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Installing a Garage Heater: Our Soon-To-Be-Heated Garage Story

garage heater header

Thinking of finally installing a garage heater? We’ve put together some critical info to help you decide what is best for you, and what to expect from a furnace installation company.

My wife and I moved into a new home last summer. Actually, it’s an older home and it comes with an attached garage big enough for two vehicles. Prior to that, we lived in a townhome-style apartment with a single car garage that was neither insulated nor heated. 

We knew that ProSolutions installed garage heaters, but frankly weren’t sure whether we needed one. We’d survived okay before so we thought let’s give it a year and then look back and see how things happened.

Well, January’s minus 35 happened and that’s all it took to convince us. We were tired of getting up and going to work or whatever in a cold car. We’d had a couple of instances where the car would not start and we didn’t want that again. 

So, we figured, time to talk to ProSolutions about installing a garage heater and getting the heated garage we want. Here’s what you need to know to get heat to your garage, whether it’s attached to your home or a stand-alone.

Questions to ask yourself
Heating options
Heater installation
Cost of a garage heater

Some garage heater basics

ProSolutions can check out your garage space for you, estimate requirements, and provide an estimate on cost. But there are some answers to questions you need to know first:

Do you have an attached or separate garage?

Most detached garages are connected to electrical power so as to run automatic doors. However, they’re unlikely to have natural gas lines, thus restricting you from using a natural-gas-powered heater. If you REALLY want the garage natural gas heated, then ProSolutions would have to arrange to trench an underground gas line out to the garage. A slightly more “major initiative” but one they have tackled dozens of times before.

Attached garages, like ours, have power, and more likely, easier access to hook up a natural gas line. That would allow you to install a forced-air heater run on natural gas. 

What type of insulation does your garage have?

Is your garage insulated? There is no point in putting in a heater unless the air has a chance of staying warm. If you have windows are they double glazed? Are doors and windows properly sealed? These are some of the practical steps necessary to make sure your garage stays warm once you’ve installed your heater.

What permits do you need?

Are you aware that you will need gas permits from your local municipality to do the work properly? This ensures that code requirements are met, such as where the unit is to be installed, safety and service clearances for the unit, whether venting the unit is needed, and if so, should venting be via the roof or sidewall.

As well, unless you are qualified to do the work yourself, you will need a certified heating contractor, like ProSolutions, to do the work for you and obtain all necessary permits.

Learn more about necessary permits from the Edmonton Permits Office.

Your Heating Options

 There are two main ways to heat garages in this part of the world:

  1. Forced Air
  2. Radiant Heat

Heating Power is provided by natural gas, propane or electricity. Portable options are available but in this article, we deal only with fixed, mounted units.

Forced Air Heaters

Operating on natural gas, forced air heaters are the most common option in Alberta. Nearly all models feature adjustable thermostats, built-in safety features, and remote control options. Thermostats should be placed away from blowing air, often below the unit itself or as recommended.

Your unit must have sufficient BTU output to heat the space. Most double-garages only need a 30,000 or 45,000 BTU Forced Air Heater. Manufacturers usually specify the square/cubic footage a particular heater will handle, based on whether it’s a one-car garage, two-car or more and an 8-foot ceiling. At ProSolutions, they check the calculations based on the area to be heated, differences in ceiling height, insulation levels, and the comfort level you desire.

To get natural gas to the furnace unit you will have to install a gas line to connect to the existing house line. To remind you, unless you have the necessary qualifications, you’ll have to call in a contractor like ProSolutions to do the work for you.

Radiant Garage Heaters

Powered by natural gas or electricity, radiant heaters have polished reflectors that direct infrared heat outward. Unlike forced air heaters, there’s no blown air inside the garage. Woodworkers like them because sawdust doesn’t get blown around.

If electrically operated, the demand for power may mandate the installation of a separate circuit.

Radiant heaters offer steady warmth, and as mentioned without blowing air. They do tend to heat objects rather than the air itself.  With a forced-air unit, you may find that you are warm, but the tools in the cupboard remain cold. But a radiant heater will warm EVERYTHING up….possibly even the concrete floor! They are more expensive to install than forced air but similar in price to operate monthly.

Installing a Garage Heater

garage heater installation

Gas-powered Heaters

The most common method when installing a garage heater is to mount the unit to the ceiling, opposite the garage doors. It’s not in the way, there are no cords to trip over, and you’re unlikely to bang your head. There are three ways to do this:

  1. Perpendicular to joints – horizontal air delivery
  2. Recessed between joints – vertical air delivery
  3. Parallel to joists – horizontal air delivery

The heater may also be wall-mounted.

Whichever set up is chosen, you will have to take into account:

  • Installation of gas lines and electrical power
  • Clearance for combustible materials and access for service
  • Plans for venting, if required
  • Assessment of fire hazard risks, including proximity to neighbouring homes

 ProSolutions can advise you on all necessary considerations when you choose to have them install your new garage heater

Electric heater installation

Electric heaters can be mounted onto a garage wall or ceiling. It’s also possible that you can install the unit yourself. However, you should be aware that electric heaters require more power and may require a separate, designated circuit. They can be VERY expensive to operate in the Edmonton area where electricity comes at a premium compared with natural gas heating.

How Much Will My Garage Heater Cost?

ProSolutions made clear to us that putting in any kind of garage heater is a luxury that won’t necessarily add much value to our home. I’m OK with that though, as I just want to have a comfortable space to park and work on projects year-round. 

Generally speaking, natural gas units are more expensive to buy and install than electrical units. However, natural gas is almost always more efficient and cheaper than electricity to operate.

Natural Gas Powered Units

The best units range from $2400 to $5400 to install, complete with permits and depending on how much custom gas work, such as piping and venting, is needed.

Operating costs range from only $15 to $20 a month in gas costs. Seriously, for $20 in heating costs, you could have warm vehicles, year-round.

Utility rates will differ depending on location and fees. 

Electrically Powered Units

The average price for an electric garage heater ranges from around $400 to $1000+. Most units can be installed yourself but expect to pay an electrician for running necessary electrical on larger units. 

You can expect to pay $100 a month with electric heaters large enough to comparably heat and keep your garage nice and warm during the coldest days of the year.

Summary

You have the information you need, the requirements to be met and the cost options.  ProSolutions can guide you and help fine-tune those options. When you’re ready to start, and especially if you don’t ever again want to face minus 35 in your unheated, uninsulated garage, you know who to call.