What Are The Best Garage Heaters? (Guide) – 2020 Reviews
Your home garage is your sanctuary. It’s the place where you can perform repairs, maintenance, and other vital tasks to keep your vehicle running at peak performance.
However, most garages don’t have built-in heating. It can get downright freezing, and you don’t want to sit in a cold garage while working.
A garage heater is an efficient, cost-effective way to keep your garage warm and toasty so you can work in comfort. You’ll find many different types and sizes. If you’re not sure which heater will work best, we’re here to help!
Check out our recommendations for the best garage heaters in 2020 plus a complete shopping guide:
- Considerations When Choosing A Garage Heater
- Remote Control
- Overheat Protection
- Installation Ease
- Heat Exchange Material
- Aluminized Steel
- Stainless Steel
- Best Overall – Heat Storm Infrared Heater with WiFi
- Best Cheap Option – Mr Heater Portable Buddy
- Best Value for the Money – Ceramic Small Space Mini Heater from AmazonBasics
- Honorable Mention 1 – Fahrenheat FUH54 Unit Heater
- Honorary Mention 2 – Mr Heater Big Maxx
- Best Garage Heater 2020 FAQ
- What are the Different Types of Heaters?
- Heat Sources
- Electric Heaters
- Gas Heater
- Heat Dispersal Method
- Infrared or Radial
- How Do I Know My Heater has Proper Ventilation?
- Power Vented Systems
- Direct Vented Systems
- What Common Terms Should I Know?
- UL Certification
- Temperature Rise
- How Much Heat Does My Garage Need?
- Final Thoughts
Considerations When Choosing A Garage Heater
Consider the following features when shopping for a garage heater:
Spare space in your garage is probably already at a premium. The last thing you want is a bulky heater taking up more room. Most people prefer a compact garage heater which is easy to store when not in use.
Fortunately, size doesn’t always correlate to power. Many smaller heaters can heat a large area quickly and efficiently.
Additionally, the type of heater often determines its general size range. Forced-air heaters are typically the largest type because they need space for the internal fan. Infrared heaters are another larger type.
As established above, larger units aren’t necessarily more powerful. Instead, a heater’s power is measured in BTUs. It’s a standard, universal measurement of the work needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
There’s no standard BTUs required for a garage heater. Instead, the power needed depends on the size of your garage and the outside temperature.
A unit with at least 45,000 BTUs will heat a standard two-car garage. For larger spaces, choose a unit with 50,000 BTUs or more.
However, you don’t need that much power to stay warm. Smaller, less powerful units can keep you comfortable but not hot when working. (Later on, we’ll show you exactly how to measure the BTUs for your garage.)
The more powerful the heater, the quicker it’ll warm up the room. However, increased power also requires more electricity or fuel. You’ll want a heater powerful enough to heat your garage but not so powerful that it strains your monthly utility bill.
Most garage heaters are either gas or electric.
Gas-powered heaters require propane or similar fuel. They’re the strongest heaters by far. They create the highest temps and warm the largest rooms.
However, they have some potential dangers. Proper ventilation is a must. Gas heaters emit toxic fumes which can cause major health problems (including death) in small, poorly-ventilated areas.
Electric heaters plug into the wall. They’re much safer. However, they’re also less powerful and slower to warm a room.
The heat settings have a huge impact on its features. We discuss the different options in greater detail below.
Heaters can have tons of features or a relatively simple design. Here are the most common features you’ll find:
You’ll find some heaters with only an on/off switch, and they’ll work fine, but a heater with a thermostat is usually the better option. A thermostat allows you to set the desired temperature for the room. They increase control, efficiency, and safety.
Most thermostats are located directly on the heater. That’s the most convenient option for any portable heater. Larger heaters can have a wall-mounted thermostat.
Larger, wall-mounted heaters typically also operate via remote control. A remote allows you to mount the heater on the ceiling or wall.
On the downside, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the remote. If you lose it, the heater might not work. Additionally, remote units require batteries.
Overheat protection is an important safety feature. It prevents the heater from getting dangerously hot due to malfunction, lack of ventilation, tipping, or some other issue. Overheat protection automatically shuts off the heater when danger is detected.
A timer allows you to set automatic run times. You can typically program a time to start the heater, such as half an hour before you plan to start work in the garage. You can also program a time for the heater to shut off automatically.
A timer adds some convenience, but it does pose potential safety issues for the at-home mechanic. You should never run a heater in an unattended garage. Plus, timers typically increase the price, too.
Installation ease depends on the type of heater.
