Radiant Propane Garage Heaters, Pros and Cons
There are two basic types of propane garage heaters: radiant and convection. Radiant heat warms people and objects first, and the air second. Convection heat warms the air first, which then transfers warmth to people and objects. On this page we will talk about radiant heaters. For information on convection heat, visit our Propane - Convection heater page by clicking on the link on the right below.
Radiant heat is generally more efficient than convection heat, and is a really good choice for a garage if the units are positioned properly. Radiant heat is roughly 30% more efficient than forced air. Because the objects and people in the room are being warmed directly instead of the air, less energy is lost. If you open the garage door briefly, you don't lose all your warmth out through the open door. You also don't end up with most of the heat at the ceiling like you do with convection-type units. Radiant propane garage heaters are quiet, safe, and do not stir up dust like a convection type unit does.
There are basically two types of radiant propane heaters. The tube type is a low intensity heater that has a long steel tube that contains the flame. As the steel tube heats up, it radiates infrared energy. Since the flame is contained within the tube, it is safe for environments with flammable vapors or dust. This type works best when it is less than 30 feet or so above the floor.
Radiant Tube Heater
The luminous type unit is a high intensity heater that uses porous ceramic tiles. The flame passes through the holes in the ceramic, and the combustion on the surface of the tiles produces infrared energy. These are more efficient than a tube heater, and work well at higher heights than the tube type unit. However, they are not as suitable for areas with lots of dust or flammable vapors, because the surface of the unit gets much hotter.
Luminous Radiant Heater
There are a few shortcomings with radiant propane heaters. One is that the farther you get from the unit, the less effective it is. You also need to be in the "direct line of sight" of a radiant heater to feel its warmth. For example, if you are doing a brake job on a big SUV, and you are on the right side of the vehicle and the heater is on the left side, it will take a while before you feel much of the warmth from a radiant unit. Radiant propane heaters also are generally more expensive up front than convection type units.
The one disadvantage that is common to all propane heaters is that if you run out of propane, you have no heat. You have to keep an eye on the fuel level and schedule propane deliveries. For this reason, propane heaters are not as convenient as electric heaters or those that run on natural gas. However, some of them have the advantage of not requiring electricity to work. This can be a huge advantage during a power outage.
When choosing between the different types of garage heaters, consider the location where you want it mounted, what types of substances may be in the air, and how you're going to be using your garage. Some manufacturers have product manuals posted on their website. Before purchasing a unit, it would be a good idea to read the manual. This will help you make sure that the one you are looking at will be safe for your application.
For information on convection heat, visit our other propane garage heater page.
Want to be able to take your heat with you? Check out our page on portable propane heaters.
For more information on other types of heaters, go to our Related Pages menu on the right near the top of this page.
Bottom line, a radiant heater offers higher efficiency than forced air and doesn't stir up dust. You can feel comfortable with the thermostat set several degrees lower than what it takes with a convection type unit. Radiant propane garage heaters are a good choice as long as you keep their limitations in mind.
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