The Ultimate Buyers Guide to Garage Heaters:
How to Stay Warm and Protect Your Gear When It Gets Cold

Published: June, 2022

The garage has become more of an extension of the living and working area of our house particularly with COVID, but it frequently has poor insulation and no heating. So as the cold weather hits, it is not usually the place you want to hang out (despite being the home to many projects and hobbies that people love doing there). Garage heating can help to keep you more comfortable and better able to safely function whilst also protecting your car and other equipment when it gets really cold. In this guide, we will discuss the different types of garage heaters available and give you all the background information you need so you work out what will best suit your needs.

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What are 8 Benefits of Garage Heaters?

Garage heating to use a gym

We’ve written in detail about the benefits of garage heating and how they can open up the options you have in how you can safely and comfortably use your garage. In a nutshell, the benefits of garage heaters are:

  1. Greater comfort and safety when completing vehicle maintenance, repairs and projects in garage workshops.
  2. Flexibility to repurpose extra space in the garage for work and hobbies such as home offices, man-caves and art studios.
  3. Ability to use your garage gym year round with better comfort and safety.
  4. Easier to start your car with prolonged battery life.
  5. Helps prevent condensation which can cause rust and damage to tools and sensitive equipment.
  6. Less prone to aches and pains and joint stiffness from being in cold environments.
  7. Allows an extra fridge and/ or freezer to be used in the garage in cold temperatures.
  8. A warmer garage can have a positive impact on the temperatures in other parts of the house.

Let’s jump into more information about garage heaters so you can start to work out what will best suit you.

How do Garage Heaters Work?

There are two main ways that garage heaters work:

  • Heat the space by radiating heat to create warmer air. This means that people (and objects in the space around it), will also be warmed. Warm air will dissipate around your garage. These heaters tend to run on gas.
  • Warm the person, not the space. These heaters direct heat on the target so whatever is in the path of the heat will become warm. This means that if you are sitting at a work bench with the heater directed towards you, you’ll be warm but the air and people around you will be cold. These are infrared garage heaters which tend to run on electricity.

The best garage heater that will work for you will depend on what you intend to use it for, the fuel sources available and whether it will be fixed or portable. This guide is designed to give you background information to help make these choices.

What Fuel do Garage Heaters Run With?

These are the major fuels that garage heaters use:

  • Natural Gas Garage Heater – If you’re looking for a powerful and efficient garage heater, natural gas is a great option. They can provide a lot of heat very quickly. Professional installation is required into your natural gas line.The purchase price of a natural gas garage heater may be greater than other fuel sources and you should factor in the cost of installation on top of that. However, they are cheaper to run than electric heaters and other options, and so long as your gas supply is reliable, they will provide garage heating you can depend on.Natural gas heaters require proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide buildup, so be sure to have adequate ventilation installed in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. A carbon monoxide sensor with an alarm should be installed as a safety precaution in your garage to detect any build-up of carbon monoxide which is deadly.
  • Propane Garage Heaters – Another popular option for garage heating is propane. Propane heaters are similar to natural gas heaters in terms of power and efficiency, but they are not as widely available.Propane-powered heaters can be installed on a home’s propane line if you have one. Otherwise individual tanks of propane can be purchased that must be refilled periodically. This requirement lacks the convenience of being able to turn on a natural gas or electric garage heater but with planning ahead, you can get around this.

    Propane heaters are a great option for those who want the power of natural gas without the hassle of installation. Propane garage heaters require ventilation of any fumes so there is not a safety risk to you or your family and a carbon monoxide sensor with alarm is recommended.

  • Electric Garage Heaters – If you’re looking for an easy-to-use and maintain garage heater, electric is the way to go. Electric heaters are clean and easy to operate, and they can be plugged into standard electrical outlets. Different models can be mounted onto your wall or used as a portable heater.Electric heaters are typically more expensive to operate than gas-powered models. Additionally, electric heaters may not be as powerful as gas-powered models, so they may not be ideal for larger garages.

    When considering electric heaters, you should consider the power output which is measured in watts. The higher the number of watts, the more powerful the heater will be and the more expensive it is to run.

