If you own a workshop or use your garage as a home shop, you’ll know how cold and drafty these areas can be. A garage or workshop is not as easy to heat as your home. They don’t generally have the best insulation and you need to heat a large expanse. So we’re going to be reviewing the best Garage and workshop heaters. This will be followed with a buyer’s guide which will help you decide on the best heating solution for your garage or shop.
You’re going to need to decide whether a gas or electric garage heater is going to be your best option. How many BTUs do you need to heat your garage or workshop? What safety precautions do you need to take? How do you install these heaters? Yes, it may seem like there are more questions than answers at the moment. But there’s no cause for concern, I’ll be providing the answers to these frequently asked questions and more. So you have plenty of good reasons why this article is an important resource if you’re looking for the best garage or workshop heater.
I’m going to start with a review of the best garage and workshop heaters. This will be divided into two sections: The Best Electric Garage and Workshop Heater and The Best Gas Garage and Workshop Heaters. While I’ll mostly be referring to them as garage heaters, you can see any of them as being equally suited to a shop. After which, I’ll provide you with the information needed to make an informed decision.
Natural gas or propane is probably the most effective way of heating any area. These heaters provide instant heating and are easily the best way to get your garage or workshop warm and comfortable in the shortest time. There are some safety precautions that are required when using gas, but I’ll discuss these as we go. For now, let’s get the ball rolling with a review of the best gas garage and shop heaters.
1. Modine HD45AS0111Natural Gas Hot Dawg Garage Heater 45,000 BTU
Who better to trust with your gas heating requirements than a company that’s been doing it for over a century? When it comes to your safety, particularly with a gas heater, industry experience and a great reputation counts for a lot. This is, in my opinion, is a very good reason to choose any of the Modine natural gas or propane gas heaters.
The HD45AS011 is a very compact ceiling garage heater, especially if you consider that it delivers a very impressive 45,000 BTUs. Since a ceiling heater needs to be hung at least 1-inch below the ceiling and also requires ventilation from all sides, a compact size is quite important. You can’t mount a heater like this against a wall or directly against the ceiling and a bulky unit can be a nasty inconvenience. This unit measures 12” X 26” X 16.5”. So you need to take into account that the bottom of the heater will be just over a foot below the height of your ceiling: approx. 1-inch gap between the top of the heater and your ceiling and another foot for the actual height of the heater. You also need to remember that, for safety reasons, a gas heater needs to be installed a good distance away from flammable materials. I’ll go into more detail about this in the buyer’s guide.
I like the easy and practical installation aspect to this garage heater. As with any hanging garage or shop heater, you’ll need to suspend it from the ceiling and this usually means installing brackets that go through the ceiling. Though people seem to be able to get this done in as little as 2-hours. Naturally, this will differ depending on your individual circumstances. It’s possible to connect your piping from either the left or right side of the heater, which is very convenient. It weighs 60-pounds, so getting it up to the ceiling will require some heavy-lifting. Later in the article, I’ll provide useful safety and convenience tips for installing these ceiling garage heaters. The vent pipe is of the small diameter variety which simplifies things, whether it’s for side-wall or roof venting. This is a standard power exhaust.
If you choose to opt for a thermostat control, it is compatible with most brands. Of course this means extra installation and wiring, but the convenience of a timer and automatic controls are worth it. You should take note that the propane and natural gas models are not the same and you should order the correct option for the type of gas that you’ll be using. I really like the Modine HD45AS011 Hot Dawg garage heater / shop heater. It’s designed for convenience and, like so many, I have a lot of faith in the brand. It’s very efficient and is an effective way of heating a large area. It’s also an exceptionally quiet gas heater.
2. Mr. Heater F260550 Big Maxx MHU50NG Natural Gas Unit Heater
When comparing the price of the Mr. Heater F260550 to the Modine that we’ve just reviewed, the Mr. Heater is a real bargain. Not only is this a cheaper option, it’s more powerful, in that it provides a 50,000 BTU heating capacity. For some, this brand might not carry the same weight as the Modine. But, it looks to me as though they are of the same quality standard and have the same level of safety – which is an important consideration.
