One of the worst things about having to commute is stepping out of your heated house, trudging to your unheated garage and then sitting in your cold car waiting for things to warm up. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your garage toasty and warm or at least not freezing when you get ready to leave every day?
Unfortunately, many people are dissuaded from taking action on this question because they think the cost of heating a garage must be astronomical. In this article, we provide good information and sound advice to help you heat your garage cheaply in winter. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- Get An Early Start On Garage Heating
- Should I Heat My Garage?
- What Kind Of Garage Insulation Is Best?
- Choose The Right Heat Source For Your Garage
- What Is The Best Way To Heat A Detached Garage?
- Don’t Lose Your Heating Savings To Insurance Costs
- How Can I Heat My Garage For Free?
- What Temperature Should I Keep My Garage In Winter?
- Good Planning Is Key To Cheap Garage Heating
Get An Early Start On Garage Heating
One of the first and best tips to heating your garage inexpensively is to prepare in advance. There are quite a few steps to getting your garage ready for heating, and it’s better to do this work when the weather is agreeable.
In terms of cost, when you are purchasing the items you’ll need (e.g. insulation, weather stripping, duct work, the heating unit itself) you’re likely to find better prices during the off-season than during the winter.
It‘s easy to see that it’s best to do your planning and purchasing when the sun is shining and get the work done before the cold weather comes.
Should I Heat My Garage?
You may not actually need to heat your garage. In areas with mild winters, good insulation may be enough to keep your garage a lot more tolerable in the winter. Whether you decide to heat or not, insulation is always a good idea.
You can try just insulating, and if you decide that’s good enough, you’re done. If you decide you need heat, you can add a space heater for the first winter and then upgrade to something more permanent later, if you wish.
No matter what kind of heat source you decide on, insulation will dramatically improve its efficiency. Without insulation, you will be attempting to heat the entire outdoors. Of course, this is not a cheap pursuit.
Insulation Pays For Itself
Insulation may seem expensive, but keep in mind that it pays for itself many times over. A well insulated building retains heat. One that is not insulated loses heat as fast as you can produce it.
With an insulated garage, you may be able to heat for free with passive solar if you have lots of double paned southern windows that receive good sunlight all day long. The heat from the sun will come through the windows and be retained within your well insulated walls.
Seal Holes And Gaps Before You Insulate
Before you install any kind of insulation, seal up all cracks, openings and leaks where cold air can get in (and warm air can get out). Start by installing weather-stripping around the doors and windows and by using spray foam to seal leaks.
When looking for leaks and gaps, don’t neglect the area where the foundation and the walls join. You may be surprised to find tiny and even large holes made by various pests seeking the relative warmth of the garage in winter. Use spray foam to fill these gaps.
Once you have all the gaps and holes filled in, you can begin insulating the walls and ceiling.
Don’t Let All Your Heat Pour Out Through The Garage Door
Buy a garage door insulation kit. You can insulate your walls all you want to, but if you leave your garage door bare all of your expensive heat will go rushing out through the single layer of metal, vinyl or wood.
Go to your local home improvement center and purchase a kit that will work with the type and size of garage door you have. These are inexpensive and easy to install and well worth their weight in gold.
What Kind Of Garage Insulation Is Best?
When it comes to choosing insulation, you have a number of options. If you have unfinished walls in your garage, you can simply use fluffy pink fiberglass batt insulation rolled out and secured between the supporting studs.
Remember that fiberglass can irritate your skin and damage your lungs and eyes. Be sure to wear gloves, pants and long sleeves while working with it. Additionally, a protective facemask and goggles are necessary when handling fiberglass materials.
If you have drywall or some other wall covering on the interior of your garage, you may also have insulation between that finish and your exterior wall. You can check this by making a hole in an inconspicuous place.
Of course, this will just tell you if there’s insulation where you’ve made the hole and not necessarily the entire wall, but it’s a good bet that if you find insulation at all, it is everywhere.
To the best of your ability, check the quality of that insulation. It can break down over time and may not be effective any more. In this case, you’ll need to replace it or supplement it.
If you are not concerned about appearance, you can do this using inexpensive foam core or bubble insulation, which is easily and affordably available in rolls. This product can be installed with a staple gun and sealed with professional grade aluminum foil tape.
If you find that you do not have insulation between your inner and outer walls, you can engage in insulation contractor who can come and blow in some cellulose insulation. This is a bit costly, but remember that insulation will pay for itself multiple times as the years go by.
Choose The Right Heat Source For Your Garage
While you are in the process of insulating your garage, you should also work on choosing the type of heat you want (if you have not already done so).
When looking for a whole garage space heater, you’ll need to choose quite carefully. Determine the square footage of your garage by measuring its length and width and multiplying them. Compare this carefully with the space heaters you are considering to be certain that they will actually heat the entire space.
Keep in mind the space heater that might just be dandy for small rooms in your house will not be able to warm your garage. This type of heater might be perfect for just warming the area surrounding your workbench.
Forced Air, Radiant Heat Or Both?
