Being your primary options for heating small spaces, gas-powered and electric garage heaters vary in many ways including size, heat output, price, efficiency and heat transfer method. With some types, you get convenience, portability and a room that is quickly heated. Other heaters take longer to get going, but once they do, they provide more efficient energy usage. Only by doing a side-by-side comparison of the different types can you make the most informed choice and pick the right product for your garage. One thing that is for sure is that a cold garage is no place to have a shop or hobby room. It is not cost efficient to fully condition your garage for central heat, either. In the garage, space heat is the most practical way to go.
Natural Gas Garage Heaters
Once installed, natural gas garage heaters are one of the most energy efficient and therefore least expensive to operate. A natural gas garage heater hooks right up to your home’s natural gas line. Natural gas garage heaters are classified as either vented, or unvented. Vented means that the heater must be connected to the outside air by means of a small duct. Rather than combust the air in the garage, air from outside is pulled in. These heaters are permanently affixed next to a wall.
Unvented heaters, by contrast, draw air from inside to heat, but they are less efficient. There is a chance that combusted air could back-flow into the garage and create unpleasant odors in the room. In some states, unvented natural gas heaters are banned due to the risk of carbon monoxide buildup. Unvented gas heaters, where available, are less expensive but are of a lesser quality.
Electric Garage Heaters
Some of the risks still associated with electric garage heaters include risk of fire and burns. Most electric garage heaters come equipped with a safety switch that shuts the heater off automatically if it tips over. Electric garage heaters offer more portability than natural gas, for you can move them anywhere in your garage. However, you should always plug them into the wall directly and not into an extension cord. If this cannot be helped, the cord should be insulated, grounded and at least 14 gauge.
The two types of electric garage heaters provide convection and radiant heat. Convection heaters heat air with an element and then blow that air around a space. Thus, it is the air that is heated. Consequently, the room usually takes longer to heat.
Radiant heaters, on the other hand, utilize a line-of-sight heating method. They do not heat the air; rather, they heat the objects and people directly in the path of the heating element. For this reason, they heat things faster and are the better choice for short term use. The biggest downside to electric garage heaters is their cost to operate.
Whatever type of garage heater you choose to purchase, make sure you find one with the Underwriter’s Laboratory or UL label. This means the heater is tested and held to modern safety standards.