It gets pretty cold where I live and there’s no chance of me spending any time in the garage without heating. I enjoy not being hypothermic.
Hence, it’s important for me to have an effective heating solution for my garage.
So what’s the best way to heat a garage in winter?
1. Install Better Insulation
While this may not be a direct way to heat the garage, it’s the best way to keep it warm. Retaining heat in the winter is just as important as generating it in your home.
It cuts down on the overall operating cost of the heater, and it also helps you make more efficient use of power.
Heating and cooling are responsible for nearly 50%-70% of the energy use in the average American home. The garage is one of the least energy-efficient rooms in the house. Hence, if it’s not insulated, you’ll get extremely high energy bills.
Insulation includes sealing cracks in the walls and insulating your doors and windows.
This also includes getting some insulation inside the walls of the garage.
Here is a useful guide that can walk you through the various types of insulation you can use in the garage.
As far as the cost is concerned, this isn’t something that is going to get done in $100 and within 20 minutes.
The initial cost might break your bank. However, the payoff is amazing.
According to estimates, a well-insulated home can save nearly $1,400 in heating bills each year.
2. Electric Space Heater/Mounted
Indoor space or mounted heaters are very common heaters used in homes. However, to get one for the garage, you need to plan carefully. The main pros and cons are outlined below.
A space heater saves a lot of money since it only heats the place where it is placed.
It does so through convection and thus makes sure the room stays heated for a long time.
The system also uses much less energy than HVAC systems which run at the same temperature. You can also turn down the thermostat and the heater will still keep the room heated.
The dangers of this system, however, are well-known.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 25000 house fires are started by space heaters annually.
They are also responsible for 300 deaths and 6000 burn-related emergency room visits each year. This presents a huge health hazard for installation in the garage.
Garages are usually very crowded and any fire can cause catastrophic damage to the car and the house.
Hence, you’ll need to run the heater only when you’re in the room or keep it away from flammable objects. Either way, it requires constant vigilance to run this in enclosed spaces.
It’s a bad option for it to be installed in the garage.
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3. Install a Ductless Mini-Split System
Ductless, mini-split systems are very practical in residential homes. They allow for the expansion of temperature control into rooms that don’t have ducts.
These systems are ideal for rooms where adding ducts isn’t feasible as well.
They’re also very flexible in terms of design and they include an auto-clean feature so that any ductless indoor units get triple filtration. This reduces a lot of moisture and keeps the air bacteria-free.
This means that your garage won’t just be heated, but it’ll be mildew and rust-free.
They’re small in size and can be zoned so that they are capable of heating small rooms and large rooms. They are also easy to install, requiring small holes in the wall.
However, they cost nearly 30% more than forced-air equipment and they require a lot of sizing to properly install.
4. Add Radiant Heating
Adding radiant heating to your home will provide good support to your heating system. However, it’s not good enough to heat your home or your garage on its own.
Radiant heat will warm the air directly and not simply heat through convection. It will also immediately warm the air in a room, but it will also immediately cool down when shut off.
No ductwork is required and there is a potential for 30% smaller heating bills than forced air systems.
Without ductwork, there is a greater possibility that you will have better air quality in your home. There is also the pro of vertical heat distribution throughout the room.
It can cost nearly $6 to $15 per sq ft to install. This is great for a small area like the garage.
However, it’s not ideal for the entire home. This is why it’s only a great addition, not a permanent solution.
5. Electric Forced-Air Heater
Forced air heaters are quite common today. The most common one is the furnace.
However, they’re very inefficient when it comes to heating a garage.
You will be able to quickly heat it, yes. However, without proper insulation, cold drafts will immediately cool it down.
While the forced air heating system costs less than the radiant heating system, it will require a duct system.
It will, however, cost much less than a heat pump for a garage.
6. Natural Gas Fan Forced
Natural Gas fan-forced heaters or convection heaters work to heat the room through convection.
They force warm air from the source to circulate throughout the room. Hence, this improves the rate at which the room is heated. They usually cost less than radiant heaters as well.
However, these machines act in response to moving air. They don’t respond well to intruding drafts or cold air.
Hence, if a garage is opened or not well insulated, it may lose most of the heat circulating through it.
Another con of the machine is if its fan fails, then it will require immediate repairs.
