When you buy a home or move into a new place, your living space is almost certainly finished, insulated, and has a ready source of heat. Garages are another matter. Your garage is not subject to the same municipal requirements as the rest of your home, but you may still want to use it during the winter or whether or not it gets chilly.
This leaves you with the not-so-small task of figuring out the best way to heat your garage. There are so many options, where do you even start? Read on for tips and essential information on how to heat a garage.
What to Consider
How Much Heat Do You Need?
The best place to start is just to roughly determine the amount of heat you are looking for from a heating unit. This will be directly related to the size of your garage, insulation, and what your home’s power infrastructure can support.
You will need to measure the space in the garage to get its dimensions, which will give you a ballpark idea of how many BTUs you will need to heat it. BTU stands for British Thermal Units and is the standard measure of heat output that you will need to pay attention to when shopping for heaters, regardless of their physical size. This article will help walk you through the calculations.
Whether or not your garage is insulated also makes a big difference. It is generally recommended that you do insulate your garage well if you want to heat it, simply because it makes everything easier and far less costly.
This is especially true with regards to where you live, another extremely important consideration as someone living on the Canadian border might have a tougher time taking up hobbies out in the garage than someone living in Florida. Nevertheless, if you do want to provide quick heat to an uninsulated garage, you just need to factor that in by increasing the level of heat output you are searching for.
Finally, there is all manner of sizes of heating systems you can install, from the littlest space heater to nearly-commercial grade machinery. But you will want to double-check the types of power requirements to ensure whatever you choose fits in with your house’s capabilities or even local codes and insurance stipulations.
How Fast Vs. How Even Do You Want The Garage Heated?
Some heaters excel in warming up a room (and you) quickly such as forced-air blowers. Others, like the infrared, will heat up much more slowly, however, the room heats more uniformly and will retain heat more easily if there is an interruption like a door opened to the outside.
Initial Cost Vs. Long-Run Costs
Several heating options for garages can be pricey to purchase and install, particularly when heating a large area. Even if they are cheaply acquired, some may eat up a lot of electricity and thus drive up utility bills. Others can be very energy efficient, even to the point of being eco-friendly, although they might cost more upfront.
Striking the right balance of what you can afford outright against what you want to spend monthly on your garage heating will help you when making a determination on how to heat your garage.
Adding heat to your garage can be as simple as inserting a plug into a socket, or installation might entail much more effort. Even with big jobs, it is sometimes still possible to look up DIY instructions if you feel handy and confident. In some circumstances, though, you might find it much easier and beneficial to employ a professional to make sure it is done correctly.
Consider what maintenance is needed or the level of risk that the heating choice you are looking at poses. If you are uninterested in upkeep or worry about potential dangers, you might be in the market for the most user-friendly heating systems.
Convenience/ Special Features
Think about what exactly you want to use the garage for and how much time you are intending to spend out there. Something about one heating element or another may catch your eye that makes it ideal for your space and projects.
Primary Heating Options
The following are some popular choices to heat a garage.
Forced air heat can be connected to your home’s existing ductwork whether it be powered by natural gas or propane. It will heat a room quickly compared to infrared and is cheaper to buy. The forced air predictably will blow air around which can kick up dust and debris. This may be a bit too much of a hassle if you are using your garage for woodworking, for example.
Infrared is a strong alternative to forced air and works very differently. It radiates heat into the environment, heating up objects and the floor, which eventually heats the air. This process is a lot slower; however, once the room is heated, it will stay that way longer if the source is shut off or cool air is allowed in. Also, the heat will be more uniform as it radiates from objects around the room as opposed to warmed air quickly concentrating at the ceiling as is the case with forced air systems.
Infrared can cost up to twice as much as a forced-air system to purchase, but it uses less energy to run, lowering the overall cost difference over time. It’s always smart to read reviews on these infrared space heaters to help you know which one to get.
