What is the best way to heat a garage?
A wood stove where wood is cheap, a gas or ventless propane heater when you need quick, easy heat and plenty of it, in-floor radiant garage heating when cost isn’t an issue and you keep the garage warm all the time…and that’s not all.
Garage heating options covered below also include electric heating options, pellet stoves and even solar heat for garage use.
And insulation – you can’t go wrong adding insulation to your garage ceiling, door and walls. The material, especially when you DIY, will pay for itself in a heating season or two.
The Best Heating Options for a Garage
The best way to heat a garage is the one that fits your purpose, climate, garage conditions and budgets. You have a lot of garage heating options, and they are explored in this Pick HVAC Best Garage Heating Options Guide.
These garage heating options apply to attached and detached garages, outbuildings and . They fall into a few categories of combustion and non-combustion garage heaters:
- Gas heaters – Natural gas or propane. NG requires venting; some propane garage heaters do not. Fixed and portable units are available. Most work during a power outage, though if it relies on an electric fan, that feature won’t be available.
- Wood/pellet stoves – Venting is required. They present the same potential as gas heaters for use in a power outage or in non-wired space.
- Electric heaters – Hard-wired and portable options are made, though you’ll want a large, wired electric garage heater for a large space and/or a cold climate.
See our Garage Heater Size Calculator information below to answer “how many BTUs do I need in the garage?”
The Best Way to Heat a Garage – 11 Garage Heating Options
Here are your garage heater options. Every detail is covered – What it is, how long it takes to warm a garage, what to look for in the unit you select, what it costs for equipment and installation including whether it is DIY-friendly. Each garage heater review concludes with a recommendation for its Best Use, which gives clear guidance and tips for choosing the best way to heat a garage given your purposes, budget, garage type and setup, etc.
Check this out! You might also want to view our post on the Best Garage Heaters where we name specific heater models, give them full pros/cons reviews and give you the opportunity to choose one if you want to.
Ventless Propane Heater
Customers reviewing this thermostat give it high marks at a rate of nearly 90%, making it one of the best heat pump thermostat models available.
This is one of the best garage heaters for any environment. They burn so clean that venting isn’t required, and the possibility of carbon monoxide danger is nearly eliminated. Most manufacturers do recommend that you crack a window when using one of these units – or leave the garage door up an inch or so for fresh air.
Equipment cost: $200 – $400 for most models from brands like Mr. Heater, Dyna-Glo and Remington, but there are a few high-end options such as Rinnai LP Convector ventless propane heaters that sell for closer to $1,000.
Installation cost: If you run the heater off a bottle (20lb, 30lb, etc.), then there is no installation cost. You might need an adapter for the bottle-to-heater connection, but those cost less than $30.
If you have a propane “pig,” a large tank that feeds your residential furnace, then you might want to plumb a line to the ventless propane heater at a cost of $150 to $325 for the materials and labor.
DIY: Using a simple adapter and hose for use with a bottle is a DIY job. Plumbing a line can be DIY if you have knowledge and good skills. Otherwise, we recommend hiring a plumbing contractor for the task.
Permit needed: Not if you’re using a bottle. You might need one if a new gas line is run.
Pros: Most units and installation costs are low because they’re vent-free and can be used with a bottle. Our experience is that a ventless propane garage heater will give you 2,400 to 3,000 hours of use. In a cold region, that’s 3-5 years of part-time garage heating. The heat is instantaneous, and it is fairly quickly dispersed if the unit has a fan. Most units can be set on the floor or mounted on a wall. No electricity is needed, as long as you don’t need a heater fan running.
Cons: There are few disadvantages to a vent-free propane heater. Those with a fan for faster heat circulation cost more than those with no fan. Propane bottle refills cost more than propane in a large tank, so your operating costs are higher if using a bottle. If you use the heater a lot, your biggest issue might be moisture, which is a byproduct of combustion, and it isn’t vented. If your climate is humid and your garage is a little dank, a ventless propane heater might contribute to mold. If you see condensation forming on the garage window or if it feels very humid, allow a little more ventilation to get rid of the moist air. Turning off the heater and turning on an electric space heater for 15-30 minutes might also help.