It won’t function well at all without it. Any objects near the heater can block the airflow; hence it needs open space to work well.
That can be hard to come by in a garage.
7. Natural Gas Radiant
Natural gas radiant heaters or infrared heaters basically create heat that is similar to that from the sun. It’s not visible in the spectrum that we see. If you want to know how to heat a garage cheaply, then go for these heaters.
They provided instant heat and provide a steady stream of power from the source.
Since they just radiate heat, they’re silent.
They’re great for noise-sensitive environments and they’re also great for closed environments like garages. They’re also very efficient and environmentally friendly.
Some only use 300 W of power and nearly 100% of the heat energy is transferred to the surroundings.
The maintenance of radiant heaters is also minimal. However, safety is an issue.
The coils of the infrared heaters get very hot and they can present a hazard.
Another con is that they also stop heating as soon as they’re turned off.
With other heaters, you at least get the residual heat from the source when they’re off.
8. Ductless Heating and Cooling
The biggest advantage of a ductless system is that it’s very easy to install.
You can get a qualified technician to do the job for you or you can do it yourself. It’s also environmentally friendly. It uses the R-22 refrigerant which is classified as non-ozone depleting.
According to the Dept. of Energy, they use 60% less energy than traditional systems. Hence, they’re also very efficient.
The upfront investment for a ductless heating system can be up to $5,000.
This means that it’s out of range for many middle-class Americans. Hence, it’s not suitable for most consumers. Then comes the maintenance cost.
The ducts tend to get crowded with dust and the separate components can cost loads to replace.
9. In-Floor Heat
The in-floor heating system uses upward convection to heat the home. The floor tiles are set to a certain temperature (usually above 85F). They can be controlled by a thermostat.
This is a great way to heat the garage.
This is provided that you control the temperature enough not to overheat the tires. The several pros to this include next to no maintenance and uniform heating all over the garage.
This system is also very energy efficient, 25% more so than forced air systems. The cost of the project can be as much as $10 to $20 per square foot depending on your purchase.
The cost of electricity in your area will determine the total cost of operation.
However, there aren’t many cons to this system.
It may be the best and cheapest way to heat a garage on this list.
10. Add a Propane/Kerosene Heater
Kerosene and propane heaters are similar in operation.
They can heat rooms measuring 1000-1500 sq ft for temperatures around 30F-40F.
They provide about 23000 BTUs of heat within a minute of operation. Since these heaters are often portable, they can provide great utility as a garage heating source.
They’re also very cost-effective. The cost of kerosene is in the single digits per gallon. With 2 gallons you can heat a whole home for 12 hours. It’ll do very well for your garage.
The cons of these heaters, however, are ones that directly apply to a garage.
Since there is very little ventilation in the garage, these heaters will fill it with Carbon monoxide.
That coupled with the maintenance and daily re-fueling can make a kerosene or propane heater a hassle and health hazard.
Here’s an article where we tested the best propane heaters for garages.
11. Electric Ceiling Panels
Radiant ceiling panels provide natural sunlight to a room. They look like regular ceiling panels but are lit.
While they have a small carbon footprint and are easy to install, they carry their share of pros and cons.
They’re also very energy efficient and provide adequate heating to the garage. However, they don’t normally offer enough heating required if you live in very cold areas.
If you combine good insulation with electric ceiling panels then you have a good chance of keeping a temperate garage.
However, in sub-zero temperatures, this option isn’t very viable.
12. Wood Burning Stove for Cheap Heat
Wooden stoves are an archaic way of heating your home. However, many people still use them due to the renewable fuel of biomass. The initial cost is quite high, however.
Modern wooden stoves can cost anywhere from $1,700 to $3,000.
For those that want to know how to heat a garage without electricity, this is a great option. However, even if you think that you can afford it, know that it requires more manual labor than the others.
You need to lug the wooden pellets with you to the stove every time. It’ll also track a lot of dirt and bark around the house. The fire also requires a lot of checking.
Not to mention the fact that you’ll need to install a chimney for ventilation inside your garage.
All in all, this is a terrible option to heat your garage.
If you stick to this list, you’ll be able to find the best way to heat a garage in the winter. These aren’t just ranked in terms of efficiency, but in terms of cost as well.
Hence, you’ll be able to make informed choices on how to heat a garage in winter.