For anyone who works in their garage year-round, garage heaters are an indispensable accessory. The extra heat they provide is a necessary comfort during winter, when their garage would be an otherwise chilly and inhospitable. The costs, however, can be significant: higher electricity and gas bills at a time when utility costs are often rising. To counteract these concerns, we’ve compiled some tips on how to reduce the energy costs of your garage heater. They include understanding your unit’s power usage, knowing what type and size of unit will provide the most heat for the least amount of energy, and making your garage more efficient.
Knowing the Costs
NewAir garage heaters are cost effective machines. Their purchase price is low, they’re easy to maintain, and a heat source in your garage defrays the costs to your central heating system. To understand what a garage heater will cost in terms of energy, consider the following:
- Current Power Costs. How much are you currently paying for electricity? Check your electricity bill to see the rate per kilowatt-hour. It varies from state-to-state, by time of year, even by time of day. Unregulated markets, consumer demand, and methods of power determine energy prices state-to-state. Prices in southern states rise and dip with the weather. In the south, they’re highest during summer, while in northern states, they’re highest during winter. Utilities often provide discounts for off-peak use, normally the weekends and 9 p.m. – 7 a.m. weekdays.
- Heater Size. What size heater do you need for your garage? To find out, measure the length and width of your garage and multiply them together. That’s the square footage. Is your garage well insulated or poorly insulated? If it’s well insulted, divide it by 200 and multiply the quotient by 6,000. If it’s poorly insulated, divide by 200 and multiply by 9,000. The resulting product is the amount of BTUs (British Thermal Units) you need to warm the space. One watt of electricity generates 3.412141 BTUS, so to calculate how many watts your heater needs, divide by 3.412141.
- Heater Costs. What’s the power requirements of your current heater, or the one you intend to buy? You’ll find it printed on the heater’s specification label. Power usage is generally measure in kilowatts, the equivalent of one kilowatt-hour. If you can, track the daily use of your current heater or how much time you spend in your garage every day. Multiply the hours of use by the heater size to determine your daily energy costs. Multiply by the estimated number of days of use to get your yearly power costs.
Selecting Energy Efficient Garage Heaters
Efficiency is the ratio of energy consumed by the unit’s operation compared to the amount electricity it converts into heat. There are two main types of garage heaters: electric garage heaters and gas garage heaters. Electric heaters like the NewAir G56 Electric Garage Heater and the NewAir G73 Hardwired Electric Garage Heater generate heat by running electric current though heating coils, converting it into heat, and radiating it out into the surrounding environment. Gas heaters burn propane or natural gas that warm burners that radiate heat. Gas heaters are, in general, less efficient than their electric counterparts. Approximately 20 percent of their fuel is burned off as waste fumes rather than being converted into heat, while electric heaters electric heaters can operate at near 100 percent efficiency with proper insulation.
To increase efficiency further, make sure your garage heater is as close to the right size as possible. While it’s obvious that undersized units are wasteful, they have to run constantly because they lack the power to heat the space, the dangers of an oversized unit are less apparent. Some homeowners believe buying a larger unit will heat spaces faster and increase efficiency in small spaces, but they won’t. The heater will create a lot of heat, but it will spend more time warming up and will have to cycle on and off more often than properly sized units. This increases electricity consumption without producing more heat than you would have gotten with a properly sized unit. It drives up your costs without any equivalent gain.
Making Your Garage More Efficient
Garages are one of the most energy-decrepit areas of a home, often because they’re seen as a separate space from your home and not a part of it. Heat that’s pumped in quickly gets pulled out through cracks, gaps, and poor insulation. Addressing these deficiencies is the best way to reduce the energy costs of your garage heaters. The more heat you can keep trapped inside, the more efficient your NewAir garage heater will be. Here’s a list of upgrades you can make that will help bring down your heating costs.
- • Seal the Doors. The connecting door between the garage and the main house can be a big energy drain. Air gets pulled through gaps in the frame or under the door, robbing either your house or your garage of warmth. A thermal leak detection kit or a smoke machine will show you where the air’s escaping. Seal them up with weather stripping or a threshold seal. If there’s a leak in the frame or trim, seal it up with caulk.