Ductless systems are like regular HVAC in that they heat or cool air from outside, but they are less bulky and simpler to install. There is one outside part connected by a single conduit to the interior unit. They are sometimes referred to as split systems or multi-split systems.
Ductless heating and cooling also happen to be one of the most energy-efficient options to heat your garage, which makes it among the most economical and eco-friendly as well.
This electric space heater is similar to portable space heaters but with more capacity. You need to mount it to a wall and hardwire it into your home’s electric grid. You can install it yourself, but you may find it easier to ask a professional to do it, even though it is easier than installing a forced-air system.
Electric panels may be a good option for you if you care about the image and do not want a bulky heating appliance cluttering up your garage. Electric ceiling heating is composed of ceiling panels that are an inch thick, and they are able to both heat up and cool down rapidly.
Propane heaters, whether portable or in the wall, provide pretty much instant heat due to the fuel source. Like most heating options on this list, you can choose among a wide range of sizes and find a version to fit your needs or, at the very least, your pocketbook.
Convection heaters work by drawing air over a heating element. They come in a variety of sizes and fuel types, including ones powered by natural gas, propane, or electricity. A larger convection heater may warm a room quickly but those on the smaller side may take a little while to get everything up to a comfortable temperature.
Installing a wood stove into your garage may be one of the most economical choices available to you, however, it may also be one that demands the most attention. Wood stoves require some maintenance, such as cleaning out the flue periodically, to prevent fire or risk of gas poisoning.
Because they can be more dangerous than other conventional heating methods, they are more likely to be regulated or cause trouble with insurance policies. So you may want to do your research on your local ordinances and your own policy before deciding to invest in one.
Portable Space Heater
We are all generally familiar with electric portable space heaters. They range in size and BTU output just as the others but their upper limits cannot quite match those of larger, more powerful systems.
Their portability and ease of use make them popular, but they may not be up to the task of heating a garage all by themselves. That is why they may better serve as a supplemental/additional source of heat to another more permanent source.
Like portable space heaters, floor heating setups are excellent supplemental heat options. You might also use them as a sole source of heat in a garage, but it could get pretty expensive to your electric bill.
Floor heat is especially convenient for workers or hobbyists that need to get down on the ground to get things done. Mechanics, in particular, might be very thankful to have this available.
How can I heat my garage cheaply?
Portable space heaters are the most inexpensive to purchase upfront, but heating from sources that use electricity will generally cost more than those that use other fuel types. Infrared is an exception. It is expensive to install but it does not use that much power while running. The same can be said of ductless heaters.
Heaters using natural gas, LP gas, or propane can be cheaper than electric-powered options, but you will still need to continuously purchase fuel.
The cheapest option may be the wood stove, assuming you can get your wood for free. If you need to buy wood, that could make it more comparable to other options depending on the price you pay for the fuel.
Regardless of your choice of heaters, investing in good insulation initially will significantly decrease the costs of heating your garage long-term.
What is the most efficient way to heat a garage?
Infrared heating is generally agreed upon to be the most efficient way to heat a garage. It uses a relatively low amount of power to heat the same area compared to other heaters.
How much does it cost to have a heated garage?
For an electric source of heat, you will need to know how many kilowatts it uses, what your kilowatt-per-hour cost is, and multiply that by the number of hours you plan to run your heater. An example might be:
“That 5000-watt heater uses 5kw per hour so at 13 cents each the electric will be 65 cents per hour and if you run it all day it will cost you 15.6 bucks.”
Similar calculations can be made by looking at the specs for propane heaters, for example. Determine how many hours of fuel you have per tank at a particular setting, which will tell you how many tanks you need for a given number of hours, then multiply by the cost per tank.
Should you heat your garage in winter?
If you spend little time in your garage during winter, only using it for storage and parking your cars, it may not be worth going into too much trouble to heat your garage.
However, if you use it for business or fun and would like to spend a couple of hours or more at a time in your garage during winter, you will probably find it well worth your while to keep yourself comfortable with some kind of heating. How much depends on what you determine is best for you and your garage!