I spent some time discussing how to keep your garage cool in the summer, so I wanted to tackle the reverse problem and give you some tips on how to make your garage warmer in the winter.
I remember being traumatized by the cold, bitter winters in Pennsylvania. It’s the main reason I moved to Florida. I’d run outside about fifteen minutes before I had to leave for work, just to try to warm up my car.
So, how can I make my garage warmer in the winter? Here are some of your options:
- Replace damaged weatherstripping and seal up any air leaks
- Add insulation to garage walls and your garage door
- Invest in a separate heat source like:
- Electric Space Heaters
- Infrared Heaters
- Propane Heaters
- Wall-Mounted Heaters
- Ductless Heating Systems
- Radiant heating (heating panels installed beneath the floor)
For everyone up north reading this…I feel your pain. So let’s talk about several ways to make your garage warmer in the winter. But first, it’s good to know how warm your garage should be.
Ideal Garage Temperature
The ideal temperature for your garage depends on where you live and what the dew point is for that time of year.
Generally speaking, a range of between 40°F and 65°F is best. For more details, check out my article discussing what temperature your garage should be during winter.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to hit this range by sealing off leaks (especially around your garage door) or by adding a small space heater. Another idea is to add some sort of insulation….
While simply adding a space heater or other heat source initially seems like the easy fix, it may end up costing you more down the road. Adding insulation can help keep that heat inside your garage, reducing energy use and electrical costs.
How Much Warmer Is an Insulated Garage?
Even without active heating, an insulated garage will stay between 10° and 20° warmer than the outside temperature.
It may not sound like much, but it may just be enough to keep your garage above freezing.
However, an insulated garage without a heat source is going to stay at a much lower temperature than one that is heated. Insulation does not generate heat, only holds it in, and fluorescent or LED garage lighting doesn’t generate very much heat.
Start by Sealing Air Leaks
Insulation won’t mean much if you have gaps around your doors or windows.
Things to look at could be cracks on windows and door gaskets or big, gaping holes between your garage door seal and your floor. Gaps provide places for air to flow and create cold drafts in your garage.
You can start by:
- Replacing old or missing weatherstripping: An integrated weatherstrip will block air movement around door frames and rubber gaskets to seal around doors.
- Caulk around windows and doors: This not only prevents cold air from seeping into your garage, but it reduces the risk of mold and wood rot. Most contractors prefer clear silicone caulk.
- Adding plastic film insulation on windows: While not the best option, these kits can help stop the cold airflow and make it easier to heat your garage in the winter. They are inexpensive and easy to install, but may need to be replaced in a few years.
Then Insulate Your Garage Door and Walls
Many people think it’s foolish to insulate a garage door. I’m not one of those people.
The argument is that your garage isn’t frequently used so it doesn’t need to be insulated as well as other rooms in your house. While this is true to some extent, garage door insulation goes a long way in warming up your space.
There are several methods you can use to insulate your garage door. The simplest ones include the following:
- Rigid foam insulation – You can use extruded polystyrene (XPS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), or polyisocyanurate panel foams. Just ensure they are fire-rated and foil-faced to avoid a potentially disastrous fire.
- Batt insulation – The batting kits come in either vinyl-faced or foil-faced. Batt insulation is great for insulating your walls or ceiling, but not for your garage door. Never compress fiberglass batt insulation. It needs pockets of air between the fiberglass particles to be effective.
No matter what type of insulation you choose for your garage door, both will need adhesive to hold them in place.
Bonus tip: if you’re planning to replace the garage door, opt for an insulated model instead.
When it comes to insulating garage walls, fiberglass batt insulation is an excellent choice. That’s the method I went with to insulate my garage. Another option is to use spray foam insulation, which can be messy, but allows for less air to seep in.
Building codes require any wall between your garage and living spaces be insulated, but not any exterior walls. This will ensure the living area will not be affected even if the temperature drops within the garage.
Insulating the garage ceiling involves the same process as insulating your walls. This is particularly useful if an attic, bedroom, or living space rests above.
Finally Add a Garage Heater
Insulation and new seals help keep the cold air out, but the only way to keep your garage warm during the winter is to add a heat source.
There are several different types of garage heaters to choose from. Choosing the right one mainly depends on the size of your garage, the way your home is constructed and the cost of the energy in your area.
