Winter is a cold, dark time…especially in your garage.
When I lived up north, it felt like my garage was hovering right around freezing for half the year. If you use your garage as a workshop, or even if you just use it to park your car, keeping your garage at the right temperature can make all the difference.
The cheapest and easiest way to make your garage warmer is to use a garage heater. Shocking, right?
But there are literally hundreds of models and many different types to choose from.
Which garage heater is right for you?
In this article, I’m going to explain the different types of garage heaters and discuss whether electric or propane heaters are right for you. Then I’ll talk about the myth of high-efficiency heaters and explain how to figure out what size heater you should choose.
Finally, I’m going to give my recommendation for what I think is the best garage heater in each category.
Let’s get started.
Types of Garage Heaters
There are three main types of heaters: forced air, convection, and radiant. The distinction is what gets heated and how quickly that heat gets out into your room.
Let me explain.
- Convection garage heaters: This is your basic heater with an enclosed flame or heating element that warms the air within the heater. That air then naturally rises and heats the air around it. Convection garage heaters are usually the cheapest option, but they’ll take the longest to heat your room.
- Forced-air garage heaters: What happens when you take a convection heater and add a fan to it? It becomes a forced-air heater. Instead of letting the air naturally rise, a forced-air heater pushes the air out so it heats the room quicker.
- Radiant garage heaters: Both convection heaters and forced-air heaters work by heating the air around them. Radiant garage heaters actually use low-level radiation to heat the objects in front of them which, in turn, heat the air around them.
Which Is Better Gas or Electric Garage Heaters?
People claim to have THE right answer to that question, but the choice of whether to use propane of electricity for heating your garage depends on where you live.
More importantly, it depends on what the electricity costs are where you live.
When I was researching this article, I found a lot of websites that were obviously biased one way or the other. Personally, I don’t trust a natural gas company to give me unbiased advice, do you?
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) records data showing the average cost of electricity in each state – and that cost varies wildly!
For example, if you live in Pennsylvania, you’re paying around 10 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. That’s right around the national average.
But if you live in Connecticut, you’re paying almost double that – 17 cents per kilowatt hour.
Here’s the bottom line:
The more electricity costs per kilowatt hour (kWh), the more money you would save by heating your garage with propane instead.
I highly recommend checking out the EIA’s website (link above) to see what the costs are in your state. It should also be listed on your last utilities bill.
That may be a quick way to sway your decision one way or the other.
Marketing BS: High Efficiency Electric Heaters
Here’s an example of pure marketing-BS.
Technically speaking ‘efficiency’ is how much energy is lost to heat rather than powering the device for whatever purpose it’s made for.
For example, your cordless heats up as you use it. That heat is wasted energy.
Space heaters, on the other hand, are designed to heat the room. Even”lost” energy is still actually doing what it’s supposed to do.
Every electric space heater is technically a “high efficiency electric heater.”
Here’s a YouTube video that goes into a lot more detail. It’s a great watch I’m pretty entertaining as well.
Heat and Wattage
One other note about electricity and wattage:
Every heater with the same power rating IE 1500 watts is going to heat the room the same. given that they have similar features.
That’s really where the differences come in.
For example if you have two 1500 watt heaters, one has a fan connected to it and one does not, the one with the fan is obviously going to spread the heat throughout the room quicker. But the heating elements between the two is going to be the same.
The question that we should be asking is which heater costs the less money to run. And that goes back to the cost of energy in your state.
Keep that in mind when you’re shopping.
One important note for safety: never plug your electric heater into a garage surge protector. These heaters draw a lot of power – more than most surge protectors are rated for.
What Size Garage Heater Do I Need?
Maybe I watched too many episodes of Home Improvement, but I’m a fan of “bigger is better.”
In this case, you can actually have a garage heater that’s too big for the space it’s in. But a heater that’s too small and it’s going to struggle to heat the space appropriately. Too big and it’s just going to waste money.
That’s why it’s imprtant to buy the right size heater for your garage in the first place.
But how big of a heater do you need?
How to read the power label
Space heaters are going to be listed with two main specifications: Watts and BTU’s.
Watts are a measure of the power that the device will use. This only applies to electric heaters since propane heaters obviously don’t use any electricity.
BTU’s, or British Thermal Units, are a measure of heat energy, and usually measured in BTU’s per hour of operation. One BTU is the amount of energy needed to increase one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
You’ll almost always see both watts and BTU’s listed in the thousands.
How Many BTU’s for a Garage Heater?
When I was doing research for this article, I came across a few sites that had really fancy BTU calculators.
Most of them were on manufacturer websites that have an interest in having you spend the most you can on your garage heater.
So I went to one of the unbiased sources that I trust the most: EnergyStar.gov.
There they had an easy reference chart, designed for both air-conditioners and space heaters. It lists a range of room square footage and how many BTU’s you’d need to heat or cool a room effectively.
The general rule is that you need a garage heater with between 25 and 30 times the square footage of your room.
Let’s run through an example:
My two-car garage is 20′ long and 24′ wide, which gives it a square footage of 480 sq. ft.
That means I’d need a garage heater with between 12,000 BTU and 16,800 BTU for my two-car garage.
One caveat: Depending on where you live and how well your garage is insulated, those numbers could change.
If you have an un-insulated garage in Alaska, you might want to go higher than 16,800 BTU’s. On the flip side, a well insulated garage in South Carolina may be fine with a 10,000 BTU garage heater.
But a good place to start is between 25-35 times the square footage of your garage.
Best Garage Heaters
Unsurprisingly, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ for garage heaters. The right heater for me is probably not the one that’s best for you.
So what I’ve done is divide my favorite heaters into different categories so you can see which one works best for you.
