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Shop talk

Todd Intermill’s shop isn’t the biggest or fanciest you’ll ever see. But it might be one of the most comfortable and functional.

The 36-by-56-foot shop, located near Colman, S.D., is totally climate-controlled. The air temperature stays at 55 degrees F in the winter and 72 degrees F in the summer. The humidity never gets above 50%.

Intermill heats, air-conditions and dehumidifies the shop with an air-source heat pump and a backup electric furnace. He spends about $650 a year on utilities.

Key Points

South Dakota farmer proves a shop doesn’t have to be big to be good.

His farm shop is energy-efficient and climate-controlled.

Well-defined work areas and mobile tools improve the use of shop space.


The key to the system is the air-source heat pump, an appliance that works like a refrigerator, but can also work in reverse and serve as a furnace. It transfers the heat from the outside air to the inside air, even when the air outside is colder than the air inside.

Passive solar energy helps heat the shop, too, and a small electric furnace provides auxiliary heat on the coldest winter days. The combination “is more efficient and a lot more comfortable than in-floor heat,” Intermill says.

Started designing young

Intermill is something of a self-taught shop design expert. He started drawing shop plans when he was in high school.

“Some kids draw airplanes,” he says. “I drew shops.”

He helped build shops for relatives and neighbors. He’s visited dozens of shops over the years and made special trips to see unique facilities when planning his own building. Intermill says he learned something from each project.

“When I built my shop, I didn’t give myself an unlimited construction budget, so I couldn’t just build a big shop,” he says. “I had to make the space as functional as possible.”

The shop has many unique construction and organizational features.

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CLEAN SWEEP: Todd Intermill sweeps water and dust to the central drain in his shop. He designed the shop to be extremely energy-efficient and functional.

This article published in the November, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.