The Best Heaters for Garage Workspaces

Learn the ins and outs of garage heaters, find out what features to look for, and see which models are top performers.

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The Best Garage Heater Option

Photo: istockphoto.com

For DIYers and hobbyists, a garage can often be project central. It can be the place to store tools and to work on a variety of projects—even when temperatures are low.

Fortunately, a garage heater can banish the shivers when it’s cold out. Selecting the best heater for a garage depends on several factors, including the size of the garage, the preferred type of fuel, whether it needs to be portable, and important safety features.

Read on to learn the basics of these appliances and to get details on some of the top picks among the best garage heater options available.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Comfort Zone CZ220 5,000W, Fan-Forced Ceiling Heater
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: STANLEY ST-300A-120 Electric Heater
  3. BEST FOR SMALL GARAGES: Fahrenheat FUH Electric Heater for Garage
  4. BEST FOR LARGE GARAGES: Mr. Heater F260550 Big Maxx MHU50NG Gas Heater
  5. BEST WITH HUMIDIFIER: Dr. Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater Humidifier
  6. BEST INFRARED: Dr. Infrared Heater DR-988A Garage 4800/5600W Heater
  7. BEST PANEL: De’Longhi Mica Thermic Panel Heater, HMP1500
  8. BEST PORTABLE: Lasko 755320 Ceramic Space Heater
The Best Garage Heater Option

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Garage Heaters

As with any indoor heating system, not all garage heaters control the temperature in the same way. There are three primary heating options offered on the market: forced air, convection, and radiant heaters.

Forced Air

Forced air garage heaters vary in size, fuel type, and price, but all operate in the same manner: by cycling blasts of hot air into space. The gas-powered variety ties into a home’s gas line. It tends to be cost-effective to operate because natural gas and propane are often more affordable than the electricity required to produce the same heat.

Gas-powered units, however, cost more upfront than electric units, and local codes require installation by a licensed professional. Multifuel forced-air heaters work fast to produce heat, but their powerful fans can stir up debris and may feel uncomfortably warm if pointed directly at you. Some models produce fumes and water vapor, so ventilation is necessary.

Convection

Convection garage heaters include water- and oil-filled radiators. They rely on an enclosed flame or heating element to warm air within the unit, which then rises naturally without the help of a fan. Many are portable, but some—such as baseboard convection heaters—should be mounted.

Convection heaters are better for heating entire rooms because they warm the air that circulates naturally, and they rate among the most affordable garage and shop heaters on the market. However, they can take a while to warm a garage to a tolerable temperature, and they won’t offer the intense heating effect of a forced-air or radiant heater.

Radiant

Radiant garage heaters feature highly polished reflectors that direct infrared heat outward for spot heating, or, in the case of large overhead units, heating an entire garage. Radiant heaters warm objects directly in front of them—think of sitting near a campfire—so you can start feeling toasty in a jiffy if one is pointed in your direction.

Since radiant heaters offer steady warmth without blowing air, they are well suited to DIYers, particularly those who enjoy finishing wood. Radiant heat will not stir up the unwanted dust particles that can mar a woodworking project’s finish coat. Powered by natural gas, propane, or electricity, these units are available either mounted or portable and in a range of sizes.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Garage Heater

Before choosing the best heater for the garage, take a few minutes to learn about some of the most important shopping considerations including portability, fuel source, and heat output. There are also critical safety features that can help keep you safe while enjoying the heater.

Stationary vs. Portable

Look over your garage and determine which you value more: freed-up counter or floor space or the ability to work at a few different workstations. Knowing this should help you decide whether to look for a stationary or a portable garage heater.

  • Stationary: Dedicated DIYers may appreciate the benefit of not having cords lying around and not running the risk of tripping over a heater on the floor. Stationary garage heaters most often attach to the ceiling, but there also are options that fasten to a wall. There also are a wide variety of energy options, sizes, and prices that range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The downside to mounted heaters is that they typically cost more than their portable counterparts because they’re closer to commercial quality.
  • Portable: No matter the type of heating or fuel used, portable heaters focus warmth where it’s needed the most. Like space heaters on steroids, forced-air options feature large horizontal tubes that house the heating element and a powerful fan that delivers blasts of hot air. While portable electric units often cost less, they also can be less powerful than their multifuel counterparts. Alternatively, portable units can distribute warmth through radiant heat and convection.

