Secrets to heating your garage safely and efficiently

October 15, 2014

Love to tinker with your car in winter? Is your garage also your gym? Maybe it's where you do woodworking? Whatever its use, here's practical advice when it comes to safely and efficiently heating your garage.

If you have a woodworking shop in your garage or just enjoy puttering around with cars there, chances are you’ll need a garage heater in winter. Or maybe you keep pets in your garage due to allergies and would like to keep the animals toasty warm in winter.

Forego portable heaters

Don’t even consider a portable heater for your garage. Some 25,000 house fires are caused each year by these types of heaters, according to the Harvard University Environmental Health & Safety Group. Banned in many cities, portable heaters are incapable of heating large spaces. They should never be used around the types of flammable materials usually found in garages: gasoline, spray paint, sawdust and the like.

Garage-heating options

Here are a few of the safe and effective options available for heating your garage during rugged Canadian winters:

  • Vent-free infrared garage heater
  • Sealed combustion space heater
  • Electric radiant ceiling panels

Vent-free infrared garage heater

The vent-free infrared garage heater is a safe option that many choose for the following reasons:

  • It’s easy to install
  • It’s inexpensive
  • It's nearly silent

Most have catalytic heating elements that burn fuel efficiently. And all the heat energy goes into the garage, rather than being vented out a flue. You’ll spend just a few cents a day on this incredibly cheap option.

Blower fans are not required, as they are with furnaces, and there are no large motors.
Although this heater emits steam and carbon dioxide back into the garage (being vent-free), it’s safe. However, the steam emitted, while beneficial to human health in the dry winter climate, might not be a viable choice if your garage contains a wood shop.

Sealed combustion space heater

Here’s another option, provided your home already uses natural gas. The sealed combustion space heater, which must be located on an exterior wall, draws clean, fresh air from outside and vents exhaust back outside. Wall-mounted units are usually more convenient, since they’re up and out of your way when you’re carrying around tools. This option will heat your space quickly, too. You’ll need to determine how many BTUs you need for your garage size. It’s best to consult a professional for this and other questions about sealed combustion space heaters.

Electric radiant ceiling panels

Finally, electric radiant ceiling panels are handy because they can be placed in a number of locations:

  • Mounted to your garage’s existing ceiling
  • Dropped into a suspended ceiling grid
  • Mounted on the wall

These one-inch-thick units, which are good for workshops but not for people with garage pets, should be turned on only when you’re about to occupy your garage. The advantage, of course, is that you’re not spending money to heat your garage when you’re not in it.

You will find, however, that electric radiant ceiling panels will warm your garage surprisingly quickly. About half an hour after you flip the switch, your space will be toasty. Noiseless and easy to install, these units are most effective if you place them near your workbench.

Consult a professional

Talk to an HVAC professional in your area for more effective ways to heat your garage, and make the space a more comfortable zone for whatever purpose you use it.

Secrets to heating your garage safely and efficiently
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