I’m going to start off with the electric heater that I’d choose, but move on to some propane and portable heaters as well.
Best Plug-In 120v Electric Heater: Heat Storm 1500 Phoenix
Heat Storm may have a corny name, but they make some really good electric heaters in a variety of different sizes and styles.
Specifically, I recommend their 1500 watt wall heater: The HS-1500 Phoenix.
Heat Storm HS-1500 Specs
|Type||Wall-Mountable or Freestanding|
|Item model number||HS-1500-PHX|
|Product Dimensions||18.8 x 4.5 x 12.8 inches|
|Item Weight||9 pounds|
|Shipping Weight||10.7 pounds|
|Power||Requires a 15 AMP, 120 Volt, 60 Hz circuit with a properly grounded outlet|
|Price:||$110 (Base model) – $140 (WiFi Enabled)|
Personally, I think the whole smart home craze has gotten a little out of hand, but the WiFi enabled HS-1500 has one really cool feature: you can turn it on and off with an app.
Think of it like a remote starter for your garage heater.
Other than letting you control the heater directly from an app, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, there’s no extra performance that you get for the $30 price difference. So if that’s not a big deal to you, opt for the non-WiFi enabled HS-1500 instead and save some money. Either way, it comes with a remote control for easy operation.
Still…it’s pretty cool to be able to say “OK Google…turn on my garage heater” or schedule it to turn on at certain times.
I love that you can plug this heater into any normal 120v electric outlet and you don’t need a dedicated, high current circuit. You can either mount it directly to the wall or use it free-standing on it’s plastic feet.
Personally, I like the wall-mounting option since it won’t take up any extra space in your crowded garage!
The design of the Heat Storm HS-1500 is really clean and simple. No matter how you finish your garage walls, this heater isn’t going to look out of place.
According to the manufacturer, “the Heat Storm HS-1500 was designed to provide supplemental heat to between a 750-1000 square foot room. The square footage estimate is going to vary based on how well insulated your room is and what type of floors you have (for example, concrete absorbs the heat).”
The HS-1500 has an integrated thermostat so it can keep the temperature anywhere between 40 degrees and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s also an Eco function where it will switch to half-power mode as long as you’re within two degrees of your desired temperature.
As with most garage heaters, the HS-1500 has an auto-shut off feature if the heater tips over. There’s also a Child-Lock feature which locks the control panel so little hands can’t get into trouble.
- Plug it in to any normal 120V power outlet
- No exhaust fan needed
- Thermostat can be set anywhere from 40-99 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Plastic housing
- Designed as a supplemental heater: Only 5200 BTU
Best Hardwired Electric Heater: NewAir G73
Plug-in electric heaters are nice, but sometimes you need a bit more heating power and 120 volts just isn’t going to cut it.
That’s where you step up to a hardwired electric heater, and I can’t think of one better than the NewAir G73.
NewAir G73 Specs
|Type||Wall-mountable hardwired electric heater|
|Product Dimensions||8.90″D x 9.10″W x 11.25″H|
|Item Weight||15 pounds|
|Power||20.8 amp, 240 Volt, 5000 Watts|
So why do you need a hardwired electric heater instead of a free-standing, plug-in heater?
As Tim Allen would say…more power!
But seriously, electric garage heaters draw so much power that they’ll often overload the circuit – especially if you plug anything else into that same circuit.
If you need more heating power than a 120 volt heater like the Heat Storm 1500 provides, the next step up is to hardwire a 240 volt heater like the NewAir G73 into a dedicated circuit.
It’s a little more work up front to install, but you more than triple the heating power!
You’d actually need more than three of the Heat Storm heaters to match the power from one NewAir G73.
Comparisons with the Dayton G73
There are some obvious comparisons between the NewAir G73 and the Dayton G73. If you look on some review sites, the Dayton gets really high marks, and it’s understandable.
But for me, it really comes down to price.
The Dayton G73 is manufactured by Grainger. If you’re not familiar with Grainger, they’re one of THE premier industrial supply companies in the United States.
They’re consistently one of the most durable and highest quality manufacturers today.
One thing that nobody has ever accused them of being, however, is inexpensive.
Spec for spec, the Grainger Dayton G73 and the NewAir G73 are almost identical. Same wattage. Same BTU output. Almost identical dimensions.
The only difference is that the Dayton G73 costs almost twice as much as the NewAir G73.
The NewAir G73 is deceptively small. It’s only around nine inches wide and deep and only eleven inches high.
That’s small enough to overlook in most garages, and definitely small enough so it won’t look out of place in higher end garages as well.
Pictures don’t really do it justice, actually.
The front of the unit has adjustable louvers to let you direct the heat up or down.
The NewAir G73 is rated for 500 sq ft of space, although that can increase to 750 sq ft if you have some good insulation in your garage. At minimum, that’s the size of a standard two-car garage.
On the back of the unit there’s a basic analog-style temperature dial to control the built in thermostat. The unit will automatically shut off once it hits the desired temperature.
You can’t directly set a temperature to 60 degrees, for example. However, it’s a good way to control the temperature once it gets to a certain point.
Unfortunately, there’s no remote control and no way to easily add a remote thermostat.
The NewAir G73 is wall-mountable only, so it won’t have many of the same safety features as some of the floor-standing electric heaters.
For example, there’s no need for an automatic shutoff if the unit tips over. You won’t find any child-safety locks either. Hopefully, you’re going to install this hardwired heater high enough so the children can’t reach it.
It does have a warning light on the front to let you know if the unit starts to overheat.
Finally, it’s certified by the Underwriting Laboratories (UL Certified) in the United States.
- 17,060 BTU, which is enough to heat a two-car garage by itself
- UL Certified
- Heavy gauge steel design
- Must be hardwired
- No remote