1st bulb blows.

It's surprising how little is needed if the insulation is good. Check the R-value of that insulation before you buy. It might pay to go thicker. We're currently working on a rural shack with only 2x3 walls. They make a 2" rated at R-19. That's typical for fiberglass in a 2x4 wall & a lot thinner. And possibly spray foam the corners & openings. Use minimal expanding foam so it doesn't tweak your metal cabinet. Maybe a piece glued up under the floor too. Metal is great at transfering heat, which also means it loses heat easily. Anyplace where warm moist inside air touches cold metal it will sweat & rust.

It's either that, or use this cabinet to store parts & grab an old dead fridge that's already insulated to heat & store chemicals.

At the shop we have a couple of similar cabinets. To appease the FD the boss hooked up a long pull spring like you'd see on an old wood screen door. It keeps the doors closed even if the knuckleheads forget to latch the doors. If you have trouble getting the latches going it might work in the meantime.

You mentioned that a radiant oil heater was too big. That got me wondering if they made little ones. I searched for "Electric radiant oil heater small" & found this flat one among others:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Have to admit... I really like that little radiant heater. Not such a big fan of stuffing insulation inside that cabinet. Mainly because I can't just "sheet it" with the shelving and piecing it together would leave a lot of gaps. Might almost be easier to insulate around the outside and build a wood box around it or something. I hadn't ever considered a fridge and just passed on one. I'm used to them getting stinky and funky when closed and not used. I suppose an active heat source could negate that effect... in the winter, at least.
 

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Yeah, I never thought of a fridge either, until typing about sealing the insulation made me realize you'd be basically building a fridge cabinet. Stinky & funky is usually the result of not being 100% clean when stored with the door closed. Brand new fridges don't stink, even though they've been closed up for months. One that's completely cleaned shouldn't stink, other than the smell of chemicals stored inside. Thinking about that, maybe you should consider a remote bulb thermostat, so any switching could be done outside. You'd hate to have a spark light off any flammable fumes in there.

We've always lived in the LA area & don't usually have to worry about freezing stuff. It seems odd for me, a warm weather guy to be talking about this stuff. Rarely it gets below freezing overnight & I moved gallons of paint indoors for a short term fix. As a plumber I've only fixed 1 outdoor frozen pipe in my life. But when I did restaurant work it would come up inside walk-in freezers on the condensate drain lines. That's where I learned about heat tape. In my current work we deal with a/c handling components from time to time. That's where keeping warm moist air from contacting cold metal comes into play. If a/c ducting isn't 100% covered, either inside or out, vapor will condensate just like on a cold drinking glass.

We're planning on retiring to a colder place. Not too cold, but it gets some snow in the winters. So I'm paying attention to what you cold weather folks deal with. Added to my list is a warm insulated cabinet in my garage. My current cabinet is an old street light control box that I found busted up on the side of the road. Maybe I'll insulate that. But it's too small to hold everything currently. I think I'll keep an eye out for a dead fridge.

I've always grabbed stuff at the curb that helped me as needed. When a comedian spoke about looking at some old couch at the curb & thinking "that's better than mine" I knew what he was talking about from my single days. I've moved on from stuffed furniture, but it's surprising what comes along about the time you need it. I was working on props for my kids' school play & they needed thrones for the king & queen. 2 gaudy huge chairs showed up at the right time. A little gold paint & I didn't have to build thrones. I was working on restoring an old style stove before that was popular. It just looked cool in my old house & the big old burners would heat up a pot quicker than a modern cheap stove. I saw its twin sitting at the curb with some of the parts I needed. I grabbed my teenage son for help, & he got that "oh no, here we go again" look. He told my wife "Dad & I are going to raid the refrigerator of life". That's been the phrase ever since. In my current work, appliances come up pretty often when we demo someone's kitchen. My current fridge is from a nice kitchen we tore out & was bigger & nicer than its predecessor. Downstairs is a Sub-Zero we demoed out of a tv producer's house 15 years ago. That thing was still under warranty for several years. I'm sure there'll be another fridge pop up before retirement.

Currently I'm on the hunt for fencing for the retirement property. It's 5 acres in a rural area. I have found some, but am still needing a lot more. We've got some decent sources for buying fence if it comes down to that, but the amount of used fence we've pulled over the years has me hoping I'll find more before then. I figure I've got 5-7 years to find it. Our current jobsite has about 50 feet that will follow me home when it comes out. Raiding the refrigerator of life again. 馃榿
 

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Pepe, yeah you would want to insulate the cabinet for my option to have a chance of working. They make a 36" long version, which would be the best for you. Mine are a mere 12" long. The safes may stay about 10掳 above the ambient temp. They are very large safes, however. One is nearly 7 ft tall. They also have a plush fabric lining, which acts as a small bit of insulation from the cold metal. That all being said, I'm not sure my method would work well in your situation.

I personally think a small radiant heater like mentioned above would be a great idea. Any method will be better with at least some sort of insulation.