Climate considerations: These units are ideal for any climate. One of our editors has used ventless propane heaters in garage settings for a decade in Michigan, where winters are regularly sub-freezing, even sub zero at times, and the heaters do the job.
Recommended for: Those who use their garage quite a lot in winter often choose a vent-free heater. These are workhorse units that are fairly affordable to operate. If you want to keep the temp above the freezing point all the time, set one of these units on low to medium, and it will do the job. Frankly, since they give off instant heat up to 30,000 BTUs, ventless propane heaters are a good choice for short-term use when you’re doing a quick project and are in the garage for a short time.
Vented Propane Heater
We’ll make this section quick, because there aren’t a lot of vented propane garage heaters, and many are quite expensive like the popular Rinnai units for indoor and garage or workshop use.
However, there are plenty of natural gas vented garage heaters that can be converted to propane, so those are a better option.
Equipment cost: $800 – $1,400
Installation cost: $250 – $500 or more. A major factor is whether a gas line has to be run, which can cost up to $750.
DIY: Yes, for experienced DIYers, but not recommended.
Permit needed: Yes
Pros: These are large garage heaters with output up to 40,000 BTUs, though some with 10K to 20K BTU output are available. Most have fans for circulation and faster heating and a thermostat for control. If you have a nicely finished garage and want a vented propane garage heater that fits the part, these units have an attractive cabinet that will fit right in. Finally, most of the condensation is vented.
Cons: Cost for the equipment and for venting the unit.
Climate considerations: These are suitable for all climates.
Recommended for: Finished garages where cost isn’t a major concern.
Portable Propane Heater
You have a lot of options for the floor, wall or workbench. But you will also have to ventilate the area, which will cost you heat and lead to higher operating expense.
Mr. Buddy dominates this niche for the best way to heat a garage workshop, garage of any size or an outbuilding, but Ridgid, DeWalt and Dyna-Glo are among other brands to consider.
The popular tube-style “salamander” or “canon” heaters are in this group.
Equipment cost: $125 – $600, though most are in the $200-$350 range.
Installation cost: None.
Permit needed: No.
Pros: Instant heat up to 200,000 BTUs per hour or more. They’re affordable and provide the fastest garage heating of any type.
Cons: They also create a lot of combustion gases, which contain carbon monoxide, so you must vent the space.
Climate considerations: They are hot sellers in all climates.
Recommended for: Fast heat when you plan to stay there only for a while for some small job or quick task. They are also ideal for heating you and not the whole garage – aim it at you, but don’t get too close, and you’ll be plenty warm even if the far reaches of the garage are cold. You can find a good portable propane heater on this page.
Natural Gas Heater
This is one of the best ways to heat garage settings when you have natural gas plumbed to your home. Units from Modine, Dyna-Glo, Mr. Heater, Rinnai, Avenger, Bluegrass Living (Lowes) and HeatStar are popular.
Equipment cost: $190 – $2,000, but most cost $275 – $500.
Installation cost: Venting the unit, which is required, and running a gas line can cost $1,000 for labor and materials.
DIY: Not for most homeowners.
Permit needed: Yes.
Pros: Fast heating for large garages. Most have fans, but the few that don’t require electricity to run them. If your gas heater has a thermostat, then it can be used to keep the garage temperature above freezing when necessary.
Cons: Price is the biggest downside to a vented natural gas garage heater.
Climate considerations: These units are designed for cold winters. In a mild region, you might not get the value from the unit.
Recommended for: Do you use the garage a lot in cold weather and want a long-term heating solution? This is a good choice. Large spaces in cold parts of the country benefit most from a NG/natural gas heater.