Fuel Source

Consumers have a wide range of energy options to choose from when shopping for a garage heater. While they’re most commonly fueled by electricity, propane, or natural gas, there also are heaters that run on diesel and kerosene.

Since electric garage heaters pull a lot of power, these usually require a designated electrical circuit on its own breaker. An electrician can tell if existing garage wiring is adequate to run an electric heater or if a new circuit should be installed.

If there already is natural gas service to a home, there is an option to install a natural gas heater. Propane-powered heaters can be installed on a home’s propane line, or individual tanks of propane to fuel smaller heaters can be purchased.

Heat Output

The best garage heater for a given space can produce enough heat to be comfortable, without breaking the budget. Heat output for gas-powered heaters is measured in British thermal units (BTUs). Gas garage heaters typically range from 12,000 to 30,000 BTUs or more.

When trying to determine the heat output of an electric heater, a good estimate to follow is that for every 10 watts of output, approximately 1 square foot of space can be heated. For example, a 100-square-foot room will require a heater with 1,000-watt output to fully heat the space.

Most heaters advertise the maximum square footage the unit can adequately heat with a standard 8-foot ceiling. If a garage has a higher ceiling, take that into consideration and pick a size up. Insulation will also affect the warmth factor in a garage. Even a high-capacity heater cannot prevent icy drafts from entering through poorly insulated doors and windows.

Safety

Safety needs to be a primary consideration when deciding on the best garage heater for the home. To help keep the space safe and comfortable, manufacturers have added several safety features to garage heaters, including cool-touch exteriors, overheating protection, and automatic shut-off systems.

  • Cool-touch exteriors are common with portable and wall-mounted garage heaters. The heater has a shell made of fiberglass or plastic, which are poor conductors for heat. The exterior of the heater stays cool, despite the heat produced.
  • Overheating protection makes sure that the heater doesn’t burn out its own system. When the heater senses dangerous temperatures, it turns off to prevent external damage to the room and to stop internal damage.
  • Automatic shut-off systems are similar to overheating protection in that the response is to shut down the heater to prevent damage. However, this system is typically triggered by the heater being knocked over, though there are some products that also shut down if the heater senses a short in the wiring.

Additional Features

There are many different features that garage heater manufacturers add to the design of a product to make the heater more appealing and easier to use, including programmable thermostats, oscillation, and remote controls.

  • Programmable thermostats allow the user to set a specific temperature using an electronic keypad or a remote, ensuring that the heater works to reach this temperature and then only activates to maintain the heat.
  • Oscillation is more common with portable garage heaters, but even some wall-mounted heaters can have oscillating louvers (vents) that can change the direction of the airflow. This feature helps to properly distribute the heated air throughout the garage, with an almost 180-degree rotation.
  • Remote controls offer the convenience of being able to control the heater from anywhere in the room, so there’s no need to get up and walk over to turn the heat off or to change the temperature setting.

Installation

The installation of a garage heater can be very simple. Portable garage heaters only need to be positioned and provided with fuel or electricity to function. However, wall- and ceiling-mounted garage heaters are more difficult. While these heaters often come with the hardware required to install the heater, some products don’t have mounting brackets. If the heater doesn’t come with a mounting system, the manufacturer will typically provide instructions on how to properly install and mount the heater.

Choose the coldest corner of the garage and mount the heater there, ensuring that ceiling-mounted heaters are at least 24 inches from the walls to reduce the risk of fire. Direct the heater toward the center of the garage and follow the manufacturer’s steps to make sure that the heater is installed according to its specifications.

Our Top Picks

The list of some of the best products below has been selected for excellence in the abovementioned categories, including heat output, safety, heating method, and overall product quality. Organized by category, this list can help you find the best garage heater to stay warm.

