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The Complete Guide to Choosing a Garage Heater

It’s cold outside and you want to use your garage workshop. First, you need to figure out what kind of heater to get for the garage. Do you want something that will keep the entire garage warm, or just a small area? Here’s how to choose the power and features of your new garage heater.

Radiant heat feels the warmest because it warms the person rather than the air. Forced air feels good but wastes energy on heating air that quickly gets cold again. Convection heat feels good so long as it’s close to your body. Electric heat is expensive to run but requires no ventilation. Natural gas is only slightly cheaper than electricity. Propane is competitively priced. Electric heat does not require ventilation, while propane and natural gas do require ventilation.

The Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat

Radiant heaters create infrared heat, which is by far the nicest and warmest type of heating. Infrared warms objects rather than air. They don’t waste energy heating cold air that will just get cold again right away. Radiant heaters, as nice as their infrared heat is, are expensive to run. They can also overheat you to the point of strong burning sensations where your heated clothing touches your skin.

White rectangular box with fins on top and red glowing tubes inside
Dynaglo natural gas radiant heater

The Pros and Cons of Convection Heat

Convection heat warms the air near the heater. The larger the heater’s BTU’s, the larger the heated area around the heater. Convection heat warms more of the room than radiant heat.

Circular fan on squat feet
Newage electric convection garage heater

The Pros and Cons of Forced-Air Heat

Forced-air heaters use blowers to warm the garage air. They warm you, too, if you’re in the line of fire or in the warmed air. Force-air heat gets more of the room warm than convection or radiant heat. This type of heat also dissipates quickly. Radiant heat is better for very cold climates. Forced air heat is good at heating larger areas for short periods.

Cylindrical floor heater with plug that says Magnum
Magnum propane forced hot air heater

The Pros and Cons of Electric Garage Heat

Electric heaters do not output fumes and do not require ventilation. Electricity tends to be the most expensive of the fuel types, coming in at about three times the price of propane. Electric heaters using radiant infrared are the most comfortable because they warm the person rather than the air. This makes radiant infrared the most efficient type of electric heater. Electric heaters do not require ventilation.

Electric red tubes glowing inside rectangular device
Newage electric radiant heater

The Pros and Cons of Propane Garage Heat

Propane is slightly less expensive than electrical energy. Your garage does not require a natural gas type of hookup. This type of heater uses portable propane fuel purchased in 20 lb. tanks. This limits the amount of time you can use the heater before needing to change propane tanks. Assume a propane gas heater requires ventilation unless the instructions indicate otherwise.

Propane tank with radiant infrared heater dish on top
Dyna-glo propane radiant garage heater

The Pros and Cons of Natural Gas Garage Heat

Natural gas prices are less than half of electricity. Natural gas heaters are cheaper to run. The only catch is, you need a gas hookup line to your home. Natural gas heaters are not portable because they require this gas connection. Assume a natural gas heater requires ventilation unless the instructions indicate otherwise.

Rectangular toast-like box with fins up front, gray, says Hot Dawg
Hot Dawg natural gas convection garage heater

The Pros and Cons of Oil-Filled Garage Heaters

Oil-filled heaters are closed systems. You don’t add oil or any other fuel to them. Oil heaters take quite a while to warm up. They are convection heaters that warm the air around them. They do not warm the air any farther than their limited reach.

The Pros and Cons of Wood-Burning Garage Heaters

Wood stoves output infrared heat, which is pleasant and warm. However, wood burning stoves are strictly regulated because they are dangerous. Speak to a dealer about the regulations for your municipality before buying a wood stove for the garage. Wood stoves must be ventilated, and they must be installed on non-flammable surfaces. The municipality bases stove clearances on fire codes.

Calculating Garage BTUs

One way to calculate BTUs required is by climate zone. Zone 1 is the warmest and requires about 30 BTU per sf. Zone 7 is the coolest and requires 60 BTU per/sf.

You can also estimate your BTUs by garage size and approximate climate. A one-car garage needs 7500 BTU in a warm climate and 15000 BTU in a cold climate. A two-car garage needs 15000 to 30000 BTU.

LearnMetrics did a good job breaking this down, if you need more help, visit their site.

Cylindrical device on floor with Mr Heater written on it
Mr. Heater propane forced air garage heater

How Much do Garage Heaters Cost to Buy?

To help you compare heater prices, I research red 80,000 BTU heaters in the categories mentioned in this article. The table tells the story of what works and what does not work in a cold garage. Whether radiant, convection or forced air, propane heaters output the 30,000 to 60,000 BTU needed to heat a garage. Electric radiant and convection heaters are underpowered for that space. Forced air uses more BTU’s but remember that much of that energy is lost to the cold air. Only radiant heat sticks to you. Natural gas convection and forced air heaters are about four times more expensive than propane and electric heaters. Natural gas radiant heaters hit the sweet spot for garage heating.