One area where some may see the sense in paying more for the Modine is that the Mr. Heater is not as compact. Then again, this one does provide an extra 5,000 BTUs, so I’d expect it to be a little bigger. It measures 25” X 18.5” X 17”. Taking into account the minimum requirement of 1-inch clearance from the ceiling, you’ll need a ceiling height of at least 8-feet to allow a safe distance between the area you’re heating and the base of the heater.
It’s designed for the same easy installation with ceiling-mount brackets supplied. It uses a power exhaust that allows for horizontal (side wall) or vertical (roof) venting. Terminals for AC wiring and a thermostat are easily accessible from the outside of the unit. No thermostat is provided with the kit, but you can use most commercially available controllers with the Mr. Heater. The ” gas inlet is also very convenient and it can accommodate pipes from either the left or right. You should be able to install this unit in a couple of hours without too much effort. At 63-pounds, it will require pretty much the same amount of effort as most others to get it up to the ceiling.
The same safety precautions apply to this heater as with any other gas heater. Allow for ventilation as specified in your owner manual and take care to avoid placing any flammable materials in close proximity to the heater. It has some great built-in safety features, which includes an oxygen depletion sensor. It also has a self-diagnostic panel and electric (115V) spark ignition. Though electric ignition is pretty standard these days and most of the best gas heaters make use of this.
The Mr. Heater Big Maxx is a great deal. You’re getting a robust and very effective gas heater suitable for a large garage or small to mid-sized shop. It’s quiet and efficient. Above all, it’s remarkably cheap for what you’re getting and this cheap price is by no means an indication of inferior quality. They offer a 3-year warranty on all parts and labor, as well as a 10-year warranty on the heat exchanger.
3. Mr. Heater 40,000 BTU Natural Gas Garage Heater
This model is even cheaper than the Mr. Heater 50,000 BTU Big Maxx. It is, however, a completely different type of gas heater than the previous two in the review. This is an infrared gas heater. So instead of using the heat exchanger and fan (forced ventilation), it has ceramic panels that are heated by a gas flame.
There are pros and cons to each design. In short, the main advantage to using this type of heater is in its direct instant heating and easier installation. The downside is that, without a fan, this heater radiates the heat directly and doesn’t circulate the hot air through the room. You also need greater safety clearances. They recommend a ceiling height of 12 to 15 feet. So it’s probably more suitable as a workshop heater where one usually has a higher ceiling than in a garage.
The Mr. Heater 40,000 BTU infrared heater measures 35.5” X 12.5” X 21”. This gives it a wide expanse with a lot of heating panels, making it quite effective at heating a generous area around the heater. One safety consideration that you have to observe diligently is the proximity of the heater in relation to any flammable materials. It radiates a very intense blast of heat and it’s recommended that it be installed with a minimum clearance of 36” above the heater, 30” to the side and back, and 68” below the heater. Hence the need for a higher a ceiling. The specified ventilation for this unit is 400 CFM for every 100,000 BTU. For this 40,000 BTU model that means an airflow of 160 CFM. If your garage or shop doesn’t have good ventilation you may need to an install a fan to ensure adequate air flow.
Installation is super easy. It has four hanging points so you can use chains to suspend it. There’s no need for an electric connection as this heater uses a pilot flame and won’t need to ignite the flame every time it switches on. A thermostat is supplied with the unit and this has a reasonably long cord, so you can position it where needed. Unlike the forced ventilation gas heaters, there’s no need for a vent pipe. So there’s no cutting through walls or the roof to install extra piping. All you need to do is install a gas line. It will operate on both propane and naturals gas. Another advantage when installing this heater is its low weight. At only 28.2-pounds, it’s easy to lift and doesn’t require the same heavy-duty brackets as you’d need for a heavier garage heater.
