Are you always in your garage in the summer fixing, building, and designing things, but when winter sets in, the space turns into an ice box that’s no fun to spend time in? If you often find yourself wishing you could spend more time in your garage (or even just if your car struggles to start in the morning) you could do with a garage heater.
But what is the best heater for your garage? There are so many options available, which makes it hard to choose. If you’re considering a garage heater, ask yourself the following questions.
Do I really need a garage heater?
Installing a garage heater may sound like luxury rather than a necessity, and, depending on where you live and what you use your garage for, you might not even need one.
However, if you experience any of the following issues, a garage heater could be just the solution you’re looking for:
If your car struggles to start in the morning, it might be because your garage is too cold. Extreme temperatures can harm your car’s battery and cause other mechanical issues. According to AccuWeather, cold weather can damage your car in lots of ways. It can cause your battery to die, fluids to thicken, and even weaken the reliability of your spark plugs. Keeping your car in a warmer garage can help you avoid all of these issues.
You’re likely storing some DIY appliances like power tools and generators in your garage. Exposure to cold temperatures can harm these in the same way it harms your car. To ensure all your appliances work properly, you should store them in a heated garage.
Discomfort while working
One of the main reasons people invest in garage heaters is so that they can keep working in the space throughout the winter months. If your garage feels like an igloo when winter rolls around but you’d like to keep working in it, a garage heater could sort you out.
Once you’ve decided that you definitely need a heater, you will need to answer the following questions before you can go out and buy one.
What type of heater do I want?
Garage heaters come in two main types: gas (natural or propane) and electric. Both of these will get the job done, but which one will be best for you will depend on your unique circumstances.
Gas heaters can generally heat garages of any size––some gas heaters can even heat spaces as large as 4,500 square feet. The fuel for a gas heater might also be more cost effective in the long run, especially if you are already using gas to heat your home. However, some people do feel concerned about the safety of gas garage heaters.
If you decide to go with a gas heater, you’ll have to choose between a natural gas or propane-fuelled heater. You’ll also need to decide if you want to go with a fan-forced or infrared heater.
If you already have natural gas piped in your neighborhood, a natural gas heater is a good option, whereas, if you live in an area where natural gas is not available, you should go with a propane gas heater, as this type of fuel can be stored in a tank.
Once you know what type of fuel you’ll use, you need to decide between a fan-forced or an infrared heater. As explained by The Family Handyman, a forced-air heater will blow warm air into your garage (like a conventional furnace) while an infrared tube heater will radiate heat.
Both types of gas heaters can efficiently heat your garage, but it’s important to remember that infrared heaters heat objects and people rather than the air in the garage so if you’ll be working far away from the heater you might not feel as much heat.
An electric garage heater works by converting electric energy into heat using a resistor, which is usually a wire and ceramic coil.
Electric heaters also come in fan-forced and infrared varieties that work similarly to their gas counterparts. A fan-forced electric heater will draw in cold air from your garage and then blow it out once the heating element has warmed it. A radiant or infrared heater will use electricity to produce heat that it will then direct toward nearby objects, similar to how the sun works.
If you want quick, clean heat (no fumes) that can easily be adjusted using a thermostat, an electric heater is the way to go. Electric heaters are generally better for smaller spaces of up to 500 square feet. Electric heaters are also considered safer than gas, and are easier to move around as they don’t have to be connected to a gas line or cylinder. However, extensive use of an electric heater can push up your electricity bill significantly.
What size heater do I need?
To determine what size heater you need you first need to know the size of your garage. If you place a small portable heater in a large garage, you’ll barely feel a difference. Similarly if you install a huge heater in a too small space you’ll soon find yourself opening windows to let some hot air out, which defeats the purpose of getting a heater in the first place.
This article by Newair explains how to choose the right size heater for your garage. The first thing you need to know is that the energy output of electric and gas heaters are measured differently. Gas heaters uses BTUs (British Thermal Units), which is the amount of energy needed to heat one cubic foot of water by one degree. Electric heaters, on the other hand, use watts. Watts measure the rate of energy transfer and are defined as one joule per second.
Generally you will need about 10 watts to heat one square foot of space. One watt is equal to about 3.41 BTU, which means you’ll need about 34 BTUs to heat one square foot.
However, you need to keep in mind other factors, like height of your ceiling, degree of insulation, and desired temperature rise, that will impact this calculation. Sounds too complicated? No need to stress – you can use this BTU calculator to find the right sized heater for your garage.
Once you know what type and size heater you want, you can start looking at potential products. Here are five options we’d recommend:
This is a strong, industrial-looking electric heater that produces 2,500–5,000 watts of energy. It can be mounted vertically or horizontally using its built-in ceiling mount brackets. Once mounted you can easily adjust the louvers to direct the heat to where you want it. This heater will cost you around $260.
