It only took me living through one summer in Florida before I started wondering 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 end up spending more time and money than you should.
Should I air-condition my garage? Depending on where you live, air conditioning your garage is the best option to keep it cool. Smaller garages can use window AC units or portable air conditioners. Larger garages should opt for professionally installed ductless systems. You also want to consider adding insulation to help your air conditioner be as efficient as possible.
Air conditioning your garage may be the best solution for you, but it’s not the only one. We’ll talk about some of those solutions below.
First, let’s talk about some of the reasons why you might want to want to air condition your garage in the first place.
Reasons to Air Condition Your Garage
There are several great reasons to want to air condition your garage but mine was pretty simple: I didn’t want to be dripping in sweat.
That could be your reason too, or it could be more complicated. Maybe you need a precisely controlled climate for your classic car or other sensitive items that you’re storing there.
Here are some other reasons why you should :
- Cool off your workspace: If you have a small woodworking or welding workshop in your garage, then working in 100+ degree temperatures 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 to get better control over the temperature in your garage, chances are you need some form of air conditioning.
What Is The Best Way To Air Condition My Garage?
The answer to this question varies as well.
In the simplest scenario, homeowners who live in mild climates would only need air conditioning for the summer and only when temperatures inside the garage reach over 90 degrees.
In this case, if you have a window in your garage, you can use a very inexpensive window-mounted air conditioner.
Window Air Conditioners are the simplest air conditioners to operate and install. Most of us have been using them since we were kids. They’re inexpensive and easy to operate. 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.
Evaporative Coolers or “Swamp Coolers” can be substituted if you don’t have a window in your garage. 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 in order to cool, and their capacity may not be large.
If you live in a naturally hot and dry climate, then a swamp cooler may be the right choice for you. In humid Florida, where I live, evaporative coolers are much less effective.
In most other parts of the country, the a Portable Air Conditioner combined with a garage fan may be the better option. Portable air conditioners work much the same way as the window units I mentioned earlier. The difference is that they pump the warm air outside using a hose instead of out the window. As the name suggests, they’ve also got wheels so you can move them from room to room as needed.
A portable air conditioner can effectively cool your garage, but there are some tips and tricks that you can use to help it be more efficient and save you money. I share a few of them my article linked above.
What If I Have A Large Area To Cool?
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. Something similar to the 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 you’ll see air returns or ‘registers’ along the floor or ceiling. These vents are vital to keep air circulating through your home.
Can I Just Vent My Home Air Conditioner Into the Garage?
NEVER vent the air from your garage into your home!
The air in your garage is usually filled with toxic fumes, which is why you need a carbon monoxide detector in your garage. If you connect your home’s ductwork to your garage, you run the risk of bringing those toxic fumes inside.
That can potentially be deadly for you and your family.
Worse than that, homeowners who have tried to bring their home air conditioning into 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 HVAC system 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 air conditioning system can be more costly. But in the long run, you’ll save a bundle and get the results you want.
What Do I Need To Install a Full System?
If you decide you need a full HVAC system for your garage, the first thing I would suggest is to look for a reliable HVAC contractor. Next, I’d recommend learning a little about HVAC systems and how they work.
Things to get familiar with include:
- Compressor sizes
- Energy requirements
- Fan/blower units which 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
I’m not saying to become an expert so you know more than the installer. However, having a little knowledge will help you ask the right questions of your contractor.
What Else Will I Need To Have A Truly Efficient System?
No matter what, if you’re deciding whether you should 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 seals and insulation is critical: Stop cool 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 make sure they’re winterized. Additional caulking and foam sealing may be needed if windows have been replaced from the originals. Exterior tinting can also 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. If you don’t have an insulated garage, then that should be your first step.
However, if you DO think that air conditioning is right for your garage, then I recommend checking out my detailed buyer’s guide to buying a garage air conditioner. There are a lot of options, and you want to make sure that you get the right one for your garage.