If you live in a colder climate or spend most of your time in the garage, space heaters may be the only option you have to keep you and your space warm. We’ve listed five of the best garage heaters on the market and provided you with details to make an informed decision.
Heating things up
Depending on your needs, you may only need a small personal heater while you work at your tool bench. In this case, check out the Mr. Heater Portable Radiant Heater. Small, portable, affordable.
However, if you’re heating a large converted building for a group of people—or keeping a three-car garage warm—consider one of the industrial options like the Farenheat Ceiling-Mount Industrial Electric Heater.
Now that we’re all warmed up, onto the heaters!
Farenheat Ceiling-Mount Industrial Electric Heater
Ideal for those times when you need to keep an entire garage warm or roast some meat on a spit. And although it’s a rather small unit, this still puts out some serious heat.
- 240 volt power source
- 25,600 BTU output
- 7500 watt power draw
- 31.3 amps
In our reviewed list, this industrial electric heater has the highest rated BTU rating at over 25k.
Hey, what’s a BTU and why is it important?
More about the garage heater
This particular model has a built-in thermostat, while others require you to wire to an external thermostat. The good part is that you don’t have to wire anything else, just the supply line into the back. The bad part is that the heater needs to be within reach to turn it on and adjust the heat level.
Heat is generated in a spiral metal sheath that is wound through the heater. Air is then drawn in from the back by an internal fan and pushed through the element. The fan will not run until the sheath has reach a minimum temperature. This keeps you from getting blasted with cold air. Pretty smart! The fan is also set to run after the unit has been shut down, cooling the now-hot coil.
If the heater detects overheating, an automatic shut off will activate. The heater shuts down until an adequate temperature is reached. At that point, it will automatically kick back on.
Mounting the heater will take two people as it weighs 30 lbs. The U-shaped mounting bracket has two settings for height, depending on how far away from the ceiling you want it mounted. Along the top, you’ll find three open holes.
Placing the heater along a joist or stud with two or three lag bolts is ideal. If you need the heater to swivel horizontally, place a large lag bolt and washer in the center hole. This will give you full range of motion both horizontally and vertically.
Mounting this heater up high also keeps it out of reach of children and pets. The heavy-gauge steel housing will get hot in certain places. And never adjust its position when it has been on.
It’s coated with a thick, off-white epoxy that will withstand years of heat and cold. Whether you have it indoors or out on a patio, this heater is built to withstand corrosion and rust.
In extremely cold environments, and we’re talking sub-zero outside, this heater may not perform as expected. But that’s not to say it’s not functioning properly. It’s just that at a certain point, there is simply too much cold for this heater to overtake.
Depending on how well-insulated and sealed your location is, you may also need to run this heater for a couple hours before it makes the environment comfortable. This is one of the reasons why it can be so costly to run a heater of any kind. The better the room holds its temperature, the lighter the load on the heat generator.
Dr. Heater DR966 Garage Commercial Heater
A stylish little heater that makes its presence known.
- 240 volt power source
- 20,400 BTU output
- 3000-6000 watt power draw
- 25 amps
This unit sports two spiral nichrome (steel) coils as its heating element. Similar to the Farenheat model, this heater also forces air through the coil. And at over 20k BTU’s, this can comfortably heat up a small one- to two-car garage.
The fan motor is completely sealed and pre-lubricated, meaning it won’t need any internal maintenance going forward. The fan blade itself is 8 inches and five blades, maximizing the displacement of air through the unit.
This model can be mounted to either the ceiling or wall. The U-shaped mounting bracket has a single hole in the center, but also sports a 1.5″-wide curved edge that will hug a standard ceiling joist. So while only having one location to bind to a support, the curved edge will add some extra sturdiness.
The finish is a gray toned epoxy that combats corrosion in both indoor and outdoor applications. And the adjustable louvers allow you to pinpoint exactly where you want the heat directed. It comes in at just under 27 lbs., so you may need a second set of hands to mount it.
This heater seems to be rather noisy compared to the others, both at start-up and while running. The heating element has a distinct, loud click when it first starts up. The fan, while being quite powerful in its ability to distribute the air, is noticeably loud at normal operation. Sounds like an excuse to turn the garage radio up a bit.
Depending on the size and ambient temperature, this heater may need to be run for an hour or two before using your garage or workshop. One owner also noted that when they adjusted the device from low to high, it burned out the switch.
King Electric GH2405TB
A lighter-duty garage heater with a dark finish and a simple design.