For example, electric heaters are great for smaller spaces but can be a bit expensive to run. On the plus side, they’re usually very inexpensive and may not require installation permits and inspections like gas heaters.
No matter what kind of heater you’re looking at, it’s important to get the right size heater. You’d want a unit that is energy-efficient and affordable, but not something that will cost more than necessary to run.
I’ve written a helpful buyer’s guide to choosing the right garage heater that you should definitely check out. It’s got a lot of helpful tips in there!
For now, here’s a brief overview of the different types of heating systems that you can use to keep your garage warmer in the cold winter months:
Portable Space Heater
Portable electric space heaters are as simple as it gets. They can provide an extra bit of heat that your garage needs to keep things warm and toasty.
They work great as a supplemental heat source in the garage, or in climates where the temperature only gets below freezing for brief periods. Space heaters use considerably less energy than most heating systems and are easy to use.
However, they carry risks that have the potential to cause damage if used incorrectly or carelessly. Many heaters offer anti-tip features and shielding to prevent fires. Be sure to look out for these types of safety features.
Electric Wall-Mounted Heater
This is a variation on the theme of a portable electric space heater. Wall mounted heaters are another great option to keep your garage warmer in winter.
These units can be easy to install for units that plug into a wall socket. Heavier duty models usually require a 240 volt outlet that most homes do not have. These would need to be professionally installed.
Dollar for dollar, industrial wall-mounted heaters are one of the best solutions for heating large garages.
Traditional heaters work by circulating air in the room. Infrared heaters heat objects directly in front of it, but not the air itself. So even if you turn off the heater, the items will remain warm.
It’s a weird thing to try to wrap your head around.
Because they don’t heat the air, these heaters are considerably safer than other portable heaters. Operating costs are less and also heat a room in less time. However, because of how they work, they’re most effective at heating things directly in front of them, not large areas.
Propane heaters are another great option. They’re similar to an electric heater, but use propane fuel instead of electricity to run.
That makes them extremely efficient, being inexpensive operate and heat the room very quickly. However, because they burn propane, they come with a few drawbacks as well. Without proper ventilation, propane garage heaters can be dangerous.
It’s important to follow proper safety precautions, including using a carbon monoxide detector in your garage. Also, buy a unit with safety features like automatic shut off, overheat protection, and low oxygen sensor.
Forced-air heaters are a more permanent solution since they warm your garage space by blowing heated air through ducts.
They’re fast heating, energy efficient and affordable to purchase, which make them popular.
The major drawback is that if it isn’t installed incorrectly, it can cause leaks in the ductwork. This can lead to higher energy costs, low air quality, and a dusty garage. The operating costs of these units are also a bit higher compared to infrared heaters.
Ductless Heating and Cooling System
Ductless systems operate similarly to split systems. They’re made up of a wall-mounted indoor unit paired with outside compressor. Air travels through a connecting conduit and directly into your garage.
The systems are easy to install, take up little space, and are quite quiet.
This may be a bit over the top, but installing a hydronic radiant floor heating system is also an efficient way to heat a garage. However, this heating system is only feasible if you’re planning to build a new garage or tear out your existing floor.
Radiant heating works by running hot water tubes buried in the concrete slab, which warms the floors above.
The biggest advantage of using radiant heating is that it distributes heat evenly, unlike traditional radiators. This means there are no cold spots, making your garage toasty warm and comfortable.
Because it’s installed under the floor, it’s also extremely quiet, and no maintenance is needed. There’s also no concerns about toxic fumes or poor air quality because there is no air circulation.
Here’s the kicker: it’s expensive. The exact cost will of course depend on floors depends on the size of your garage, the floor covering, where you live, and the cost of labor.
When the temperatures drop below freezing outside, there’s nothing worse than seeing your breath when you’re still inside your garage.
Unsurprisingly, the best solution for heating your particular garage depends on your situation.
Where you live and how cold it gets obviously makes the biggest impact. You should also think about things like energy efficiency, how often you’ll need to heat your garage each year, and how permanent a solution you want.
Finally, be sure to think about the total cost of ownership. Some solutions may be cheaper initially, but cost much more over the long run.
For more tips and tricks on how to winterize your garage, check out my next article in the series here!