The Most Efficient Ways to Heat a Garage During Winter

Date: January 14, 2020

When it comes to the most efficient way to heat a garage over the winter, you have a lot of options. There are many benefits to heating your garage, from providing a warm workspace to keeping your vehicle at a stable temperature. If you’re not sure what to choose, this blog is for you. Let’s take a closer look at your options when it comes to the best way to heat a garage during winter.

Figure Out Your Heating Needs

Before you choose a garage heating method, you’ll need to determine your specific heating needs. In other words, you have to figure out how hard your heater will need to work to warm your garage. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How cold are winters in your area?
  • What is the square footage of your garage?
  • Do you already have sufficient insulation?
  • How warm do you want your garage to be?

How Many BTUs Do You Need?

You’ll also want to calculate how many BTUs (British thermal units) your heating source will need to generate. A BTU is the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. It’s easy to calculate how many BTUs you’ll need to heat your entire garage.

  1. Measure the length and width of your garage’s interior in feet. Multiply these two numbers together to get the total square footage of your garage.
  2. Take that number and divide it by 200.
  3. If your garage is sufficiently insulated (e.g. your walls have cotton-fiberglass batt insulation), multiply the number in step two by 6,000. If your garage isn’t well-insulated, multiply the number in step two by 9,000.
  4. The resulting number is the BTU output you need to heat your entire garage.

Make Sure Your Garage is Insulated

Your garage’s insulation level plays a key role in helping you save money on heating (and cooling). Insulation helps keep heat generated by other sources from escaping your garage. And once your garage has been insulated, there are few ongoing maintenance costs.

You should insulate your garage door, windows, and weather stripping, including around pedestrian doors. Every Artisan garage door features flexible and long-lasting Q-LON weather seals to keep drafts and water from seeping into your garage. Wondering how to keep a garage warm in winter? Start with the insulation.

Windows

Insulating your garage windows is easy. Simply cover them with clear, plastic shrink film for added protection.

Foundation

If you see any holes or cracks in your garage’s foundation, seal them with expanding foam insulation. Cold air can easily seep into your garage from flooring cracks, which will do a number on your heating bill. You might also consider putting down parking mats to soak up any moisture your vehicle may bring into your garage.

Walls

If your walls are open (e.g. not covered by drywall), it’s very important to insulate them. Many older garages weren’t constructed with insulation in mind, so they let a lot of cold air in (and warm air out). Adding insulation to your garage walls will help you maintain a more consistent temperature inside your garage. There are multiple options when it comes to wall insulation:

Man adding insulation to garage walls to increase garage energy efficiency

  • Cotton-fiberglass batt insulation
  • Cellulose blown-in insulation
  • Spray or injection foam insulation

Once you’ve thoroughly insulated your garage, you’re ready to learn how to heat a garage in winter.

Choose a Heating Method

Let’s take a look at your many options when it comes to heating your garage.

Combustion Space Heaters

These units generate heat using a separate fuel source, such as propane or kerosene.

Pros:

  • Can be used during power outages
  • Less expensive than electric space heaters
  • Heats an average-sized garage quickly

Cons:

  • Ongoing fuel costs
  • Potential fuel odor
  • Noise

Convection Heaters

These units generate heat through convection. Air currents circulate through the unit and across the heating element. They’re then pushed out by a fan, thereby heating the air around the unit. Some convection heaters use a separate fan to draw in cool air, which allows the unit to heat up more quickly. Convection heaters warm the air from the top down to due natural airflow, since hot air rises and cool air sinks.

Pros:

  • Quiet operation
  • Choose from multiple power sources (e.g. electricity, natural gas, propane, etc.)
  • Heats spaces evenly due to the natural air flow produced by circulation

Cons:

  • Doesn’t provide additional circulation since the air outside the unit doesn’t move
  • Doesn’t filter the air, which may leave dust and dirt in the garage

Ductless Heating

This system generates heat by combining an outdoor compressor and an indoor air-handling unit. Ductless heating works similarly to a central heating system, but you don’t have to install ductwork or connect with an existing duct system. Ductless heating is more aesthetically-pleasing than some other options, so it’s ideal for garage conversions or retrofits.

Pros:

  • Energy-efficient
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Flexible placement options (e.g. floor, wall, ceiling suspension, etc.)

