The 10 Best Garage Heaters
This wiki has been updated 35 times since it was first published in April of 2015. When the weather turns frigid, working in your garage can be bitterly challenging. If you don't want to be shivering throughout all your projects next winter, try installing one of these shop heaters. Our selections for this category include electric, liquid-propane and natural-gas options, many of which can be installed as freestanding, wall-mounted or ceiling-hung units. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
February 15, 2021:
We removed the Heatstar F125444 and Cadet Hot One due to availability issues, and quickly replaced them with two new units — one quite small, and the other quite large, to sort of bookend our existing choices for the category.
Our first choice was the Mr. Heater Buddy F232000, which is powered by propane, can put out between 4,000 and 9,000 BTU, and is rated for spaces smaller than 225 feet. With that in mind, this likely isn’t the model you want to depend on to turn your four-car garage to a hot yoga studio, but we thought that its affordable price still made it worth including for the benefit of users with small workshops attached to their garages, or even car enthusiasts who just need a small unit to take the chill out of the air when they’re tinkering under a hood.
Quite contrastingly, our second pick, the Comfort Zone CZ230ER, can crank out almost 26,000 BTU on its high setting, leaving it much better equipped for whole-garage heating. Its digital thermostat is a nice touch, and one that you don’t see all that often in this category, and the combination of its louvers and infrared remote control make it a smart choice for users thinking of mounting the unit to the ceiling. Just note that its a 7,500-watt, 240-volt appliance, so it’ll almost certainly require running a new circuit for it (unless it’s replacing an old appliance with a similar watt demand), so you’ll want to budget for a licensed electrician to come in and do the install.
If running a new circuit is going to be challenging/impossible for you, or even if you’re concerned about eventually tapping out your garage’s sub panel with all this heating equipment (because we can all agree that your current capacity is better spent on fun stuff like welders and cabinet saws), then you might be better served with a liquid-propane model like the Mr. Heater Forced Air — which also offers nice portability, and with a 60,000-BTU maximum output, blows much of the competition out of the water. Notably, its 30,000-BTU low limit is higher than the CZ230ER's high limit, and the CZ230ER has the top output rating of any permanent-installation model we ranked. Just be aware that the Forced Air still needs to be plugged in to power its fan, so don’t forget an extension cord.
If your workshop or garage already has natural-gas service in place, and you’re convinced that’s the way you want to go, you might want to go ahead and skip right to our list of Best Natural Gas Garage Heaters.
October 14, 2019:
During this update, we eliminated the natural-gas-powered Modine Hot Dawg to make room for the Wi-Fi controlled Heat Storm HS-1500-PHX. While this new addition doesn’t pack as much punch as other options we ranked, we still thought it was an important inclusion to make, as a nod to the gradual integration of smart technology into our homes – if nothing else.
It’s also worth noting that given the Heat Storm’s low cost and the fact it runs on 120 volts, you could realistically run four 15-amp circuits to your garage, purchase one of these units for each of them and still come in under budget compared to some of our other suggestions (you could probably accomplish this for around half of what it would cost to get the King KB2410 wired into your shop). I tend to think that there’s some advantage, in terms of heat circulation, when considering traditional fan-and-element options versus infrared models like the Heat Storm, but having an infrared heater wired into all four corners of your garage might remedy that as well.
We also moved the Heatstar F125444 further up the list, as we felt it was important to have a natural gas item included in the top three, and we favored its notable 99.9 percent fuel efficiency over the 80 percent rating of the Modine Hot Dawg.
A few things to think about while shopping in this category:
BTU Rating: Needless to say, you want this heater to be hot enough to do the job it’s purchased for. The rated BTU output that you’re going to require will depend on a number of things including the size of the space you’re heating, how well it’s insulated and how often exterior doors (especially larger overhead doors) to the space open. There’s plenty of information available online to help you make a calculation and determine the minimum wattage that will suit you.
Energy Source: Natural gas is generally considered to be more efficient than electricity when it comes to delivering heat loads, but when it comes to heating garages, it usually isn’t the easiest option to access. If you’re considering an electrical option – as most users will – make sure that you’re clear on the supply it requires. Some of the options we ranked run on 120 volts, but 240 volts is a common demand for heating appliances. Depending on the size of the area you’re looking to heat, you might want to consider consulting a reputable, licensed electrician to look into running a dedicated 240-volt circuit to your garage. Alternatively, some users might find the nuisance of changing tanks for a propane heater to be a lesser inconvenience than the hassles that come with electrical installations.
Control: Most options in this category include integrated thermostatic controls, but some also feature a few additional bells and whistles, like high-limit shutoffs. As we’ve already mentioned, the Heat Storm HS-1500-PHX can be Wi-Fi controlled, via app through any smartphone, and the King KB2410 offers options for timed shut-offs – though no interval features.