Portable Kerosene Heater
Kerosene is a good choice where propane and natural gas aren’t as readily available. These units are manually filled and ignited, and they give off up to 200,000 BTUs of radiant heat.
Equipment cost: $225 – $350 for most units.
Installation cost: None
Permit needed: No
Pros: Affordable units. Fast heat.
Cons: They are a hassle to fill. Kerosene, K-1, costs more than liquid propane in most places. When they get dirty, they smoke. With heavy use, kerosene heaters leave a sticky residue.
Climate considerations: They’re OK for any climate.
Recommended for: Areas where kerosene is readily available and cheaper than propane – and when you want fast, reliable heat and don’t mind cleaning the unit every 100 hours or so.
Wired Electric Heater
You have several options here for mounting on the wall or ceiling – such as ceiling panels that deliver infrared heat to heat you rather than the air.
Equipment cost: $200 – $650
Installation cost: $200 to $600 or more. Cost will be on the low end if your current electrical panel can handle a 30-amp breaker and a 240-volt line. Cost goes up when you need to add a panel.
DIY: Wiring an electric garage heater isn’t in the playbook for most homeowners. You know your skills and experience and whether DIY is a good decision.
Permit needed: Yes – if you’re adding a circuit.
Pros: Reliable heat without the need for venting. No fumes or odor. There’s no loading/filling hassles.
Cons: Electricity costs are higher in all parts of the country than natural gas and propane.
Climate considerations: These are the best fit for mild to moderately cold regions, but not for the coldest parts of the country.
Recommended for: Occasional or moderate use in a well-insulated garage. They take a while to warm up the space, so they aren’t the best garage heater for short jobs when you don’t plan to stay in the garage very long.
A garage-size wood stove tucked in a corner is a time-tested way to heat a garage. And if you have affordable or free wood readily available, you can heat the garage cheaply. Just keep in mind that most are sized for larger spaces than a garage, so if you get one that’s too large and fill it up, you’ll have too much heat!
We’re not talking about a whole-house, outdoor wood stove or wood boiler – but if you want to heat the garage plus your home and maybe provide hot water for a hot tub, you can’t go wrong with one of those options.
There are a handful of quality wood stoves sized for a one-car to three-car garage from brands like Cubic Mini, Englander, Drolet, Lopi and Jotul – Jøtul for our Norwegian readers.
Equipment cost: $500 – $1,500 total. The smallest wood stoves for garage use start at about $395. The vent kit runs another $50 to $125. Wood stoves with fans and/or built-in ignition cost more than basic models.
You’ll need a power saw to cut the hole too, so if you don’t have one, factor in another $50+ based on the type and quality you choose.
Installation cost: Expect to pay $150 to $300 to have a wood stove set, the vent cut, and the vent kit installed. Plus, the installer should test the stove to make sure it is venting properly. A knowledgeable installer can also help you learn how to use the dampers and other features to maximize heating comfort and efficiency.
DIY: Sure, but improper wood stove installation produces fire hazard, so make sure you know what you are doing or have an experienced friend give you a hand. Otherwise, it is well worth hiring a contractor to install the wood burning garage stove.
Permit needed: Yes. Your local code probably requires a wood stove permit which includes an inspection of the installation. While permits are a pain, in this case, it is a good idea to have an experienced inspector look it over to make sure it is safely installed.
Pros: Cheap heat where wood is easily and affordably obtained. While hardwood is preferred, many of these stoves can also burn pellets, corn and softwoods like pine as long as the wood is very dry.
Cons: You don’t get instant heat with a wood stove. Once the fire is started, it will take 15-30 minutes for the entire garage to heat up. Some garage wood stove units are quite expensive, and they’re a bit of a hassle to load, start, empty and clean. If you have neighbors close to you and to the east, they might tire of the wood smoke blowing their way. A wood stove is a fire hazard when improperly installed or when there are gas fumes from a leaking vehicle or old/faulty gas can in the garage.