What are the Different Types of Garage Heaters?

When you start to research garage heaters, you’ll find there are lots of different models out there but not a lot of information about the differences between them. These are the main types of garage heaters:

Forced Air Garage Heaters

Forced air garage heaters draw in cold air, warm it and then blow out the warm air via a fan helping to evenly distribute it throughout your garage space. As they use a fan, if you are working on projects where you do not want dust or shavings (eg. from timber or metals) to be circulated, they are not an ideal option.

Forced air garage heaters tend to run with natural gas so require professional installation into your natural gas line. Some models operate on propane so require propane tanks or connection to your propane line if you have one.

Forced air heaters are more permanent and require installation via mounting on your ceiling or wall and this cost should be factored into your budget. As they have a fan, they are ideal for heating larger areas.

They may also produce fumes and as your garage is enclosed, there should be ventilation to exhaust the fumes (including dangerous carbon monoxide) from the heater. A carbon monoxide sensor is a good safety precaution – as carbon monoxide is odourless, you will receive no warning otherwise that the gas could be accumulating in your garage.

The constant running of a fan in air forced garage heaters means there is likely to be background noise. Some people find they can be noisy, but there are many different models available with varying levels of noise. If noise is a concern for you, be sure to look for a model with a low noise level reflected by the decibel level.

Radiant Garage Heaters

Radiant garage heaterRadiant heaters direct heat outward in the direction where the heater is pointed. This results in objects and people being heated in this area they are directed.

Radiant heat warms the person rather than the space so if your work is located in a specific area of the garage (eg. at a workbench), they will immediately warm you and anything else in the direction of the heat. If you are moving around other areas of the garage away from where the radiant garage heating is pointing, you’ll feel cold.

Radiant heaters do not have a fan and therefore do not circulate dust particles so could be a good option for activities in your garage including woodwork and art.

Infrared Garage Heaters

Infrared garage heaterIf you’re looking for a powerful and efficient garage heater, an infrared model is a great option. Infrared heaters emit waves of heat that are absorbed by objects in the room, providing targeted warmth. Infrared heaters are very efficient and can often be found with remote control operation. However, they can be more expensive than other types of garage heaters.

Infrared heaters can be either mounted or portable and are available in electricity, natural gas or propane. Selecting the appropriate size for your use will help to ensure your needs are met.

Convection Garage Heaters

Convection garage heaterThese heaters include water filled radiators (also called hydronic garage heater) and oil-filled radiators.  A heating element or enclosed flame warms the air, and as hot air rises, the heat dissipates throughout the garage.

These convection heaters lack a fan and therefore take a while for the garage to be heated. The heat is more gentle than the bursts you may feel through forced air or radiant heaters. As the oil or water retains the heat, the garage can continue to feel warm after the heater is turned off.

Convection heaters tend to be one of the more affordable types of garage heaters. They are effective at heating larger garages over longer periods if you select the right size heater for your garage size. As some models are portable, installation may not be required as is necessary with natural gas heaters.  Other models (such as baseboard convection heaters) should be mounted.

Garage Space Heaters

Garage space heaters.Space heaters are a good option if you only need to heat a small area or if you want a portable model to be able to move the heater around as needed in any area of your garage. They are great for providing targeted heat to a specific area such as your workbench or desk. These heaters come in both electric and gas-powered models. Electric space heaters are more convenient.

Garage Heating Safety Features

It’s important you consider the safety features in garage heaters. These are the most common ones you should look for:

  • Built-in tip-over switches that shut off the heater if it tips over. These switches can prevent fires and other accidents.
  • Built-in oxygen sensors that shut off the heater if the level of oxygen in the room gets too low. This is an important safety feature for those who work in their garage often.
  • Cool touch heater exteriors are typically made of fibreglass or plastic, so the outside of the heater stays cool even when the heater is working. If you are using portable garage heaters or there is the chance you may touch or bump into them when working in the garage (or if you have pets or children in the area), these are a good safety option.
  • Overheating protection occurs when the heater senses high temperatures and it turns itself off, preventing damage to the heater or to the garage.

