A Guide to Natural Gas Garage Heaters

The garage is one of the few areas of the house that is not as well-insulated as the rest of the interior. Garage heating may be important if you have a workshop, storage space, or simply want a more comfortable environment when getting into and out of your vehicle.

In this article, we explore natural gas garage heaters, and what to look for when choosing one for your garage.

What are Garage Heaters?

As the name suggests, garage heaters are heating devices specifically designed to warm your indoor garage. They come in two designs:

Portable garage heater – these are smaller heaters that either sit on the floor or table. They can be repositioned or even moved to different areas of the house where needed, but have a smaller heating capability.

Fixed garage heater – these are larger units that are permanently fixed. While they are not mobile, they have a larger heating capacity and are usually more efficient.

 

What are Natural Gas Garage Heaters?

There are three power sources for garage heaters: electric, propane and natural gas. 

Propane and natural gas garage heaters are very cost-efficient, but require more space and maintenance. Electric garage heaters are less efficient, but come in a compact size and require less cleaning and maintenance.

Natural gas garage heaters are ideal for:

  • Larger garages
  • Garages with a higher ceiling over the standard 8-foot height
  • Homes with a natural gas service
  • Colder climates

Types of Gas Garage Heaters

There are three main types of gas garage heaters, based on heating technology:

Forced air gas heaters – these actively draw in cold air with a fan, heat it, then distribute the warm air throughout the garage.

Convection gas heaters – these are more economical by only heating the air immediately surrounding the unit. Since hot air naturally rises, it works by heating the colder air that sinks back down to the heater. While they cost less to run, they take more time to heat up the garage.

Radiant heaters – these work by directing heat in a specific direction. They are more suited for smaller spaces or garages that require a specific area to be heated.

 

Propane vs Natural Gas: Which is Better?

The main difference between propane and natural gas as a fuel source for garage heaters is availability. Most locations only have the choice of one or the other. If you have natural gas available at your location, it will generally be more cost effective. Each gas type has different properties of burning and will require a heater set or converted for the particular fuel type you are using. Rest assured that regardless of which type of fuel is available to you, you will be able to heat your space effectively. 

 

Choosing a Gas Garage Heater

These are the main factors to look for when shopping for a gas garage heater for your home:

1. Heating capacity

Natural gas garage heaters typically range from 10,000 to 400,000 BTUs. To determine the BTU capacity needed for your garage space, contact us for assistance.

2. Safety

Look for these safety features in a gas garage heater:

Overheating protection – ensures the heater doesn’t burn itself out, by using a sensor to detect dangerous temperatures.

Auto shutoff – this automatically switches the unit off in case the heater gets knocked over or suffers a short in the system.

Cool-touch exterior – typically found in portable and wall-mounted garage heaters. The heater body is made of fiberglass or plastic, making it safe to touch even during extended operation.

3. Programmable thermostat

This allows the user to set a specific temperature via remote control or electronic keypad. This makes the heater more efficient by only activating to maintain the desired temperature instead of working full-blast all the time.

4. Oscillating vents

If you have a larger garage, oscillating louvers change the direction of the heat flow and help distribute the heated air more evenly across the space. Such louvers are usually capable of up to 180 degrees of rotation.

 

Installing a Gas Garage Heater

Both propane and natural gas garage heaters follow the same installation process. Start by choosing a location for the heater. Ideally, it should be placed where the heater’s fan can counteract the most heat loss in the garage. This way it’s able to warm the whole garage space more evenly.

Next, choose the proper gas pipe, connection, and joint compounds. As you lay down pipe, ensure the connections are secure, and not placed where foot traffic or household objects stored in the garage may dislodge or damage the piping.

You may also need an electrical outlet for the thermostat. Since some gas garage heaters don’t have a pilot light, they may use an electric spark to start up the unit. The thermostat typically takes up two breaker spaces in your main electrical panel. 

Since heat rises, the thermostat should be placed about 5 feet off the ground to provide the most accurate reading.

 

Our Recommended Gas Garage Heaters

 

Budget gas garage heater:

HearthRite HRW18MN 18000 BTU Infrared/Radiant Vent Free Gas Heater – Natural Gas

The Hearthrite vent-free heater uses radiant or infrared energy to warm up the garage. As a ventless heater, it is 99.9% efficient, and capable of up to 18,000 BTUs of heat.

