You probably think you're one of just a few people in the world looking into cheap ways to heat a garage, but odds are that you're not. More people than you might think have an eye on altering the comfort level of these often chilly spaces for more reasons than you can imagine, and given how high your home heating bills can be, you may as well find a way to save when heating that spacious area.
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Why Heat a Garage?
The typical use of a garage involves storing junk, hanging bikes, and stashing tools. If there's room left, maybe you could even park a car in there. The point is that there's nothing on that list demanding warm and cozy conditions.
However, garages are used in other ways. Lots of crafting and auto repairing takes place in garages. Others convert them to spare bedrooms, game rooms, or home gyms. So, if you don't need your garage for car parking, use your imagination. What about that man cave you've fantasized about? It wouldn't be very manly if you had to drag your blankie out there for the big game. Finding a suitable heating method can definitely be a necessity.
Even if you're one of those rare homeowners who uses your garage for nothing but the car, heating it makes sense. A cold attached garage can affect the temperature of the room on the other side, and home heating costs can increase with the opening and closing of the door leading into the house. Your car battery will fare well, and your car will start more reliably and operate better when it isn't kept in extreme cold. Finally, you'll be comfortable getting into a warm car and just as happy stepping out into a warm garage when you come home.
Two Heating Methods to Avoid
Portable heaters are not the way to go for garage heat. They're convenient but unsafe, especially around chemicals sometimes stored in garages. Additionally, your garage shouldn't be connected to your home's furnace and ductwork system, which isn't designed to include a large garage space. Uninsulated garage doors don't hold heat efficiently.
What’s the Cheapest Garage Heat?
It may be the case that if you live where winters are warm, you can take care of an uncomfortable garage by simply insulating it. Before adding a heating system, though, it's imperative that you insulate doors, walls, and ceilings and apply caulk and weatherstripping around all doors and windows that need them.
One of the cheapest but not necessarily best approaches to heating your garage is to use a propane heater or portable kerosene heater. Unfortunately, these heaters create exhaust odor and basically require open-door ventilation.
Because wood is cheaper than gas or electric, heating your garage with a woodburning stove is a good option, but that's after initial purchase and installation. A unit can cost from $250 to $3,500, and installation costs start at $250 to $500 and can run as high as $1,500. DIY installation to save money is not a good idea if you have no experience with establishing proper exhaust and ventilation. Improper installation can result in poisonous gases entering your home. It's better to call a fireplace or chimney professional for installation.
Additional Heating Options
Infrared heating panels are another heating method that can keep costs down, and they're even more effective when used in a well-insulated room. You can buy wall-mounted and floor-model infrared heaters, but DIY ceiling panels are an extra-effective, low-maintenance, space-saving option. Another plus for anyone working with wood products is that they heat objects and not the air in a room, which means they won't blow and scatter sawdust. Unit costs range from $150 to $300 for a 750-watt 2x4 panel and up to $2,500 or more for larger panels. If you don't do plug-in installation but choose to tap into existing wiring, you'll also have to add the cost of an electrician.
One of the best options for heating your garage is a natural gas, forced-air heater. These can be installed as a DIY project but only if you're familiar with gas lines, venting, and electrical work. Otherwise, to be safe, hire an expert. Prices run from just over $700 for 30,000 Btu to around $1,800 for 125,000 Btu. Electric garage heaters, on the other hand, range in price from $145 for 5,000 watts to just under $500 for 15,000 watts. The cost of running a natural gas heater will be lower. For every million Btu of heat output, a gas heater will cost you $18 compared to $35 for an electric heater. The thing to keep in mind with forced-air heat in a garage is that dirt and dust will be blown about. If you're a woodworker, that's a problem.