Other Garage Heater Features to Look For

There’s a few features you may come across when researching garage heaters. These may add extra cost to your heater but bring extra you extra functionality which you may find beneficial.

  • Adjustable thermostat – Adjustable thermostats allow you to set the temperature of your garage to the perfect level, ensuring that you’re always comfortable. The heater will kick in and operate to keep the temperature at what you have set on the thermostat. An adjustable thermostat can help save on energy costs by turning the heater down when it’s not needed.
  • Remote Control – Remote controls give you the flexibility to turn the garage heater on and off, adjust the temperature and in some instances change the direction of the air flow.

Garage heater safetySafe Use of Garage Heaters

In addition to the safety features in garage heaters, there are many aspects you should consider for their safe use to protect people and property.

  • Plan out the location of the garage heater relative to the task or the purpose for the heater before you make a decision on the kind that is most suitable. Assess any potential risks including trip hazards from power cords. Ensure there will be adequate space for you to move around without the heater obstructing the floor space or work area creating a risk of knocking into it.
  • Turn off the heater when you aren’t in the garage using it.
  • Leave at least three feet of clearance between the unit and any other objects in your garage including curtains.
  • Ensure that any heaters requiring installation (natural gas heaters) are professionally installed.
  • Have ventilation professionally installed for gas garage heaters.
  • Supervise kids and pets when they’re in the garage and near the heater. If you have children or pets, wall or ceiling mounted heaters which are out of their reach are a safer option.
  • Don’t block the vents on the heater.
  • Disconnect the heater from the power source before cleaning or maintaining it.
  • Make sure that freestanding or portable units are positioned on a flat surface free from obstacles so they do not tip over.
  • If you have an electric garage heater, plug it directly into an outlet instead of into an extension cord.
  • Ensure that the electrical supply you have in the garage is adequate for electric garage heaters if you are going with this option and that you do not overload the powerpoints.

What Size Garage Heater do I Need?

When choosing a garage heater, one of the most important factors to consider is the size of the unit that will heat the garage.

The heat output from gas heaters (natural has and propane) are typically measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. The higher the BTU rating, the larger the area the heater can heat. To determine the size of heater you need, measure the square footage of your garage and multiply by 30. This will give you a rough estimate of the BTUs you need to heat your space.

The heat output from electric heaters is measured in wattage. The higher the wattage, the more heat the heater produces.

Rather than just choosing garage heaters with the highest heat output thinking they will do the job better for you, consider what is appropriate based on the size of your garage.

You can use the following guidelines for what sized heater will suit your garage:

  • Single-car garages up to 450 square feet – electric heater of 2,000 to 3,000 watts or gas heater with 6,800 to 9,000 BTUs.
  • Two-car garages between 450–700 square feet – electric 3,600 to 7,000 watts or gas heating 12,000 to 24,000 BTUs.
  • Three or more car garages – electric heater of 7,000 to 9,000 watts or gas heating of 24,000 to 31,000 BTUs.

What Should you do Before you Consider Garage Heating?

If your garage is uninsulated and has draughts, the introduction of garage heating is going to result in significant inefficiencies and power usage. Before you consider garage heating, consider these steps first:

  • Can you add insulation to your existing garage walls or ceiling? To avoid removing the drywall, spray foam insulation or injection foam insulation are two options to consider.
  • Consider insulation to the garage door. Depending on the number of cars your garage can accommodate, you can expect that your garage door will be approximately 30% of the surface area of the walls, Insulating this will reduce the transfer of cold indoors (as well as hope to prevent heat getting in with extreme hot weather).
  • Check the seals in your doors and windows and if there are draughts, use weather strips to stop the air flow.
  • Consider insulating your windows with window film if they are not double glazed to reduce transfer of hot/ cold air through the windows inside and outside your garage.

How to Instal Garage Heating

The installation method for your heating will depend on the type of heating you choose.

Portage garage heaters that run off electricity only need to be positioned in a suitable location with access to a power point. Make sure the area around them is clear and that you are not at risk of knocking over the heating when working in the garage.