You could just make do with a forced air electric space heater. If you don’t spend a lot of time in your garage in the wintertime, and you just want to keep the area immediately surrounding you warm, a space heater may do just fine. Good forced air space heaters bring focused heat to a specific area quickly and usually fairly inexpensively.
To heat a larger area with more generalized heat, you may want to get an infrared space heater. These work a little bit differently than forced air space heaters in that infrared heaters heat the surrounding objects. An infrared heater will take more time to heat up, but it provides steady heat over a larger area than a forced air heater.
One good solution to provide generalized heat and focused heat would be to purchase a larger infrared heater to heat the entire garage and a smaller space heater to add a boost of heat to the area where you are working.
What Is The Best Way To Heat A Detached Garage?
Buy a dedicated garage heater. There are heaters that are specifically designed for the challenge of heating a big, open garage. These are electric units that do not need to be vented. They are also portable so that they can be moved from place-to-place to provide little more heat in the area where you happen to be while still warming up the air throughout the garage.
This type of space heater is quite a bit more powerful than the type that are intended for household used. There are many designs that can heat two or three car garages quite effectively.
If you are a car mechanic, you may find radiant floor heating to be an excellent investment for heating your detached garage. To install this type of heating, you would run tubes under your garage floor. Hot water running through the tubes keeps the floor and the garage warm.
This is a fairly cost-effective type of heating to install if you do it when you are building the garage. To add it to your already constructed garage can be a little bit hard. You may be able to install the hot water tubing on the existing cement floor and then put another type of flooring over it, but you must be certain that flooring is very heavy duty so that you can drive and park vehicles on it.
Consider The Cost Of Fuel
If electricity is expensive in your area or you simply don’t want to spend a great deal on heating your garage electrically (or you don’t have electricity in your garage), you could install a propane, natural gas or kerosene heater.
If you have natural gas in your area, contact your utility company to find out about adding a gas line to your garage. If you’re going to use propane, research local propane companies to find out about having a tank installed and connections laid.
In some areas, heating oil or kerosene are also possibilities.
With any of these heating choices, understand that you’ll need to provide a venting system because they are powered by combustible (burning) fuel. This type of fuel produces toxic and potentially deadly fumes.
Don’t Lose Your Heating Savings To Insurance Costs
When thinking about using combustible fuel, be sure to consult your homeowners insurance provider. You may find that any money you save in fuel by choosing combustible fuel over electricity may be negated by increases in your homeowners’ insurance premiums.
Of course, you would not want to install this kind of heating without informing your insurance company because it might negate your policy.
How Can I Heat My Garage For Free?
As we’ve mentioned, in areas with mild winters, you may be able to heat your garage for free with a combination of good insulation and big, double paned windows. Passive solar is an absolutely free heating source once you’ve made the investment necessary to help you capture and retain it.
The same can be said for installing solar panels on or beside your garage.
In areas where firewood is abundant, you might want to install a woodstove, but as with other combustible sources of heat, you’ll need to make sure it’s safe and allowed by your homeowners’ policy.
What Temperature Should I Keep My Garage In Winter?
The amount that you use your garage should figure strongly in the type of heat you choose and how warm you keep your garage. If you just park your cars in your garage, you may just want to keep the temperature above freezing (e.g. 40 degrees Fahrenheit) when you are not in the garage. You might be able to do this with passive solar heat.
When you need to be in the garage, you can just kick up the temperature with a radiant heater that you can flip on from the house or set up with a timer to warm up before you go out. You may also want to keep a space heater on hand to add a boost of heat to the immediate area when you have some project in the garage.
If, on the other hand, you use your garage as a workshop, retreat or a recreation area, you may want a permanent heat solution that actually keeps the area comfortable (60-80 degrees Fahrenheit) at all times.
Here are a couple good solutions in that case:
You can install electric radiant heat panels that are hardwired. This type of panel takes up little space and can be mounted on the ceiling of your garage or on the walls. This type of heater is a fuel-efficient safe choice for providing continuous heat.
A more expensive choice is a mini split ductless heater using propane or natural gas. This type of heater is permanently installed in the wall and vents through the wall to the outside, so you don’t need to install any ductwork. This type of heater also has an air conditioning function, so it can keep your garage comfortable year-round.
Good Planning Is Key To Cheap Garage Heating
With good preparation, good research and careful work, you can heat your garage quite cheaply. The key lies in laying the right groundwork and making the right choices.
Remember that important considerations to keep in mind when choosing the type of heat you need include the size of your garage, the amount of time you spend there and the activities in which you engage.
Don’t skip steps!
- Start by carefully considering your goals and expectations.
- Measure your garage carefully.
- Insulate your garage very thoroughly. If you don’t live in a very cold area, this may be all that you need.
- Compare and contrast heating fuels.
- Choose the heating unit that will deliver the amount of heat you need at a cost you can afford.
Get started early to take advantage of the best prices in the materials and heating sources that you need. Insulation materials and heating units tend to go on sale at the end of the winter.
If you can do your research and planning in the wintertime and make your purchases in the spring, you’ll have all summer to get your garage ready for the next winter to come.