Cold weather should not mean putting your life and workshop projects on hold, but if your garage-turned-workshop is not equipped with proper heating, cold air can definitely put a damper on the time you spend on projects. Garages are particularly difficult spaces to heat, and there are a lot of things to consider in purchasing a unit that is both suitable for and safe to use in your residential space. Since cold weather often lingers straight through March and sometimes into April, we thought it would be useful to our consumers to provide a guide to choosing the best unit for better garage heating.
How to Heat a Garage
We will explore these 4 steps:
- Insulation & weatherstripping
- Finding the correct BTU for your space
- Deciding on the type of heating system that would work best
- Understanding maintenance to keep your system performing efficiently
Since there are many different heating options, it’s important to understand your space and the type of heating it will require.
1. Make sure your garage’s insulation and weatherstripping is up to par.
This is important to get out of the way long before you begin deciding on a supplementary heat source. If your garage is not properly insulated and/or there are small cracks and spaces between doors and windows that allows air to creep in, a lot of energy and money will go to waste attempting to make up for the extra cold air. Insulation should be a minimum of 4-inches thick in the walls, and 6-inches thick in the ceiling, and there should be absolutely zero cracks in the weatherstripping around your garage door and/or windows.
Unless you are a very ambitious and avid do-it-yourselfer, it is advised that you hire a professional to install any extra insulation in your garage walls or ceiling. Weatherstripping, on the other hand, is fairly easy to replace yourself. To do this, first remove the weatherstripping altogether, scraping away any residual sealant with a flat scraper or putty knife to smooth out the surface. Carefully measure the area to know exactly how much replacement material to buy, and close the garage door as you are fitting the new weatherstripping in place, so as to ensure the tightest fit possible.
Different-sized garages with different kinds of insulation need different-sized heaters to ensure maximum efficiency without unnecessarily high energy costs. Here is a widely used equation for figuring out the kind of BTU rating you need to heat your space:
– First, measure your garage space and multiply the Length x Width x Height for total cubic feet.
– Next, to account for insulation, take the total cubic feet and multiply by 4 for a garage with poor insulation, 3 for a garage with average insulation, and 2 for a garage with very good insulation (the better the insulation, the lower the BTU rating you will need in a heater).
– Finally, once you have the exact BTU rating, round up to the nearest thousand (you always want a heater with slightly more BTU than less!)
So, for example, let’s say your garage measures 20 feet in length, 32 feet in width, and has 10-foot ceilings. 20 x 32 x 10 is 6,400. Let’s also say that your garage has average insulation (about 3 inches thick). 6,400 x 3 is 19,200. Rounded to the nearest thousand, you will want to look for a heater with a 20,000 BTU rating.
Keep in mind that winter temperatures vary depending on where you live, and so these totals should be considered approximate, and based on ‘average’ winter temperatures. If you live in an area with especially cold or slightly warmer winters, please see our own BTU calculator to help you decide exactly which BTU rating is right for you. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to call and speak with one of our salespeople.
Members of our team have previously written about various types of heaters, including vented heaters (and the different kinds of vented heaters), vent-free heaters, and unit heaters. All of these types of heating units may be installed for use in the garage, but where you live and how your garage is built greatly influence the kind of heater you will need.
Vent-free heaters are argued to be the most economical choice of unit for the way they utilize 99.99% of the energy they put forth to directly heat your garage space, but not all states permit the installation of unvented heaters for the way they remove oxygen from the room while they heat (though vent-free heaters are considered by most to be safe, so long as the heater is equipped with an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS), which will shut off the heater if oxygen reaches an unsafe level). The most popular types of vent-free heater for garage spaces are infrared heaters and blue-flame heaters. A member of our team has written about the difference between infrared and blue-flame heaters previously, and you can read about it here.
As far as vented heaters go, there are many different kinds of vents and where you install your heater will depend on what vent-type you choose. Direct-vent furnaces and heaters are ideal for garages and workshops for their space-saving design and through-the-wall installation. Where vent-free heaters should be used in garage spaces where windows may be opened periodically to bring in more oxygen, direct-vent furnaces do not require access to windows as carbon dioxide and moisture is vented outside, through the wall.
For slightly larger residential garage spaces, unit heaters with BTU ratings between 30,000 and 125,000 are excellent. These heaters suspend from the ceiling so as to not take up floor or wall space and boast up to 83% thermal efficiency, for big heating with little cost.
4. Familiarize yourself with maintenance.
Before you commit to a garage heater, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the kind of maintenance check-ups required to ensure the long-lasting safety and efficiency of your heater. With any gas heating unit, checking for gas leaks should be of utmost priority. Gas leaks are easy to recognize, by smelling gas around the area or using a soapy water mix to check for gas bubbles, and require a professional to fix. Keeping your heating unit clean and making sure the thermostat is working properly are also important in ensuring the long working life of your heater. Maintenance tips specific to the unit you choose to purchase should also be included in most product manuals, so be sure to read these upon the delivery of your unit.
Where Should a Heater be Placed in a Garage?
Depending on the type of heater that is purchased, typically the unit will be hung from the ceiling. It’s important to choose a position in the space that gets the coldest and isn’t close to any doors where the heat could easily escape. Point the heater in a position so the heat is blown out towards the biggest area of the garage. As with installation of any gas powered appliance, make sure that there’s nothing combustible near the unit.
If you’re using a portable heater, place it close to your working space and make sure it’s not close to anything combustible.
How Much Does it Cost to Heat a Garage?
The cost to heat a garage varies greatly depending on a few different factors. The factors include size of your space, how warm you are going to want to keep your space, they type of heater you’re purchasing, and how well the garage is insulated and weatherstripped. With so many different factors, it’s difficult to give an estimate on cost, but if you find the correct BTU for your space and cracks are all sealed, your unit should heat the space fairly efficiently. Once you’ve chosen a heater you like, consult with an HVAC professional on estimated monthly costs.
If you’re ready to purchase a new heater for your workshop, we have a wide selection of options to choose from at Total Home Supply. Shop our garage heaters and contact our customer support if you need help on which to choose.