Climate considerations: These are mostly used where winters are cold to very cold.
Recommended for: Large garages in rural areas where wood is plentiful and cheaply acquired. A wood stove is a fantastic long-term heating solution for a large garage, and some consider it the best way to heat a detached garage, a workshop or other outbuilding where wood is available.
According to the Pick HVAC Pellet Stove Guide, “A wood pellet stove burns compressed wood pellets which are fed from the pellet hopper into the combustion pot by an auger. The fire is fed fresh air…by a combustion fan. Heat is transferred through a heat exchanger…and heats air being pulled into the stove and blown into the room by the distribution fan.” Pellet stoves are considered a little cleaner and easy to use than a wood stove, but they are similar ways to heat a garage.
US Stove, Harman, Drolet and Castle are among the top pellet stove brands. Our Wood Stove vs Pellet Stove Guide offers additional advice on choosing between these popular fuels.
Equipment cost: A small pellet stove for garage use begins at about $650. Most are more than $1,000, and many cost more than $1,500. The vent kit runs up to $200.
Installation cost: $150 to $300 to install, vent and test.
DIY: It’s possible, but follow installation tutorials closely. We recommend hiring an experienced contractor, but you know your skill level and what you want to tackle.
Permit needed: Yes.
Pros: Cleaner burning and more efficient than wood stoves. Most have fans, so the heated air is distributed throughout the space. With larger hoppers, burn time can run to 24+ hours. Also, a pellet stove is easier to control and shut down than a wood stove. Just close the feeder/hopper, and the fire will soon burn out.
Cons: More expensive than most other garage heating options. Potential fire hazard.
Climate considerations: Garage pellet stoves are best suited to colder regions. They put out a lot of heat – 30,000 to 50,000 BTUs for garage-sized stoves is common. It would be easy to overheat a small garage in a milder climate.
Recommended for: A pellet stove is an ideal choice for a large garage – 2.5 or 3 car unit, for example, and for a shop or workshop. Because of the fire hazard – which is minimal when the stove is properly installed – pellet stoves are probably better used for a detached garage. In fact, check with local code about whether they are permissible for use in an attached garage.
Electric Space Heater
We’ve all used space heaters, and they have their place in some garages.
Equipment cost: Less than $25 to $150.
Installation cost: None.
Permit needed: No.
Pros: Cheap, fast heating of the space immediately around the unit.
Cons: High operating cost and not sized for large garages. Our FAQ guide How Much Electricity Does a Space Heater Use has more details.
Climate considerations: Best for mild to moderate climates.
Recommended for: Short periods of time when you want heat at your feet or on the bench to keep your hands warm while doing a quick project.
Ductless Mini Split Heat Pump
If you have a large garage, want to keep it above freezing or even warmer and are willing to invest more money into a long-term, year-round solution, a ductless AC heat pump is the best way to heat a garage. Those are big “if’s,” so think it through.
Top brands are Mitsubishi, LG, Fujitsu, Gree, Carrier and MrCool, though there are many other quality brands.
Equipment cost: $1,200 – $2,400 for single-zone ductless systems for up to 750 square feet or a 3.5-car garage.
Installation cost: $0 for pre-charged DIY mini split heat pumps; $800 – $1,500 for pro installation and refrigerant charging.
DIY: MrCool, Pioneer and a few other brands make DIY ductless systems for a single zone. If you have moderate skills, you can probably get the job done.
Permit needed: Yes.
Pros: Easily the most efficient way to heat a garage. And they all have air conditioning, so they are your friend in summer too.
Cons: The higher upfront cost.
Climate considerations: They are very popular in warm and moderate climates, and a new generation of cold-climate ductless systems can heat a garage in subfreezing weather.
Recommended for: Those who will pay more for a long-term, year-round garage heater and air conditioning solution.