Portable heaters are the simplest to set up. Plug the unit into the wall, and it’s ready to use. Make sure the outlet delivers enough amps to power the heater. Thirty amps are usually the minimum, but that’s typically not a problem for a standard household outlet.
You can also mount a heater to the wall or ceiling. Mountable heaters include brackets, a stand, screws, and other accessories. Installing a mount is moderately difficult. You’ll usually only need a power drill and a level. Lifting and holding a heavy heater gets awkward; try to enlist a partner to help.
Finally, you can hardwire a heater into your home’s electrical system. You can then turn on the heater by flipping a switch. However, hardwiring a heater requires fairly sophisticated electrical know-how.
Heat Exchange Material
The heat exchange is the component which warms the passing air before pushing it into the room. You have two options:
- Aluminized steel
- Stainless steel
It’s the standard option found in most propane heaters. Aluminized steel reliably transfers heat. It requires little maintenance and typically operates for years or decades without issue. Plus, it’s the cheapest option. A heat exchange made from aluminized steel will work fine for most general uses.
Stainless steel is the strongest option. It’s better for heavy-duty use. Also, stainless steel resists corrosive elements and corrosive fumes. Choose a heat exchange made from stainless steel if you frequently work with toxic chemicals in your garage (paint counts).
On the downside, stainless steel adds to the price of the heater. If you don’t plan on using the heater for years, skip a stainless steel heat exchanger.
Quick Picks: Compare Our Top 3 Favorite Garage Heaters
Best Overall – Heat Storm Infrared Heater with WiFi
Our favorite heater warms a large garage quickly but stays cool to the touch even after prolonged operation.
- Fast and powerful
- Prevents accidental burns
- Easy to mount on wall or ceiling
- Operates with the smartphone app
- Noisy at times
- Most effective in smaller areas
Heat Storm’s infrared heater is our top choice. Its fast-acting, safe for use around kids, and easy to store. It’s an electric heater which uses 1,500 watts of power to heat a space up to 750 square feet. Use it to warm up a two-car garage even during the middle of winter.
Plus, it’s perfectly portable. Mount it on the wall or set it directly on the floor. When mounted over a wall outlet you can hide the excess cord inside the back of the unit. It’s 22 by 16 by 7.5 inches.
It’s also easy to use. Adjust the temperature from the built-in digital display. It also intuitively connects to any Apple or Android wireless device. Control the unit from across the room (or while under your car) with the Heat Storm app.
Finally, parents and pet-owners alike can rest easy because this is one of the safest heaters available. It stays cool to the touch. You won’t get hurt after brushing into it accidentally. Also, it won’t heat the wall or ceiling when mounted.
Best Cheap Option – Mr Heater Portable Buddy
Say hello to your little friend! The Portable Buddy from Mr Heater is the best cheap option due to its combination of power, safety, and portability.
- Heats areas up to 225 square feet
- Durable, portable construction
- Folds down for easier storage
- Includes multiple safety features
- Might shut off in altitudes over 7,000 feet
- Customer service has a poor reputation
- Knob can stick
Mr Heater is here to save the day! He provides heat when needed, even in small spaces, but is also easy to store when not in use. It creates between 4,000 to 9,000 BTUs which heats up to 225 square feet.
It’s made from steel, plastic, and nickel with a porcelain-coated heating surface. A four-position control panel with a Piezo igniter allows for easy, reliable operation.
Powered by propane, it requires no wires or access to an outlet. A swivel regulator ensures a secure and fast LP cylinder and hose installation. It consumes fuel at a rate of .044 gallons per hour at 4,000 BTUs or .099 gallons per hour at 9,000 BTUs.
Plus, it’s safe to use. A high-temperature wire guard helps protect you from accidental burns. It automatically shuts off if it tips over, the pilot light goes out, or low oxygen levels are detected.
Best Value for the Money – Ceramic Small Space Mini Heater from AmazonBasics
An affordable, reliable mini-heater which fits on tables and workbenches.
- Compact and powerful
- Features auto shut-off if tipped
- Portable and easy to store
- Not as powerful as larger heaters
- Requires electrical outlet
A heater doesn’t need a large footprint to keep you warm. This ceramic mini-heater is small but mighty. It uses fast-heating ceramic coils to generate a warm flow of air.
It’s ideal for setting on a workbench or other elevated location. The heater includes tip-over protection. Plus, it has an extra-sturdy base.
Finally, it’s the most portable option on our list. Store it in your car trunk to use on the road (as long as an electric outlet is nearby).
Honorable Mention 1 – Fahrenheat FUH54 Unit Heater
A heavy-duty, electric heater with precise controls and multiple mounting options.
