Garage Heaters

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Garage Heating: What You Need to Know

Most families rarely use their garage space just for storage or for parking their vehicles. These days, garage double as laundry rooms, workshops, play areas and even as niches for pets.  The garage has become an extension of the family's living space, but in the winter it becomes almost unbearable to be in for more than a few seconds. The cold chill and drafty structure make it less than habitable, causing us to lose our square footing during the winter season.  However, we can easily fix this problem with a simple garage heater. 

But what type of garage heater you get depends on what you use your garage for.

Forced-Air Heaters

Traditional forced air heaters deliver instant heat like a conventional furnace and are designed to solve any outdoor heating needs.  A convection garage heater moves air past a heating element warming the air; then the hot air rises away from the heater. These garage heaters are best for enclosed spaces and are similar to a forced air heating system in a home. They are easy to use and install and are a great way to warm an entire garage. Some of the most common and widely used forced-air heaters include the Dayton series, a range of portable gas-fired forced air heaters. Many models in the Dayton line all include easy electronic ignition, a fuel shutoff device, and automatic overheat shutoff.

Forced-air heaters can be placed in a corner, near a gas line and an electrical outlet. How many BTUs (units of energy) you'd need depends on variables such as your garage size, climate zone and preferred temperature settings.  However, a basic rule of thumb for forced-air heaters is 45,000 BTU to heat a two to two and a half car garage, and 60,000 BTUs for a three-car garage.

Infrared Heaters

The required minimum BTUs for infrared heaters is marginally lower - 30,000 BTUs can heat a two car garage, with a suggested 50,000 for a three-car garage. Infrared heater, also often used to heat garages, radiate heat rather than using a conventional blower fan. Available in many different styles from infrared to tube heaters, it's likely that you've seen these types of heaters at city bus stops or large warehouses. As opposed to convection heaters, radiant heaters work well when you're only looking to heat a specific area as opposed to an enclosed space.

If you plan on working on a project in your garage, particularly with wood or paints, an infrared heater may work better because it doesn't raise dust or keep dust airborne. A forced-air heater will stir up sawdust, which is certainly a problem with many DIY projects usually carried out in the garage, such as painting, re-upholstery, staining, sawing, etc. 

However, you won't feel warm as quickly with an infrared heater because it heats objects first, rather than the air. Yet once your concrete floor warms, you'll feel more comfortable because infrared heat provides uniformity and consistent heat rather than dissipating heat associated with blower fan heaters.  With forced-air heat, the air is warmer at the ceiling and cooler at your feet. And a forced-air heater will take longer to reheat the space after the garage door has been opened and shut.

Installation is markedly different too. For safety reasons, it's advisable that all nearby objects be kept at distance of three to four feet. Infrared heaters must be installed a minimum of 7 ft. above the floor, and must hang down a minimum of 4 in. from the ceiling. It's critical that you make sure objects below are not too close. Most infrared heaters are installed at the back of a garage pointed toward the garage door, then aimed downward at a 45-degree angle. They can also be installed between car bays if the garage door opener rail allows and you don't have tall vehicle such as a truck or an SUV.

Electric Heaters

If you plan on doing any type of body work on cars where bare metal will be exposed, you may want to go with an electric heater as opposed to a heater that burns propane or natural gas. Burning any type of fuel can create moisture in the air which may cause problems when doing body work on cars. With electric heaters, you don't have to worry about producing moisture since these types of heaters use an electric coil as opposed to a burner.

Portable electric heaters also require very little maintenance.  And while electric heaters used to be expensive, newer models on the market are competitively priced.  A higher efficiency rating, contrasted against the extreme cost of natural gas, has made electric heating far more popular than the alternative.

Electric heaters have a number of benefits, such as automatic shut off. Most electrical heater units will also automatically turn off if the unit has tilted off its base and/or fallen over. This safety measure prevents hazards and fires - which is critical feature if you're using flammables or have pets or children nearby.

An additional safety benefit includes protection against carbon dioxide poisoning.  Unlike natural gas furnaces, with electric heaters you don't have to worry about lethal gas leaks (which are often undetectable to humans). And since electric heaters don't produce emissions, they're definitely the green choice for any eco-minded home. 

A cost benefit in by electric heaters is that many cities and states offer incentive programs to home owners who switched out traditional heating for electric furnaces.  Additionally, many utility companies offer similar perks to those who heat their space with electricity rather than natural gases.

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