Informational Guide

Heating a Garage On The Cheap

Garages are notorious for being too cold or too hot. Learn how to heat a garage cheaply and even for free with our guide.

by Josh M

Less than 30% of people actually use their garage for their car, but even with this whole room going spare, we don’t manage to make the most of the extra space. Part of the reason it’s difficult to make the most of it is that it isn’t as well insulated as the rest of your home, and in the winter months, it’s a challenge to heat it properly.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to heat a garage cheaply and how you can make the most of the best garage heaters on the market.

Maintain Healthy Indoor Temperatures

The key to maintaining the overall temperature in your home is to insulate properly. If your garage isn’t heated, then you’re going to lose a lot of warmth through that route. This can make it challenging to heat your home and can cause a spike in your energy bills.

Heating your garage should prevent this and allow you to maintain a suitable temperature throughout your home.

Create a Comfortable Workspace

A lot of people are transforming their garage into an office or a workspace for various DIY activities such as a home garage gym. If you’re going to be spending time in there, then you need to invest in heating, or you’re going to be really uncomfortable.

Prevent Freezing Damage

Perhaps the most important reason to heat your garage properly is to protect your home and belongings. Freezing conditions can damage whatever you have in there, and repeated freezing and unfreezing can actually cause structural damage to your home.

Appliances like fridges and freezers can all suffer in the cold, and components within it can become damaged. Heating your garage will help protect them and save you a major expense.

Follow Neighborhood Codes

Many local codes say that as a homeowner you have to heat your garage as this helps to protect your property and the area. It’s worth checking your neighborhood codes so you know what the requirements are because they can be quite specific.

A Street During Winter

Can You Heat a Garage Without Spending Any Money?

We all look for ways to do a job as cheaply as possible, but it can very rarely be done for nothing. You can look to insulate your garage yourself by sealing any gaps, installing draft excluders, and even putting extra insulation over walls and doors.

However, while this might help keep the heat in, it won’t generate any heat on its own, so you would be reliant on whatever comes from the inside of your home.

Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to heat your garage without spending anything because you need a reliable heat source. Everything else is just going to be a temporary measure that won’t lead to lasting results.

How To Determine Your Garage Heating Needs?

There are a few different solutions to heating your garage, and to ensure you get the most appropriate and cost-effective one, you need to take stock of your individual situation. The best way to do this is by asking yourself the following questions:

How cold are winters in your area?

Your garage will need to most heat in winter, so it’s important to understand just how cold it gets. Many people experience mild winters, while others get piles and piles of snow, and it’s useful for you to consider exactly what problem is you’re trying to solve. The colder the temperatures, the more powerful heater you’ll need to help keep your garage warm.

What is the square footage of your garage?

Garages come in all shapes and sizes, and thankfully so do garage heaters. You need to understand the dimensions of your garage so you can select the most appropriate heater for the job. The output from garage heaters is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), which is basically the energy needed to heat an area. The greater the area, the higher the BTUs that you’ll need.

Do you already have sufficient insulation?

It’s all very well heating your garage, but you need insulation in place to keep that heat in. Without it, you’ll end up running your garage heater for much longer and increasing your energy bills more than you need to. Take stock of what you have in place and go to your local DIY store to pick up cheap insulation solutions and get them fitted.

How warm do you want your garage to be?

Finally, you need to ask the million-dollar question, what temperature is right for you? This is a very subjective question, but it’s important to know what you’re aiming for so you can get the right heaters or alternative solutions in place to get there. Remember to be realistic; you want to do this cheaply, so you’re unlikely to get the temperature to beach holiday levels.

9 Cheapest Ways To Heat Any Garage

Now you’ve set your goalposts, it’s time to look at solutions. We’ve given a list of the best ways to go about this below. Each have their pros and cons, so it’s essential you consider which one will be the best for you in your situation.

Limit Incoming Air Flow

Garages are generally more exposed to the elements, and cold air can flow directly into the space, lowering the temperatures. By limiting the airflow, you create a more controlled environment so you can maintain the temperature.

Start by checking for any leaks in the walls or doors. Any visible holes will need to be plugged, and it’s often a good idea to look for areas with insects and bugs because it usually means there’s a gap. Once you’ve found them, you should use expanding foam insulation to plug the gaps.

Then you should replace the stripping around all your doors and any windows, including your main garage door. The best way to do this is to remove the old stripping and take it to your local hardware store so you can get an exact replacement. You can usually peel and stick the new stripping into place, and it will last for a few years at least.

You should notice the impact quite quickly, and with less airflow, you should have a more moderate temperature in your workspace.

Add Insulation Where Possible

Adding Wall Insulation to Garage

Garage insulation will help you keep the heat in the room, and it can be done with minimal cost. All you’ll need is some fiberglass insulation, which can be purchased from any hardware store, and you should roll it out to cover all of the walls. Some garages will have insulation in the walls already, but if not, you should focus on rolling it out all the exterior facing walls and windows.

Insulation is essential for keeping the heat in, and it’s the most important thing you should do. Make sure you wear protective gloves when handling fiberglass, as it can be irritating. If you run into any trouble, you should get professional help but bear in mind that this will push your costs up.

Electric Ceiling Panels for Garage

Having a heat source is essential if you want to make the most of your garage. Panel heaters are hardwired into your electricity with an electric coil inside the machine, which heats the area around them.

The advantage of panel heaters is that they don’t take up any additional space, and they are normally pretty low cost to run. Fitting them on the ceiling means you can keep them away from oil or other flammable objects that you might typically find in your garage.

Electric ceiling panels aren’t usually very expensive and can comfortably heat a small or medium-sized garage. They’re simple but effective and won’t take up much space, making them a popular choice with homeowners.