It includes an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) that will shut off the heater if the oxygen levels drop to an unsafe level. Standard installation is wall mounting, but an optional floor stand and blower are each available separately. Other optional features are a blower for circulating the warm air throughout the space, and thermostatic controls (available with model HRW18TN).

Professional installation by a certified gas technician is required. Note that this vent-free heater cannot be shipped to California.

 

Vented gas garage heater:

Sterling GG060A1NSA11 60,000 BTU Gas Fired Tubular Unit Heater – Convertible Standard or Separated Combustion

This low-profile garage heater is ideal for larger spaces, being capable of up to 60,000  BTUs of heat. It is certified for use in non-occupied residential and commercial outbuildings to make any workspace capable of year-round use. The GG series heaters are an all-in-one unit that can be easily converted from standard combustion to separated combustion. A separated combustion unit is best used in areas where dusty, dirty or mildly corrosive conditions exist or where high humidity or slightly negative pressure prevail. 

The Sterling GG Series includes many standard features including at least an 82% Thermal Efficiency Rating, an easy access control panel, a single-stage gas valve with direct spark ignition, high limit switch and air pressure switch. It has a 120/24V Control Transformer making it usable with many standard and 24V thermostats. The 20-gauge cabinet of the GG series has a long-lasting baked enamel finish. The tubular heat exchanger, constructed of heavy duty 20-gauge aluminized steel, carries a 10 year heat exchanger warranty. 

The unit heater comes standard for Natural Gas usage but includes a gas conversion kit to easily convert your unit for Liquid Propane use.

 

Ventless gas garage heater:

Rinnai FC824 24,000 BTU Vent Free Fan Convector Gas Heater

This vent-free garage heater uses a convection fan that helps to evenly distribute the 22,000 BTUs of warmth throughout your garage. It features modulating technology which includes a modulating gas valve and variable speed blower. This allows the furnace to use only the exact amount of gas needed to produce the heat required for the space. 

Because it is a ventless heater, it does not need to be installed near an exterior wall – you just need to have the gas line located appropriately. Of course you also need to have the appropriate minimum clearances – which are 2 inches all around (top, back and sides) and 30 inches in front of the heater. Another advantage of being vent free is the fact that there is virtually no heat loss with this heater. It provides approximately 99.9% efficiency making it one of the most fuel efficient heating products on the market. It is also extremely quiet, generating just 44dB / 30dB (H/L) of noise levels.

Safety features include a cool-touch exterior, oxygen depletion sensor, overheat switch, tilt and knock sensors, and auto shutoff in the event of power failure.

Rinnai FC824 24,000 BTU Vent Free Fan Convector Gas Heater - Choice of Fuel Type
Rinnai FC824 24,000 BTU Vent Free Fan Convector Gas Heater - Choice of Fuel Type

You may only know of Rinnai for their tankless hot water heaters but they also have an extremely efficient line of vent free fan convector gas heaters...

$923.67

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Premium gas garage heater:

Sterling HU050A1NS111 Nexus Series 50,000 BTU Gas Fired High Efficiency Condensing Unit Heater

Sterling’s Nexus series boasts the highest efficiency ratings in the unit heater industry, offering ratings from 95% up to 99% efficient. This particular model offers 97% efficiency with its 50,000 BTU input and 48,600 BTU output. 

The heater features a unique tri-metal heat exchanger as well as a state of the art combustion control system. The heat exchanger is constructed of a hybrid combination of stainless steel tubes and brass and aluminum fins for maximum efficiency, enhanced corrosion protection and thermal heat transfer. In addition to the efficiency of these heaters, they include an auto-adjust altitude feature, which, as the name implies, is automatic. Requiring NO Field Adjustments, they automatically adjust the air and fuel mixture with no loss of performance. 

The Nexus Series heaters are field convertible to LP (single orifice kit included) and Separated Combustion operation. Additionally, they are PVC/CPVC vent compatible. Nexus unit heaters can be installed as single units or set up as a multi-unit network. The control board also includes ModBus communication for building automation without requiring additional control modules. 

The heater also comes with both indoor and outdoor air reset modulation. Indoor air reset learns the needs of the space by constant monitoring and modulates accordingly, resulting in less cycling and therefore lower fuel costs. Outdoor air reset functions in much the same manner, automatically adjusting and varying the indoor discharge air temperature based on the outdoor air temperature. Both of these functions offer your occupants a much more comfortable indoor environment while saving you money in the long run. 

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

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