A typical two car garage represents approximately 20% of the usable space in an average home. In addition, there are currently over 40 million single family residential garages in the U.S. But the fact is, garages are simply the most under-utilized spaces of the home, especially during the winter months. Why? There may be any number of reasons, but one of the most obvious is that garages are typically left cold during the winter, making them uncomfortable to use for any other purpose than parking cars and storing tools.
Within the past 10 years that negative view of the garage has changed dramatically. Climatizing the garage has become much more than an afterthought. In fact, Insulating and providing some type of heat source in the garage has become a priority for many homeowners.

“There is a push among residential building contractors to offer their customers the option of providing garage heat to the new homebuyer”, says Matt Workman, of Infra-Red Products Supply, Inc., located in Draper, Utah. “In fact, when given the option by the builder, the homebuyer will almost always choose to have the contractor insulate the garage along with the rest of the home during the construction phase.

In addition, when given the option, the homebuyer will at least opt for a gas line connection and/or the necessary electrical connections to handle a heating appliance – with the idea of having a heater installed later on. Now more often than ever, a garage heater is installed during the final stages of home construction. It’s an amenity homeowners want and an extra profit incentive for the builder.”

“There are numerous practical reasons for heating the garage” states Mr. Workman, ” including mechanical maintenance, freeze control, hobby, recreation (table tennis or excercise), pet comfort, wood working or simply to be able to climb inside a warm car on a bitter cold day. For men more than women, the garage is a sanctuary – a place to get away, tinker around and do minor repairs.

For women and stay at home moms, it can be a haven for excercise or simply a place to send the kids to bounce a ball or play games.” Many homeowners even go to great lengths to make the garage feel like the dwelling space of the home by installing recessed lighting, closed cabinet storage and even a sink. Painting the walls and floors and adding a little decorating touch can also make the garage a more inviting – a place where anyone would want to spent more time.

For existing homeowners as well, there seems to be an increased interest in upgrading and improving the “livability” of the garage. One reason is that home prices have risen sharply across the nation, making a move into a larger home impratical or unobtainable for many families. Rather than moving up to larger homes, many choose to stay put and maximize the use of the space in their existing home.

In these cases, a small investment in upgrades to the garage is quite practical, especially when considering the cost of a new mortgage and associated costs of relocating. A heated, climatized garage can provide just that little extra room to spread out and make the garage useful year-round.

One of the major concerns people might have with heating their garage is cost. The good news is there are numerous ways to heat a garage to fit almost any budget. Options include gas forced air (unit heaters), electric forced air, direct vent wall heaters, infra-red tube heaters and vent free heaters. Prices can range from $450.00 to $2,500.00(installed), depending upon garage size and the type of heating appliance. (The author of this article strongly recommends an appliance that is CSA approved for residential use.

Portable propane or kerosene heaters in an attached garage are not safe, especially in the presence of gasoline cans, solvents and other products that may pose a fire hazard should there be a spill on the garage floor. A permanent heater mounted high on the wall or suspended from the ceiling offers the best safety and places the heater out of the way of vehicles and people passing through).

One of the most affordable and popular heaters on the market is the Heatstar H25N vent free garage heater by Enerco. This is an infra-red radiant heater designed specifically for residential garages and small shops. It is vent free, safe, and requires no electricity. Simply hang the heater and run the gas line and you’re done.

Other heaters are more expensive and require additional labor. These include forced air in both gas and electric. Gas forced air heaters (also called unit heaters) are ceiling suspended and require a flue to the outside and 110V electrical power, while electric forced air heaters require no venting at all, yet require 240V electrical hook-up.
Larger detached garages or shops may best be suited to a gas infra-red tube heater, which also requires an outside flue. Unlike forced air heaters, however, vented tube heaters operate on the principle of infra-red (radiant) energy and are much quieter and more efficient to operate. And because tube heaters do not blow air, drafts are virtually eliminated, creating a more comfortable environment.

As for operational cost, the most practical thing the homeowner can do is insulate. Insulate well! That’s easier to do prior to sheet rocking the walls, but even glued on foam or blue board can make a dramatic difference in cutting down heat loss. In addition, an inexpensive door seal (available from most garage door suppliers) can cut down on infiltration of cold air from the outside around the perimeter of the overhead garage door.

Also, any leaks from main doors and windows to the outside should be sealed. A well insulated garage can cut heat loss by at least 90% compared to an uninsulated garage. This means that your heater will not need to run all that often to maintain comfort and the cost to operate can be just pennies a day.