Wall and ceiling-mounted heaters may or may not come with the mounting brackets. Check the manufacturer’s instructions and if these are being connected to natural gas, they will need to be installed by a gas plumber. Also ensure that you are aware of the requirements for venting and that this is installed for gas heating to prevent the build-up of deadly carbon monoxide which is odorless.

Where to Mount a Garage Heater – The ideal location for a ceiling or wall mounted heater is in the coldest corner of the garage. The heater should be directed towards the center of the garage. If you are mounting ceiling units, they should be positioned at least 24 inches from the walls so that the risk of fire is reduced. The manufacturer’s instructions should be followed for installation.

Steps to Choosing the Best Garage Heater to Suit your Needs

  1. Before deciding on the type of heating, consider the steps you can take to improve insulation and reduce the draughts in the garage which will help any heater work more efficiently and save you money on power.
  2. Identify what you want to use your heater for – is it to keep people warm when in the garage or to increase the temperature to help your car start or prevent tools from rusting.
  3. Consider how cold it gets in the garage and what temperature you would want the garage to be. You could consider the kind of activity you will be undertaking here. For example, if you use a gym in the garage, you will want to reduce the chill in the air but not have the temperature get too warm as you will be physically active. Conversly, if the activity you complete is more sedentary and requires concentration such as office work or art, you may want a warmer temperature to help your productivity, creativity and focus.
  4. Consider the options you have available for the fuel source for your garage heating – gas, electricity or other.
  5. Based on the planned usage, do you want the space or people to be heated? Heating of the space will give you the flexibility to move around and work in the garage and still feel warm. Whilst f you are completing activity in a smaller area of the garage, it may be sufficient that radiant or infrared heaters are directed  towards the person heating them and having them feel warm.
  6. Identify how much heat you need. How big is the space in the garage you want to hear and how cold does the garage get?  Bigger garages and colder starting temperatures will require more powerful garage heaters and gas heaters will warm the garage more efficiently.
  7. Based on your budget and having made decisions on the above points, consider what heaters will best suit you.

How Our Reviews Help you Choose the Best Garage Heaters

With so many options available for garage heaters and with the needs of people being so diverse, we conduct detailed reviews of garage heating across a range of categories. These will help you narrow down your search and make the decision of what suits you easier so you can choose the best garage heater to suit your needs so you can work more comfortably and to better protect the belongings you store there from cold temperatures.

FAQs for Garage Heaters

How much do garage heaters cost?

The price of garage heaters varies depending on the power source and the amount of power and you can expect to pay the following ballpark costs:

  • Electric heaters – $100-$400
  • Natural gas garage heaters – $400-$800
  • Propane garage heaters – $150-$450

There is also professional installation required for natural gas heaters as well as venting and this should be considered when you are determining your budget for garage heating. If you are hardwiring electrical heaters, these should also be professional installed by a licensed electrician.

What type of heater is best suited for a garage?

The best type of heater for the garage depends on your needs. Natural gas or propane heaters are well suited to larger garages where you are looking to warm the space as they have a higher heating capacity. For smaller garages, an electric heater may be a safer and more suitable option.  

What type of garage heater is most energy efficient?

The efficiency of garage heating is difficult to determine as it is influenced by the price of power and how much power is extracted based on the energy used. Electric infrared heater are very efficient but due to the higher cost of electricity, may be more expensive to operate than natural gas heaters. Ideally, you will also consider what size heater you really need – buying one’s that are too big for your garage size or the function you plan to use them for, will result in inefficiency.

Can an electric garage heater run off my usual power supply?

You should consider the voltage of the electrical outlets you have in your garage and the load required for any electric garage heater you are looking at. Some garages have a 120-volt outlet which is the same that you have in your home. However, some garage heaters require a 240-volt outlet. In this case, you’ll need to upgrade your electrical outlets to suit this load and get a 240-volt circuit breaker fitted for additional safety. 

Also, be wary that you are using an electric heater on the same electrical circuit assay a power tool, you may overload the circuit.


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