October 8, 2016

Interested in turning your garage into a workshop? Or just tired or waking up to a freezing car in the winter? The problem with garages is they aren’t typically made to stay warm. Here are some ways you can change that safely and without hiking up your energy bill.

As always, insulation is the first thing to check. Anytime you are having a heating problem, the first step is to make sure the insulation is updated and complete. Without proper insulation, a large amount of the heat from your heater will be lost to the outside. When properly done, you can probably get a more efficient, energy-saving heating unit and not lose so much heat.

Do Not …

… extend the ducts that heat your house into your garage. Harmful carbon monoxide fumes from the car and debris from your workshop will get pulled into the house.

… use portable space heaters that are fueled by kerosene, oil, or propane. They are dangerous for your health because of the carbon monoxide they release. They are also not safe to use around workstations where a lot of flammable material like sawdust will be floating around.

Your best choices will be between natural gas or electric units. Natural gas is said to be more economical while some of the electric options are more environment-friendly. Natural gas units can usually be hooked up to your existing gas line if you have one. All kinds come in mountable or portable varieties.

Which kind of heating unit you choose partly depends on how much space you want to heat up. Are you looking at the whole garage or just a workstation area? With improved searches on home improvement sites, you can narrow down what you’re looking for by the square footage you want to heat. For reference, a 2-car garage is roughly 200 ft2 and a solo woodshop is recommended to be about 1,000 ft2.

Natural Gas

Most of these units will be forced air. This means that a fan blows air through a duct or over coils. They need good ventilation to the outside and can bring in the fresh air instead of recycling it. It can be turned on and off manually or with a thermostat.

This type can be problematic for a workshop since it stirs up dust. It also takes a while to reheat the room after a door or window is opened. They are, however, great for heating large spaces.


Electric heaters use infrared or radiant heating. This type heats up the objects around it instead of heating the air, the same way the sun does. It makes for uniform heat but it doesn’t cover a large area. Electric heaters also warm slowly and will stay cool to the touch even after running for hours. Because they don’t blow heat the air doesn’t get as dry as with forced-air units. Most people find they work best as a supplemental heater or for a smaller, specific space.

You can get any kind in a larger unit that can be installed on your wall or ceiling. There are smaller portable options as well. Some models can do either.


One more option worth mentioning is a sealed combustion heater. These can run on either electricity or natural gas. They give the output of a normal furnace but the combustion area is sealed off or separated from any debris or fumes in the air. A non-sealed unit will pull in the dust and toxic fumes and could ignite a fire or explosion. These types of heaters are one of the more expensive and have costly ductwork that has to be installed. The best are around 83% thermal efficiency and can cover a large area.

When it comes to making your choice, choose safety first. On that note, heater installations are best left to an HVAC professional. You want to make sure that you have proper ventilation and hookups. You don’t want to recycle carbon monoxide or paint fumes back into the room. An HVAC professional can also recommend the right model for your space.

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