- 240 volt power source
- 17,060 BTU output
- 5000 watt power draw
- 20 amps
The included mounting bracket can be used in one of three ways: wall mount, ceiling mount (high), and ceiling mount (low). Although, there isn’t much difference in the high and low options. You just use the longer arm of the bracket and it brings the heater a few inches closer to the ground. The unit weighs 28 pounds.
The heating element works the same as the other forced-air electric garage heaters. A wrapped coil heats up and air is moved through. This model, however, has additional intakes toward the back of each side. This purportedly allows the fan to work less and also draws in more air, making the unit more energy efficient. Works well for areas up to 500 square feet.
The electrical components are located behind a hinged access cover, which leaves a more finished look once the entire unit has been mounted and hooked-up. The 12 front louvers can be individually adjusted for more control, compared to Farenheat and King Electric models with just four louvers.
If you’ve shopped around for other garage heaters, you may have noticed that other models come with a U-shaped bracket attached to either side of the unit. This particular model has a single triangular-shaped bracket that attaches to the center.
With the proper mounting hardware (washers and lag bolts) it’s not a safety hazard, but the way it’s attached does allow it to jostle if it’s adjusted or pressed upon. This can be concerning if you’ve mounted the heater above a high-value item such as a vehicle.
Mr. Heater F232000 Portable Radiant Heater
If you don’t need the high-energy output of a hardwired garage heater, perhaps just a personal heating element while you’re at your workbench, give the Mr. Heater Portable Radiant Heater a try.
- Liquid propane (LP) power source
- 4,000-9,000 BTU output
- Heats up to 200 square feet
This liquid propane heater packs a nice little punch for its size. It’s ideal for those instances where you need some quick heat in a small place, say in a small room addition in your garage or inside a tent when you’re camping.
The carrying handle folds down to save some space and the regulator is on a swivel. If you find that you’re going through far too many 1 lb. gas cans, you can hook it up to a larger propane source. Make sure you have an extension hose with an attached LPG filter if it’s longer than 10 feet.
The heating element is lit through a piezoelectric sparking system, similar to that of a propane gas grill. A bar is ignited at the base and the flame is fed vertically through a honeycomb-shaped ceramic burning tile. This gives you about 5″x6″ surface of heat.
As for safety features, this model boasts two: the Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) and the accidental tip-over shut-off. Since you’re dealing with combustion that results in toxic gases, the level of oxygen should be monitored. If not enough oxygen is detected, the unit will simply shut off. If the unit is accidentally bumped or kicked over, it will once again automatically shut off. In both instances it must be manually re-ignited.
For being so small, it does have the ability to blast through propane tanks like they’re nothing. If you only need heat for a few minutes, a 1 lb. tank will suffice. If the heater needs to run for a few hours, you’ll definitely need a 20 lb. tank.
As a safety precaution, if it runs for more than 20 minutes, be sure to check the heat adjustment knob. It’s noted several times that the knob locks in place and had to resort to tipping it to get it to shut off. Not very safe but good to know if the situation arises.
This unit should not be used outdoors. Not only does it not have the output capacity, it’s easily knocked out by wind. We’re talking a very light breeze or even the air movement generated from somebody walking by. The heating tray will re-ignite but it’s just not well-suited for outdoor elements.
Dyna-Glo Propane Forced Air Heater
This liquid propane garage heater looks like a hair dryer on steroids.
- Liquid propane (LP) power source
- 30,000-60,000 BTU output
- Forced air unit
- Heats up to 1,350 square feet
The Dyna-Glo heater has a surprising heat rating for being such a small unit. When compared to the industrial-strength Farenheat model, it produces almost 3-times as much heat. Just goes to show how much more heat a flame can produce compared to a nichrome coil.
The heating tube rests on an adjustable stand (up to 2 inches of travel), which allows you to adjust the projection of heat about 30 degrees vertically. It comes with a 10 foot hose and regulator. Take note that you’ll need at least a 20 lb. liquid propane (LP) cylinder. This is a fuel hog.
Even with this high fuel consumption, it still manages to use a low-pressure (0.5 PSI) propane delivery system. This function combats tank freeze and malfunction in colder weather.
This garage heater sports two safety features: an auto shut-off if the items tips over as well as a back pressure switch to monitor the consistent flow of propane. It also shuts down if the unit becomes too hot.
Before firing up this garage heater you should make sure there are no obstructions to the fan blades. This is an integral piece for proper function. Without the fan movement, heat builds up quickly in the tube and can cause a fire. Run it once in normal conditions and get a gauge for the speed of the fan and that it’s functioning consistently.