If you’re looking for an affordable infrared gas garage heater, you can’t go wrong with this Mr. Heater model. At 40,000 BTUs it may not be the best for a large area, especially in a cold climate. For a double garage or similar sized shop, it will do a fantastic job. You could, under the right conditions, use this heater for a larger area. I really like the quality materials used and people say that it’s very efficient, so you won’t be pushing up your gas bill excessively. This is another great benefit when it comes to affordability. It’s not only inexpensive to buy, it won’t cost you too much to run.
4. Mr. Heater MH60QFAV 60,000 BTU Portable Propane Forced Air Heater
There are several advantages to buying this type of portable propane heater. This extends well beyond the very reasonable price. The Mr. Heater MH60QFAV is not only extremely powerful for its size, it’s small and light enough to use in different locations. So it’s not just a perfect heater for a large area, you can use it outdoors. It’s just as great when used as a patio heater. If you need paint or plaster to dry indoors in cold damp weather, you’ll really appreciate having this heater on standby.
Measuring 18.2” X 11.5” X 14.2”, and a weight of only 18.9-pounds, this is certainly a very portable garage, jobsite, or workshop heater. You’ve got to love this type of versatility. It’s a robust item with a convenient carrying handle. As with any gas burning heater, this one will produce some carbon monoxide. So even though it burns very efficiently, you’ll need to have adequate ventilation. The user manual explains this very well and I highly recommend reading all the safety warnings before using it. As with any of the other garage heaters, you should not use the heater close to any flammable materials. Because you’re going to be standing this heater on the ground, you’ll need to be very aware of what furniture and fixtures are directly in front of the front opening and be equally aware of people passing in front of the heater.
Because this is a forced air heater, it blows the heated air from a reasonably wide opening into the surrounding are. This makes it great for heating quite a large area – up to 1,250 sq. ft. It has a variable control that allows you to set it from as low as 30,000 BTU, all the way up to its maximum 60,000 BTU. When used at the lowest setting, you’ll get up to 14-hours of heating from a 20-pound propane tank. It also has great safety features, which include high limit switches and thermoelectric safety valves.
This garage heater is designed for portability, so it’s very easy to set up. It has a 10-foot gas hose with a pressure regulator so you can connect it directly to any propane tank. All that’s needed after this is to plug it into a standard 115V household electric socket and switch it on. Designed primarily for job site applications, the Mr. Heater MH60QFAV portable propane heater is incredibly robust. It’s a very effective and efficient way of heating any garage or shop, with the added versatility of being a portable heater. It doesn’t cost much and provides you with a lot.
Electric garage heaters have the advantage of being easier to install. All you need is an electrical outlet. Though this needs to be a dedicated high-current electric circuit, in most cases this means using 240V. In a workshop, this usually isn’t problem, you’re probably using some large power tools and this would mean that you have an adequate electrical supply. Similarly, if you’re using your garage as a home shop, you’re likely to have a good electric supply to the garage. You don’t need to worry as much about safety when using electricity – you never need to check for gas leaks.
Another deciding factor between gas or electric heaters is the cost and availability of either natural gas, propane, or electricity. While piped natural gas isn’t available everywhere, electricity is. Propane is portable but may be in limited supply in some areas. The cost of gas, propane and electricity isn’t the same everywhere. So it may come down to which is the most affordable where you live or work. Heating a garage or workshop requires a lot of energy, so it’s a good idea to look into the cost differences between gas and electricity in your area before deciding which is going to be your best option.
1. Dimplex DGWH4031 4000-Watt Garage/Shop Heater
Wonderfully cheap, but not the most powerful, this 4000W electric garage heater is a good option for a standard garage and it will help if you have good insulation. It’s compact and very easy to install, which makes the Dimplex a great option for a home shop or garage. For a larger workshop, you could always consider using more than one heater. The little Dimplex is 11” X 7 2/7” X 9”, so it’s great for a garage shop where space is limited. It can be mounted to a wall or ceiling and a mounting bracket is provided.
While you need to take care not place the heater dangerously close to flammable materials, you don’t have the same ventilation issues as you would with gas. Because there’s no combustion involved with an electric heater, carbon monoxide can never be an area for concern.
