Garage Heating Systems
There are lots of different garage heating options available, and no one type is best for all situations. Your choice will depend heavily on where you live, what you will be using your garage for, how often you will be in it, and for how long. If you are using the space just for parking, you may opt for a much different system than someone who is using it as a workshop and spends several hours in their garage every day.
If you are building a new garage and plan on heating it at all, it would be very wise to insulate it as much as possible. If you spend much time in your shop during the winter (or if you are using air conditioning in the summer), good insulation will pay for itself many times over. The most efficient garage heating system in the world won't make up for poor insulation.
Even if you already have a finished garage, there are things you can do to help insulate it. A lot of heat is lost through a non-insulated garage door, and installing an inexpensive garage door insulation kit can make a big difference. Sealing up cracks around windows and doors will help, too.
That being said, here are some of the options you have to choose from. The links will take you to pages where you can learn more about each one:
- Electric Garage Heaters: Most electric shop heaters are 100% efficient (or close to it), meaning that all of the energy they consume goes into producing heat. However, electricity is one of the more expensive energy sources, so a shop that gets used a lot may be better off with a different type of system. The advantages are instant heat, low maintenance, and a low up-front cost.
- Natural Gas Heaters: Natural gas is one of the least expensive fuel sources available in many areas, and it is a very popular choice. A natural gas furnace burns clean, requires very little maintenance, and provides heat quickly. If you have access to a gas line at your shop, a natural gas heater is worth a look. Radiant tube heaters run off of natural gas (or propane) and have several unique advantages that make them a great choice for a workshop or garage.
- Propane Heaters: Propane prices vary widely depending on where you are located. Many propane heaters are quite efficient, and there are several different types available. A propane heater can often be converted over to run on natural gas, and vice-versa. Portable propane heaters are a popular choice for heating a small garage for a short period of time. A stationary ventless propane heater is also a good garage heating option for a shop that does not need to be heated constantly and has adequate ventilation.
- Wood Burning Heaters: These run the gamut from the inexpensive, inefficient pot bellied stove to the modern wood furnace that burns the wood completely at very high temperatures with no smoke. They do require more attention than many other heat sources. You have to load them with wood at least daily and also remove the ashes. If you have an inexpensive supply of firewood and don't mind the attention they require, a modern wood burning furnace could be a good choice for your garage.
- Waste Oil Furnaces: These are a very interesting option for a garage heating source if you have or can get a steady supply of used oil. The fuel will be very low cost or even free, which is hard to beat. Some of them will run off of a variety of different oils, and some can use diesel fuel if you run out of used oil. The downside is that these units are somewhat expensive to purchase, and they do require more attention and maintenance than most other systems. If you have the desire, you can get waste oil heater plans for a unit you can build yourself very cheaply.
- Oil Filled Heaters: These aren't really suitable as a full time, exclusive source of heat, but I have included them here because they are one of the safest ways to add warmth to a garage. No open flame, no exposed heating elements, and no high surface temperatures make them ideal in an area that is likely to have flammable vapors and/or dust floating around. I use one in my shop when I will be out there for several hours, and roll it around with me wherever I am working.
- Radiant Floor Heating System: I saved the best for last! If you have a shop that you use for several hours every day, it is tough to beat in-floor radiant heat (hey, that rhymes!). There are a lot of advantages to radiant heated floors. They are very efficient and comfortable, especially when you have a concrete slab.
There are two different types of radiant heat flooring, electric and hydronic. Electric radiant floor heat uses electric cables buried in the slab to heat the concrete, and then the concrete radiates the warmth up from the floor. Hydronic radiant floor heat operates off of the same principle, but uses hot water pumped through tubing that is buried in the slab instead of electric cables. If you are building a new garage that will get used a lot during cold weather, a radiant floor heat system is definitely worth looking into.
Each of these garage heating systems has its own pros and cons, and you have to consider your particular situation before deciding. A waste oil furnace is probably the cheapest to operate, but are you willing to put up with the maintenance that is required? Using several small electric shop heaters is the cheapest and easiest solution in the beginning, but will cost you more in the long run if you use your garage a lot.
Start off with sealing up cracks around doors and windows, and install a garage door insulation kit if your door isn't insulated. Check out the links above, or take a look at our menu of Related Pages for information on all the different types of heating systems. Consider how long and how often you will be using your garage, as well as the cost for different energy types in your area, and one of the garage heating systems above will float to the top of your list.
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