Cons:

  • More expensive upfront than some other heating options
  • Filter must be cleaned regularly to prevent debris from building up

Electric Ceiling Panels

These units generate heat using 1-inch thick panels that mount to the ceiling of your garage. They’re an attractive option when you’re choosing the best way to heat a garage.

Pros:

  • Energy-efficient
  • Aesthetically-pleasing
  • Easy to install and replace since they’re dropped into ceiling frames

Cons:

  • Garage floor may be cold since heat rises
  • Requires a finished ceiling
  • Can be slower to cool down than other heating methods

Electric Space Heaters

These units generate heat using an electrical source. All you have to do is plug them into an outlet.

Pros:

  • Energy-efficient
  • Affordable
  • Don’t require ventilation

Cons:

  • May take longer to heat up than some other options
  • Can’t leave running unsupervised because the surface heats quickly and can become a fire hazard
  • Only heats a small part of your garage

Forced-Air Heaters

This heating system generates heat by blasting hot air into your garage. They typically distribute air via a fan, blower, or air handler.

Pros:

  • Less expensive than infrared heat sources and duct systems
  • Can be connected to your home’s existing gas or propane lines
  • Fairly efficient power consumption vs. power output

Cons:

  • Noisy operation
  • Blows dirt and debris around your garage
  • Requires regular maintenance, such as duct cleaning

Infrared Heaters

These units generate heat through a low-intensity infrared tube that radiates heat throughout your garage. Infrared heaters warm objects before people, so they don’t necessarily warm the air. They work well for garages that aren’t sufficiently insulated, because you’re not losing hot air.

Pros:

  • Quiet option that can be powered by electricity, propane, or natural gas
  • Energy-efficient
  • Requires little ongoing maintenance

Cons:

  • Heat is short-lived
  • Warms a small area, so you’ll need more than one for a large garage

In-Surface Radiant Heat

This system generates heat through infrared radiation. Unlike other heating methods, it heats a surface, rather than the air around it. In-surface radiant heat is one of the most efficient ways to heat a garage.

Pros:

  • Versatile option that can be installed in your garage floors, walls, or ceiling
  • Quiet operation
  • Heats space more evenly than most other options

Cons:

  • High upfront costs due to expensive installation
  • Installation can be lengthy, especially with floor systems
  • Can generate built-up moisture on the surface the system is installed in

Mounted Electric Heaters

These units generate heat through a 240-volt electrical connection. All you have to do is mount it on the surface of your choice and plug it into an outlet.

Pros:

  • More powerful than a space heater, so it can heat your whole garage
  • Affordable
  • Safe option since they have an auto-shutoff feature

Cons:

  • Potentially long power cords
  • Heat may take longer to disperse than other systems

Propane Heaters

These units generate heat using propane as a fuel source. The propane can also be used to heat appliances, so these units are ideal for garage conversions.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Energy-efficient
  • Versatile since they can function as standalone units or central heating sources

Cons:

  • Ongoing fuel costs
  • Requires regular inspection to prevent fire hazards

Sealed Combustion Heaters

These units generate heat using a fuel source, like kerosene or propane. They draw clean air from outside of your garage into the system. At the same time, they vent any exhaust outside your garage.

Pros:

  • Sealed design doesn’t blow anything around, making it ideal for a workspace
  • Energy-efficient
  • Doesn’t require a separate fuel source

Cons:

  • Must be placed near an exterior wall since it requires vent connections
  • Limited space heating capabilities, so it’s not ideal for large garages

Wood-Burning Stoves

These units generate heat by burning wood. They function similar to infrared heaters because they heat the area around the unit.

Pros:

  • One of the most affordable options since there are no energy costs
  • Environmentally-friendly since the power source (wood) is renewable
  • Heat large spaces very effectively and for a long time

Cons:

  • Use may void homeowner’s insurance policies
  • Must regularly clean chimney and flue to avoid exposure to toxic gasses
  • High heat can make feeding the fire dangerous

Do You Have a Wooden Garage Door?

If you have a wooden garage door, you may not be the best candidate for a heated garage. In most cases, there is an extreme temperature difference between heated indoor space and cold outdoor temperatures. This can cause a wooden door to bow due to expansion on the inside of the door and contraction from cold on the outside. For this reason, a wood composite or vinyl steel-backed garage door is your best choice.

Are you interested in turning your garage into a conditioned space? Artisan Custom Doorworks has a variety of garage doors that provide high insulation value to keep your energy costs down.

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