In-floor Radiant Garage Heating
Your options are electric and hydronic. If you have a boiler, you might be able to add a zone to it for the garage floor.
These units are installed when a new garage floor is being poured.
Equipment cost: $1,500 for an electric mat system up to $4,000 for a boiler and tubing for a hydronic system.
Installation cost: $0 to $2,000
DIY: Electric mat systems are a good DIY option. We recommend a contractor for installing a gas boiler and hydronic system.
Permit needed: Yes.
Pros: Radiant floor heat is very comfortable. It is a good fit for keeping the garage temp above freezing – or at any reasonable temperature you want it.
Cons: The equipment and installation cost might be the highest of all garage heating options.
Climate considerations: This is a good choice for any climate.
Recommended for: The homeowner who wants a true “heated garage,” and is willing to cover the higher costs for it. You’ll get the best ROI if you own a luxury home and might sell in the next decade.
While not common, a few homeowners are going solar. Many, but not all, of them are in California where new construction homes must have solar energy systems. Add a kW or two, and you can heat the garage as well.
Equipment cost: $2,000 to $4,000 or more including the electric heater.
Installation cost: $1,500 to $2,500.
Permit needed: Yes.
Pros: No operating costs, if the unit is large enough to produce sufficient electricity to run an electric heater.
Cons: Most homeowners aren’t willing to cover the high cost.
Climate considerations: You’ll need sunny winter days – or at least days that aren’t terribly overcast.
Recommended for: We don’t recommend solar energy heating for garages, but they are the best fit where the entire home is being fitted for solar.
Summary of Garage Heating Options
What is the best way to heat a garage?
Here are the Pick HVAC experts’ quick picks. See the full reviews of the best garage heaters above for cost, installation and operating details:
Moderate and cold climates: Vented or ventless gas heaters. If you have natural gas, use it. If not, go with propane.
- Warm climates: Wired electric heaters.
- Fast heating – whole garage: A plumbed gas heater.
- Fast heating – just you and the immediate space: A portable heater. Choose propane or electric based on cost and what’s available where you live.
- Fast heating for short jobs / short periods of time: Portable heaters, either gas or electric.
- Keep the temp above freezing point: Plumbed gas, wired electric or radiant floor heat. A wood stove will do this too.
- Detached garage: Gas or wood garage heaters.
- Attached garage: Gas for cold climates, gas or electric for all others.
- Shop / workshop: Most options – gas, electric and wood – have their place depending on the other types of factors covered in the reviews above.
Garage Heater Size Calculator – How Many BTUs Do I Need to Heat a Garage?
How Many BTUs? It will be very useful to understand how many BTUs of heat you need in your garage given its size, your Climate Zone and the level of insulation in the garage. This Garage Heater Size Calculator will give you the answer.
The return on investment, or ROI, of insulation can be 100% or higher in the first few years when you heat the garage quite a bit during the winter.
We recommend garage insulation in this order:
1 – The garage door. If you have a steel door that isn’t insulated, you’re barely better off with it closed than with it open. DIY garage door insulation foam panels make the job quick and easy. If you’re buying a door, choose an insulated garage door. Find quality DIY garage door insulation here.
2 – The ceiling. Just as important, because heat rises and escapes through poorly insulated roofs, is the ceiling. Staple fiberglass batts to the truss bottoms or lay boards over the lower part of the trusses, create an attic opening and use loose fill insulation above.
3 – The walls.Fiberglass batts are the cheapest option, but rigid foam, spray-in cellulose or spray foam insulation can all be used in wall cavities.
4 – Weatherstripping. Use foam weatherstripping around the garage door frame, entry door frame, window frames and any vents. Preventing air leaks is essential to keeping heat inside the garage.
5 – House wrap / vapor barrier. The next time you side the garage or shop, be sure to add Tyvek or similar wrap if it isn’t already there – or if what’s there is in poor condition. Keep the garage envelope tight, and the space will stay warmer longer.