This heater has a very durable stainless steel 4000W heating element and a fan that distributes the heat through your garage or workshop. It’s also directional. A screw knob at the top and sides allow you to direct the heat exactly where you want it, and lock the unit securely into position. It has a thermostat to control the temperature and a fan delay saves electricity by using all the residual heat from the element before switching the fan off. Your heating capacity is limited to 13,640 BTUs, so it’s not ideal for a large shop. The built-in thermostat can be set for any temperature between 45 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Installation is made very easy. It has a 6-foot cord with a standard NEMA 6-20P plug. You’ll need to provide a 20A, 240V power supply. The heater bracket mounts easily to the ceiling. If you’d prefer to mount it to a wall, a wall bracket is supplied with the kit. Everything that you’ll need is provided and it weighs only 18-pounds. The Dimplex DGWH4031 has an epoxy powder-coated finish which is very durable and looks good in an Almond color. It’s quite good in terms of energy efficiency, though it’s certainly not the best and this is something that people have commented on.
For a regular garage or small shop, this little electric garage heater is a great buy. It’s compact, easy to install and is very user friendly. Even people living in colder climates have remarked on how well the Dimplex performs. I’d think that in colder areas, you’re looking at about 400 sq. ft. but it you can heat a larger area depending on the outdoor temperature and your level of insulation. I haven’t seen any real complaints and the brand seems to be well-respected. Some people have said that it can be a bit noisy but, other than that, they love it.
2. Fahrenheat FUH54 240-volt Electric Garage Heater, 2500-5000 watt
Some great design features make the Fahrenheat FUH54 garage heater a fantastic item for your shop or garage. It’s made to be very easy to install and use. It’s a powerful electric heater with up to 5000W of heating and, if saving electricity is your main aim, it can be cranked down to only consume 2500W of electricity.
The unit has a tough, industrial design so it will handle the rigors of any workshop. It’s wonderfully compact, measuring only 11.2” X 14” X 12.5”.
The powerful, yet quiet fan circulates the air at a rate of 270 CFM so it does a good job of heating a reasonably large area. Though, when using the full 5000W setting, it produces 17,065 BTUs – so it can’t really compete with the powerful gas heaters. You can turn it down to as low as 2500W, but then you’re only getting 8,533 BTUs. If you’re running on 208V, all these specs will be proportionally lower.
You’ll need a 240V, 25A circuit. The three point mounting bracket is a stroke of design genius, it can be easily configured for either wall or ceiling mounting. With a weight of only 24-pounds, it’s no big hassle installing the heater. The louver vents can be adjusted up or down, so it takes absolutely no effort to direct the air flow as you want it. According the manufacturer specs, you need a minimum 6-foot height clearance for this model.
This is a neat, compact garage heater with a very easy to follow installation procedure. While it has a built-in thermostat, you have the option of installing a remote thermostat/timer if that works better for you. I like the tough robust design of this garage heater and it doesn’t cost that much when you look at the level of quality that you’re getting.
3. Dr. Infrared Heater DR-988 Garage Shop 208/240V, 4800/5600W Electric Heater
Infrared heaters are usually much more economical to run than standard resistance electric heaters, so the Dr. Infrared DR-988 is likely to use a lot less electricity than many others with the same wattage rating. It’s also a really cheap heater for something this powerful. Because of its price and low running costs, I’m prepared to forgive it for some of its less impressive traits. I certainly wouldn’t call this heater junk, but when I compare it to the more expensive, industrial-grade garage heaters, it doesn’t quite match up.
While it’s reasonably robust with a steel enclosure, I would say that it is something you can bash around. With that said, the handy little Dr. Infrared has its merits. This is a portable garage heater and is not designed for ceiling mounting. It has a convenient carrying handle that also serves as a neat place to store the cord. You can stand it on the floor or any stable surface that provides a good safety distance from flammable materials. The fact that it weighs only 12-pounds, really helps in the portability department. It measures 12” X 12” X 15”, so it’s not at all a bulky heater.