  Propane
Heater ProCom PCC80V-C

GOOD CHOICE

Store ProCom Heating
Fuel Propane
Price $199.99
BTU 80,000
Type Convection
 
Heater Mr. Heater

GOOD CHOICE BUT SLIGHTLY UNDERPOWERED

Store Northern Tool
Fuel Propane
Price $79.99
BTU 25,000
Type Convection
 
Heater ProCom PCFA40

GOOD CHOICE

Store ProCom
Fuel Propane
Price $119.99
BTU 40,000
Type Forced Air
Heater Mr. Heater

GOOD CHOICE BUT MORE EXPENSIVE

Store Northern Tool
Fuel Propane
Price $519.99
BTU 60,000
Type Forced Air
Heater Dyna-Glo Thermoheat

GOOD CHOICE

Store Sylvane
Fuel Propane
Price $59.95
BTU 15,000
Type Radiant
Heater Dyna-Glo Thermoheat

GOOD CHOICE

Store Sylvane
Fuel Propane
Price $106.46
BTU 40,000
Type Radiant
Kerosene
Heater Dyna-Glo Delux KFA80DGD

UNDERPOWERED

Store GHP Group
Fuel Kerosene
Price $199
BTU 1900
Type Forced Air
 
  Natural Gas
Heater Hot Dawg Garage Ceiling Heater

GOOD HEAT BUT EXPENSIVE UNIT

Store Home Depot
Fuel Natural Gas
Price $958.14
BTU 30,000
Type Convection
 
Heater Hot Dawg Garage Ceiling Heater

GOOD HEAT BUT EXPENSIVE UNIT

Store Home Depot
Fuel Natural Gas
Price $952.26
BTU 45,000
Type Convection
 
Heater  
Store
Fuel Natural Gas
Price
BTU
Type Forced Air
 
Heater Dyna-Glo

GOOD CHOICE

Store Home Depot
Fuel Natural Gas
Price $232.14
BTU 30,000
Type Radiant
 
Electric
Heater DuraHeat

GOOD CHOICE

Store Home Depot
Fuel Electric
Price $223.99
BTU 34,120
Type Forced Air
 
Heater NewAge Products 1500-Watt

GOOD CHOICE

Store Lowe’s
Fuel Electric
Price $379.99
BTU 5,000
Type Radiant
 
Heater Newair NGH170GA00

UNDERPOWERED

Store Northern Tool
Fuel Electric
Price $109.99
BTU 5120
Type Convection
Tall metal cylindrical device on floor, metal, with holes and exit points
Mr. Heater propane convection garage heater

The fuel and heat type combinations that make sense for a garage are, in order:

  1. Propane convection 80,000 BTU
  2. Propane convection 25,000 BTU
  3. Propane forced air 40,000 BTU
  4. Propane forced air 60,000 BTU
  5. Propane radiant 40,000 BTU
  6. Propane radiant 15,000 BTU
  7. Natural gas radiant 30,00 BTU
  8. Electric forced air 34,120 BTU
  9. Electric radiant 5,000 BTU
Brown box with handle on top, fins in front, copper sides, brown front
Duraheat electric forced air garage heater

Possibly unacceptable combinations:

  1. Natural gas convection 30,000 BTU (expensive)
  2. Natural gas convection 45,000 BTU (expensive)
  3. Electric convection 5120 BTU (underpowered)
  4. Natural gas forced air (cound’t find any for garages)

Decision Maker Rundown: The Best Type of Heater for Your Garage

  1. Do you have a natural gas line? Are you going to get one? Natural gas heaters are expensive to buy, but cheap to run.
  2. Are you outside for a few minutes or all day? Natural gas and electric heaters run for hours. Propane heaters have shorter run times before the need to swap out the tank.
  3. Are you staying in one spot or moving throughout the garage? Radiant heaters warm you up, so you need to stay close to stay warm. Convection heaters heat the area near them, so you need to stay within their reach. Forced air heaters heat the garage, so you can move about in a warm space.

Summary

Radiant infrared heat is the most comfortable. If the heater is too close, it will warm your clothes and cause burning. If you are too far from a radiant heater, you will not benefit from its warmth. Convection and forced air heaters warm the air, so their energy is quickly lost on very cold days. They work better in insulated garages. Natural gas convection heaters are more expensive than any other combination. Electric convection heaters are too weak to work in a garage, but are fine if you can find some above 25,000 BTU.

A cylindrical metal heater with a wide bottom, made of metal
ProCom propane convection garage heater

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