- Heavy-duty heater
- Easily mounts to wall or ceiling
- Adjustable heat direction
- Includes auto shut-off safety feature
- Installation can be time-consuming
The Fahrenheat’s FUH54 is the biggest, most powerful heater on our list. It’s as strong as most industrial heaters but scaled down for home use. It weighs 24 pounds with total dimensions of 12.5 by 12.4 by 14 inches.
Mount it on the walls or ceiling. Built-in brackets allow for easy vertical or horizontal placement. Adjustable slats allow you to direct the heat precisely where it’s needed.
A built-in, single-pole thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature in the room from 45 to 135 degrees. It quickly warms up even large, empty spaces.
Finally, it’s packed with safety features. The heater automatically shuts off when the internal sensors detect any overheating. Once temperatures return to safe levels, it resumes heating.
Honorary Mention 2 – Mr Heater Big Maxx
Our favorite natural gas heater features plenty of power plus reliable mounting and easy-to-use controls.
- Powerful propane-powered heater
- Ideal for small areas with low ceilings
- Includes equipment for ceiling or wall mounting
- Includes versatile ventilation options
- Doesn’t include a thermostat
- Requires suitable ventilation
If you’re looking for a propane-powered heater, there’s a lot to like in the Big Maxx from Mr Heater. It produces up to 50,000 BTUs an hour, which provides enough heat for a room up to 1,250 square feet in size. A spark ignition allows for fast, reliable starts.
It includes a natural gas to liquid propane conversion kit. The manufacturer recommends eight feet of clearance for safe operation. It has a low-profile design ideal for installation in smaller areas with low ceilings (such as a household garage). A powered exhaust area allows for both vertical and horizontal venting.
However, the unit doesn’t include a thermostat. You’ll need to buy one separately. On the plus side, the exterior of the unit has simple access to connections for a thermostat, A/C terminal, and gas line.
Best Garage Heater 2020 FAQ
Here’s a complete rundown of what you need to know before buying a garage heater:
What are the Different Types of Heaters?
When shopping for a heater, consider the following:
- The heat source used
- The heat dispersal method
The type of heat source affects the heater’s strength, ease of use, and safety. Three main options are available:
- Gas (Natural Gas, Propane, Kerosene or Diesel)
Electric heaters are the most common type of garage heaters. Powered by electricity, they plug into any standard wall outlet.
Inside the unit, electricity passes through a metal conductor, transforming it into heat. The heat generated is proportional to the current multiplied by the electrical resistance of the metal. It’s a process called “resistance heating.” The size of the unit influences how much heat it can make.
- No hazardous fumes
- No open flame
- Safe for use indoors
- Requires access to an outlet
- Must stay dry
Gas heaters use either propane or natural gas. A sparker or pilot light ignites the gas, which warms a heat exchanger. A fan blows air through the heat exchanger into the room.
Gas-powered garage heaters are the most powerful type. They’re the best choice for heating large rooms like multi-car garages or commercial shops. They work quickly, too.
However, they have quite a few disadvantages. First, using a gas heater indoors can, well, kill you. Gas heaters emit carbon monoxide. Make sure all toxic fumes ventilate appropriately. Unfortunately, ventilation equipment can draw heat away from the room (although it does have the obvious benefit of keeping you alive).
- Inexpensive to operate
- Best for large areas
- Requires ventilation
- Requires refueling
Heat Dispersal Method
Aside from how the unit generates heat, you also want to consider how it pushes that heat outward. The dispersal method affects how thoroughly and efficiently the heater warms the room.
Heaters have four distribution methods:
- Infrared (radiant)
A forced-air system is the simplest. It uses an internal fan to blow the hot air, created inside the unit, out into the room. They’re the most powerful type of delivery method.
However, they do pose some problems in the garage. The fan blows air, often quite powerfully. It can stir up dust and other debris. Forced-air systems are especially annoying in areas with sawdust or loose-leaf papers.
Infrared or Radial
These units radiate heat throughout a room. They’re similar to how a campfire disperses heat. Most radial heaters are electric. They’re ideal for smaller spaces away from doors and windows.
Infrared units aren’t as powerful as forced-air or convection ones. However, infrared rays have interesting properties. They don’t warm the entire room, like many other types of heaters. Instead, people and objects absorb the rays directly. It’s targeted heating which works well in drafty garages or other spaces with poor insulation.
Infrared units don’t make any noise, while forced-air heaters can create quite a racket, especially if they’re near your face.
On the downside, radial units lose their heat fairly quickly. For example, if you open the garage door, you’ll feel the cold right away.
Many heaters use a combination of infrared and forced-air systems. Ideally, they provide the best of both types. You can run the fan to heat the room quickly then switch to infrared heating to maintain a comfortable temperature.