Despite its compact size and low weight, the Dr. Infrared packs quite a punch with a 5600W infrared heating element. It has a built-in thermostat and I believe it will be very energy efficient – though I have no power consumption stats to verify this. It’s supplied with a NEMA 6-30P 250V, 30A plug on a reasonably long power cord. So you’ll need the appropriate power outlet. Not all infrared heaters have a fan, so it’s nice to see that this one does as this really helps to heat the area faster.
As far as economy goes, this garage heater is a real winner. On the other hand, in terms of robust industrial design, it’s not the best. Though, it’s all-round good value for money and if you’re not up to spending a fortune on a garage or workshop heater, this is probably your best bet. The quality standard is good, I’d say exceptional if you’re going to compare it with any other at the same price with the same power output.
4. NewAir G56 5600 Watt Garage Heater
At first glance, this looks exactly the same as the Mr. Infrared electric garage heater (reviewed above). As the NewAir G56 is more expensive and has the same wattage as the Mr. Infrared, I was curious as to why anyone would want to pay more for this one. However, a more detailed look at the specs gives us a clue as to why this is the more expensive heater. It’s slightly smaller, by only a few inches,yet it weighs more. This tells me that it must be made of more robust steel. So wle these two heaters may offer the same basic features and power, it appears as though the NewAir will hold up better to a rough workshop or garage environment. To my mind, this should be worth paying extra for.
The New air is also a portable 5600W (max.) garage / workshop heater. The controls look exactly the same. You have a dial for the built-in thermostat and a switch for the fan. The fan will move the air at a rate of 236 CFM, with a heating element that provides 19,107 BTU. This is good for an area of roughly 600 sq. ft. It has the same 6 ft. power cord with a 30A, 240V plug and this wraps around the handle in the same way for convenient storage.
As I said in the introduction to this product, the only real difference I can find is that this garage heater is slightly smaller: 11” X 10.5” X 14” and weighs a bit more at 16.6-pounds. I can’t see this having any effect on the performance of the heater or its portability. It merely serves to indicate that heavier-grade materials have been used in the construction. It has the same thermal overload protection as the Dr. Infrared.
So you’re paying a fair deal more for the NewAir and it does the same job as the Mr. Infrared equivalent. Even then, I wouldn’t call this an expensive garage heater. Of course, there’s no documented evidence that this is a better quality item. I’ve made this deduction based on the heavier weight. Based on this, I would think that this is a better option if you require a more robust garage heater.
5. Cadet RCP402S Space Heater – Electric
Even though this is not the most powerful garage heater in the lineup, the little Cadet RCP402S really appeals to me. It seems ridiculously cheap for such a well-made item and those who have bought this product seem to agree. I’m thoroughly impressed with high quality and wonderful versatility of this compact garage heater. It’s small enough to be considered as a portable space heater. Yet the well-designed stand serves as a mounting bracket too. So you can mount it to a wall or ceiling, it’s also possible to stand it on the floor or any safe surface.
It has a great thermostat with a simple control dial. The fan does a good job of circulating the air and you can use the fan without the heating element. There are two power settings, you can make use of the full 4000W or, for better economy, you can set it to low and it will only use 2667 watts of electricity.
It’s supplied with 6-foot power cord and a 240V, 20A plug. Though the maximum current used by this model is only 16.7A at high or 11.1A at the low power setting. So it won’t have a huge influence on your electricity bills. The mounting bracket / stand allows for a height angle adjustment, so can direct the heat up or down. For safety reasons, you need to keep a 3 ft. minimum clearance from the front of the heater. This would be true for any heater of this type and one should always check the user manual for the recommended safety clearances.
It’s a wonderfully compact garage heater, measuring only 8.2” X 17.5” X 15.8”. While it’s not a heavy item to carry, the weight is quite high for a heater of this size – 29.4-pounds. I consider this to be a good thing, a heavy appliance means that a good gauge of steel has been used in its construction. This little heater certainly displays all the traits of a robust, high-quality product. If you don’t need to heat a large workshop, I would certainly recommend the Cadet RCP402 Space Heater over any other 4000W garage heater. It’s incredibly versatile and practical, as well as being of the highest quality standard. A big thumbs up for this product.