Portable Space Heaters

Space heaters are a great way to heat an area very quickly as they have a built-in fan to help circulate the warm air around a space fast. They’re usually inexpensive to buy and portable, but they will need to be plugged into an outlet to run. If you want to heat your garage quickly and suffer from cold Winters, then this is probably the best solution for you.

Space heaters can be expensive to run, so you don’t want to use them continuously. You should make sure your garage is well insulated so that the heat stays in the garage, this will stop you from having to leave it running more than you have to.

Space heaters can present a fire hazard because they give off a lot of heat. They might not be suitable for really cluttered garages, and you will need to make sure that all flammables are at least 3 feet from the heater.

Electric Garage Heaters

Electric garage heaters are a great way to permanently heat your garage. There’s a lot to choose from, and most of them are simple to set up; you’ll just need access to an outlet. These garage heaters are useful if you want to reliably heat your garage no matter the outside conditions. They don’t need any ventilation and can typically be installed as wall or table-mounted or used as freestanding units.

Electric garage heaters are fairly inexpensive, and there’s enough choice to find one which suits your budget. However, they aren’t the most efficient, and you will notice a rise in your energy bills each month. If you have a new garage, then underfloor heating can be a cheap option that will help protect your garage.

However, if you’re trying to retrofit it, then it will be trickier and more costly.

See 120v garage heaters

See 240v garage heaters

Gas Garage Heaters

Gas heaters are extremely efficient and offer very powerful heating. They work in the same way as electric heaters, but they are powered by propane or natural gas. If you want to heat your garage inexpensively, you’re better off using a portable gas heater as this won’t require you to fit a fixed gas line. These heaters can be freestanding or installed on walls or ceilings as needed.

Gas heaters work well in a garage because they are effective, economical, and low cost. Garage gas heaters do need to be properly ventilated, or they can become a hazard. It may be worth consulting a professional to make sure you’ve done this safely.

Radiant Heating

Radiant garage heaters work by providing direct heat rather than heating the air within your garage. This can be useful if you have a dusty environment and don’t want fans blowing the air around your garage. They are usually electric, so you’ll need to have an outlet nearby to connect it up.

Radiant heaters are often installed as under the floor heating, but you can get some freestanding models too. These generally carry a higher up-front cost than other heaters, but they have very low running costs. Radiant heaters are intense, so make sure all flammable materials are moved to a safe distance before you switch it on.

Wood Burning Stove

Wood Burning StoveBurning wood is the original way to get heat into your home and is still a great way to heat a space.

By installing a wood-burning stove in your garage, you can heat the space, and it may even be a valuable tool if you are doing DIY work and need the flame.

You can run the stove for long periods, and it will continue to provide heat even when the stove is put out.

A basic wooden stove is fairly inexpensive to install, but a more aesthetic model will cost more.

In addition, you will need well-integrated ventilation to deal with the fumes, which can be expensive if you don’t have anything currently. You may need to get a professional involved to ensure you’ve done this correctly and that there’s no fire risk.

Wood-burning stoves look great and will heat your garage well, but they are much higher maintenance than other heaters. You’ll need to have a good supply of wood to fuel the flames, and you will need to empty and clean the stove periodically to stop it from getting blocked up.

Redirect Existing Ductless Mini-Split System

Mini-split systems allow you to heat your home in winter and cool it in summer by drawing in cold or hot air. You can redirect an existing mini-split fairly easily because there’s no network of ventilation ducts to deal with, and they will offer effective heating all year round.

This is one of the best options to heat your garage, but they are expensive if you don’t already have one. This is the best solution for homeowners who will be using their garage space all year round.

See our top mini-split models

Garage Heater Safety Tips

Safety always comes first, and when you’re heating such a small space, you need to do it safely. Here are some tips to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your home:

  • Remove Obstructions
    It’s vital that you move all flammable objects away from your heater. Oil, paint, fabrics, and cardboard can all catch fire quickly, so you need to make sure they’re kept far away from the heat source. Garages are often used to store many hazardous materials, so make sure you do a complete sweep before you switch anything on.
  • Vent Properly
    Many electric heaters won’t need ventilation, but other heaters will. In an enclosed garage space without windows, you need to vent the fumes outside, which could be a health risk. You should install a carbon monoxide detector in your heater, too, so you are alerted to an issue.
  • Plug In Directly
    Electric heaters will require an outlet nearby to plug into. Some garages don’t have outlets, and it can be tempting to run extension cords so that you can power them, but this can increase the risk of an electrical fire. You should always plug-in heaters directly, even if it means having new outlets fitted.
  • Don’t Leave The Heater
    It can be tempting to leave your heater running while it warms up. It’s dangerous to leave heaters running unsupervised, especially in your garage, so we advise switching all heaters off when you go out or when you’re going to bed.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

How many BTU does it take to heat a 1-car garage?

It will take about 8000-12000 BTUs to heat a single car garage.

How many BTU does it take to heat a 2-car garage?

It will take about 20,000 to 30,000 BTUs to heat a 2-car garage, and 30,000 to 60,000 BTUs for a 3-car garage.

Where should a heater be placed in the garage for optimal heat?

Your heater should normally be placed in the coldest part of the room, so it has the most impact. With space heaters, you should point them into the center of the garage, so they heat the space more quickly.

Can I run a heat duct to my garage?

You shouldn’t connect your garage ventilation with the ventilation connected to the rest of your home, as this can be a fire risk. Your garage should have its own ventilation and heat ducts installed.

Conclusion

Your garage doesn’t have to be wasted space, and by heating it properly, it can become another functional room in your home. There are lots of inexpensive ways to heat your garage, and hopefully this article has given you some ideas of how to do this yourself without spending any money.

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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