They one thing that's been itching at me is flammability. You are going to have flammable and explosive items near a heating element of some sort. So I would definitely not want some cheap chinese thing or an open element anywhere near the cabinet.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Well... I've got no problem with "dumpster diving". Did that a lot growing up. Taking somebody's used junk and putting it to good use is a smart and responsible way to recycle and save money... within reason, of course.

Lots to consider. Appreciate the input, as always guys.

The flammable angle is definitely a serious one to be considered on this project and one of the reasons that tiny oil radiant heater is an attractive option to me. A bulb can be broken and cause spark enough to possibly ignite fumes. A heating element like the golden rod is less dangerous but I've been using oil radiant heaters for decades and I've never had any kind of problem with them. My current bedroom was built as an "add-on" to the trailer house by po and one of those little heaters is my only heat source. As I said before... I've also been using one in my heavily insulated pump house for years. Works great, doesn't burn to the touch but warms the area very well.

Hmmmm...
 

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Well... I've got no problem with "dumpster diving". Did that a lot growing up. Taking somebody's used junk and putting it to good use is a smart and responsible way to recycle and save money... within reason, of course.

Lots to consider. Appreciate the input, as always guys.

The flammable angle is definitely a serious one to be considered on this project and one of the reasons that tiny oil radiant heater is an attractive option to me. A bulb can be broken and cause spark enough to possibly ignite fumes. A heating element like the golden rod is less dangerous but I've been using oil radiant heaters for decades and I've never had any kind of problem with them. My current bedroom was built as an "add-on" to the trailer house by po and one of those little heaters is my only heat source. As I said before... I've also been using one in my heavily insulated pump house for years. Works great, doesn't burn to the touch but warms the area very well.

Hmmmm...
We keep one of the stand up radiant oil heaters in the garage in the winter for the cats. Definitely a good option.
I do like the old deep freezer idea. I used to use an old mini fridge for my gunpowders, to keep the humidity out and keep them at a cool stable temp.
 

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鈥淭rash Tresures鈥..that鈥檚 what we call it around here. I鈥檝e made some pretty good scores throughout the years. Best find was an tiller 25hp Envirude. It looked new! Figured it be good for parts even though I had no need for it. Tossed it in the truck.

A buddy rebuilt the carb, new spark plug...pulled the rope and ran line it should. I let him keep it. He used it a bit and later sold it for $500. I hadn鈥檛 seen him in a while and one day showed up with $250 for me. I鈥檒l never forget because at the time I was in dire straits financially. Sorry for the rant....
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Nice. No apology necessary @Joecruiser . Gotta love it when a friend comes through unexpectedly and at the right time. Been there. Had a friend swing by once after I'd been out of work for months, broke as a joke and the new gig I started didn't pay for the first full month. I was busting my ass (galvanizing plant work, not for the meek) and literally starving... when I came home from work, my bro had left a bag of groceries and a box of home grown potatoes on my RV porch. He knew I wouldn't accept charity direct, so he just dropped and bailed. Some of the best taters I'd eaten in my life... after a few weeks living on crackers and mayo. 馃嵒

I guess Mom already gave the other fridge to one of the step-brothers after I passed on it. No big. I can pick something up off craigslist or whatever. Insulating this metal cabinet on the inside will turn out like a cluster-phuk, so I'll use it for parts storage and such and save these efforts for an already insulated box. Guess I'll have 2 storage options to fill and heat... so that golden rod might be the better option for the smaller, freezer compartment on top... or maybe both, since a well insulated fridge will hold mellow heat source far better. I'll just scrub the thin out with bleach and rubber gloves and run with it. We'll see how it goes after I get caught up on things later this summer.

And that's why I enjoy discussing project like this and so many others around here. The cumulative knowledge and experience we come up with together around here really is awesome. (y) Shooting the sh!t inbetween is all gravy! ;)
 

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Personally I'd salvage a heating element and make it thermostatically controlled. That way you can set the temperature it keeps it at which will use the least amount of power. Heat lamps IMHO seem horribly inefficient. They create heat as a byproduct, not the primary function. It definately needs insulation as that metal will just radiate any produced heat out.

Also I've never heard of a heated chemical cabinet.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
You'd salvage a heating element from what? I've already got thermostats that monitor and allow or cut power in the grow. They're great for fans and usually combine with humidity setting also... but they are far from cheap or even affordable for a project like this.

Mom called me back, said the step-brother wanted the shop fridge to replace his older one, with a smaller freezer but he'd be happy to give me the old one. I have no idea what it looks like or how it's setup, age, condition or whatever but it was a working unit so it should be in good enough condition to re-purpose for this job. Yay!

Since the setup is "back on", so to speak... I spent the night re-arranging the shop to accommodate. Any of you've that have seen pics of my shop would know, I didn't have room for another cabinet, much less a cabinet and a fridge. It's amazing how much crap a guy can build up in a shop over a dozen years. I may have a hoarding issue. brownbag would have gone here
 

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Congrats on the fridge find. That was fast. Hopefully once you fill the inside of it & the cabinet you'll have more room outside.

I miss :brownbag. I even used to use him as an image in other forums because nothing else said it so well.
 
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