- • Insulate the Garage Walls. Garage walls, especially in old garages, are often made of nothing more than exterior siding, radiant sheathing, and plywood. They’re good for keeping out the elements, but lousy at trapping heat. Install insulation up between the joists or blow insulation foam into the drywall or exterior siding to curb heat loss. Check the R-value of the insulation first, before you install it. R-value measures the material’s thermal resistance, how well it conducts heat. The higher the rating, the better it insulates. If there’s an attic or crawl space above your garage, make sure you insulate it too or you’ll lose a lot of heat out through the top of the structure.
- • Insulate Your Garage Door. An often overlooked component of garage insulation. Garage doors are often made of aluminum or plywood, which do a good job transferring energy from your garage out into the surrounding environment. Though insulated garage doors are available for purchase, it’s usually cheaper to buy an insulation kit instead and seal it yourself. Most insulation kits use double-bubble radiant insulation, a lightweight material made from two layers of barrier bubble film laminated between two layers of metalized film. The aluminumized surface reflects back 50-75 percent of the radiant heat that strikes it. Its especially useful when used with NewAir garage heaters, which rely primarily on infrared heat.
- • Insulate Outlets and Light Switches. Another overlooked area. Though they look sealed, behind their plastic casing there are often gaps between outlets, light switches, and the surrounding wall. They’re normally not large, but when you add up all the outlets and switches in a typical garage, the combined heat loss can be significant. Cover them up with foam gaskets and insulated outlet covers.
- • Insulate Your Windows. Because garages aren’t considered living spaces, garage windows are normally made from thin, single pane glass, a significant source of heat loss. Their windowsills are often cracked or poorly sealed as well. It’s estimated that between 15 and 35 percent of wintertime heat loss is due to inadequate or poorly insulated windows. To see if it’s a problem in your garage, you can use a leak detection kit or just hold your hand up in front of the window. If you feel a draft, you’re losing heat. The most effective remedy is replacing your windows with double or triple pane glass. If that’s too expensive, you could also install thermal drapes over your windows, seal up cracks in the window jamb with insulating foam, or cover your window with plastic insulating film. Insulating film can be purchased at your local hardware store. It’s often sold in window insulation kits.
- • Caulk Cracks in the Walls and Floor. A lot of garages are built without compressible foam between the lower framing and the concrete floor. When exposed to the elements for a long length of time, the materials between the walls and the floor can swell, shrink, and shift, creating cracks at allow cold air to leak in. Go around and inspect the area between the floor and ceiling. Plug any gaps with foam sealant or latex or silicone caulk.
- • Insulate the Concrete Floor. Concrete is a terrible insulator. It has a high thermal mass, which lets it to absorb large amounts of heat, but a low R-value, which means it conducts heat away from heated interiors. Since most garages are constructed with concrete floors, this is a serious problem for garage owners. Replacing concrete flooring is rarely an option, the best solution is to increase its thermal efficiency. Start by insulating the concrete foundation outside your garage, where it sticks up out of the ground. Heat loss is most significant around the edges of a concrete slab rather than its surface, so start by sealing up the edges of the slab, where it meets the wall. Use foam board to cover the concrete and water resistant material such as vinyl, cement board, or stucco to cover the foam. If your garage isn’t being used for car storage, you can prevent further heat loss by installing plywood or insulation boards inside, over your garage floor. Rugs and carpeting also work well. In fact, laying a rug down on a concrete floor almost doubles its R-value.
If you’re interested in upgrading your garage, here are the approximate costs of the materials. A lot of upgrades can be done pretty cheaply.
|Caulk||$2-$3 per Tube||Insulation||$10-$20 per Roll|
|Weatherstrip||$5-$10||Garage Door Insulation Kit||$50-$90|
|Door Threshold Seal||$20-$30||Double-Bubble Radiant Insulation||$100-$200 per Roll|
|Thermal Leak Detector||$35-$50||Double Pane Windows||$100-$500|
|Window Insulation Kit||$10-$20||Thermal Drapes||$50-$100|
|Foam Insulation Board||$10-$20 per Strip||Thermal Sash Windows||$350-$500|
|Foam Sealant||$5-$10 per Bottle||Insulated Outlet Covers||$5-$20|
Getting the most out of your NewAir garage heater means understanding what it will cost, what type and size works best in the space, and how to keep the heat trapped inside your garage. Upgrading your garage means you can heat the same space with a smaller unit, and is the best way to enjoy dramatic savings in energy and electricity consumption.