No one likes a hot garage. It only took me living through one summer in Florida before I wondered if I should air condition my garage.
It may seem like an easy question, but unfortunately, there’s more to it if you want to do it right. If you don’t, you could spend more time and money than you should.
But is garage air conditioning worth it?
Depending on where you live, installing a garage air conditioner is the best option to keep it cool. Smaller garages can use a window air conditioner or portable AC units. 3-car or larger garages should choose a professionally installed ductless air conditioner. Adding an insulated garage door and wall insulation will help your garage air conditioner to more energy efficient.
Air conditioning in your garage may be the best solution, but it’s not the only one. We’ll talk about some of those solutions below.
First, let’s talk about some reasons you might want to air condition your garage in the first place.
Should You Air Condition Your Garage?
There are several great reasons to want to air condition your garage, but mine was pretty simple.
I got tired of dripping in sweat.
That could be your reason too, or it could be more complicated.
You may need a precisely controlled climate for your classic car or other sensitive items you’re storing there.
Here are some other reasons why you should :
- Cool off a hot garage: If you have a small woodworking or welding workshop in your garage, working in 100+ degrees can sap your strength and even damage your projects.
- Keep appliances from overheating: Maybe you have an extra freezer, refrigerator, or another piece of equipment in your garage for emergency beverages. The hotter your garage is, the more that refrigerator has to work to keep cool. That raises your electricity bill and shortens the life of the fridge too.
- Keep your food fresh: If you shop a lot at Costo, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club, you may need to store bulk foods in sealed packaging. Heat can be very damaging and even ruin foods and stores you’re counting on in an emergency.
Whatever the reason, if you need better control over your garage’s temperature, you likely need some air conditioning.
Choosing the Right Garage Air Conditioning System
Homeowners who live in mild climates only need air conditioning for the summer and only when temperatures inside the garage reach over 90 degrees.
If you have a window in your garage, you can use a very inexpensive window ac unit.
Garage window Air Conditioners are the simplest air conditioners to operate and install.
Most window units have directional vents, so you can put the colder air where you want it. They also have manual on\off switches, so if you need to keep them on or turn them off for economy, you’re in control.
Mini Split Air Conditioners are a more robust, permanent solution. They have an indoor unit which blows cold air into your garage, with a small duct running through the garage wall to the main AC unit outside. Although they’re more expensive than window or portable ac units, mini split systems are a great way to cool a garage without taking up too much space.
Evaporative Coolers or “Swamp Coolers” are great if you don’t have a window in your garage, or live in a dry climate with extreme heat. Many swamp coolers also have directional vents and wheels so they can be moved where you need them.
The big drawback is that they need water in their reservoirs to cool, and their capacity may not be large.
In humid Florida, where I live, we prefer using Heat Pumps, which suck the hot air in to cool the surrounding room. Companies like Rheem and A.O. Smith make extremely energy efficient hybrid electric water heaters. If your hot water heater is in the garage, replacing it with a heat pump water heater will cool your garage while providing hot water.
In most other parts of the country, a Portable Air Conditioners combined with a garage fan may be the better option.
A portable AC unit work the same way as a window unit, except they pump the hot air outside using a hose instead of out the window. Since they have wheels, you can move them from room to room as needed.
A portable air conditioner can effectively cool your garage. Still, there are some tips and tricks that you can use to help it be more efficient and save you money.
Garage Air Conditioning for Larger Areas
Homes with bigger than two-car garages have more cubic feet to cool and more openings to let cool air escape. Window units or swamp coolers just wouldn’t be effective in this situation.
That’s when you need a dedicated, permanent solution like the central air conditioning unit you use to cool the rest of your home.
Most home air conditioning units use ducting and fans to move the cool air throughout the house.
If you’re reading this at home, you can probably just look around the room and find air returns or ‘registers’ along the floor or ceiling. These vents are vital to keeping air circulating through your home.
NEVER vent the air from your garage into your home!
The air in your garage is usually filled with toxic fumes from car exhaust or chemicals. This is why you need a carbon monoxide detector in your garage.
If you connect your home’s ductwork to your garage, you risk bringing those toxic fumes inside.
That can potentially be deadly for you and your family.
Worse than that, homeowners who have tried to connect their main air conditioner to their garage often wear out their HVAC system early. Problems include compressors freezing, fan motors burning out, and electrical bills going through the roof.
If your central AC is trying to cool an extra 4,000 cubic feet of space in your garage, it will fail and cost quite a bit to fix.
Installing a stand-alone garage air conditioning system can be more costly, but you’ll save a bundle and get better results in the long run.
What Do I Need To Install a Separate Garage AC Unit?
If you need a separate HVAC system for your garage, I recommend getting it installed by a reliable HVAC contractor. First, I’d recommend learning a little about them and how they work.
Things to get familiar with include:
- Compressor sizes
- Energy requirements
- Fan/blower units that will fit your space
- What kind of delivery system is needed
- What kind of ductwork:
- Standard tin ducts or flexible ducting
- Insulated or non-insulated; floor or ceiling ducts
You don’t need to become an expert. However, having a basic idea how an air conditioner works will help you ask your contractor the right questions.
Making Your Garage Air Conditioners More Efficient
If you decide to air condition your garage, you’ll want to add some insulation first.
Walls, ceilings, garage doors, windows, entry doors, and even garage floors are prime targets. Adding insulation to your garage will help make any air conditioning system last longer and be more efficient (cheaper) to operate.
Here are some other ideas:
- Garage door insulation is critical: Stop cold air from leaking out by adding foam garage door insulation, threshold seals, Teflon seals, strips on the sides, and additional foam strips at the top of your garage door. The garage door is the weakest point in an environmentally controlled garage.
- Weatherproof any windows: Opt for double pane windows and ensure they’re winterized. If you’ve replaced your original windows, you may need additional caulking and foam sealing. Window tinting is a great help with temperature regulation, deflecting UV rays from direct sunlight.
- Drywall your walls and ceilings: This adds an extra layer of protection. It will help keep the cool air in the garage and limit the escape to the outside environment. You’d be surprised how little it can cost to drywall your garage!
- Swap out fluorescent or incandescent lighting for LED: Not only will this save you money on electricity, but incandescent lights give off heat. Check out our recommendations on the best LED shop lights for more information.
Air conditioning your garage isn’t for everyone.
You need to take some preliminary steps to prepare your garage beforehand.
However, if you decide that air conditioning is right for your garage, check out my detailed buyer’s guide to the best garage air conditioners. There are many options, and you want to ensure that you get the right one for your garage.