Things we liked:
- The heater is really easy to mount and install – this means you won’t have to pay for installation as you can probably do it yourself and it shouldn’t take you more than an hour or two.
- It’s very quiet, which means that it won’t disturb you while you’re working.
- It’s efficient––this heater produces heat rather quickly and will have your space (even a larger garage) feeling toasty in no time.
Things we didn’t like:
- While the heater can be switched to output 2,500 watts (instead of 5,000) doing this is not an easy process – there is no simple switch to flip. You have to take the heater apart and rewire it.
- Because of the heater being so powerful, if you keep it running for long periods of time you could sit with a rather large energy bill at the end of the month.
This is a smaller electric heater that uses a quartz infrared heating element to produce 750–1500 watts of heat. The unit can be mounted to the wall or ceiling and comes with overheat protection, so you don’t have to worry about leaving it running all day. At a price of around $70 this could be the perfect solution for you if you want some extra heat in a smaller space.
What we liked:
- The heater is easy to mount and the mounting bolts are included when you buy it. In addition, once mounted the heater can be tilted 45 degrees in each direction, making it easier to direct the heat to where you want it.
- It heats up fast. Once switched on you’ll start feeling a difference within 30 minutes.
What we didn’t like:
- The heater is turned on and off with a pull cord that isn’t very durable. With extensive use this cord might fray or break, making it difficult to operate the heater.
- You cannot use this heater to heat your entire garage as it uses infrared and will only heat objects close to it.
If you’re looking for a compact, affordable gas heater, this is the one. Selling for around $80, the heater can produce heat of 4,000 or 9,000 BTU––enough to heat a garage up to 225 square feet in size. This portable propane heater is approved for indoor use with safety features like auto shut-off if the heater is tipped over or if it detects low oxygen levels.
Things we liked:
- It has no smell. Unlike some other gas heaters, you will not smell the gas it’s burning.
- It is safe – because of the heater’s safety features you can use it indoors without worrying about setting fire to your garage.
Things we didn’t like:
- You may find the heater difficult to light, especially the first few times you do it. Due to the angle of the ceramic it needs to be on a flat surface to ignite the propane easily.
- It could melt the surface it stands on. This is not necessarily a con as it means the heater is producing a lot of warmth, but we don’t recommend placing it on a plastic floor guard, for example. You also shouldn’t put anything on top of the heater as it could burn.
This is a powerful forced-air propane heater that can heat spaces of up to 1,350 square feet. The heater has a easy-lift carrying handle and you can adjust the heat angle. It also has a tip-over switch-off safety feature and a back pressure switch. Retailing between $100 and $150, it’s on the more expensive side, but you get what you pay for in terms of heating power.
What we liked:
- The heater is really easy to set up; you can get it up and running in less than 10 minutes.
- It is very efficient, it can heat a double garage in about 15 minutes.
- The heater is small enough to move around easily.
What we didn’t like:
- This heater is quite heavy on its propane use, so we’d recommend hooking it up to a larger tank or only turning it on for shorter periods of time.
- The heater emits a faint propane smell when in use. This might not bother everyone, but if you’re sensitive to smell it could be a problem.
If you’re looking for a natural gas heater to warm up a two to three car garage, this could be the product for you. The 25,000 BTU heater can heat up to 625 square feet. The unit, which sells for around $250, comes fully assembled so all you need to do is hook it up to your natural gas line. As this is a radiant heater, it will only heat up the objects/people in your garage and not the air itself.
What we liked:
- This unit comes with its own thermostat, so all you have to do is set your desired temperature and the unit will regulate itself.
- The unit’s kit contains a how-to video that takes you through the process of setting it up.
- Because this heater doesn’t blow air it is silent and won’t blow dust around in your garage.
What we didn’t:
- The heater does emit a natural gas smell, which means you’ll probably need to keep a garage window partly open and could let unnecessary cold air in.
- Because this is an infrared heater it will only really warm you up if you are close to it, rather than heating the entire space.
When buying a garage heater, there are a lot of factors to consider, all of which will influence what the right product for you will be. If you have a significant budget and want efficient no-fuss heating, you’ll probably be best off going with an electric forced-air unit like the Fahrenheit.
But, if you’re budget is a bit more tight and you only really need to heat a two-car garage and infrared heater like the Optimus H-9010 if you prefer electricity or the Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy if you want to use propane.
Alternatively if you want to make use of your house’s existing natural gas line to power your heater, the Mr. Heater MH25NG is a great choice.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide: electricity, propane, or natural gas? Infrared or forced air? Once you have the answers to these questions, finding the ideal heater is not hard at all.
Decided on a unit and wondering about what the installation will entail? If you’re going with natural gas, Do it Yourself article will take you through the process, step-by-step. Or, if you’re getting an electric heater, check out this article. Happy installing!