Updated February 6th, 2023
Heating your garage can change it from a storage space into another active living space in your home. A heated garage is a perfect space for a workshop or home gym. Heating your garage can help your car or truck last longer too by reducing moisture and mold. How to keep your garage warm in winter? Let’s take a look at how to insulate and heat your garage.
How to Keep Your Garage Warm in Winter
Before we get into garage heating, it is important to make sure your garage has insulation and can retain heat. We need to keep the hot air in and the cold air out. Heating an uninsulated garage, without an insulated door in cold weather can turn into an expensive exercise in frustration. If you just want to warm up your garage for an hour or 2, you don’t need to insulate. If you want to keep your garage warm all winter long you will need to insulate it.
1 – Insulate the walls
If your garage walls are just bare studs you will have a difficult time keeping your garage warm. There will be too much heat loss for any heater to work. Before you think about installing any kind of heater in your garage insulate the walls first. Use fiberglass batt insulation between the studs. Install some kind of inner surface such as drywall or plywood sheets on top of the insulation. Bare fiberglass insulation doesn’t look that great and won’t be protected without some kind of finishing. Don’t forget to insulate the ceiling as well. See our article on garage ceiling insulation to learn more.
My garage walls are finished with pegboard and it’s quite handy for garage wall storage. Insulation will make your garage much warmer in the winter even without a heater.
If you are building a new garage or installing new siding on an existing garage be sure to install a vapor barrier such as Tyvek.
2 – Insulate the garage door
No insulated garage would be complete without an insulated garage door. Garage doors are typically made from thin metal or composites and they don’t insulate at all. On a cold day, heat will transfer right through your garage door defeating your garage insulation. Installing garage door insulation with reflective insulation is an easy do it yourself project.
There are garage door insulating kits available from Amazon or Home Depot. You can easily do it for under $100. These involve putting insulation sheets on each garage door panel to insulate the entire garage door.
3 – Eliminate drafts
Now that you have insulated your garage walls and garage door, it’s time to go after all the drafty air leaks. Lets look at some of the more common places you find drafts in your garage.
- Garage door gasket and weatherstripping – If the gasket under your garage door doesn’t seal well you can lose a lot of heat. My garage door gasket had about an 8 inch gap on one side. Replace the gasket if you see leaks or gaps under it. If you have a garage door opener you can adjust how tight your door closes. Make sure it’s putting enough pressure on the gasket to seal it.
- Window sealing and caulking – If your garage has windows check the weather strips around your windows. If the window is drafty try a film window insulating kit to insulate the window itself.
- Seal the holes and cracks with caulking or expanding foam insulation – Go around your garage and caulk any gaps or edges around your windows and doors or gaps in siding. Look for anywhere else warm air could be escaping. You can use exterior caulking around the windows on the outside. On the interior, you can use expanding foam to seal up gaps.
4 – Install a garage heater
Installing insulation will help take the edge off the cold inside your garage. It won’t make it warm enough to use as an extra room such as a gym or workshop. Installing a heater is the next step to making your garage more warm and livable. There are a variety of options for heating your garage. These vary in how expensive they are and how difficult they are to install. Let us take a look at some of the available options.
A space heater is the cheapest option for heating your garage from an installation point of view. Space heaters are a generic portable heater with a heating element and a fan to blow out hot air. They typically operate as a convection heater that draws cold air in and blows hot air out. A space heater makes a very simple and effective electric garage heater.
You only need to set the electric heater up in your garage and turn it on. Space heaters come in a variety of sizes and costs. Some of the larger higher tech versions have thermostats so you can set a temperature in the room.
Space heaters can be electric or fuel powered such as propane, kerosene, or natural gas. If you get a propane heater or kerosene heater make sure you get one designed to work indoors. A heater not designed for indoor use can create a carbon monoxide hazard in your garage.
Space heaters are available in indoor and outdoor versions. An outdoor space heater will have more water resistance. If your garage gets water or snow in it you should consider a space heater rated for outdoor use.
Infrared heaters or radiant heaters use a heat lamp or radiant element to heat the air instead of a heating element. They radiate infrared heat outward from the heating element without using a fan. You can mount an infrared heating panel overhead in your garage ceiling above tables or workbenches. Ceiling mounted heaters don’t take up any garage space on the floor or walls. An infrared garage heater is more expensive than a basic space heater but less expensive than forced or ductless heating. They come in a variety of power levels and sizes.
Ductless heating system
Ductless heating systems are a good idea if you want heat and an air conditioner in your garage. They are mounted on the wall and use a heat pump that is mounted outside. They do not need forced air ducting. They still need to run lines between the indoor air handling unit and the heat pump condenser. If you have a really large garage you can install more than 1 air handler to make sure the whole garage is heated.
This is a good solution for a detached garage where you can’t tap into your home heating system. This is a much more expense option than using space heaters but it can heat and cool. It is a more permanent option for those looking to raise the value of their home.
Wood burning stove
Wood burning stoves add a certain comfort and feel to a space that most other heaters can’t match. If you have a good source of wood and a place to store it, then a wood stove can be an excellent choice. The installation cost can be expensive since you need to install a chimney to get the smoke out of your garage. They need more maintenance and attention than other heating methods. Who doesn’t love sitting around a wood burning stove in the evening?
In floor heating
In floor heating is a great option if you’re building a new garage or replacing your garage floor. It involves putting heating elements into the floor when the concrete is poured. It has several benefits besides just making your garage warmer. It will melt snow and ice faster saving you from trips and falls in your garage. It will make your garage floor last longer since it will prevent ice freezing in the cracks in your floor. If you need to install a new garage floor, you should consider a heated floor. Look here to learn more about garage floor heating from Thermosoft.
Forced air heater
If you have a large garage you want to heat you might want to consider forced air heating. You will need to install a furnace and ducting to use forced air heating. This is easier to do when you are building the garage but not impossible afterwards. If your home furnance system has enough extra heating capacity you can tap into it to heat your attached garage. This won’t work for a detached garage.
5 – How warm should your garage be?
How warm should you heat your garage in the winter? To get the most benefit for your car, you should heat it warm enough to avoid condensation. To do that you should heat it above the dew point in your area. This is above 40F in inland areas and above 65F in coastal areas. Look here to find the 7 day dewpoint forecast for the United States. Look here to learn more about how warm you should keep your garage.
6 – How much heating power do you need for your garage?
How much power do you need for your garage heater? A simple rule of thumb is 10 watts per square foot of floor space. A 500 square foot garage will need 5000 watts of heating power. If you are looking at gas powered heater, then you will need the number in BTUs. Multiply Watts by 3.41 to get BTU’s. A 500 square foot garage that needs 5000 Watts will need 5000 * 3.41 = 17,050 BTUs. Look here to learn more about sizing your garage heater.
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About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am a homeowner and love having get togethers and finding the best things to make spending time at home easier and more fun. We spend a lot of time at home so why shouldn’t we have a great time there? I decided to start Great Home Gear as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things home living with everyone.