King Electric This company presents a range of electric heating solutions, offering everything from relatively compact, 15,000-watt units, to monstrous machines with top-end power ratings of 70,000 watts. If you're looking for equipment to outfit a building with three-phase service, this is one place worth checking out. king-electric.com
Commercial Heater While this company does offer a range of electric options, what really caught our eye was their gas-powered selections, which include some slick, radiant-heat units with 316-stainless-steel housings, intended for overhead installations above locations like patios and arena bleachers. Whether you're looking for a liquid-propane or natural-gas model, they've got you covered, but both options are very expensive. commercialheater.com
So You're Getting A Garage Heater
No garage heater will ever be purchased for its aesthetics.
While for many people, a garage is nothing more than a seldom-visited repository for old cans of paint and spare rolls of paper towels, others treat it like a valued part of their homes. The garage is regularly used as the protective parking spot for a vehicle and is often the site of frequent mechanical tinkering, workout sessions, discussions about sports, and so forth.
If your garage is treated as the latter, ostensibly serving as yet another room in your home, then you are likely aware that few garages are nearly as warm and welcoming as other rooms in the residence. Even a fully insulated garage will still grow quite cold during the winter without a dedicated source of heat -- insulation can slow the loss of heat when the ambient temperature is cold, but it cannot provide any warmth and is rarely effective enough to utilize the bit of heat passed through walls touching the home.
Simply put, if you want a garage that is not going to be freezing cold inside when the weather is freezing cold outside, you will need to get a garage heater. Choosing which heater will best serve your garage (or your other similar space, as the same unit can be used for most freestanding workshops, sheds, steel buildings, barns, and so forth) is not a complicated process, but it can represent a large investment, so it merits careful deliberation nonetheless.
No garage heater will ever be purchased for its aesthetics. While not designed to please the eye, garage heaters are designed to warm up an area intended for safe storage of vehicles, tools, and sundries. They are often used for hands-on repair work, hobbies, physical exercise, or any project too messy and odorous for completion inside the home.
In fact, there are really only three primary considerations that will inform your process of choosing a garage heater, including the interior, energy source, and heater price.
As the size of your garage (or workshop) is the factor over which you have the least control, it merits primary discussion. To fully heat a spacious two- or three-car garage, you will need a heater that can produce approximately 45,000 BTUs of heat per hour. If you try to save money by buying a smaller unit that cannot properly heat the space, you will end up dealing with a chill even while using the heater and/or ultimately spending more money, as the device will have to run for much longer to compensate for its lack of power. For a smaller space, such as a narrow single-car garage, a heater producing between 10,000 and 20,000 BTUs should suffice.
As for the energy source, many garage heaters burn propane or natural gas to produce heat, while others are powered by electricity. Consider the type of wiring already present in the space you need to warm, as some heaters may require an outlet with voltage your home can't currently provide. Some smaller heaters use bottled propane, while others connect to a hard-lined source of natural gas. There is no right or wrong way to create heat, merely the most logical fit for your household.
A Few Words On Garage Heater Safety
When properly installed and operated according to their instructions, garage heaters are safe and reliable units. Many come with impressive multi-year warranties, which serve as a testament to their reliability.
Take the time to rearrange your storage space, moving flammable and/or combustible materials as far from the heater as possible.
But the cautious person will still take a few extra steps to ensure their home remains safe even once they are comfortable with their new garage heater. The simplest way to make sure the heating unit never presents a danger to the residence is simply to never use it when you're not home. If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, consider not only turning the heater off, but also unplugging it completely.
The standard garage tends to house a number of flammable and/or combustible materials. These include everything from pressurized cans of paints, tins filled with solvents, bottles of motor oil, gasoline in a container or in the tank of a vehicle, and much more. When properly stored, these inherently volatile compounds are perfectly safe, but as adding a heater to a space also adds a heightened potential for sparks or enough heat to generate a flame, it's important that you carefully re-consider how and what you keep in your garage before you choose to add a warming element.
Take the time to rearrange your storage space, moving flammable and/or combustible materials as far from the heater as possible. Also, take the time to check the exhaust vents and air intakes of your heater on occasion, making sure airflow is not restricted to or from the unit.
A Few Fine Garage Updates
If you have installed a heater in your garage, workshop, barn, or other space, the next item you should procure and install is a smoke alarm. Ideally you will choose a unit that also detects carbon monoxide. Install this vital piece of safety equipment on a ceiling near the heater but not directly in the path of the hot air it produces, as this may lead to false alarms as the detector encounters dust or bits of particulate matter stirred up into the air.
Adding weather stripping around the door of your garage can keep out cold air and moisture, helping you to maintain a warmer, cleaner interior at minimal cost and with relatively easy installation. These strips of rubber usually secure to the ground and frame of the garage with a built-in adhesive or else using epoxy resin or another glue. Weather stripping is a wise idea especially in older garages where the seal between the door and frame is lacking.
And as you want your garage to be a welcoming place ideal for work, recreation, or exercise, make sure that it is a well-lighted space. LED tube lighting costs relatively little and is highly energy-efficient but adds more than enough brightness for work under the hood of your car or for a game of darts with the guys.