Another issue noted is that the fan doesn’t run at optimal speed if the unit has been left out in the cold for an extended period of time. This could be due to the motor’s lubricant solidifying or the contraction of metal pieces. Either way, it needs to run at full speed for heat to be properly distributed. Test this before you put it to work.
The unit constantly clicks (safety feature) to ensure that the propane is lit. So aside from the fan, you’ve also got the piezo click to contend with. The whole thing sounds like a turbine engine on a fighter jet. On the low setting (30k), it will run for roughly 14 hours on a 20 lb. tank, 7 hours at high (60k).
How to choose the best garage heater
If you’re looking to get the best garage heater for your house or workshop, consider these facts and caveats to each heater type. Sure, there are a lot to choose from. But knowing the installation and operation requirements beforehand will save you a lot of headache in hiring professionals or returning items.
Types of garage heaters
Electric fan-forced garage heaters: these are very safe and the most popular in our list. The all-electric power component doesn’t release any toxins that require ventilation. The fan blows the heat where you want it, giving you a further reach compared to heat-radiant models. Consider that the unit recycles air, so if you’re using paints or sanding, those particles will run through the fan and heating coil. You may want to look into our garage air filter list if you work a lot with tiny airborne particles.
Infrared or radiant garage heaters: these models cast infrared heat down and out from where they’re positioned. Typically aimed at floors, they heat up the surface which in turn radiates heat back up to the ceiling. Useful in larger locations like a showroom or three-car garage. These units are quite expensive and take up a lot of wall space. Easily over $1,000.
Liquid fuel powered garage heaters: these units are portable and have a smaller footprint but should be used with caution. Of the several toxins these produce, carbon monoxide is the most deadly. It’s sort of counterproductive to have to run a device like this in a well-ventilated area. After all, you’re trying to keep the cold air out. Still, an affordable and convenient solution to heating a room in a pinch.
It’s no surprise that heaters are power hogs. Whether you’re using electric or gas, you’ll find that you’re either going to be seeing an increase on your electric bill or you’ll be making several return trips to the sporting goods store for more propane.
The industrial, heavy-duty electric heaters can require anywhere from a 30 to 40 amp [dedicated] fuse. If your garage was originally fitted with a 220 volt output for an electric dryer, you can run the new line off of that power source…assuming it’s no longer in use. Don’t branch off of that line or else you’ll trip the fuse if both the dryer and heater are running.
Along with this dedicated power source, you’ll also need at least a 10 gauge wire. Although 8 is recommended in most of these setup manuals. Consult a licensed electrician if you’re in doubt. Better to be certain rather than chance a house fire.
As for the gas-powered heaters, they generate their heat from combustion. If you can hark back to your days in science class, you might recall that oxygen is a necessary element in that chemical reaction. Also—and this may need to be prefaced with news flash—humans also need oxygen to survive.
If the heater is using up too much of the oxygen, this could result in incomplete combustion. So not only is there not enough oxygen for us to breathe, there’s excess carbon dioxide; carbon monoxide; and nitrogen. This deadly mix could result in loss of consciousness or death. Some models come with an oxygen sensor that will cut them off if that event arises.
There are a few heater models come packaged with helpful add-ons or you can purchase these at a later time.
Remote control: just like our favorite pedestal fans, you can control your heater from across the room. Very convenient if the heater is out of reach or at an inconvenient location.
Adjustable louvers: fine-tune where your heat is going. Spread out the distribution to maximize the effectiveness of your unit. The more louvers the unit has, the better control you’ll have over the air.
Wheels or casters: depending on your organization requirements and how often you plan to use your heater, being able to wheel it around might be good. In the warmer months just move it out of the way. Or if you’re working on your car, move your heater to the most comfortable location.
Best garage heater for my needs
So having read the safety precautions and installation requirements for each type of heater, how do I know which heater is best-suited for me?
For a large space, we’re talking a two- to three-car garage, your best bet are the all-electric, forced air heaters. They’re safe and have the capability to warm a large room…granted they’ve been running for a while beforehand. But they can still be pinpointed if you’d like to get working right away.
Once they’ve been properly installed, they’re up and out of the way. The only inconvenience being that you have to manually operate a few of the models directly on the unit itself. Not too bad of a deal if you have a frigid garage. So say “bye-bye” cold, we don’t need you around here. Not in my garage, anyway.
For garage insulation tips and sealing up drafts, read more about it in this article. Happy heating!