Although solar heaters are ideal for the environment, they’re not always practical for the at-home mechanic. Sunlight is often in short supply inside your garage.
You can place solar heaters outside and then bring them into the garage when needed. Of course, you’ll want lightweight, portable heaters, which can limit your options.
Ready to learn some science? Convection is the physical principle which states that hot air rises and cold air sinks.
Convection heaters use this principle to move warm air throughout a room. Cold air near the ground is drawn up, into the heater, where it passes over a heating source. Now warm, the air is pushed out of the unit to warm the room. The process repeats naturally.
Convection heaters are the most energy-efficient option. Also, they produce no harmful fumes.
How Do I Know My Heater has Proper Ventilation?
Poor ventilation is the biggest safety issue related to the use of a garage heater. Small, fuel-burning appliances are a major source of carbon monoxide deaths. Before using any gas heater, make sure the area is properly ventilated.
Gas heaters have two types of ventilation:
- Power Vented Systems
- Direct Vented Systems
Power Vented Systems
These systems use a fan to push the exhaust away. Depending on the type of heater and layout of your garage, the exhaust can flow horizontally or vertically away. Power venting is a fast, reliable method of removing toxic fumes from your workspace.
However, it does have downsides. The system pushes heated air outdoors, consistently lowering the temperature in the garage. Plus, it can create negative pressure, which is a situation where inside air is drawn out faster than it can replenish.
Direct Vented Systems
Also called sealed combustion systems, a direct vented system draws outside air in for combustion. They help prevent negative pressure. Additionally, these systems don’t push the warm air outside. They’re the best option for small, well-sealed places such as a one-car garage.
They’re also the safest option when dealing with toxic aerosol particles, such as paint fumes or gasoline. The venting system draws air from the outside, so it doesn’t pull toxins from inside the garage.
Choose a propane heater with high efficiency. It’s expressed in a percentage. Only use a heater with an efficiency of 90% or higher. You should find plenty of options made from both aluminized steel and stainless steel.
What Common Terms Should I Know?
Generally, garage heaters are fairly jargon-free. However, you’ll likely encounter a few unfamiliar terms while shopping. Here’s what they mean:
It’s a safety standard established by the Underwriters Laboratories and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Compliance ensures the appliance meets a variety of safety standards related to its electrical wiring. Almost all small appliances sold in the US meet UL standards but double-check anyway.
It’s a standard unit of measure for the rate of energy conversion or transfer over time. Multiply the amount of electricity used by the heater (the amperage) by the electric pressure required to move a charge (the voltage) to determine the wattage. Watts apply to electric heaters.
A British Thermal Unit measures heat. It’s the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water by one degree. It’s also roughly the amount of heat generated by a four-inch wooden match. BTUs apply to gas heaters. Approximately 3.41 BTUs equals one watt.
It’s the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature inside your garage (or wherever) to the desired level. You find this number by subtracting the current outside temperature from the temperature you want inside your garage. For example, if it’s 30 degrees outside, and you want a temperature of 65 degrees in the garage, the temperature rise is 35 degrees.
How Much Heat Does My Garage Need?
There are two ways to estimate the wattage needed to heat your garage:
- The easy, general way
- The precise, complicated way
Let’s start with the easy way first. Follow this formula: A heater requires 10 watts of power to heat one square foot of floor space.
For example, a 20 by the 22-foot garage has 440 square feet of floor space. Four hundred and forty times 10 equals 4,000. Any heater which produces 4,400 watts or more should heat your entire garage comfortably.
The formula applies to electric heaters. Gas heaters measure their power in BTUs, not watts. You’ll need to convert the watts into BTUs when measuring for a gas heater. Multiply the total wattage by 3.41. For example, 4,400 watts multiplied by 3.41 equals 15,004 BTUs.
The more complicated way involves matching the heat level to the desired temperature rise of your garage. First, determine the average desired temperature for the garage. Then measure the total volume of your garage. Finally, measure the degree of insulation in your garage.
Multiply the total square footage by the temperature rise. Next, divide that number by 1.6. The result is the total BTUs needed to heat the area. Divide that number by 3.41 to convert into watts.
The formula is more complicated – estimating insulation levels are especially tricky – but the result is far more precise. It’s the most cost-saving option because you can buy a heater with the exact power level needed.
Don’t stand around shivering while trying to work on your car. A garage heater is an easy, affordable, and effective way to stay comfortably toasty when performing auto maintenance and repair. Use our guide to find a sizzling deal on the perfect heater for your needs. Crank up the heat and enjoy your home garage all year round!