Best Overall

The Best Garage Heater Option: Comfort Zone CZ220 5,000W, Fan-Forced Ceiling Heater
Photo: amazon.com

This electric garage heater is a semipermanent option that is mounted on the ceiling and hardwired into the home electrical system so that users never need to worry about hanging wires that can cause issues overhead. The durable steel body of the heater is resistant to impact damage, and a dual-knob thermostat at the base of the heater makes it easy to control the temperature in the garage.

The 5,000-watt forced-air electric heater has adjustable louvers and a variable angle mounting bracket so that the airflow can be directed wherever necessary. A built-in sensor in the garage heater makes sure that the unit isn’t overheating. If the temperature gets too high, the device switches off immediately to prevent internal or external damage.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Garage Heater Option: STANLEY ST-300A-120 Electric Heater
Photo: amazon.com

This affordable 1,500-watt electric garage heater has a simple design with a temperature dial, a fan dial, and an adjustable frame to control the direction of the hot air output. Simply tilt the heater in the frame to change the angle at which the heater is blowing hot air. Users can also lift and move the heater with the padded carrying handle at the top of the frame for easy portability.

The electric garage heater has four settings, including off, fan only, low heat, and high heat. Each of these settings can be chosen using the fan dial, while the temperature is set with the temperature dial. A built-in overheating protection system monitors the temperature and shuts down the heater if it begins to overheat. The compact size allows the heater to be placed almost anywhere in the garage, making it a great choice for small or crowded spaces.

Best for Small Garages

The Best Garage Heater Option: Fahrenheat FUH Electric Heater for Garage
Photo: amazon.com

Midrange electric garage heaters like this are a good choice for those who need only occasional heating. This powerhouse has a built-in overheating detection system that will shut down if the temperature gets dangerously high. It fits in cramped garages and can heat up large spaces.

Control the heat output with the simple analog dial at the base of the heater and redirect the flow of the heat with the adjustable mounting bracket and louvers. This 5,000-watt heater comes with a built-in thermostat and a thermal safety cutoff. However, the unit does not include a power cord, so it must be direct-wired to a dedicated 240-volt outlet with a 30-amp breaker.

Best for Large Garages

The Best Garage Heater Option: Mr. Heater F260550 Big Maxx MHU50NG Gas Heater
Photo: amazon.com

The Mr. Heater Big Maxx Natural Gas Heater has the oomph to heat a 2- or 3-car garage up to 1,250 square feet. This 50,000-BTU model runs on natural gas and uses a standard 115-volt AC outlet to power the exhaust fans and the spark ignition. It also can be converted from natural gas to propane via the included LP conversion kit.

This heater mounts well out of the way via two angle brackets. It only requires an inch of space between the top of the unit and the ceiling, and at least 8 feet from the bottom of the heater to the floor.

Best With Humidifier

The Best Garage Heater Option: Dr. Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater Humidifier
Photo: amazon.com

The Dr. Infrared electric garage heater comes with a programmable thermostat that has a range of 50 to 85 degrees and three different modes including automatic, high, and low. It also can function as a humidifier, creating a cool mist from the top of the heater, helping to prevent the air in the garage from becoming too dry.

This 1,500-watt electric heater uses radiant infrared heat to quickly warm up people who are in the garage. It’s made with both overheating protection and an automatic shut-off system that turns the heater off if it gets knocked over to prevent damage to the heater and to any nearby flammable materials.

Best Infrared

The Best Garage Heater Option: Dr. Infrared Heater DR-988A Garage 4800/5600W Heater
Photo: amazon.com

If infrared or fan-forced heating is more appealing than convection heat, then this Dr. Infrared garage heater is a great choice. It has a dual heating system that incorporates a radiant infrared heating element, which can quickly warm up physical objects, like people and tools, and it has a fan-forced heating system to warm up the air in the garage.

The heater needs a 208-volt or 240-volt connection to function properly, allowing it to run at up to 5,600 watts. Once the garage heater is set up in a safe location away from flammable material, the temperature dial can be set between 45 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and it will automatically maintain this temperature as long as the heater switch is on “auto.” The heater will run continuously if the switch is set to “on.”

