If your garage isn’t attached to your home’s central heating, there’s no need to suffer through another cold winter. Heating your garage is easy when you add a dedicated garage heater to warm things up. Some are easier to install than others, though, so consider your skill level to decide if you need to call a technician or would be able to get it done on your own in just a short time.
Before You Get Started
It’s a good idea to research any building codes or regulations about the types of heaters you can install on your property. A gas heater may require different permits and inspections than an electric heater, so make sure you understand how each will be installed before you choose.
It’s also important to measure the total area of your garage in square feet so you can properly size your heater. Make sure to calculate the number of heaters you’ll need to adequately warm your space based on their output and the size of your garage.
Electric Garage Heaters
Most new garage heaters use electricity to warm air, and they’re a popular choice because they don’t require a vent kit or a gas line during installation. There are several electric heater types, including electric baseboards, wall heaters and garage heaters that hang from a ceiling bracket. Check with the heater manufacturer’s manuals for exact specifications, but in general, baseboard heaters are placed along the garage wall and can maintain a low profile to save space. It’s important not to store anything against them, though, so if you plan to line your garage with shelves, a hanging heater may make more sense.
Once you choose the location of the heater, make sure it has adequate spacing to reduce fire risk and allow for any venting needs. Attach any mounting hardware and brackets first, making sure to screw them into studs for security. For a ceiling mounted garage heater, you may have to purchase an angled bracket to maintain proper spacing.
To hardwire the heater, you’ll need to run an electrical supply line of BX cable from the heater to your circuit breaker. Because electric heaters draw a lot of electricity, it’s best to put them on their own circuit for safety and to avoid tripping the fuse during use. In an unfinished garage, you can run the cable along a stud, tacking it securely as you go. In a finished garage, you’ll need to fish the wires behind the drywall — a tricky task for beginners.
Once you’ve run the wire, match the positive and neutral wires and connect with a plastic nut to protect the metal ends. Attach the ground wire to the ground screw on the heater and to the ground bar on the circuit breaker. Your owner’s manual should come with a wiring diagram to follow, but if you’re not comfortable with wiring, call an electrician to do the job for you.
Gas Garage Heaters
A propane heater like a Modine Hot Dawg takes more work to install, because you need to connect it either to a gas pipe or propane tank. These heaters also need to be hooked up to a vent pipe that will remove fumes and eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide buildup. Begin by installing the mounting brackets and ensuring that they are well secured to studs in the ceiling, making sure that the heater hangs at the proper height for clearance in all directions.
Next, you’ll need to purchase and install a vent pipe kit. This installation requires cutting a hole in your garage wall or roof and fitting the pipe, then attaching metallic roof flashing or a storm collar around the hole to keep water from leaking into your garage. You’ll also need to install a vent cap to keep water out as well. Once your pipe is in place, use your heater’s vent adaptor to fit the pipe to the heater, completing the ventilation line. Specific directions for your natural gas heater will be in the owner’s manual. If you’re concerned about ruining the look or the structural integrity of your garage, it’s a good idea to call a professional carpenter for this job.
Once the venting has been established, you’ll need to hook the natural gas line or propane line to the heater to establish the fuel connection. This is beyond most DIY enthusiasts’ expertise, especially since you want to make sure to have proper gas pressure and no leaks. In some municipalities, this work requires a permit and a licensed professional to complete.
Finally, establish electrical connections with BX cable. This is more complicated than with an electrical heater and will depend upon the forced-air heater blower as well as the fuel ignition system, so refer to the manual. Most homeowners will be more comfortable having an electrician or HVAC professional do this as well, since it involves working with the gas ignition.
Finishing the Job
For most homeowners, an electric garage heater is much less expensive and easier to install on their own, while natural gas or propane gas heaters require a professional and some additional infrastructure changes to your garage. Once installed, make sure your heater is inspected and that you close out any permits required for the work. Be sure to review the manual for key features and a maintenance schedule to keep your heater working well. When you get the right heater for your space, your car garage will remain comfortable all year long.