Before you decide which is the best heater for your garage or workshop, you should carefully consider all the facts. You’ll probably want to start by looking at whether gas or electric heating is going to be your best option.
How Many BTUs Do I Need to Heat My Garage?
Your first step is calculate the cubic feet of garage or workshop. This means multiplying the length by the width by the height. If your workshop area is 10’ X 20’ with a ceiling height of 10’, your sum will look like this: 10 X 20 X 10 = 2000 cu. Ft.
Your next step is to calculate your temperature difference. To do this, you take the lowest temperature that you’d expect during winter in your area. For this example, we’ll say that it’s 25 degrees F. You then subtract this from your desired temperature in the shop, say 65 degrees: 65 – 25 = 40 degrees F.
Before you can determine your BTU requirement, you need to account for insulation. This is done by using a factor as follows: no insulation = 5; poor insulation = 1.5; average insulation = 1; good insulation = 0.5
The BTU calculation factor is always 1.6. So we take our volume (cu. Ft.) and multiply it by our temperature difference (degrees Fahrenheit) and multiply this by our insulation factor. We will then divide our answer by the standard 1.6 BTU factor to get a BTU rating. Let’s assume that your garage or shop has poor insulation (factor = 1.5).
Your Final Calculation Will Look Like This:
2000 X 40 X 1.5 = 120,000; we now have to divide this by our 1.6 BTU factor: 120,000 / 1.6 = 75,000 BTU
It’s always best to allow for a reasonable margin, so that you can account for exceptionally cold days.
For this we add 10% to your BTU calculation: 75,000 + 10% = 82,500 BTU.
So you could get away with 75,000 BTU in this situation but, ideally, you want 82,500 BTU.
How to Install a Garage or Workshop Heater
Installing a heater in your garage or workshop isn’t too complicated. Your most important considerations need to about safety. An electric garage heater is really simple, you’ll usually plug it into a socket and direct it where needed. A permanently installed, hard-wired electric heater needs wiring to be installed. This should be done by a certified electrician but if you’re going to do this yourself, be sure to check all local regulations and abide by these. Make sure you use the correct circuit breaker, rated for the watts of the heater and the correct gauge electric wiring. Garage and workshop heaters will usually require a 240V circuit with ground wiring for GFCI protection.
When directing your heater, it’s best to aim it toward the area where the most cold air enters the room, this will usually be the door. It’s very important to observe all clearance distances. Your owner’s manual will give you the minimum clearance required at the back, front, and sides of your heater.
A gas heater requires more effort and one has to pay special attention to safety. As with an electric installation, you should check, and adhere to all local regulations. Your gas garage heater will give you clear installation instructions and you basically need to make sure that you use the correct pipe to get gas to the heater. If an electrical supply is needed, you’ll also have to do this in accordance with local regulations.
The most important consideration with gas heaters is adequate ventilation. Forced air gas heaters usually have a vent pipe and this needs to be directed to the outside of the building through the roof or a wall. Ventilation is critical for gas garage heaters as they produce carbon monoxide which can be fatal in large doses. If your gas garage heater doesn’t have a ventilation system, you’ll need to ensure that the area has adequate ventilation. As with electric garage heaters, your owner’s manual will provide you with the minimum clearances for the heater that you’re installing.
It’s always important to remember the danger of using a garage heater in close proximity to flammable materials. For an infrared garage heater, the recommended safety clearance is 72-inches from combustible materials and for forced air heaters, this is half the distance – 36-inches. These materials would be any fabric, wood, paper or cardboard. Gas cans, propane tanks, aerosol cans and paint or any other chemicals are also common combustibles to look out for in a garage or workshop.
If you're installing a heavy ceiling garage heater, I'd advise using scaffolding or a stable platform instead of a stepladder. This will not only give you a safer, more secure working position, but will also provide a work surface. You can lay your tools out properly and and assemble everything easily. I also recommend leaving the heater in its packaging until you've lifted it into position. This way, you'll prevent any unnecessary damage whilst lifting it.