Best Panel

The Best Garage Heater Option: De'Longhi Mica Thermic Panel Heater, HMP1500
Photo: amazon.com

The De’Longhi garage heater has a narrow panel design that produces radiant heat from the front of the heater while the sides and back remain cool. The back stays cool enough for the entire heater to be mounted directly to the wall in the garage or even in the house without the risk of fire. Use the control dials on the side of the heater to control the temperature and the intensity of the heat.

If a wall-mounted option isn’t appealing, the flat panel garage heater also can sit on a wheeled base, allowing it to be moved freely around the garage without needing to pick it up. This 1,500-watt electric heater also has an automatic power shut-off system to prevent damage if the heater gets knocked over. It will even sound an alarm to ensure that the user knows the heater has been knocked over.

Best Portable

The Best Garage Heater Option: Lasko 755320 Ceramic Space Heater
Photo: amazon.com

The Lasko electric convection heater is well suited for the garage, or it can be used indoors. Just pick it up by the built-in handle and find a suitable location where there is an accessible power outlet. Once it’s set up, the user can operate the heater with the control panel on the top of the heater or take advantage of the included remote to operate the heater without having to be right next to it.

Turn the heater on and choose to set an automatic timer that will turn off the heater when it reaches the scheduled time, or set the heater to run nonstop until it is manually switched off. The 1,500-watt heater comes with several additional features, including oscillation, overheating protection, and a cool-touch exterior that allows users to maneuver the heater while it is in use without getting burned.

FAQs About Garage Heaters

After becoming familiar with the best garage heaters, there may be some lingering questions about the type of heater, efficiency, and the appropriate size of heater for the garage. Below is a collection of some of the most commonly asked questions about garage heaters and the answers to help clear up these inquiries.

Q. What type of heater is best for a garage?

The best type of heater for the garage depends on your needs. Large garages benefit from a natural gas or propane heater because of the high heating capacity, allowing the heater to adequately warm the space. However, an electric garage heater is a safer alternative and the heating capacity is suitable for smaller garages.

Q. What size heater do I need for my 2-car garage?

Depending on where you live, the answer to this question can vary. Areas with mild winters will naturally require less heat production to warm a space than locations with harsh, freezing winters.

However, an electric garage heater with 3,000 watts is usually needed to heat a 2-car garage. The best gas garage heater for a 2-car garage usually has a rating of about 18,000 BTUs to adequately heat the space.

Q. What is the most efficient garage heater?

Efficiency can be difficult to determine because an electric infrared heater technically has 100 percent efficiency, but it may actually cost more to operate than the best natural gas garage heater. This is due to the cost of electricity over natural gas or even propane. If you are looking for a heater that uses almost every watt of energy for heating, then an infrared heater can be the best option.

Q. Can a garage heater be too big?

Yes, a garage heater can be too big. If it is too big, the excess heat produced quickly makes the garage feel uncomfortable, forcing you to open the door to release some heat. If you have a smaller garage, consider using a portable heater to keep the space warm.

Q. Will a 1,500-watt heater heat a garage?

It depends on the size of the garage. Typically a good estimate for electric heaters is that for every 10 watts of output, the heater can warm up approximately 1 square foot of space. This means that as long as the garage is 150 square feet or smaller, a 1,500-watt heater is more than adequate.

Q. Where should a heater be placed in the garage?

Portable garage heaters can be placed anywhere in the garage. Fixed or mounted garage heaters should be installed in the coldest corner of the garage, directing the heat and airflow toward the center of the garage. Make sure that heaters are installed at least 24 inches away from the walls, and always check the manufacturer’s directions for use to make sure that you are installing the unit properly.

Final Thoughts

Garage heaters are an incredibly effective way to make use of the garage when it’s cold, allowing you to take on projects any time of the year without needing to bundle up. These heaters use natural gas, liquid propane, and electricity, and they can produce enough heat for the entire garage.

However, the best garage heater for your purposes depends on several factors, including whether it needs to be mounted or if it’s portable, the necessary heat output for the size of the garage, and important safety features that can help keep you and your family safe and warm.